There is a saying among marketers that “storytelling is SEO for the human brain.”
Of course, when this saying was first coined, it had nothing to do with social media stories.
But perhaps it should have done. Social media stories in fact have HUGE potential to engage audiences, to build authority and trust, and to generally boost your brand. Not only that, but they’re also gaining in popularity all the time. Social media stories took the internet by storm and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down now.
In this book, you will learn precisely what a story is, how to create them, and how to have huge success using them to grow your audience and increase brand loyalty. Four out of five major brands report using stories to promote themselves, and that should tell you something about how big this is going to be going forward.
The first social network to use stories as we know them today was Snapchat. In fact, this was the core feature of that app and the one that set it apart. Snapchat was a surprise hit, despite being built on some slightly shaky code, and so it wasn’t long before the other major players had jumped on board. YouTube introduced reels, and Facebook brought us Stories (also available on Instagram).
Twitter gave us Twitter Moments, and Skype created Skype Highlights. The idea behind a story is unique and quite unlike other forms of content found on social media. A story is a post that is usually delivered through a different feed than the rest of a user’s content, and that is only available for a short period of time. After this, the story will disappear and no longer be available.
Stories can take a number of different formats. Often they will be videos, but they can also be still images. Also a common trope for stories on multiple platforms, is to allow the use of stickers and text. These are usually placed on top of the main media, giving them pride of position and leading to very impressive engagement and open-rates.
There are a number of compelling reasons that many brands are starting to rely more and more on the use of Stories. One is that the organic reach of business accounts on a number of social platforms is decreasing – and this is something we’ll encounter a few times in this book. Another is that stories provide a great ROI in terms of the time and effort they require and the benefits they offer.
The great thing about Stories is that they are temporary – normally lasting just 24 hours. That means that they don’t leave a lasting impression on your page, feed, or account. That gives them a much more personal and off-the-hip feel that customers and fans really dig, but it also means they can afford to be a little less polished and tailored.
That means you don’t need to shoot a product using studio lighting and a DSLR camera: you can just snap it on your phone and send it off. For businesses, this can be seen as a revelation.
Finally, Stories are also extremely popular with customers and users right now. While it’s better to stay away from such terms in marketing, stories are undeniably “trendy.” In fact, Facebook introduced Stories to its platform for that very reason. At the time, the site was seeing fewer and fewer members of the younger generation sign up, as the demographic began to skew upwards in age.
Meanwhile, Snapchat was enjoying a lot of success for a new option – and particularly among the younger contingent of users. Snapchat provided a way for kids to share messages that couldn’t be held for posterity, and in a very immediate and fun manner. Facebook had to adapt or risk becoming obsolete. And as marketers, we need to do the same!
So how do you go about using Stories for marketing? How do you take a form of communication that is designed to self-destruct like the start of Mission Impossible, and use that as a way to draw in more visitors and to make more sales?
Well, that’s where you’re going wrong to start with!
If you’re used to traditional forms of marketing, and if you have been creating ads and posts for Instagram and Facebook for a while now, then you might be accustomed to thinking in a more straightforward and direct manner. Marketing makes leads, and ads make sales.
But in truth, Stories are not for either of those things. Stories are perfectly suited not for increasing the number of followers you have, OR for selling directly to those followers.
So if that’s the case, what is this form of marketing for? The simple answer is that it is for building stronger relationships with your existing followers. It’s about deepening that connection – and that’s huge when it comes to increasing profits in the long term.
You might have heard of the book 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. In it, the author describes the value of creating meaningful relationships with your followers. He describes how as long as a business genuinely manages to obtain 1,000 TRUE fans, it will likely be able to succeed.
What is this based on? Simply the notion that a true fan is not only someone that will buy nearly every one of your products, but also someone who will like all your posts, and who will rave about those same products to anyone who will listen. In short, a TRUE fan is a brand ambassador. And it’s through brand ambassadors that your business can begin to grow exponentially.
How do you get to this point with your followers though, and what does it have to do with Stories? There are lots of ways you build true fans. One is by having a very clear mission statement for your business. One is by knowing precisely who your business is “for” meaning that you understand the psychology of your buyer persona. But the other is through meaningful interactions. And in the case of Stories, that can also mean building a personal brand.
It is common knowledge that most buying behavior is based on emotion rather than logic. We buy things because we see them in the store, think they look desirable, feel tired, and are worried we’ll miss out if we don’t buy. That’s why, often when we go away and really think about a purchase prior to making it, we decide better of it.
With emotion being such a key factor when it comes to spending, it should be no huge surprise to learn that we are more likely to buy when we feel that we really know, understand, and like the seller. Better yet if we feel that the seller has views that agree with our own. This puts us at ease.
We feel better about buying from someone we know because we feel it’s less likely they’re going to try and con us. Likewise, we often want to please the seller. Finally, if we feel that their beliefs are aligned with ours, then we might feel as though buying from them will in some way “align” us with them and help to strengthen our sense of identity.
And that’s where Stories come in.
Many businesses will create a lot of marketing and advertising that is highly polished and staged. Products look perfect with ideal lighting and professional-looking backdrops, while the personality selling the product is never shown. We feel very detached from these kinds of brands, which is why the average person doesn’t exactly shed a tear when they feel that a big corporation is going bankrupt.
This is even MORE true when it comes to selling B2B a lot of the time.
This method is getting increasingly old-fashioned though, as the company in question fails to build any trust, to demonstrate anything that would make it unique or stand out, or to demonstrate any personality.
If you run an online business, then your Instagram account might have the same problem. It might well be filled with lots of stunning looking images of products, or perhaps lots of inspiring quotes, or photos of your lifestyle that are designed to look perfect. This is the image you want to portray, and you know that by including even one unpolished looking photo, you will make the entire account look less messy.
But this is where the nature of the Story is ideal. This is a TEMPORARY image that will never be included on your profile. That means you can include anything you like here, and in 24 hours it is going to be gone. This in turn means you’re permitted to peel back the curtain just a little, and to show your followers “how the sausages are made” so to speak.
Stories can be the kinds of insights that you would never include on the main account, but that help to give you a little personality and help to make you seem much more approachable. Let’s say for example that you were a high profile lawyer, you could use Stories to share aspects of your life – not only the travel and nice hotels, but also your preference in sandwich, your gripes with the queues at your bank... you know normal stuff.
Likewise, a local business might share a Story about a fun customer who came into their store. Or about the parade outside that is driving away customers. They might even include a photo of their dog, or a short post about how they loved the latest Marvel movie.
Things like that might not sound like strategies that would gel with traditional approaches to business... But that should be considered a GOOD thing. This is not a traditional approach to business, but a much more modern strategy for improving relationships.
These posts don’t need to be on-topic, but they do need to be on-brand in as much as they should show a side of you and your business that you want to be seen. In the next chapter, you’ll see just how this kind of interaction can not only strengthen relationships, but also invite meaningful interactions that translate to sales.
If you’re worried about being too personal, then you can use this as a kind of “behind the scenes” to show you setting up the shop, or your staff enjoying drinks out. What’s even more effective though, is if you choose to create a “personal brand.”
A personal brand essentially means a brand that puts the owner (that’s probably you) front and center. Rather than promoting X company, you instead promote yourself as a sole trader.
This doesn’t necessarily reflect on the size of the company, or even it’s structure. Most companies began as one or two people. It’s rather a conscious decision early in the business’s life, to push the individual. And for all the reasons we’ve discussed, this is a very powerful thing.
So instead of being RXPlumbing LTD, you might instead be John Dandy and Co Plumbing. The difference is that the John Dandy is a person that you feel you can “know” rather than a faceless company. Even if you never deal with John Dandy, the implication is that he’s there, and that if you had a serious complaint you could talk with John Dandy. And this opens up huge potential for marketing that otherwise would simply not exist.
You can now, for example, do a live Q&A with your followers and they can actually speak with the owner of the company! Likewise, you can show them some of the homes that you’ve visited and how you’ve helped them, and they’ll not only get to see a demonstration of the great service you can provide, but will also get to see even more of your personality.
Have you ever found that one plumber or electrician who you know does a good job and who you know will turn up on time? And then you never feel the need to use anyone again?
What if you could become THAT service provider, even without ever having met the customers yet?
There is one more group that should definitely sit up and take notice of Stories: social media influencers. Scratch that. Most influencers are already ALL OVER stories because they know just how important they are. The group that should get involved then is the aspiring influencers group. The people who want to become influencers, but haven’t quite got there yet.
And this goes for bloggers too, because like it or not, you’re essentially just an old-fashioned type of influencer. An influencer is someone for whom the personal brand IS the business. That’s someone that inspires, entertains, or educates an audience to the point that the audience trusts their recommendations implicitly.
The creative doesn’t necessarily sell a product of their own (though they may) but they have so much clout that they can generate huge amounts of cash from simply wielding their influence.
For example, did you know that the going rate for a sponsored post on an Instagram account with 200,000 followers is $1,000? On YouTube it’s $1,000 for every 100,000 followers!
That’s BIG when you consider that there are PLENTY of accounts out there with over 1,000,000 subscribers/followers. That in turn equates to $10,000 for a single post. On Instagram it takes about 2 minutes to post an image!
In other words then, the potential ROI for a successful social account is gigantic. And how do you get to that point? Using stories is an absolutely essential way for all the reasons we discussed – it lets people come along on your outings and feel that they know you. That they’re a part of your story.
While simply posting Stories as you go about your day is a great way to help bring your followers along for a ride and show off what you’re all about, this is also only part of what makes Stories so effective for increasing engagement. Because the real value of Stories is in the way that they can facilitate communication.
When you open up to your followers in this natural and organic way, in a format that feels very instant and current, you invade people to respond.
And THIS is where you can potentially make a massive difference in the way that your followers see you.
For example, let’s say that you have a store selling hair products. You can post beautiful pictures of women’s hair, or well-lit bottles to your main feed all you like, but if you post a short video of yourself talking naturally to the camera about how you tried the latest product that just came in and your hair feels AMAZING, then that is infinitely more engaging.
And notice that in this example, you never actually said what the product was. You just said something new that came into your store. This is the critical aspect, because it means that you have invited a conversation. That in turn means that you can sell directly to those leads.
Now of course, directly messaging every single person in order to sell a bottle of shampoo might not be the most time efficient method of doing business. But if you imagine that this is a big ticket item – perhaps tickets to see a seminar you run for $1,000 – then suddenly it’s a lot more viable.
Moreover, you can also do this with products that you aren’t selling! Giving people tips throughout the day and doing so via message, is a brilliant way to really establish some rapport with those people. It lets them feel as though they’ve just got a great “insider tip” from a mate, and that’s going to drastically increase their chances of checking out your next post, or of buying your product even.
Another great way to make use of Instagram or Facebook Stories is for announcements. Stories are displayed extremely prominently on most social media platforms, meaning that they’re often one of the first things that users encounter when they land on the sites.
Not only that, but if you haven’t posted a story in a while, then they will be notified that you have. This of course is an excellent way to grab their attention when they might otherwise not have been about to engage with your brand.
An announcement can mean that you are introducing a new product or service, or it can mean that you are running a special deal. Either way, this gives you an excellent way to alert people and potentially to drive some sales.
The best part is that the nature of Stories means that viewers will know they’re not looking at a live post – that this sale is happening NOW.
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