I grew up watching a local car dealer advertise with a big white cowboy hat and a parade of farm and zoo animals. He was giving us the gift of amusement. It was memorable, but I was dubious about the kind of car buying experience I might have on his lot, because the elephant wasn't telling a story that created confidence in his auto expertise. When we come to realize that we need to use a story-based approach for our organization, we can feel pressure to put ourselves in the movie business, or recruit a family member to become our amateur (and often ineffective) television spokesperson. Storytelling should be a priority for every business in the this era of social media, but it doesn't require filming your own reality TV show, because an army of storytellers are already available to you-- they are your customers.
Your customers are already telling the story of their experience with you (good or bad)-- they are the most powerful storytellers you could recruit.
Attending to Customer Experiences. Unleashing the storytelling impact of your customers requires that you pay greater attention to customer experience. When a customer becomes a fan of your business because they have been delighted by their experience, the reach of that story can surpass anything you could afford to purchase. Be careful trying to automate your listening by only using a survey. Talking directly to customers, following their social postings and creating a culture of positive customer service in your business can take you a long way toward creating a customer experience worthy of being passed forward.
Listen and Follow. Social media allows you to listen and share the authentic stories your customers are telling. The stories that used to be passed only by word of mouth, and now being shared real time in a variety of social networks. Listening to these stories is often more important than the content you publish. The big emphasis on getting customers to "like you" can cloud the real work of following them.
Prepare Story Pieces. Prepare the elements of your story to be easily shared by customers. Your story has to be told in small bite size and visual pieces. Break down your story into pieces that customers can enjoy and share.
If your customers experience your business like a gift, producing pleasure or surprise, then they can also give you a gift-- telling your story.