In the age of social media, we marketers have long moved past storytelling in its most primitive form ("thought to have been primarily oral combined with gestures and expressions," according to Wikipedia). But it never ceases to amaze me how often content marketers who sing the praises of social media forget that storytelling is still one of the best ways to engage their audience.
Isn't social media essentially a digital form of storytelling? Like storytelling, social media takes many forms:
- Words: blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter
- Images: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest
- Video: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Google+, Twitter
In addition to these three examples, many mobile apps and games allow players to broadcast high scores and levels reached to their social networks with the tap of an icon.
Storytelling and the "interest graph"
On his Creativity_Unbound blog, Edward Boches, chief innovation officer at Boston ad agency Mullen, recently wrote about how to get ready for what he predicts will be a shift from focusing on the social graph to the interest graph. Put simply, Boches writes, the social graph is a digital map that says, "This is who I know." The interest graph is a digital map that says, "This is what I like."
Storytelling, done right, speaks to both who we know and what we like. As marketers, it's our job to engage our audience using a variety of media.
My takeaway from Boches' post on preparing for the rise of the interest graph: Although we're armed with a slew of digital media outlets and platforms, we must help our clients accomplish their marketing goals by reengaging our storytelling instincts and creating a model for clients to show them how they can do the same.
Just as Boches predicts that marketers are smart to be ready for the rise of the interest graph, we must also be ready for—and actively evangelize—a return to storytelling in marketing.
Big brands are telling their stories. Are you?
If you focus on storytelling as part of your content marketing strategy, you'll be in good company. The top dog brand name-wise is Coca-Cola, which has created an entire integrated marketing initiative around storytelling called Content 2020. Coke and a who's who list of brands like Nike, American Express, Southwest Airlines, and others are using Facebook Timeline for Pages to tell their stories using the social network's much anticipated feature.
Everyone likes a good story. How companies tell their brand stories matters. Brands that tell their stories in a way that engages their audience, draws them in, and makes everyone listening feel that they're somehow part of the bigger story are doing it right.
As social media content doubles in 2012 and then doubles again in 2013—as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has predicted—customers will increasingly direct their attention to the best stories. All the rest will pass by in a haze of missed tweets and ignored Facebook status updates.