Social Media Stories

I wrote this post for the SDL corporate blog, but liked it enough to post it here.

Social media usage in business is exploding, but it hasn’t yet provided a “magic bullet” to help companies use it to improve their results.  Companies struggle to jump from social media monitoring and listening to taking actions that improve their business.  Marketers try to glean nuggets to help them make decisions from a flood of data, but it’s a challenge.

 Marketers (along with politicians, public speakers, corporate presenters) have long known that audiences connect more with stories than with bulleted PowerPoint slides.  If you present a compelling narrative that people can understand and let them connect with it emotionally, they’ll be more receptive to your message.  This is true, whether you’re seeking votes, trying to persuade co-workers to embrace your proposal, or selling a product.  We connect with stories (a fact which is true at a biological level[1]).

 When it comes to gleaning insights from social media conversations, marketers should learn from their own craft, treating themselves as the audience.  Statistics aren’t enough.  The fact that there is an increase in number of tweets about my brand doesn’t help generate more revenue.  Seeing a declining trend of “content tone” in blog posts about my product doesn’t give any real insights into customers’ buying behavior.

How can a marketer go beyond “just data” and deliver stories with a narrative that resonates?  It’s more complicated than simple social media monitoring.  There are tools (including’s SDL’s Customer Commitment Framework, or CCF[2]), that provide real insights from social media conversations.  With more sophisticated analysis, social media content can be correlated to the stages of a customer journey.  In addition, audience segments can be identified, matching specific profiles of buying behavior.  This rich collection of information reaches beyond just listening to social media posts, allowing us to elicit the stories that match the experiences our customers (or prospective customers) are having.

The deeper insights might indicate that prospective customers learn about a new product, but struggle to get it working when they download a trial from the vendor’s website.  They might show that buzz and excitement were generated when a Memorial Day sale was announced.  They might demonstrate that the upgrade that seemed to generate lots of volume actually created a lot of frustration with ease of installation and with customer support.  In each of these cases, the story helps drive understanding and action.

What does this mean for marketing professionals?  Through the stories that are produced, Marketers can identify specific actions they will take.  Maybe they’ll target an advertising campaign at a specific segment of customers.  Maybe they’ll adjust their web presence, tweaking the pages that are presented to website visitors who are already customers.  Maybe they’ll invest in improved customer service tools.  Maybe they’ll offer discounts or run a sale, to attract cost-conscious buyers.

The important, valuable, difference is that they’ll be making these choices based on factual, reliable information – information that provided through a story.

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