Yes, Stefan, They ARE Storytellers

“My philosophy has always been that I believe that art is not an elitist gift for a few select people. Art is for everyone.” — Richard Attenborough

Recently, Juxtapoz featured a video by Stefan Sagmeister in which he proudly proclaimed, “No fuckhead, you are not a storyteller” to, well essentially anyone who isn’t a novel writer or a feature film director.

(The tl:dr version of this post? “Yes, Stefan. People are storytellers. And despite making some good points, you’re an idiot.”)

Stefan (can I call you Stefan? I mean, after watching your video and tearing it apart so many times, I feel there’s a certain kinship here) makes some interesting points, some of which even make sense. I understand the need to say outrageous things. After all, if you don’t then how will you convince people to show up to your next TED talk, or get picked up by Juxtapoz?

Continue reading “Yes, Stefan, They ARE Storytellers”

From the Archives – How do you nurture your audience?

Ok, this is a quick note to remember that social media should be primarily about the content you create and how it helps your organization to develop an audience. That’s one of the first questions you need to ask when you’re coming up with your social media strategy, where am I? Who in the hell do I want to talk to? And what do I want to tell them?

Is it an internal audience? Shareholders?  Customers?

Look, you need to connect with your interested audience via social networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and develop your community there, but it should always have the goal of bringing people back to your blog, your online home where you bring your social media elements together. You can show off other elements people won’t see on Facebook or Twitter, but you always have to keep in mind the goal of bringing them back to your site.

And with this, I have to disagree with the idea being floated around out there of some kind of “site-less Internet” future. This is asinine. Dude, you don’t want to keep a lot of exclusive content on Facebook or other external networks because you never know when Facebook is going to turn into the next Friendster and fall apart, which is possible if Facebook keeps screwing around with their privacy settings and not telling anyone about it, or pissing off their users.

It’s not about the “supremacy” of Facebook, or Twitter. It’s not even about SEO when you think about it. It’s about using these social networking elements to engage your potential audience on a more neutral field and then bringing them back to your site where you have your kick ass content.

How do you do this? A lot of this is social media 101 but it’s always good for a refresher.

  • Pre-load your site with content before you start reaching out – you want to have a lot of good stuff up before you start engaging with people
  • Listen before you leap – Monitor what people in your industry are saying before you start reaching out to them
  • Engage people – Once you start getting people commenting on your site, respond to them. Don’t ever develop the mentality that you are too important to talk with people who take the time to read what you’re saying.
  • Focus, Daniel-San – Remember that you need to dedicate time to working in social media.
  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat – Keep cranking out interesting content, depending on the social media vehicles you are using.

After checking out your content, continuing to give them additional great content should keep them coming back to your site. This will start to, if it’s not already, replace SEO. If you want to bring SEO into your strategy, look at making every third or fourth post an SEO focused post.  This just means you need to build up content faster.

These are just a few of my ideas, what do you look for when thinking about how to add social media to your mix?

SEO is a “Window,” not a Destination

As ever in social media, there is an ongoing argument – this one about the importance, or non-importance, of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your social media efforts.  Those on the “pro” side stating that without SEO you will never receive traffic to your Web site, and those on the “con” side countering that SEO does not allow you to be truly engaging in your communications and that it’s just “gaming Google” and selling products like ScribeSEO. I tend to look for a middle ground.  SEO can play a part in your social media planning, but without additional communications streams, be it blog posts or other engaging modes, SEO is worthless.  Gearing every post with special SEO rules and ignoring the fact that your readers are mostly regular people who are checking your site out. And SEO does help when you are working in tags, such as YouTube, or even tagging blog posts.

My take on this is simple, yet as complex as you wish to make it.

SEO gives your reader a glimpse through the window of your house.

Reader engagement (including social networking engagement) invitingly opens the door for them,

Compelling and storytelling content keeps them returning for more.

All need to be in balance, all need to be approached in different ways – depending on your needs. Providing your social media communications a level of harmony that people find irresistible.

"Disney-fying" Your Story

Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks are often called “The Happiest Places on Earth,” however if you ask many of Disney’s detractors they’d say that Disney’s marketing just tells a good story. Regardless of how you view Disney (I personally am a huge fan), you should grab your Moleskein or netbook and take a trip to either park for a couple of days to take notes and learn how to “Disney-fy” how you tell stories.

When I talk about “Disney-fying” your story, I’m not talking about making a simple story, I mean think about how to create a more immersive story, using multiple media, online and offline, community development and more.

I was watching a special on Disney World when I started writing this piece. The show was describing the Disney Animal Kingdom’s Everest Ride, and how the “story” behind the ride started long before you arrived at the ride – it started as soon as you entered the “village” area for the ride, with posters about the yeti being shown on screen, and how the little shops, food areas, etc around the ride had elements about the yeti and the Nepalese mentality of “forbidden areas” around mountains that are believed to have yeti. These elements gave more of an “asian flavor” to the ride, giving it more background and depth than just another basic rollercoaster ride. (Think of your messages in this way, what can you do to provide more information or depth to your message – going beyond just having another message to tell.)

When you visit one of the Disney theme parks there are a myriad of stories being told beyond the obvious “Walt Disney” story. Far too often people are rushing around to really let the stories sink in with them, and if your communication efforts aren’t ready to meet the challenge of connecting people, they’ll rush away before your message resonates with them. (regardless of if it’s a sales message, a communication message, or a community building message)

This also goes to show you that you the importance of having people knowledgeable about storytelling and the elements of your organization, people who can’t fake this interest and knowledge, engaging with your audience in these multiple media. How do these elements work together, how do you play on their various strengths to tell your story?

What’s Your Common Thread?

Earlier this month, my wife and I spent a relaxing week on honeymoon at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. One of the first things we noticed walking around the Magic Kingdom was the variety of languages floating through the air. Swedish, German, Spanish, Chinese – all bouncing around at the same time. (Not to mention the Disney program that allows college students from all over the world to work for Disney for a year – we met so many great people from around the globe that week)

What brought all of these people from locales all around the world to one place? Their love of Mickey and all things Disney. This place and what it represents to people around the world is a strong enough bond to bring together people who might not have much else in common. There are very few brands that can do this on a global level (Disney, Coca-Cola, the Pittsburgh Steelers, various religions, etc.).

But many more organizations have this potential, albeit on a more regionalized level. Whether it’s graduates from your school or university, sports fans, people who use your widget or follow your politics (if you’re a politician) there is a group of people who are passionate about being a part of a like-minded community.  Ask yourself, “what have we done to nurture this group? How can we engage and develop this burgeoning community?”