How to Use Storytelling in Social CRM - dummies

How to Use Storytelling in Social CRM

By Kyle Lacy, Stephanie Diamond, Jon Ferrara

Storytelling has become a hot topic for marketers and other content developers, and thus is useful for Social CRM. Information overload causes customers to skip the long boring text passages that marketers carefully place on a website. From this realization, the phrase customer engagement was born. Managers began to understand that they were going to have to work a little harder to capture someone’s attention.

Customers want to consume their marketing content using games, videos, funny tweets, and so on. What they don’t want is the dry, dull corporate-speak that populated the web in the early days. The competition is fierce, so all eyes turned to Hollywood. Content creators realized they had more in common with the storytelling of Walt Disney than the dull documents of Dow Jones.

Almost everyone struggles with making content engaging. Creating interesting prose had previously been the domain of novelists and script writers. Now it’s your job to tell the stories. But how? Collecting and making sense of customers’ comments, data logs, and marketing campaigns was never easy. Now you’re inundated with data from all sides.

To make your content memorable, you can construct your stories in the following ways:

  • Specific users: You can seek out stories about how customers or others are using your products or interacting with your brand in some way. You can then cite these customers in your stories to illustrate your point. Most big companies have gotten the hang of telling stories about their products because PR companies have been helping them do this offline for years.

  • Trends: Look at your data and see what it’s telling you. Then you can tell your customers about themselves based on ratings or percentages. For example, imagine you’re mining your data and find that a particular industry extensively uses your products. That could be an interesting story.

  • Company or product: You can tell a company or product story. In addition to stories about your customers, you’ll want to tell stories about how you created your product or how the brand got started.

A story isn’t memorable if it doesn’t evoke some emotion in the person hearing it. When you’ve heard about great tragedies during your lifetime, you always remember where you were when you heard the news. That’s because it evoked such a strong emotion that you took note of everything happening at that moment.

The following are some ways you can approach your business content from a storytelling perspective:

  • Get people’s attention. To do this, screenwriters use what they call a hook, which is something that catches the audience by the coat tails and won’t let them go. Think about the last PowerPoint slide show you sat through. Was there anything that grabbed your attention? Probably not. You want to open your business story with something meaningful.

  • Identify the hero of the story. The hero of your business story can be the product, the storyteller, or the object of the story. For example, when you watch a commercial about a cleaning product, the product is usually the hero — the product saves the dinner party from unwanted odors.

    But when you talk about your company’s effort to get people to volunteer, the hero is the audience. You want potential volunteers to see themselves as people who can make a difference. Be clear about the hero and make his journey an interesting one.

  • Give the story some emotional content. Make sure that what you’re presenting evokes feelings. Historically, business content was written to be as unemotional as possible. Use words that evoke emotions. If the hero is in danger of losing his business or damaging his product, make the emotion sing out.

  • Be clear about the desired outcome. When you tell your business story, make it clear what needs to happen to effect a positive outcome. Spell it out. It may be crystal clear to you, but your audience may have very different ideas. Never leave it up to the audience to guess what constitutes success or failure.

  • Include a call to action. If you don’t make it clear to your audience what you want them to do, they won’t do anything. No matter where you put the story, it should tell the reader or viewer what to do after they read it.

In 2011, Google started a project called Project Re: Brief. The purpose was to demonstrate that the iconic advertisements of the past could be reimagined for the web using stories. They contacted the creators of several of the iconic advertisements and asked them to update those ads for today’s web audience. Here’s how they recreated those advertisements:

  • Volvo’s “Drive like you hate it” commercial: The gist of the original commercial, written by Amil Gargano, was that Volvo was such a substantial and rugged car that you could drive it like you hated it. No matter how tough the driving course was, it would still perform brilliantly. Google and Gargano got together and updated the story.

    They decided to tell the story of Volvo owner Irv Gordon. Gordon loved his Volvo and had driven it for many years. After hundreds of thousands of miles, he reluctantly sold it. Although it was gone, he remembered it fondly. As a present to him, his sons decided to track it down and bring it back to him.

    Gargano and team filmed the emotional event for the commercial. By telling a true story about how important his car was to him over a lifetime, they were able to make an emotional impact and drive home the point that Volvos survive.


To make your social media content even more powerful, consider going back through your website and other content and reworking it to either tell a story or include stories about customers.