Beyond the Bullhorn: Social Media Morphs Into Brand Storytelling

May 10, 2015


Marketers have long used social media to promote content. They’ll throw a white paper up on their website, blast a few promotions touting the paper to their Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn followers, and, with any luck, people will like, retweet, favorite, and otherwise amplify the message.

Think bullhorn.

Today, marketers are becoming more sophisticated in using social media as a brand- storytelling medium in its own right. As any good writer will tell you, it’s better to show than tell. And marketers are using social media to demonstrate aspects of their brand that they’d be hard-pressed to get out to the mass digital audience any other way.

Here are three examples:

1. Show the Human Side of Your Organization

People do business with people they know, like, and trust. When used right, social media can show your company’s human side to make you more relatable. For example, Sarah Grayson, Senior Program Manager, Social Media at Intel Security says her company holds public-service days and community-day fundraisers. “Taking pictures and posting about your events on various social media channels can show what the people and the culture of your company is really like,” Grayson says.

Denise Meyer, Social Media Strategist for Interactive Intelligence says that her company has a work hard/play hard culture. The company uses social media to provide a window into this side of the company. Every year, Interactive Intelligence puts on a Summer Olympics, which is a contest with multiple teams doing things like relay races and posts pictures on Facebook.

2. Demonstrate that We’re All in It Together

Another way to use social storytelling to connect with customers is to demonstrate that your company is there to help people in the trenches solve their problems. For example, Intel Security cultivates forums for people to share their experiences, challenges and solutions. As Grayson explained, “The idea is not to talk about a specific product or service, it’s about discussing commonalities and joint industry challenges and what we’re trying to do together to solve them. It’s a collaborative effort.”

3. Subtly Create a Perception About Your Brand

Sometimes companies want to talk not about the details, but to create a specific impression about their brand. Social media is a way to publish content that’s outside the strict boundaries of the brand narrative that can tie your company to these broader themes.

For example, Level 3 recently published content on social media about scientific pioneers like Galileo and Marie Curie. It did another series of tweets with pictures around milestones for women in STEM. Said Stacey Sayer, Global Manager, Social Media Marketing at Level 3, “In these campaigns, we looked for opportunities to create interesting tidbits to put out to our followers that we weren’t sharing in other media. We wanted to have a broader conversation about things the industry cares about. While it’s out of the strict realm of our brand narrative, it’s fun and liberating and part of the story we want to tell. It allows us to subtly tie our brand to innovation.”

Speaking the Language of Social Media

One key to success for all of these efforts is to keep in mind that the medium should dictate the message. Tweak your content and the way you present it so it resonates with each social channel. As Sayer noted, “If a piece of existing content doesn’t resonate in its current form, I go back and make it more palatable. That may mean visualizing something, changing the format, or making it shorter. If I’m handed a 15-20 minute video, I’ll see if we can slice and dice it and get it down to two minutes max and tell the story that way.”

Sayer also takes advantage of social media’s unique abilities to engage customers interactively, participating in Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts, and other interactive social mechanisms to engage the audience in real time.

When customers make a purchase decision, the more they know you, like you, and trust you, the more likely they are to buy from you. Social media gives people a better view into your company’s human side, how you help solve customer problems, and where you fit into the bigger picture.

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