By Missy Sheehan
It’s past midnight, and you know you should be in bed by now, but you keep reading anyway. “Just a few more pages,” you promise yourself. “I have to see what happens next!”
We’ve all been there. You’re snuggled in bed, engrossed in a good book, and before you know it, hours have gone by. That’s the irresistible power of a well-told story.
“Storytelling may seem like an old-fashioned tool, today—and it is. That’s exactly what makes it so powerful. Life happens in the narratives we tell one another. A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul,” wrote Harrison Monarth, an executive coach and bestselling author, in a post for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network in March.
As a business owner, you can use tried-and-true storytelling techniques to supercharge your business’s social media presence.Here’s how:
As a business owner, you can use tried-and-true storytelling techniques to supercharge your business's social media presence.
Show, Don’t Tell
When it comes to storytelling, “show, don’t tell” is one of the fundamental rules. “Rather than talking at your audience, telling them what to do or feel, share the story so that it unfolds naturally and your audience comes to their own conclusion themselves,” advises Andy Smith in an article posted on FastCompany.com in February.
The best way to share your company’s story is to do exactly that—tell a story. Structure your social media posts so they read like a narrative. Like your favorite novel, your posts should Include a beginning, a middle and an end (but not necessarily in that order—more on that next). And try to make characters you mention relatable and real. These characters can be your employees, your customers or even yourself.
Mix It Up
While stories should include a beginning, middle and end, the best stories don’t always follow that order. So mix it up a bit. Unless your story involves a series of steps meant to be followed in sequential order, consider opening with the most interesting or attention-grabbing part and then following with the back story and conclusion.
“Chronology matters much less than having your story follow an interesting arc,” Smith wrote. “Often the stuff you need to hook people doesn't tend to happen early on. Events need to build, one after the other, emotionally rather than sequentially.”
Tension—that excited, nagging feeling that you just have to find out what happens next—is what keeps someone interested in a story. Storytellers often use a technique called foreshadowing, giving readers hints about what’s to come, to build tension.
Business owners can do this with social media, too. Launching a new product soon? Give your audience a small preview of what’s to come to build their anticipation.
Try spreading your story out over series of consecutive posts or photos. Readers are more apt to read small chunks of text rather than long ones. Plus, spreading out the story builds anticipation for what’s to come.
Conflict, likewise, can draw people into your business’s story. “Something always goes wrong in companies, particularly startups. But screw-ups also present opportunities to shine by telling a story of responsibility, apology and remedy,” according to Smith.
Use conflict to your advantage by sharing how your company dealt with and overcame a particular challenge or setback, for example, and what you’ve learned from it.
Every business has its own unique story to tell. Now that you’ve learned how to use some fundamental storytelling techniques to share yours, get out there and start supercharging your social media presence. Just remember—think narrative!