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The Key to Social Media is Storytelling

For a decade now, businesses and marketers have attempted to decipher the jumbled mess of social media and turn it into a true ROI generator. Hundreds of thousands of Ponce de Leóns have explored the social media countryside in search of the ultimate prize - tangible benefit from social media marketing.

Thankfully, it's not as mythical as the Fountain of Youth. Most are getting minor benefits from social media as long as they're sticking with it and applying some basic strategies. A few are getting real results from the branding and communication components of social media that are achievable by nearly anyone who tries hard enough and invests a little money into the endeavor.

For those who are really wanting to make a dramatic impact on their social media presence, the key is in storytelling. This is hard. That's not one of those feigned discouragements that marketers often use to dissuade businesses from trying to do it themselves. It truly is extremely difficult to take the mundane aspects of most businesses and turn them into something truly special that people are willing to passionately follow.

With social media storytelling, it's not about telling lies. It's definitely not about looking for the thunder in a bottle that some companies have been able to find through a combination of luck and some viral secret sauce that eludes the rest of humanity; how many tried to duplicate what Oreo did at the Super Bowl? Lastly, it's not about manufacturing buzz where it doesn't exist.

Storytelling requires finding those creative elements that are present in any business (regardless of how mundane the industry might seem) and forming them into a strategy that yields a path to success. It only takes one sentence to describe it but one could write a book on the actual strategy behind it. We'll try to keep it shorter here.

The story itself can be about nearly anything as long as it's relevant to the business in some way. It doesn't even have to be a direct attachment. It can be about customers. It can be about employees. It can be the journey that was taken to arrive at a particular product or service launch.

Think about it like making a movie. It isn't about the end result of the movie itself, but rather the Blue-Ray extras and behind the scenes shots. Taking us through the process can be as fun (or more fun) than watching the end result itself. As humans, we have a tendency to enjoy watching things as they unfold.

A pretty good (not great, but good) example of this was when Pepsi MAX worked with NBA star Kyrie Irving to put the Uncle Drew series together for YouTube. The reasons that it was good is because it was able to tell stories that were interesting enough to get millions of views, was sustainable for a few posts to make it a series, and gave the behind-the-scenes view that we love. The reason that it wasn't great is because it had very little to do with the product itself with only occasional views.

A much better example is a Thai Pantene commercial from a few years ago. It told a compelling story and had all of the right elements but it did not let the product get in the way. In fact, you'll have no idea it's a Pantene commercial until the end. One thing that most will definitely notice is that during the concert, the main character has absolutely incredible hair. When the Pantene logo is shown at the end with the tagline, "You can shine," it all comes together for the viewer.

These are both big productions that most businesses cannot duplicate, but that doesn't mean that you can't draw inspiration from their creativity. The key is to make it last. It doesn't have to revolve around a video, either. A friend, , did an excellent job of using social media to tell the story of her new job. She had a countdown of the top 5 reasons to be excited about her new job. It kept anticipation high, friends (and potential clients) guessing, and showed that even individuals have the ability to tell the right stories about their business.

To succeed at social media marketing, businesses and marketers must embrace the right strategies and couple them with incredible stories. This post itself is an example of this as we will be rolling out stories of our own very soon for our clients. Stay tuned!

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