Once Upon a Social Media Time: Telling a Great Story
We live in an age where money is only secondary to the most important commodity in marketing—time. We don’t sit around with a weekly TV guide on our hands to see what’s coming after the latest episode of Game of Thrones. There’s an infinite amount of information that’s available in a tap or swipe, so our typical reaction is to want things quickly.
Because of this, it could be hard to capture one’s attention on social media, what with all the other things that are occupying their attention span. Let’s say you’re a brand who sells clothes online and want to reach out to your audience. Everyone loves clothes, right? So it shouldn’t be that monumental of a task. You’re wrong. People are more likely to skip through your ad or Instagram story or Facebook post if it doesn’t catch their attention right away.
So how do you capture your audience’s attention, then? It’s simple—hit them on the balls of emotion. That would do the trick.
John Truby, a renowned Hollywood story consultant describes stories as “a form of communication that expresses the dramatic code” in his book, The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. Although Truby wrote this for screenwriters, it could also apply to how you do it on social media. It is, after all, still a form of communication that can express that “dramatic code.”
Just because people are willing to sit through three hours of Avengers: Endgame doesn’t mean they’re more than up for watching your 1-minute clip.
Telling that Great, Jaw-dropping, Tearjerking Story
The first thing is about context. There’s a difference of when you’re telling a story to three of your friends as compared to telling the same shit to a convention center audience. In the midst of all the content out there, know that a great story is bound to evoke a reaction from your intended audience. You have to frame your story that’s directly related to the situation. So, if your online clothes brand is looking to tell an audience about how you source your clothes or how it’s made by local artists and all that shit, it’s better to frame it that hits the social media crowd separately. There’s a different approach on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and the others, respectively. It’s dumb to use the same thing on all platforms. Remember, each social media platform has a different taste.
Next is your intention. There has to be a confounding meaning and hook behind your story. It has to carry weight. So what if your clothes are made by local artists? Defend this question by supplementing more information about the artist. Where they came from, how they do it, and the challenges of their creative process. Back up your context with emotional intention. And as you do these first two steps, make sure that you’re scaling your content/story into something that’s consistent. Scale the fuck up. Don’t just settle for one emotional video. Make versions of it and revise if possible.
So now you’re saying, “that’s an awful lot of work.” It is, but it gets better. We all know that you won’t be able to do this if you’re not in the right mindset or “in the moment” for creating that story. Gary Vaynerchuk has a bit of simple advice to keep up with this—document, don’t create. “If you adopt that philosophy, it will allow you to overcome your fears of putting yourself out there,” Vaynerchuk says. “Just tell the world what’s going on. Describe your journey, outline your vision, and describe your thoughts, ideas, actions, wins, losses, anxieties, and ambitions online.” In short, be brutally raw and honest, but make sure that it also fits your context and intention.
So that’s the holy trifecta of telling a great story—at least, in our own experience working with businesses and independent brands. What matters here is your ability to evoke emotion while recognizing the nuances of each social media platform. Like we’ve said earlier, each platform has a different flavor, a different crowd, a different “feel” to it. Tailor your content to that observation of yours and make sure that it would make them bawl the fuck out or feel inspired or whatever the hell you want them to feel.
Suck out the reaction from your audience, and you have yourself a good story.
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