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Storytelling on Social Media: Your Story’s Not About You

Kelsey Agnew
Written by Kelsey Agnew  February 26, 2016

I recently hopped on a plane for Austin, TX to attend the Digiday Content Marketing Summit, where some of the best and brightest digital content strategists in the business shared their wins, losses, tips and tricks for telling a brand’s story on social media. A common thread throughout the event, and probably one of the most important takeaways: Your story is not just your story, and you shouldn’t be the only one telling it.

So whose story is it? If you’re doing things right – if you’ve built a strong brand with a personality, a history, with goals and values – your story lives with each and every one of your consumers. Whether you’ve supported them, empowered them, made their lives a little easier or a memory a little more special – they’ve got a connection with your brand that’s part of your larger narrative. It’s going to exist, and they’re going to share it, so it shouldn’t be ignored; it should be heard and, in some cases, amplified.

That’s not to say that you should throw in the towel and give up control over the way your brand’s depicted on social media, but it’s important to recognize and embrace the fact that you never really had control in the first place. There are so many conversations about your brand swirling on so many different platforms at any given moment, many of which you will probably never see or hear. Instead of just thinking of social media as a place to talk about yourself to people who want to hear about you, consider that it’s a place where you can empower your consumers to talk about their relationships with you to people who don’t expect it. The latter’s going to be more authentic, more impactful, farther reaching, and a whole lot easier on your content development team.

It all starts with listening – and I mean REALLY listening. That doesn’t mean monitoring and responding to mentions and messages that are directed at you; it means implementing tools and strategies to hone in on the conversations that are happening about your brand, and even adjacent to your brand, across every single channel. Know who your consumers are, where and how they’re using social media, and how they talk to each other (whether it’s about you or not). You’ll begin to learn how you fit into their narratives, and the place and time to leverage that connection, rather than continually trying to convince them to come be a part of yours.

Next, decide whose stories are worth amplifying, and empower the heck out of them…but always, always remember that they’re the narrator, not you. Chances are good that there are people out there who are thinking and saying great things about you. Let them know you appreciate it and give them a platform to say those things to a broader audience. How you go about this can take myriad forms. From a #regram or a Snapchat takeover to a guest blog post or a full-fledged influencer program, there are a zillion ways to get your story out there through storytellers who aren’t you, which helps your narrative achieve depth and variety that you’d never attain by just talking about yourself, in your brand voice, on your owned channels.

Finally, KEEP listening (and measure what you’re doing). It’s not a strategy unless you’re monitoring, measuring, analyzing and optimizing all the ways and places in which your story’s being told. Know that some stories won’t resonate and some won’t get told exactly how you expected them to, but there will be ones that pack a punch and you should be prepared to throw your weight (and your dollars) behind them. You should also use those learnings to influence how you construct your narrative as you tell it; the things that are most impactful with your consumers might not be the things that are most important to your brand, but once you identify this you can think about ways to use this information to help you grow and evolve (as a marketer, as a department, and even as a business).

To sum things up: Your brand story is far bigger than your brand, and social media provides us with so many opportunities to explore the endless iterations of your story that exist in the wild. Respect it. Embrace it. Leverage it. You’ll build more meaningful relationships, develop a deeper understanding of your consumer, and learn valuable lessons that can and should have real impact on your business.

Kelsey Agnew

Kelsey Agnew

Long before joining the Vert team in 2012 as a Digital Brand Manager, Kelsey was spending her time kicking around a soccer ball, cheering for the Steelers, and building Angelfire websites in northwest Pennsylvania. Currently, Kelsey leads the web & social content charge at Vert, working with clients to develop and execute robust, engaging strategies.