How Social Media Helps With Your Small Business Storytelling | Small Biz Marketing Specialist
business story telling

How Social Media Helps With Your Small Business Storytelling

Everyone loves a great story, and your small business is a story that needs to be shared!

When we think about the way that our small business brand is represented to the world, it’s easy for us to be focused in on things like quality and credibility and reasons why someone wants to buy from us. It’s very much “chest-pounding”: “We do this.” “We do that.” We. We. We.” It’s all inner-driven (focused on the company) and feature focused (“what” something does instead of “why it’s important and can help”). This is what you DON’T want to do:

Customers today want to know who they’re doing business with, and not just the products or services you offer – but understanding the very idea of who you are is also important. It’s not always enough for people to know the name of your company, product or service. They’re interested in understanding what the story is behind your brand.

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That might be something like how you came to be or why you exist or what your mission is. Or it might be something about the personality and the lifestyle that’s represented by your small business. There’s a huge opportunity for your small business to use social media to share your story. You do it by humanizing your company, by telling the stories that come out of the company itself, out of the use of the product, or even out of the consumer stories that share how products benefit their lives. Or again, just what goes on in that interaction and that dynamic between the organization and between the customer side of things.

Now, when it comes to storytelling, there’s several different ways in which this approach offers value to a business. And one of the key ones is on the emotional side. Emotion is one of the most powerful things that impacts people’s decision making and engagement with your brand. When it comes to creating that emotional connection, or leaving people with some type of emotional response, storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to impact that.

It gives you an opportunity to sway the emotion of consumers in terms of how they look at or view or are receptive to your brand. Now another thing that storytelling can really do that adds a lot of value is the idea of making you credible because a lot of times, the way we tell stories, especially when we’re incorporating in true to life examples, or consumer stories, there’s an implied credibility that comes through that storytelling and comes through those third party experiences that can help people feel more secure about doing business with you.

Not just more emotionally positive, but actually feel that security of trusting that what they think they’re going to get or what they’re hoping to get that there’s going to be enough follow through and enough other people have had a positive experience for them to really trust that that’s what’s going to happen. Now another area that storytelling brings a lot of value into a company is in the idea of making you memorable because human beings are wired for stories. We are much more capable of recalling broad ideas and concepts and emotions when they’re communicated via a story. If we give someone a list of facts, a list of selling points, a list of reasons why to do business with you – their brain just isn’t able to remember it all. When you share it via story – especially when it connects to them emotionally, those tend to stick with them. When we put it in the format of a story and someone is sharing what their experience was, our brains literally archive it and categorize it differently. And our recall level goes up.

Along with building trust, and along with creating that emotional impact, the fact that people are better able to recall the information that’s communicated to them via that story helps make it a very powerful marketing tool. In addition to that, it’s important to keep in mind that on average, people tend to be daydreamers. In fact study after study shows that if our minds aren’t occupied with an important task or if we’re not truly focused on something, we tend to drift off.

And when we look at that concept of daydreaming, the average human spends literally half of their waking hours daydreaming. We average 2000 waking drifts per day, with an average length of about 14 seconds. Do the math on that — 2000 times times 14 seconds — that’s a pretty good portion of our day where our brain is drifting off. But, when you look at the brain’s ability to stay focused versus having those drifts, we stay focused during a story. If we’re reading a book, if we’re watching a movie, if someone is telling us an engaging story, we are better equipped and better able to put those drifts off and really stay focused on what’s happening.

Stories also allow us to connect in one of the easiest ways possible. Again because our brain is going to be a little more focused on being able to receive that message. By using stories to spread your brand message, or to explain your offerings, or to demonstrate how they work, you increase the chance of keeping your audience focused on you and giving them enough recall that they can come back at a later point to actually do some business with you. Think of storytelling from sort of the mindset of how we meet and engage with other people. In general, when we’re meeting up with a prospective friend, or a job prospect, maybe we’re coming for an interview, a service worker, even just a stranger on the street. Any conversation that goes past just, “Hello. How are you doing?” And the cursory kind of polite responses, it tends to be a story.

This is what we do when we meet. We’re naturally wired to seek out insight and common ground and information about who another person is. And in those interpersonal relationships, the types of questions we ask, the words we use, they’re indicative of the type of relationship we want to build. So clearly if you’re single and you see someone else that you hope might be single, that might be one of the early questions you ask. And then based on whether there’s a romantic interest there, you’re probably going to ask different questions than if it’s an interview prospect for a job. Or if you’re meeting up with a co-worker for the first time. The relationship that we’re looking for denotes the type of information we want.

And that’s one of the important things for us to keep in mind when it comes to storytelling because we also have the ability to tailor our story to the audience. So we can put those different features up front. We can weave them in, in a different way if we’re appealing to a group of 60-something females that love to sew, versus a group of 20-something millennials that love whiskey tasting. It’s a different message that gets put together with different focuses and features. There’s also different things that we’re going to put forward if we’re proposing million dollar contract versus a $25 impulse buy that someone can click and order online and have delivered the next day.

Now on the business side of this, we need to think about what the story that we need is. Because a lot of times we get so focused in business on getting the conversion that we forget that sometimes part of getting that conversion is creating those emotions, building that credibility and trust. Helping them have exposure to what’s possible. And for a long time this has been done through education. We might put videos or articles that aim to educate and to demonstrate. The story side of it brings that more social interaction and environment into the mix. And that’s something important for us to keep in mind.

A quote that I really love about this concept, that sort of lays the foundation of why it’s so important comes from the chief content officer over at Digitas. And he says, “The challenge is clear by now. Intrusive, interruptive, self-centered marketing no longer works the way it once did. And it’s effectiveness will only continue to diminish in the social age.” Because again, the way we share information back and forth with each other and the ways that messages spread it happens differently in the social media age than it did before when it was more advertising focused. And where marketing really was more about pushing the advertise, pushing the message and sort of the Don Draper style of if you don’t like the conversation, change the conversation.

Tell people what you want them to hear. Because so much marketing is now driven by consumers through that conversation, we need to be able to approach it in a different way. Now another side of that is the idea, there’s a difference between storytelling and story sharing. And some of it boils down to semantics. But some of it also does need to be kind of taken into account when we look at how we might put our message together.

Because semantically consider the difference between telling and sharing. To tell is to communicate information, facts or news to someone in spoken or written word. It’s to order, instruct or advise someone to do something. That second part that I want you to keep in mind. But to share is to give a portion of something to another. To tell someone about something. Especially something personal. Again it’s a slight semantic difference, but it’s a huge difference in terms of our approach.

And I love this Seth Godin quote that really pairs up with that idea. “The best part of show and tell has never been the telling part. It’s been the showing. Letting someone see and experience and inviting them into that shared experience.” And that’s one of those things that makes the social version of storytelling really more like story sharing. Especially if you want to do it in a way that creates that back and forth consumer engagement. Storytelling in its traditional sense is more the stories that we’ve put into commercials and advertising. And there’s a place for that. There’s a place to put that together in the social realm and it’s very important.

But the other area that we’re just starting to kind of merge into and that really needs some exploration by brands is that idea of the social sharing where it really is about engaging back and forth with your audience and inviting them to be part of an experience with you and with your brand. So ask yourself, do you want to tell your story to people, or do you want to share it with them and let them share their story with you? And how do you meld those two together and what does that look like within your particular company or among your target audience?

Now that we’ve laid the foundation of why storytelling is so important, and what type of impact it can have, the next thing we need to do is look at the business side of telling your story. What does it look like to create a narrative or something that’s representative of either your business’s story or sort of the lifestyle or concept or ideas that you want to promote to people? There’s tons of questions you could ask yourself to start building your story. But we can focus in on a couple key areas as a starting point to build from.

One of the first ones is the idea of whether or not you have a founder’s story. Now for a lot of brands, the story of their founder is so interesting or inspiring that it catches the eye and it makes people take a second look at the product. So think of the companies that are sort of iconic in terms of who their founder or their leader is. So whether that was Steve Jobs and the role he played at Apple. Or Walt Disney and the inspiration and the role he brought to the entire Disney complex. Or loads and loads of other businesses, there are lots of examples out there of how the brand itself was so tied to the person who was sort of leading the helm, that that became part of their story. And people were really interested in it.

Now we can find loads of examples of different brands where the founder really plays a critical role in representing who they are. Now a great example of this is Spanx. The founder Sara Blakely has really embraced the story both of how she came up with the idea, which was basically she was trying to fit into a pair of cream pants for a party, and they didn’t fit quite right. And she knew that when she put her pantyhose on, everything seemed to lay nicer. So she literally cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose and put them on and that’s what launched the brand.

She loves to tell that story. But she also loves to tell the story from her tagline of “Putting her own butt on the line” and it pays off because the way that she made her first sale to Neiman Marcus is that she literally dragged the buyer into a dressing room and she went in and she put on a pair of white pants and came out and said, “Here’s what I look like without them.” And went back in, and put her pair of Spanx on under the white pants and came back out and said, “Now here’s what happens when I’m wearing these.” And the buyer from Neiman Marcus ended up placing a huge order and it was the first major sale that she got that put her in place somewhere.

So those stories and sort of the, yeah this is how it happened. This is literally what a difference it makes. That becomes part of the brand. And sort of Sara Blakely’s journey as an entrepreneur and moving her way up into the Forbes list of highest earning females in the United States, all of that plays a huge role in how they promote the brand itself. And in sort of the story line and the lifestyle line that they want to promote to the people that might buy the product.

Now on a completely differently themed vein, we have fast food chain Wendy’s in the US and Canada, where Dave Thomas was the founder and even though he passed away several years ago, he’s still a critical part of the brand and of the story. Because basically it was the idea that a working class guy makes good and continues to act like a working class guy while building a massive charity. Because it wasn’t uncommon even when he was CEO to see him show up at a store somewhere and start working behind the counter or sweeping the floor somewhere. He always played that role that made it clear to his employees that he wasn’t above them. That he was one of them and part of them.

And he has a huge ongoing charity effort for adoption because he was adopted as a child. And so all of that plays into the narrative of Wendy’s and who they are and what their brand message is and the lifestyle that they want to promote to customers. In fact if you go there now and you buy a meal and you get your cup, all of the cups have stories of kids when they were finally adopted and what it meant to them when they were adopted, or what their first experience was having a new family.

The story side comes from the problems that are solved for people. Now another great example of a company that focuses on their story from that side is Dollar Shave Club. They basically took a problem everyone complains about, and they made it go away. The idea that razors cost a ridiculous amount of money that you always forget to buy new ones until it’s too late. So you’re shaving with a dull razor. And it’s just inconvenient. So all of their messaging focuses in on that idea of we make it cheap, we make it easy, and it shows up right at your house and you don’t even have to think about it anymore. And their commercials all tell the same story with kind of a funny, modern, millennial focused way.

What are you doing to tell you story? Share in the comments below.



About Stacey Riska

Stacey Riska, aka “Small Business Stacey” is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits Training Program, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn’t!) and spending time with her amazing husband.


About the Author smallbizmarketing

Stacey Riska, aka “Small Business Stacey” is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients, MORE sales, and MORE money.

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  • Liz Farris says:

    This is a really good point. Makes me think a lot about what I’m portraying to my clients.

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