How to Use Storytelling on Your Social Media Campaigns to Increase Your Engagement

Every so often, I will feature guest posts from writers who actually have important and interesting things to say. Patrick Bailey is a professional freelance writer, working mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He wanted to write about storytelling and social media, so I let him take a crack at it. At 1500+ words, I think he knocked it out of the park.

Patrick Bailey, a writer who specializes in mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He wrote this piece on storytelling in social media.Even before civilization came to be and nothing was in print, humans were hard-wired to listen and tell stories. Stories became the backbone of many ancient cultures because they were passed on from generation to generation through verbal means. Traditions were built through sharing stories. Stories were written as books, and they became the time-enduring classics.

Now, we have the capacity to share and record stories in the digital world. With the use of the Internet, blogging became an avenue for ordinary people to share their stories whether it was something personal or related to their business. After blogging, social media became a tool for people to share the mini-stories of their lives.

That is just one side of the coin — in fact, there are many facets of storytelling that shows how much power it holds to influence others. In marketing, storytelling plays a big role in capturing the minds and hearts of readers and viewers.

What is storytelling in social media?

Storytelling in social media is quite different when it comes to those found in books, magazines, or even blogs. Since people have a shorter attention span when browsing through their social media feeds, it is important that our stories are concise yet captivating. Here are some of the characteristics of an engaging story in social media:

  • Stories should start with an attention-grabbing headline or first statement. The stories you post in social media should be interesting from the beginning. This is the hook that makes readers or viewers stay engaged.
  • Stories should be concise. Unlike blogs, people don’t have the patience to read page-long stories about you or your brand. It is important to be concise and only state important details in your story.
  • Stories should be accompanied with other multimedia forms. Although text can be engaging in itself, it is proven that multi-sensory experiences in the digital world can help users retain far more information: Include images or videos with your story.
  • Stories should have a strong call-to-action at the end. Before even creating a captivating story in social media, you need to think of your primary goal why you are setting up the campaign in the first place. Do you want people to visit your website? Do you want more email subscribers? Do you want them to purchase your product? Think about your goal and start making your story from there.

Now that we understand the characteristics of an engaging story in social media, how can we create one from start to finish? Here are some steps you can take.

Think about your audience persona.
Some stories may be interesting for a particular group, and yet some wouldn’t really bat an eye on the same topic. When formulating your story, think about the type of audience that your platform or business serves. This is called your audience persona, which means personifying the archetype of audience that you may have. Think of your audience persona based on the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Cultural background
  • Where they live
  • What they do
  • What their problems are
  • What they look like
  • What things do they need

These considerations can help you create a story that will be interesting to your target audience. Without building an audience persona, you may end up formulating a story with full effort and no engagement.

Remember the rules of capturing attention.
One of the most popular copywriting formulas called AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. These four pillars of effective copy can also be incorporated into storytelling. Now that you have established your audience persona, it is important to place yourself in their shoes. What would be a story that can capture their attention?

Many marketers would go for the first-person story technique. They can talk about their personal struggles which make them relatable to their target audience. This is very effective because people want to know others’ story and how they have succeeded.

For example a company called Mountain Springs Recovery focuses on addiction rehabilitation. They use storytelling campaigns through testimonials of others’ struggles in rehabilitation and how they have succeeded through the help of the company. This is a great way to tug to your audience’s heartstrings and make them read the rest of your story. Other attention-grabbing techniques include:

  • Sharing a short case study of your previous client. Ask permission from a previous client to tell their background and how they have achieved success through your business.
  • A story about someone who benefited from your business’ advocacy. If your business supports an advocacy (e.g., helping cancer patients, providing scholarships, etc.), share a short story of how these people have benefited from your business, and how others can support them by supporting your business as well.
  • Your own before and after story. If you are a professional who has experienced the same problems as your target audience, you can use your own story as a marketing tool. For example, a fitness coach can post his or her before and after results while sharing a story of their struggles and triumphs in the weight loss journey.

Remember what your teacher taught you.
Do you remember in literature class when your teacher would remind you of the parts of the story? Mostly, an engaging story or a narrative would include the characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. You don’t have to elaborate too much when creating your social media posts. All you have to do is to keep them present when thinking about your story. Make it clear by introducing the main characters of your story (Is it you? Your client? A person you know?), where and when it happened, the premise, what the problem is and how the problem is solved.

Remembering these elements can help you create a formula that would always be engaging to your target audience in mind.

Experiment with multimedia.
Engagement is not just about using one form of media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter have different tools to help create engaging stories.

This is where you can start experimenting. If you already have a small audience you can work on, try to create different types of content. Start by crafting your story accompanied by a photo, and in some instances you would want to shoot a video.

When you create social media accounts, engagement is counted as the amount of views, likes, shares, and comments in your content. If you notice that one form of media is more effective than the other, you already know what format of stories you would want to post in the future.

Essentially, focusing on the story format that your audience wants is the key to gaining engagement and social proof. As other people see that you have likes, shares, and comments in your stories, the more that they will be curious to see what your business is about.

Build trust — don’t rely on click bait.
Unless your ultimate goal is to get views for your business merely in your website or social media accounts, don’t exploit people’s attention through click bait. Clickbait is when writers over-sensationalize stories in order to get views.

It is best not to rely on this technique as it may cause people to lose trust in your business — resulting in bad comments, poor feedback, and eventually dwindling attention. Make sure your stories are genuine, and if you do promise something, be sure you can deliver. Do not simply make up stories in order to get future clients to sign up, then setting them for disappointment.

Utilize call-to-action buttons.
As mentioned earlier, an engaging story in social media must be built with a goal in mind. This goal is realized by creating a call-to-action. For blogs and websites, a call-to-action is usually done by posting a link or a sign-up form. However, social media is a little different because you can use buttons when you make sponsored posts for your stories.

A clear example would be Facebook sponsored posts. When you boost a Facebook post, you’ll notice that they will give you an option to place a button at the bottom of your sponsored post. Below your story, you can create a button that can make the users:

  • Message your Facebook page
  • Contact your business number
  • Visit your website
  • Shop in your built-in store

Whatever your call-to-action is, make sure that it is clear to your audience and they can easily access it through these buttons.

Create stories, engage your audience.
With so many businesses vying for people’s attention is social media, you can stand out by following these actionable tips in creating engaging stories.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Find him on Twitter at @Pat_Bailey80.

Should Social Media Marketers Give Away the Good Stuff or Get Ripped Off?

I’ve gotten burned by being a little too optimistic and open at times, especially now that I’ve been in the social media marketing business. I share the good stuff with people, and while for the most part, it pays me back in the end, there have been a couple times where I got ripped off.

Not just taken advantage of. I’ve had revenue-generating ideas stolen because I shared them too early in a negotiation process.

When I first moved to Indianapolis, I was working with a friend, Darrin, at his marketing company, and we were pitching a possible new client. As part of our pitch, I suggested that the owner start a new off-shoot company to hire entry-level employees and train them in his methods. This would end up being a feeder company for experienced employees, rather than have to scramble around at hiring time. Sort of like a minor league baseball team feeding into a major league one.No Burglars sign

It was a pretty good idea, even if I do say so myself. And I was proud of the suggestion, because the owner also seemed to like the idea, and I thought it was going to help us get the marketing contract.

Unfortunately, he never hired us. He never gave us a reason. He just took our proposal, and never returned our call, and was always “busy” when we called him. (My business partner, Paul, calls this the “Indiana No.”)

Fast forward to four years later, when I see the business owner in the newspaper for the brilliant idea “he had” for starting a smaller company for entry-level employees who later moved up to his company. It ended up being very successful company for him too.

How much did Darrin and I get for our idea?

$0.00

Not having learned our lesson that time, a few weeks later, we made another pitch to a local restaurant, including six ideas we wanted to execute for them, and one idea for a radio commercial. After submitting our official proposal, they said they weren’t interested, and kept the proposal.

A few months later when I went in to the restaurant, I saw that they were using five of our six ideas, and had used our radio commercial idea for a guest appearance on a local radio station.

How much did Darrin and I get for these ideas?

$0.00

Painful Lessons Learned

The lesson my friend and I learned in all of this? Give away the good stuff, but don’t give away the secret sauce.

It’s a shame too, because I fully believe in the Chris Brogan model of give away the good stuff. I don’t want to give away a nickel’s worth of free stuff to sell $100 worth of ideas. I want to give away hundreds of dollars of ideas to sell thousands.

Pile of $100 billsOur point was to give away some interesting ideas in the hopes that we would get hired to actually do them and get paid for it.

Did we get hired? No. Should we have gotten the contract just because we rattled off a few good ideas? Probably not.

But it seems to me that when someone pitches you an idea, and you don’t hire that person, you also should not be allowed to steal their ideas, especially when you didn’t hire anyone else to do it either. At the very least, it’s unethical, and the people who do it are skeevy.

So I’m torn. What should I do in the future?

Should I selfishly hold on to my “secret sauce” and only share the information that anyone can find in a book? I do that now when people want to “pick my brain” in exchange for buying me lunch.

Or should I give away any idea that I come up with for a potential new client in the hopes of signing them?

On the one hand, demonstrating some of our ideas could help us win a contract. On the other hand, the people we work with are smart enough to execute an idea just based on a basic two sentence explanation. If we tell them they need milk, they’ll figure out where to find a cow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, marketer, or salesperson, what do you do? Do you trust people and “share hundreds to earn thousands?” Or do you play things close to the vest and give those ideas away only when you’ve got a signed contract in hand? How would you play it?

Photo credit:

Attorneys Should Have Their Own Blog Content, Not Syndicated Content

Attorneys need to approach the use of syndicated blog content with care. Many times, syndicated posts are written as a one-size-fits-all approach, and you can make tweaks and changes as needed. But what if you don’t have time, or don’t know how, to make the changes? What problems could you see if you relied on syndicated content?

Here are three reasons we think attorneys should have their own blogs with their own content, instead of relying on syndicated content.

1. Syndicated content does not perform well in search.

If you buy a copy-and-paste content service, chances are it’s not going to be picked up by the search engines. That’s because Google has a “no duplicate content” rule they follow, meaning they don’t want to see a lot of websites using the same content over and over.

You may hear this described as the duplicate content penalty, but it’s not a penalty. Rather, Google just does not index the content. The Google bots see it and say, “we already saw this back at another website, so we’ll ignore this one.”

One of the primary reasons to have a blog is to rank high on the search engines, and it doesn’t make sense to pay for syndicated content if it’s not going to help you rank in the first place.

(That’s not to say that all content syndicates do this. The better ones don’t. The cheaper ones, not so much.)

2. You can localize your content.

Google is paying a lot more attention to local search, because they’re delivering local search results to their users. Check it out. Go to Google, and do a search for “Italian restaurant.” The results you’ll see will be for the city where you perform the search. That’s because Google can see where you are, and it wants to deliver the results you’ll be most interested in. If you’re in St. Louis, Google assumes you don’t care about Italian restaurants in Jacksonville, Florida, so they deliver the results you’re most likely to be interested in.

To that end, it’s more helpful to write localized articles about your areas of specialty and include your city or geographic practice area in things like the headline and body copy, so Google will know where they should have you listed.

  • Five Things to Look For In An Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorney
  • When Does a Startup Need a Chicago Intellectual Property Attorney?
  • Should I Hire a Florida Attorney to Plan My Estate?

You need to do this so when a potential client does a search online for an attorney, they find your page. Google is not going to return the best-optimized pages around the country. It’s going to show them the results from the pages in their city and/or state. If your site is properly optimized, clients will find you, not your competition.

3. Your Content Can Fit Your Readers’ Style

Syndicated blog content is written one way, and it may not be your style. But, you paid for it, so you might as well use it, right?

Wrong.

If you’re paying for it, you’re presenting your image in a style that doesn’t quite fit with you, or more importantly, may not appeal to your readers.

It’s important that you communicate with your readers in the way they want to be communicated with. And since you know your clients the best, you can best dictate the kinds of topics they want to read, the style, language, and even readability of the posts. You should even be able to decide the best keywords to write about that week or month.

Since you know your readers best, you need to create content that they will find and read, which will ultimately lead to them calling you when they need you.

Whether you write your own blog posts 2 – 3 times a week, or work with a ghost blogging service (which we recommend, given your hourly billing rates; otherwise, blogging will end up being your lowest priority), you need to have content that is geared toward your style, your geographic region, your clients, and can help you win search for your niche and your keywords.

Dear Executives, Social Media Does Not Render Your Employees Stupid

Social media does not make people stupid. It does not make them irresponsible, lazy, or unproductive. Social media will make you money, however, if you do it right.

I talk to a lot of business owners and executives who worry that if they start using social media to market their business, their employees’ productivity will plummet.

I’ve had meetings in the last two days with two different business owners. One has embraced Facebook and blogging fully, the other is worried that Facebook will hamper his employees’ ability to get work done.

The first employer urges his employees to do stuff on social media. Almost requires it. His Facebook page gets dozens of visits a day, which is awesome because they sell such a niche product, the customer base for the entire country can be measured in the thousands.

The other employer says — and rightly so — that they have so much administrative work to do around the office, he doesn’t want their Facebook efforts to distract them from getting their admin work done.

The first employer wants to know how he can do more social media marketing. The second employer wants to know the bare minimum he can get by with.

As Doug Karr says, asking what the minimum you can get by with on social media is like asking how slowly you can drive a race car.

Social Media Marketing is Not About Playing

Facebook lets me see kittehs

ZOMG! Facebook lets me play with kittehs!!

We as employers trust our employees. We trust them to answer the phones and be pleasant to everyone who calls in. We trust them to make travel to other states and make sales calls and presentations. We trust them to take payments from customers and put our money in the bank. We trust them to buy products from other companies. And we even trust them to use computers without standing over them, watching them type every email.

So what is it about social media that scares the bejeezus out of every employer and makes them think that the second they allow Facebook onto their computers, their entire workforce is going to turn into a bunch of 13-year-old girls jacked up on Red Bull and the most recent Justin Bieber sighting?

If you trust these people enough to do business in your name, collect and spend your money, and talk to your customers, then you need to trust them enough to continue to do these things while Facebook is unblocked on their computers.

If you don’t trust them, that’s your fault. If you don’t trust your employees to not screw around, you’re the problem, not Facebook. You hired the wrong people, and that’s a management issue.

Hire people who will get their work done, and make your expectations for social media usage clear from the outset. These are people who can help your company be more profitable, so why not take advantage of that?

Social Media Marketing is About Making Money

The whole reason for a business to be on social media is to make money. Period. It’s not to play Farmville on Facebook. It’s not to pin the latest novelty cake on Pinterest. It’s not to take photos of a rusted out piece of farm equipment on Instagram. It’s to find people who would be interested in buying your products or services.

Every business owner and manager is always looking for a way to make more money and be more profitable. The problem is, many of them are hampered by doing the things that don’t make them money. Doing payroll. Filing claims. Managing inventory. Filling and shipping product orders.

The problem is, payroll, paperwork, inventory, and shipping don’t make you money. Marketing makes you money. Finding new customers makes your money. If you’re a business owner, and you’re spending your valuable time doing payroll, paperwork, inventory, and shipping, instead of generating revenue, outsource them.

Hire a bookkeeping firm to manage payroll. Hire a virtual assistant to file your claims. Hire a $10 hour college student to count inventory and stick orders in boxes. The less of this non-revenue generating work you can do, the better.

Spend the newly found time pursuing new customers. Spend it on Facebook, Twitter, or writing your blog. It doesn’t take long to bring in a couple choice clients to recover the costs of having a part-time employee handle the grunt work that’s actually losing you money. Have them handle more of your non-revenue workload, and find a couple more. You can grow just by having someone else do the heavy lifting for you.

But it starts with letting go of the fear that your employees are going to be struck stupid the second you allow Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn on your company computers.

Photo credit: bjornlifoto (Flickr)

Fast Company Doesn’t Know You Can Calculate Social Media ROI

Fast Company seems to have an aversion to math or basic research. Their latest story, Does Social Media Have a Return on Investment, says that no one is able to calculate the ROI of social media, and that large brands like Audi and Home Depot are just fumbling around in the dark on determining the ROI of social media.

This is complete and utter crap.

People have been able to calculate the ROI of social media for a few years now. In fact, as Katie Paine (@kdpaine) pointed out in the comments section to this article:

This is ridiculous. Back in 2008, Wells Fargo and SAP were calculating solid ROI from social media campaigns. Social media agencies like Organic have been using sophisiticated data analytics for years to predict outcomes.  You stumbled across a few creative types that are allergic to math and haven’t a clue what data is available who don’t care about measurement or  ROI. And if they are using Klout, the really don’t care much about the accuracy either. Other marketers, the smart ones, are embracing all the data and analytics now available and providing solid ROI on a regular basis.

It’s not that hard to calculate the ROI, or to measure anything when it comes to social media. Here are the basic steps you can use to calculate even the most rudimentary ROI of a sales page:

  • Set up Google Analytics on your website. Make sure you put the code on every page.
  • Set up Google Webmaster Tools, and use their Campaign Code Creator.
  • Append any URL you tweet out or put on Facebook with the Campaign Code Creator.
  • Shorten every link you send with Bit.ly, including the campaign code, and send it out. Assign different campaign codes to different messages, tools, and campaigns.
  • Track down the visits that filtered down into visits to the sales page. Total up the sales from those visits. Cross-reference them with the contact data that came from the sales form.
  • Subtract the cost of your campaign from your sales total. That’s your ROI.

And that’s the writer’s method of dealing with ROI. There are entire suites of tools built to answer the ROI question, and professionals like Katie Paine have been doing it for years.

With thinking like this being erroneously spread by Fast Company and writer Farhad Manjoo, it’s no wonder businesses are afraid to spend money on social media. When uninformed media — who frankly should know better, or should have done some remedial research — start spreading bad information based on their own misunderstanding, it not only shows their ignorance of the industry, it spreads bad information to the rest of the business community.

Four Ways to Use Twitter as a Lead Generation Tool

Have you gotten any sales leads from Twitter? Have you ever found any opportunities, whether personally or professionally, from the micro-blogging network?

While some of the social media purists might still gnash their teeth and pound their laptops from the safety of their moms’ basements, anyone who wants to see Twitter (and other social media tools) succeed needs to show their bosses that it can generate business. If you’re in sales or marketing, here are four ways you can use Twitter as a lead generation tool.

1) Connect With People in Your Industry.

Twitter is a great way to easily get connected with people in your industry. Use tools like Twellow (for Twitter Yellow Pages) to find people in your industry, and search.twitter.com to find people talking about your industry keywords. Also try Googling a title and/or company with the words “on Twitter” in the search. So, look for VP of Creative Services on Twitter or Professional Blog Service on Twitter, and see what pops up.

If you’re a TweetDeck user or use Twitter lists, save your industry contacts into their own list, and communicate with them. By keeping them in their own list, you’re more easily able to see what they’re talking about.

2) Build Relationships.

The newbie mistake that many new Twitter marketers use is to treat Twitter like an advertising channel. That is one thing you absolutely cannot do. People don’t want you to sell to them.

Instead, establish relationships. Have conversations with them, retweet them, introduce people, share articles, ask them questions. If they’re local people, or you have a chance to attend industry conferences, connect with them in person. Meet for lunch or coffee, and create that all-important offline relationship. Then, you’re a person, not a handle. You have a face, not an avatar. By creating those relationships, you become someone they’ll trust, especially if they ever need what it is that you do.

But never, ever try to sell anything. Do that in phone calls and meetings, when the time is right, not when they start following you.

3) Establish Your Expertise.

When people have a problem, make sure they know you’re the one to solve it. Answer questions, share information, refer useful articles to them. If you write a blog (you do write a blog, don’t you?), share the useful posts with them. Ask them to comment, and leave thoughtful comments on their blog.

If you’re trying to reach people in your industry, write about topics related to that industry, especially if you can make them useful to the problems your Twitter network is having. For example, if you own a Mac repair shop, and you know a bunch of Mac-owning public speakers, and you know a lot of them are having problems dealing with the new Keynote 09 (which, irritatingly, ruined a bunch of my past slide decks. Thank God for backups), you could write a couple blog posts about how to solve that problem.

Then, forward the article on to them via Twitter or DM. They’ll see that you know your stuff (as well as theirs), and they’re more likely to call you for that problem that can’t be fixed with a few keystrokes, or explosive cursing and an external hard drive.

4) Direct or Facilitate the Conversation.

If you create the subject people are talking about, or steer people to the place where they can find answers, you are helping people figure out they may need your product or service in the first place.

The best example I can give is Apple computers. Before 2001, no one knew they needed a portable MP3 player. No one knew they needed a way to play music on anything besides a portable CD player. No one knew they needed a way to create or listen to podcasts, or that they could even learn through radio shows of random length and scheduling. Once Apple introduced the iPod, people realized they needed this device, and the industry changed.

By directing or facilitating the conversation, you can help people see the pain point they never knew they had, and they will look to you for solutions.

How do you use Twitter as a lead generation tool? Do you even do that, or do you think it’s just wrong and that people shouldn’t do it? Leave a comment, and let us hear from you.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

How To Turbocharge Your LinkedIn Profile

Web pages are useless without traffic, and the same is true about LinkedIn profiles. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for new customers, a job or just more connections, no traffic = no opportunity. Here’s a simple strategy I used to increase the traffic to my LinkedIn profile page from 3-4 people per day to 70-80 people per day (that means 27,000+ visits in a year). Feel free to make it your own:

Step 1: Figure out what your goal is with your LinkedIn Profile.

This isn’t that hard. Your LinkedIn profile is a resume with a couple of places you get to be creative, and there are really only a few practical uses for LinkedIn. Most likely your goal is one of these four: [Read more…]