Category: Social Media (page 2 of 2)

The 5 stories every business should tell

It was a great pleasure to be on stage at Social RecruitIn with Eamon Collins, Group Marketing Director for Page Group, and Paul Farrer, Founder and Chairman of Aspire presenting on how to build an engaging digital strategy.


Before we could write we told stories.

Oral tradition – or the original stories – was how we passed on messages, shared experiences, educated future generations and created what would one day become known as history.  In illiterate communities around the world there still remains a strong oral tradition where the elders educate youths through stories.

Old relaxed man, looking through glasses, Varanasi Benares India

In his research paper historical psychologist Dr Hodge states that “storytelling typically [took] place in a relaxed and nonthreatening environment. Customarily, the setting [was] a quiet place where everyone [could] comfortably sit.”

Today people today listen, read and watch stories everywhere: in their homes, their offices or their local Starbucks.  Stories are weaved through everything we do, and we tell stories to everyone we meet.   What we tell, and how we tell these stories defines us.

Who would you want to sit next to at a dinner party?  Who would you make your best-man?  Who would you call when you are bored?  The person who tells the best stories.

Even looking back at the word “Story” tells us something…

The entomology of the word History comes from the Greek “histor” for “learned wise man” and then evolved into “historia” which meant “narrative”.  Later through Latin it became the word we use today: “history”.   The origins of the word “Story” come from Middle English where it was used to denote “a historical account”.

The number one reason for telling stories is that they have the ability to be remembered.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Rudyard Kipling

Stories last. 

Long after we have forgotten the data points, the slides, the general content, we still remember the stories.  In fact people interviewed after presentations almost always remember the stories and only one or two pieces of data.

Before we could write, we drew pictures.

We found that drawing the message helped to make it memorable, and we could save that content for longer.  Aboriginal art is some of the earliest forms of storytelling in art.

aboriginal art work
Our minds are pretty simple and we still react more positively to images than we do to the written word.  They say a picture says a thousand words – well it can.

The way we use stories and images allow us to drive people to action.   In her book Resonate, LinkedIn Influencer Nancy Duarte talks about this at length.   If your story resonates with your audience you will get them to do something.   Like waves on an ocean you can make the listener go up, or go down, backwards, or forwards.


Most importantly we help other to tell our stories for us.  Social media has made the sharing and passing on of stories easier than ever.  In exactly the same way people had stories to share their message, their values and their visions – today businesses have stories to tell.   The stories we tell as businesses dictate how much we sell, the loyalty of our customers and the growth we experience over time.


To make it easy I’ve come up with 5 stories that we should all be able to tell – as individuals, but also as businesses.

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • My mission
  • What I do
  • What that means for you

Who am I?

This should be an introduction to you or your business.  It is essential that it is easy to tell across multiple channels and be as relevant on the homepage of your website, your LinkedIn company page as it is being told over the phone by your recruiter.  Every person in your business needs to know this inside out.

Why am I here?

What is the purpose of this conversation or this content that you are making me read?  What are you trying to achieve?  Be up front about the objective.

My Mission.

Explain what you / your business stands for.  This is your values and your mission statement as well as your motivations.

What I do.

Your mission should be more “why” and this is more “how”.   Find your USP – your unique selling proposition and explain it to your audience.

My colleague Eelco recently said that we should no long use the term USP.   Instead we should discuss the UBR – the unique buying reason; the reason that people buy instead of the reason we sell.

What that means for you.

Complete the circle and give case studies and testimonials.  It is essential that you have success stories that demonstrate how you have achieved your mission through what you do.

The Five Stories

In practice how can we do this?
Imagine that each of these stories moves your audience from a place where they don’t know you to a place where they are ready to do business with you.  Take them on this journey through the stories you tell.

the five stories

To give you an example of how I’ve used this in the past, here is how I raised money when running a marathon earlier this year…

Meet Seb.  He is trapped behind a lamp post.  The first story I told was about being a dad… now I know that everyone who knows me knows that I am a dad, however sometimes people need a reminder.  I wanted to increase the likelihood of people seeing my future updates and engaging with them and we know that engagement today – a like or a comment – reduced the friction for future engagement.  Facebook has a system called Edgerank which means that if I generate interactions from my posts my other posts are more likely to come up in my friends’ feeds in the future.


I then sent out an email (click here for the full email) explaining that my son, from the previous picture, had a favorite film: the Jungle Book.  When the book was written there were over 10 million elephants word-wide.  Today there are around 600,000.  I was going to run a marathon to raise money so that my son could grow up in a world with elephants and so could his kids.

Then I shared my charity Just Giving page that cemented the “Why” with more information on poachers and a few videos from the BBC talking about poachers.

just giving
How was I going to do this?  By running.  So I updated all of my profile pictures across social media to a picture of me running a half marathon for charity the previous year and shared these images across the net.

Then I closed the loop by explaining how this would help.  I then told a story about Raj, a 70 year old blind elephant I met in an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka which was funded by charities like the one that I was running for.

At each step I told a story that made it personal, that could be related to and that would resonate.

This campaign – and do consider this to be a campaign – helped me to raise over £3,000 for charity without having to beg and pester.  I was able to take people from not being aware of my aim, to a point where they would happily donate to a charity I cared about.

Every business should know the stories they want to tell and how they want to tell them.  Look at your business and establish how you can use these to your advantage.

Watch the video here…

Below are the slides from the presentation that I gave…

Being 1 in a Million

When I was growing up a million was a massive number.  Working in social media meant that a million suddenly got really small.

829 million people visited Facebook a day in June 2014.  500 million Tweets are sent daily.  LinkedIn has over 313 million members.  6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month.

That means that if you want to be 1 in a million on Facebook there are going to be 829 other people just like you.

If you send a 1 in a million Tweet there are 500 others just as good every day.

If are a one in a million graduate applying to a job on LinkedIn then there are 39 other applicants equally as qualified as you.

Average doesn’t cut it.  Above average doesn’t cut it.  Being awesome isn’t something you aspire to be – you have to be awesome in everything you do, or risk being forgotten.

One in a Million

Spend more time in less places.  Focus on being awesome where it counts.  Stand out or stand down.



Here are a few other social media statistics


  • 654 million mobile daily active users on average in June 2014
  • 1.32 billion monthly active users as of June 30, 2014
  • 1.07 billion mobile monthly active users as of June 30, 2014


  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute


  • 271 million monthly active users
  • Vine: More than 40 million users


  • LinkedIn members did over 5.7 billion professionally-oriented searches on the platform in 2012.
  • More than 3 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages
  • There are more than 1.5 million unique publishers actively using the LinkedIn Share button on their sites to send content into the LinkedIn platform.
  • LinkedIn members are sharing insights and knowledge in more than 2.1 million LinkedIn Groups.
  • LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 313 million members in over 200 countries and territories.
  • There are over 39 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn. They are LinkedIn’s fastest-growing demographic.


1 billion reasons you don’t know about Post

Who knows about Post?

No one I’ve ever spoken to knows about Post.  They are a packaged foods business which started in 1895, and at the turn of the century they were the biggest business of their kind in North America.  Eleven years after their launch, along came a more familiar brand: Kellogg’s.

There is a reason we know Kellogg’s and yet are oblivious to the once omnipresent juggernaut Post.  That reason is advertising, and the $1 billion that Kellogg’s spend every year.

Several recessions ago back in 1929 during the original Great Depression, Post followed the same path as many other consumer goods businesses and stopped advertising.  It seemed logical to them at the time – less revenue means less money to advertise with.

Like the salmon of the advertising world, Kellogg’s swam against the current.  Their decision was to double down on publicity.  The reluctance for businesses to advertise and an uncertain economy meant that advertising costs dropped.  Kellogg’s could double their ad spend in print and out of home marketing whilst still moving in to something completely new and exciting; radio advertising.

By 1933 Kellogg’s had seen profits rise 30%.  Not bad work for a recession.

But it wasn’t until the recession ended that the true benefit of the advertising was felt.  The chasm between Post and Kellogg’s widened – only this time Kellogg’s was on the winning side.

“The trouble is they taste too good.”  Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut strapline from the 1980s which was recently revived.

Building a brand isn’t like turning on a tap.  You don’t see the full potential of your brand instantly.  Building a brand is more like owning a glacier.  The amount of water in a glacier is far greater than any tap, but it has stored potential that you will see trickle through over time.

In the 1950’s when the television became commonplace in most homes, Kellogg’s started to market through this too.  Today nearly 60p from every advertising £1 goes into television.  In 1956 Kellogg’s launched Special K – to date one of their most advertised brands.
A time-line of the television
The problem with television is that it doesn’t give you the option to specifically target your audience.  You can make generalisations over what type of demographic watch what shows or channels.  For example the adverts on a sports channel would be substantially different from those on MTV and different again from a terrestrial channel and so on.
Television ad spend
But Kellogg’s have spent a lot developing a brand that is targeted at a very specific segment of the population.  Not all 7 billion people on earth would have Special K for breakfast.  Their target audience looks a lot like this:

Target Audience of Special K

In the centre of the circle is Special K’s absolute ideal consumer.  As you move outwards the audience becomes broader and broader until outside of that circle you have everyone.

Hitting just that inner circle is close to impossible with television, radio and print advertising.  Social media, however, makes it much easier.  With social media you can build awareness of your brand with people in the bull’s-eye, the people you have specifically built your brand for.

The volume of information we offer up on places like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Gmail and LinkedIn mean that we are likely to be served targeted and relevant content.  The question marketers ask is which platform provides the right context for your advert.  Where are your target audience most likely to see it, and where are they most likely to interact with it?

Advertising today isn’t the same as it was in 1930s.  Today we have more information, more choice and over 70 years of advertising experience which enables us to make our decisions.

Taking all of this into account, I’m still surprised to see so many Post-esque companies.   Sadly for those companies, we won’t remember them for much longer.

A special thank you to Marlene – my colleague, an expert in employer branding – who initially introduced me to this story.

How Often Should I Post?

Is frequency in social media posting important?  Yes of course it is.  If the last Tweet or blog post was about the Christmas party in 2001 you are in trouble.  But should you be focused solely on the frequency of your posts?

No, you should be more worried about the quality of your posts.

Understand how often you share content on social media whilst still maintaining a high level of quality.  This should equate to strong levels of engagement.

Sustaining a good engagement score is imperative.  If you use social media monitoring tools such as Klout or SproutSocial be aware of the level of engagement you are generating.  If posting to LinkedIn or Facebook as a business (either via a Company Page or a Facebook Page) you should keep your eye on the engagement numbers (clicks and social actions as a ratio to impressions) of your company status updates and posts.
Engagement Score Decline
Regardless of the actual score you get in Klout or the numbers on LinkedIn, be sure to spot trends.  Are you gaining less followers (percentage growth) and is your engagement score heading down?  Then you need to stop everything.  Cease and desist.  Use this time to assess what you are doing wrong.  An individual post which gets weak engagement or a blip in your Klout is acceptable; as long as it is an anomaly.  If you start to see this as a trend which consistently dips without coming back up, then you need to worry.

A dropping engagement score is very hard to pick back up.  Think about the experience that you are giving your Followers, connections and fans…

  1. They read your content.
  2. It is poor quality or irrelevant.
  3. They read your content.
  4. It is poor quality or irrelevant.
  5. They don’t read your content again.

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”
George W. Bush – speech in Nashville, Tennessee, September 17th 2002

Your target audience doesn’t have infinite time to waste on trivial content.  There are over 400million Tweets sent every day, over 2billion status updates seen a week on LinkedIn, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.  You aren’t the only person they are following.  They can get better content elsewhere.  They have moved on.

You’ve just been Unfollowed.

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