Life is a journey. Stories are our mile markers."
I ate my first burger when I was 27 years old! My mom raised me as a vegetarian so yeah, I was that kid who had steamed broccoli and alfalfa sprouts with tuna sandwiches on rye bread in her lunch box while the other kids snacked on left over pizza, Lunchables and Cool Ranch Doritos.
After years of wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I finally tried a burger — an In-n-Out burger! After that first bite, it was as if the gates to heaven opened up, doves were released in the air, and a choir was singing Pharrell’s HAPPY! Been a carnivore ever since.
How’s that for a story intro?
I’m Adeniz — burger lover, beach dweller, and storyteller.
As a business owner you’ve probably heard that storytelling is important for your business but you’re clueless as to why and how that relates to your marketing and social media presence. We’ll get to all of that in this post.
According to Google (of which at this point I have a PhD in) “Storytelling has earned its place as the most important tradition humans possess.” Stories teach us so much: to love, to forgive; they educate and entertain. To me stories are like math, they’re a universal language. Every culture has its own narratives and we share those narratives as a means to educate and entertain and preserve our cultures. I’m going to quote google again because, this was a good description: “Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others.”
Let’s take a look at storytelling as it pertains to social media and in particular Instagram.
Have you ever thought about why you follow the accounts that you do? Chances are it’s not just because of their photos. You like their story — you relate to it, you’re entertained by it, and perhaps you’re even inspired by it. The big question is, how do we get people to relate to YOU, be entertained by YOU and inspired by YOU? The answer is: You gotta tell your story boo! Now you might be thinking, “But what’s my story?” or “I don’t have a cool story to tell.” Chances are you haven’t dug deep enough in those YOU files, but don’t worry we’re going to get you well on your way to being a great storyteller and share some tips you can start implementing TODAY!
Let’s dive in.
PART 1: Your Story
People have been telling stories since the beginning of time. Over half of our conversations come in the form of stories, crazy right? We are constantly craving authentic connection and stories allow us to connect with one another because they convey emotion: they’re memorable, informative, entertaining and relatable. Stories provide a sense of purpose and businesses with a purpose have always been the ones to stand out among their competitors and win over their audiences along with their pocketbooks. As humans our decision making with purchases are driven much more by emotion than by data. So in order for you to drive sales (because ultimately that’s what you want, right?) you have to have a strong story that connects with your audience and ignites emotion. Your goal is to get people to believe in you.
I’d like you to look at your business not as a product you’re trying to sell but as a valuable service you’re providing to your consumers. When you provide value and serve your audience you are cultivating a relationship. They begin to trust you and believe in you and when they believe in you and feel connected to you, they will ultimately purchase from you. Back in college I took a writing course and the professor shared an exercise with us that I loved. I remembered this when I started my career and it took some time to search for on the interwebs but I found it and now use it with my clients. I’m sharing it with you today.
An Effective Story….
….. is personal
Now YOU don’t necessarily have to be the main character in your story, but your audience should understand why you are telling this story and if it’s not about you then you need to make sure your audience knows why it’s personal to you.
… has a clear goal
Why are you telling this story? Ask yourself, “What do I want my audience to feel? What do I want them to walk away with from this story? What actions do I want them to take?”
….. is tailored to a specific audience
You have to know your audience. The story you tell must speak to the person (people) you are trying to influence. Be very clear about who you are trying to reach.
….. is relatable
Your story is only effective if you’ve been able to share something that your audience can relate to, can empathize with, can convey a sense of purpose.
People are much more inclined to get behind a person than a business. Humanize your brand and you’re sure to get the tribe (customers) you desire. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles, setbacks, and your wins. Your audience wants to see the perseverance, passion and hard work that went into starting your business; they want to know your journey.
…… is clear and focused
Everyone has a story but if yours isn’t communicated clearly then your audience won’t be captivated by it. Make sure you have a story that is easy to follow. It should have a beginning, middle and end. If it’s confusing or ambiguous then your audience will likely lose interest.
Part 2: Visual Storytelling
Since much of social media is about visual stimulation, this next part is about visually telling your story. Did you know that we basically have one or two seconds to grab someone’s attention on Instagram before they scroll through to the next post? We have one second to convince someone to stay on your image, to expand that caption, to swipe through your carousel, and to hopefully like and comment on your photo/video/boomerang. That’s not a lot of time. We’re inundated with so much content on a daily basis; we’re consuming it at a rapid speed. So in order to have people engaging more and scrolling less, you’ve got to first connect with them through your imagery. This is why you hear that “content is king.”
Let’s dive in to visual storytelling. Your photos are key. Your Instagram feed is basically your visual magazine for your business so the images you post have to be EYE-CATCHING! Although we’d all like to think we’re professional photographers now that the smart phone has come such a long way, the reality is, most of us are not. Depending on what your budget is there are several options for you to get great content (try those free classes at your local Apple store if you’re wanting to be super scrappy, trade services with a photographer you’ve been admiring and who’s imagery aligns with your brand, reach out to brands who’s content you like and see who their photographer was).
Once you have a library of images, find time to arrange your photos that tell your story. For Instagram in particular, you should map out what your story is through your photos. I plan out my feed ahead of time (I like to do it at the beginning of the month for my clients but for myself, I do it on Fridays for the following week). Some people follow the The Story of 9 method which is this: In a grid of 9 photos you should have a cohesive look and feel to your brand. This visually helps tell your business’ story.
Here’s an example of my Story of 9:
Aside from my feed, I share a lot on my Instagram Stories as well. This can be another way to compliment the content on your feed. You can even post teasers on your feed that say, “want to see how I got this shot? Check out my stories for the behind the scenes footage.” Or, you can tease something in your stories to send people to your most recent post.
Incorporate things that are related to you and your business. In order to have a cohesive feed keep in mind the style of imagery, a color scheme, and a consistency in your photos. I use a platform called Planoly. It’s a great tool that allows you to upload your photos, rearrange them in the order you want, write your captions and schedule your posts.
Here are a few brands who I think do a great job telling a visual story:
PART 3 COPYWRITING:
I recently saw a business post a photo of their product on the beach on a sunny day with the caption: “sunshine is the answer to everything.” Don’t get me wrong — we all love us some sunshine (especially you East Coast friends, right?). But how is a photo of the beach going to sell their product or grow their business? Chances are it’s not. REMEMBER, you want to take people’s emotions into consideration when creating content.
Now what if they posted that same photo with a caption that read: Our latest collection of beach towels was inspired by the sunny summer months in Bondi Beach where we stroll on the sand in the early mornings, bask in the sunlight in the afternoons and picnic at sunset while the waves crash against the shore. No matter what your beach adventure looks like, our beach towels are the perfect summer accessory.
Can’t you picture yourself strolling along those beaches in the early mornings and basking under the warm sun in the afternoon? I sure can. It’s about letting people in and sharing an experience that they can relate to, that they can connect with.
Here’s another example:
A client of mine, a sustainable athletic apparel company used to write their captions like this:
Feel supported in the Jax Crop Top & Half Lotus Legging.
Not really a show stopping caption right? There’s nothing to grab the audience’s attention and they’re not sharing one important message – the fact that they’re a sustainable brand.
Here’s how we rewrote it:
Activewear is our bread & butter at T4T. Since the beginning, we’ve sought to create gear that performs, supports looks good and of course doesn’t harm the environment. We’re always creating, testing and imagining new sustainable ways to help you work out. Featuring two of our classics: The Jax Crop Top & Half Lotus Legging.
Honing in on the sustainability factor is very important. We want the audience to know we take pride in sourcing nothing but eco-friendly fabric that also feels good when you’re wearing them.
Here’s one more example:
An alcoholic beverage company posted a photo of a pretty holiday cocktail with the following caption:
Sip Sip Hurray!
Punny? Yes. But it’s not selling me on the cocktail or the brand. Now Hangar 1 Vodka posted a similar colored cocktail but their image was of friends gathered around in the midst of a cheers and their caption read:
Garnished with pomegranate arils, rosemary sprigs and grilled Meyer lemons – these #Hangar1Vodka Sparklers add a wintry kick to your celebratory cocktail creations. *
*they then shared the recipe.
By adding in a touch of detail about the ingredients and sharing a photo of friends laughing around the table seeming to enjoy their evening together, this totally sold me on the vodka. It sparked emotion. Those holiday feels where you get dressed up, eat too many sweets, imbibe on yummy festive cocktails and laugh until the wee hours of the evening with loved ones. True story, I bought a bottle of Hangar 1 Vodka after that post.
Can you begin to see how words are relatable, spark emotion, and provide information?
No matter what your business is, you’re in the business of telling a story. Whether you’re an artist, a life coach, a hairstylist, a pastry chef or a real estate agent, your job is to capture your audience’s attention through your storytelling and build a relationship with them so that over time they trust you, can rely on you and eventually buy from you.
You can be funny, you can be serious, you can be whatever you want to be as long as you’re creating content that people can relate to, feel inspired by, and connect with. The next time you step outside, listen to sounds you hear, take in the colors and textures. Tomorrow, wake up a little early and write down a few memories you have of starting your business, some successes, some struggles. Figure out what your visuals are and you’ll see how your story comes together.
I hope these tips I’ve shared will get you on your way to becoming great storytellers and even more successful entrepreneurs. Feel free to say hi over on Instagram at @storyplace.media, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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