If there was one part of Social Media Week NYC that I thought would be paramount to the modern social guru, it was social storytelling. Quality storytelling in the context of social media has become central to brands in the past few years, and now that they have more channels to tell their story through, standing out from the noise has taken on new importance.
I attended a session hosted by Lisa Bright, David Crabb, and Robin Gelfenbien—all expert storytellers in their own right. They broke down the process of connecting with an audience through storytelling into two key steps: create empathy and establish trust.
We have broken this post into two parts to keep it tight, Create Empathy and Establish Trust. In today’s piece we will go over the second step: establishing trust.
Part 2: Establish Trust
Don’t be a one-off
When brands tell stories, they need to be consistent over time. Your customer empathizes with your brand for a reason, changing your message can change their disposition. It’s worth noting a brand’s storyline isn’t short; it should have an overarching narrative theme that remains culturally relevant over a long period of time.
Patagonia is a company dedicated to environmentalism and in total opposition of waste. From a section called “Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It” on their website:
“At Patagonia, we are dedicated to abundance. We don’t want to grow larger, but want to remain lean and quick. We want to make the best clothes and make them so they will last a long, long time. Our idea is to make the best product so you can consume less and consume better.”
This is a theme that will always be relevant to their audience. Every marketing (or anti-marketing) campaign they do falls under the idea of reducing consumption.
For example, on Black Friday when every other brand was telling people buy buy buy, Patagonia released this $29 sewing kit for making repairs on your current gear:
They also ran a “Worn Wear” campaign, where they invited their customers to share the stories of the Patagonia gear they had carried with them on adventures. Many of these pieces of clothing lasted over multiple generations! The letters and images lived on a Tumblr blog, and so were easily shareable on the platform for social engagement.
Ironically, by telling people not to buy their clothes unless they need them, Patagonia has increased sales by 40% in 2 years.
Embody your word and stick to it
In order to earn audience trust brands have to practice what they preach. There’s truth behind the statement “actions speak louder than words.” As a brand, once you stand for something, you have to embody it. People will appreciate your commitment and share their experiences with their communities.
Zappos is a brand that fully commits to their mission, and that mission is customer service. In their own words:
“We’ve been asked by a lot of people how we’ve grown so quickly, and the answer is actually really simple… We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible.”
They always deliver on their commitment to customer service, and it leads to public recognition.
This is one of countless reviews that all say basically the same thing. Zappos is a brand that will service their customer’s needs, no questions asked. This adds value to the purchase because buyers are 100% confident that if anything goes wrong with their order, they will be taken care of.
Be interested, not interesting
Social is an engine of conversation, and every conversation has both speaking and listening. Part of earning a customer’s trust is letting them know that they’re being heard. The best stories have two sides right? Brand loyalists are already providing all the content a brand needs to tell great stories; it’s only a matter of listening to them and acting on what they are saying.
Take for example this story about J-crew. A woman named Jenni took to the web to vent her frustration about not being able to find a one-piece swimsuit on par with the ones that J-crew no longer manufactured.
She wrote about her searches in thrift stores, conversations with her mom, forays into the world of designer goods, and her frustrations with what she could find on the market. It made for a very good story, and she closed it imploring J-crew to resurrect the intangible swimsuit from her past.
This story got shared around the Internet until eventually a J-crew representative read the letter. She took it upon herself to make the woman’s Jenni’s wish come true, and J-crew soon brought back the one-piece swimsuit. When the item was released they sent Jenni the catalog with a personal note.
This kind of social listening turned into action not only made Jenni happy, it created brand loyalty for everyone else who came in contact with the experience. Jenni’s story might as well have been their own—and it just goes to show that J-crew cares about their customers.
Creating empathy and establishing trust have always been necessary for brands, but with the advent of social media the power of storytelling has taken on new importance. Brand stories are more visible, and this type of content is much more influential. Empathy and trust lead to action, and action is what sells product.
Moving further in the 21st century, a brands profile will be what governs consumer decisions as much as the product does. The best way to cultivate that profile is through quality storytelling.