Narratives compel us. They’re familiar. They’re memorable (22 times more memorable than facts, according to one psychologist). So it’s no wonder that in an era of constant digital sharing and connection, companies who master brand storytelling are achieving – and maintaining – a global following. Businesses can engage with potential customers and make lasting impressions if they tell compelling stories about who they are and what they represent. But too often, brands focus their stories on promoting their products/services. They feign caring about world problems without real action. And they share text-heavy descriptions, facts and statistics with their audiences instead of more engaging, visual posts. For brand storytelling success, customers must be at the center of the narrative.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ever mention your products/services, but they should come secondary to the real, human element at the heart of your message. The customer should be the main character of your narrative because consumers want to do business with honest, empathetic companies. A Sprout Social survey revealed that honesty ranked highest among a list of behaviors consumers want from brands. What’s more, the most empathetic companies are among the most profitable in the world. One of the best ways to shift your focus to consumers – and boost engagement – is to harness the power of customer-led storytelling. When you showcase the consumer perspective, your audience will see themselves reflected in your story and feel more a part of your brand. Read more to find out how to create customer-centric storytelling.
Brand Storytelling: First things first
To start, iron out the basics of your anchor story to show why your brand exists and matters: its history, challenges, successes and values. With clear conflict, challenge and resolution, establish the story you want to tell, keeping it simple and consistent. Then, adapt your brand voice to tell that story with the customer, not the business itself, in the spotlight. Once you do, you will see more traffic to your channels as well as an increase in customer trust and loyalty. Here are some ways to get you there:
Hone your hashtag game
Create a few signature hashtags for your brand, and make those hashtags extremely visible. Invite customers to share and tag images of themselves on social media using your products or services. Place these invites in your product packaging or digital purchase communications, and remind customers purchasing in person, if possible. Use your website and social media channels to promote your hashtag. Offer incentives, competitions or prizes for customers who use it. Increased customer sharing will expand brand awareness and bring new customers.
Give up the reins for a bit
As carefully as you plan every aspect of your digital presence, turning one of your channels over to your customers for a brief time can be a scary but worthwhile practice. Let consumers take the lead to tell your story by hosting a social media takeover. This allows customers to share their thoughts, photos and opinions on your platform to a much broader audience than they’re accustomed to. You could invite influential customers to participate in a customer-led Q&A session, document an event from their perspective or share a day-in-the-life through photos and videos. Another way is to invite customers to write posts on your blog. There a plenty of options, but the key is to use outreach strategies offering a range of digital mediums for customers to help tell your story by sharing their own on your channels, with monitoring of course.
Feature visual case studies
Share customer successes by telling those stories – visually and from the customer’s perspective. People are interested in people, and these case studies are an excellent way to intrigue audiences with real people’s problems. And showcasing your products as an effective solution to those problems is an added bonus. The important thing to remember about this style of brand storytelling is that it must be focused on the customers, not the products, to achieve an authentic feel. Also, people process images 60,000 times faster than text, so tell these stories through a visually stimulating medium. Reach out to satisfied customers, who will likely be excited to share their stories on your platform.
Tap into your community
Consider the town or city where your business is based. Tune into what’s going on in your community, and look for what might connect to your company’s mission or products. Use brand storytelling to share stories about people and events in your community that relate to your brand. Sure, it’s a great idea to actually get involved and document any philanthropic work you do. But you should also feature the great work and stories of others, which will expand your reach and reinforce the values at the center of your business.
Share video reviews
Your customers have likely already published video reviews of your products/services. Find the most flattering ones and share them on your website and social media pages. If your business or products are new and reviews aren’t out there yet, create opportunities for user-generated reviews by encouraging your customers to upload honest feedback via video. Give them a platform for submitting or posting their reviews, and share the ones that best highlight your brand.
When you find ways to regularly publish user-generated stories, your brand storytelling strategy establishes an authentic, relevant voice among consumers. It would be foolish not to tap into such an accessible resource to demonstrate the value of your business. Your customers live the lifestyle your brand represents, and they trust their peers’ voices. Let them help you tell your story!
Written by Bonnie Harris for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Oliver Dumoulin