Everybody needs a social narrative. For some people it’s their ‘elevator speech’ – that quick verbal delivery of services that is supposed to happen between floors in an elevator. For others, their social narrative is a storyline that their business unfolds over time and over the web.
Which one of those approaches will reach more people, do you think? A loaded question, I admit. Here’s some elaboration on why I think your social narrative needs to be more substantial than something that you can deliver between floors.
There’s no substitute for face time. We have to talk to each other in order to connect. But even if you are an Olympic-quality networker, there’s only so much ground you can cover in person, and only so much talking you can do before sleep deprivation sets in. But that’s just where your social narrative can help.
What is a social narrative, anyway? And more importantly, what does your social narrative sound like? Your social narrative is the story of what you stand for, the story people tell when they talk about what you do, and the story you have to communicate if you want to build support, gain friends, and show your value to the world. If you build and express your social narrative, you create a powerful engine that is your proxy online. It goes where you can’t be and can be everywhere the web reaches.
We humans are narrative creatures. We respond well to stories that play out over time. That’s why there is a vast difference between creating social media that is to be tossed down like potato chips as opposed to a social narrative that is designed to engage readers, viewers and listeners and keep them coming back for more. There are a number of factors that go into crafting a social narrative.
A social narrative …
- can be a brief, entertaining history of your company
- can be the origin story of how you got started in your cause or business
- can be a story-driven roll out of a product or service
A social narrative …
- must connect with what you stand for
- has to communicate your unique value in the world
- must be capable of being told and re-told by others
Your social narrative must connect with others in a root way – and be a simple enough story so that people can remember it and tell it to others. That’s why, when helping clients build their social narrative, I often begin by telling about how they got their business started and what motivated them to do so. We get at the core values of the business in that way, and people respond to values. If your work is about eating well, producing local wine, or celebrating the eco-conservation movement, you stand a better chance of celebrating with like-minded people if you celebrate these values in your social narrative.
Think about these examples: On a whim, Steve Jobs audited a college calligraphy course, and it later inspired him, when coming up with an early design of the personal computer, to allow the user the personal creativity to choose a font. (True story, with the roots of ‘think different,’ Apple’s famous slogan, baked right into it.) Hewlett-Packard started in a garage with simple entrepreneurial values. (Also true.) These tiny snippets communicate aspects of the big values driving these very successful companies. These stories have become touchstones of passion, passed from person to person like legends. Social narratives matter. What’s yours?
Lee Schneider is the creative director at Red Cup Agency. Red Cup leads online campaigns.