5 Ways to Integrate Stories Into Your Social Media Marketing

  |  August 23, 2010   |  Comments

Marketers need to create powerful stories that your audience wants to hear, engage with, and share.

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater's high profile exit via the plane's inflatable rear exit chute garnered lots of coverage across a wide range of online and offline media platforms. Despite his expensive and illegal departure that delayed waiting passengers, lots of people identified with Slater's "I-can't-take-this-job-anymore" approach. While the public connected with Slater's story, his actions showed a general lack of concern for passengers. As a result, this incident hasn't tarnished JetBlue's brand.

Slater's story has lessons for social media marketers. It was a trending topic on Twitter and, since quitting his job, he's amassed over 200,000 fans on Facebook, a number many businesses will never attain. In part, Slater's social media fame can be ascribed to his story's urban myth quality. As more facts emerge and the story gets embellished, Slater's reach continues to grow because it's compelling content people want to share. Like Slater, marketers need to create powerful stories that your audience wants to hear, engage with, and share.

5 Story-Related Attributes for Content Marketing

To make your content talk-worthy on social media platforms, develop strong stories that are in line with your brand including factors like its voice, language, and image. Here are five story attributes to incorporate into your content:

1. Add emotion. Just telling people the basic facts about your offering doesn't give them a reason to care. How can you make your product's story resonate with your target market?

2. Identify with the protagonist. Stories must motivate the audience to connect with the main character in some way, preferably a positive one. Is there an element of surprise?

3. Are memorable. Stories tend to have basic plots with a beginning, middle, and end making it easy for listeners to remember. The ones that people remember most contain elements of fairy tales and fables that they've heard before.

4. Can be adapted easily. Stories can be changed and embellished by the teller to suit his or her purposes. This makes stories more dramatic and increases the audience's ability to empathize with the characters.

5. Are sharable with other people. This can occur in an old fashion way where one person tells another person or it can happen more quickly via social media forums.

5 Ways to Integrate Stories Into Your Social Media Marketing

It's important to integrate stories into your content marketing on social media sites since that's where dialog, interaction, and sharing occur. Here are five ways to use stories on social media platforms:

1. Determine trending topics to write about. To increase the audience for your content, leverage interest around hot subjects with new, creative insights. Remember that your story has to be consistent with your brand. Assess trending topics on Twitter and other social media sites.

2. Source stories from customers and the public. Let others tell stories related to your product and brand. Bear in mind that some of these tales may not be ones that you want highlighted. Therefore, consider how you will deal with them before they're posted. Sometimes third-party sites are good for this, since they allow some distance from your offering.

3. Incorporate a human-interest element into your content. Since people are attracted to other people, use various social media formats to portray people, particularly photos like Flickr, video like YouTube, and audio like podcasts. Think about how these sensory attributes relate to your brand.

4. Provide stories that allow for interactions and additions. Social media sites are the perfect platform to enable sharing in this manner. It's important to consider the context of the stories you present. For example, on Twitter you're limited to 140 characters. This means that your story either has to be stripped down to its essence or presented as a series of tweets, each containing a hook to keep the audience wanting more.

5. Enables easy sharing quickly and broadly. One of the major attributes of social media entities is that users are connected to a large number of their friends and colleagues. As a result, a strong story can be disseminated very quickly to a broad cross-section of people.

5 Story-Related Metrics to Determine Content Effectiveness

To assess the impact of incorporating stories into your social media marketing strategy, here are five metrics to monitor:

1. People. Tracked by the number of people who read your content and the amount of time they spend on your site. How do influencers feel about your stories? Do they share them? In terms of earned media, how has your reach been extended through the use of stories?

2. Stories. How many stories have you used? What type of stories are most effective, ones about your firm or ones that you've sourced from your customers? Which stories get the most number of shares and/or comments? What is the sentiment of these feelings? Do they translate to sales?

3. Brand perception. How has sentiment towards your brand changed since you started using stories? How does this relate to intent to purchase? If the stories aren't resonating with your target market, why is this happening? How can you modify or change your story?

4. Actions. This includes steps that prospects and customers take in the purchase process. Are these stories aiding purchase? If not, why?

5. Profitability. What product sales can be traced to your product stories? What are the costs related to your product stories?

While your product's story may not catch on the way that Steven Slater's did, stories help prospects and customers relate to your offering. They provide the basis for brand affiliation and make people want to use and interact with your product.

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Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog, HeidiCohen.com, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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