Marketing has moved on, the traditional sales funnel on the verge of extinction. Instead, consumers are using social media to engage with your customer services team, to research products and services and to share opinions about you with other consumers.
It’s the customer’s journey now.
To engage successfully with wired customers in this new world of consumer-empowerment and social media,more and more marketers are turning to ‘storytelling’ to capture their attention.
It’s a technique the team at Oracle has embraced. Oracle has just launched its ‘Percussion’ campaign.
New era, old era
Storytelling is nothing new – TV ads have been using stories for decades to engage with customers and snare their imaginations. And using storytelling to increase consumer engagement via your company’s social media channels is based on a tradition that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years.
Storytelling vs. scepticism
But there is a problem – how to create a social media storytelling strategy in the first place. Insights into marketing storytelling can seem nebulous and pretentious, phrased in ways that threaten to leave the C-Suite shaking its head as yet another self-proclaimed marketing ‘visionary’ tries to sell the Emperor another empty wardrobe.
It’s imperative that you create a clearly-identified process that you can use not only to win over the C-Suite, but everybody in the company – because you’re going to need their input to tell stories about the people, situations and dramas behind your company’s products.
“Listen, listen, listen”
Listen to what your existing customers and employees are already discussing in the online space. What themes are predominant about your company? What issues are being talked about? This initial listening phase is essential for creating a road map for the kind of content you will be producing for your initial storytelling engagement strategy.
“Content can create leads if your storytelling captures the customers’ imaginations.”
“Forming the Right Mindset”
Form a team that will be responsible for creating your stories and content strategy. Think community managers, social media analysts, journalists and the right tools bought in from social media software vendors – they are all essential to creating content that is story-, not marketing-driven.
“These editorial teams can brainstorm initial ideas and angles for content, based on research into customer and employee stories and themes.”
“Generating Your Stories”
The people who know the most about your company are your employees – so your storytelling should come from inside your company, not a third party supplier. From employees at the coal face to directors in the board room, everyone has a tale to tell about their job and the company they work for; a story which they would love to share if given the opportunity and the platform on which to tell it, and one that reflects what the company and its ethos and products are really all about.
It’s these kinds of personal stories that will engage customers. Offer the storyteller guidance on how to get their thoughts down and what channels are available to them:
- Perhaps it’s a great photo that could be posted to Flickr.
- A quote that inspires them that can be shared on Twitter.
- A blog entry they could write about their daily work life or an aspect of their job that resonates with them on a personal level and could prove to be of genuine interest to customers.
The bottom line is anyone can contribute, anyone can tell a story – and your team is there to help them express it via collating, editing or even ghostwriting.
“Test major storytelling content on a small-scale first to see how it engages customers.”
“Creating Your Channels”
How you deploy your storytelling across various social channels is just as important. Judge how your company views each social platform – for instance, Twitter could be used for a news-style ‘headline’ to attract interest while the Facebook version of the story could focus on the human element. Alternatively, LinkedIn’s more professional approach could focus on a long form, more detailed version of the story.
“Ensure your story plays to the individual strengths of each platform to exploit its maximum potential.”
Social media storytelling is a two-way street; in the beginning, you’ll be telling the stories that engage customers. But as the process evolves, customers will start sharing their own stories, thoughts, feelings and experiences. After all, we love sharing stories with each other and the great thing about social media channels is that it can be done instantly, almost as an ongoing conversation between you and your customers – and between customers themselves.
“Make your stories about people, not products. Customers don’t relate to products.”
“Monitoring Your Channels”
Use metrics and data analysis to break down which customers are using which channels; from here, you can target different forms of storytelling to suit their preferences. For instance, LinkedIn traditionally attracts experts and dedicated customers to its forums whereas ‘fans’ of your company are more likely to populate Facebook. And how about employees? Use metrics to identify and cater to different readers.
“Metrics can help identify the types of stories that are engaging people too – or are falling flat – and such findings can be used to inform your future editorial plans.”
“Preparing For The Future”
There’s one simple rule: there are no hard-and-fast rules, no strategies that should be carved in stone. Your process will be in constant flux, changing and evolving over time. That might sound like grappling with a wet bar of soap – but it’s actually what makes telling stories so dynamic, so engrossing, so exciting.
“With the right mindset and protocols in place, you will be in a position where you can adapt your strategy on the fly, adjusting your storytelling to suit you and your customers’ needs.”
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