Brand narratives are a big part of many traditional advertising campaigns, since stories are such a powerful way to connect with others. In social media campaigns, stories become even more important, a panel of experts noted at a recent Social Media Week event. But the stories that are being told are no longer the narratives your brand is trying to advance, they noted. Instead, social campaigns rely on user stories to create an organic narrative about your organization.
People are natural storytellers, noted Mark Cardwell of the United Nations Development Program. Your fans are already out there in the world, sharing their stories every day, without any prompting from you. Social campaigns simply put that drive to work. Members of the panel shared insights into ways companies are using social platforms to get the most out of users’ desire to share their stories.
- Catch them at the moment of excitement. You want your fans to talk about you at the moment they are happiest with your brand, said Microsoft Senior User Experience Evangelist Sean Seibel. So why wait to get a testimonial? Give your fans tools that allow them to record their impressions at “the moment of excitement” — the instant when they are most enchanted with your brand. Then give them a way to share those impressions with friends immediately.
- If your fans don’t have a soapbox, build one. Lots of storytelling happens on traditional message boards and social communities. But creating a shared space around a specific group can make it easier to attract users. Cardwell highlighted the case of drug maker Novartis’ campaign to build a community around a drug used to treat a kind of leukemia. By connecting people who were affected by the disease with health professionals in a social setting, the company gave survivors and current patients a venue where they would naturally share their stories.
- Be ready to respond. Don’t let your fans feel like they are communicating in a vacuum. Engage them and if their stories are critical of your organization, then respond in a constructive way. PepsiCo Director of Digital and Social Media Bonin Bough shared a story about a print ad for Pepsi Max that ran just once in a European publication — but drew indignant responses around the world because it made light of suicide. The story spread through Twitter, with users sharing stories about how suicide had affected their lives and how the ad had hurt them. Bough and other Pepsi employees responded to each tweet about the campaign. In Bough’s case, that meant sharing his own experiences with users. Bough says he’s glad he was so candid with each person, especially since one of them turned out to be a journalist who wrote a story about Pepsi’s reaction. “You never know who you might be talking to,” Bough said.
Image credit, Sean_Warren via iStock