Make Your Brand A Hero With Social Media Storytelling

April 9, 2016

Would you like your brand to be conceived as a true and relatable hero?

This is hard to achieve through traditional marketing communication of features and benefits, but by combining storytelling and social media you can add another dimension to your relationship with your existing and potential customers, as well as your employees and other stakeholders. They are all your audience.

Storytelling speaks volumes about the values and culture of your brand. It will help your audience gain a deeper understanding of who and what you are, and the ups and downs you have faced or are facing. Even though you can never proclaim your brand a hero yourself, you can set the scene for someone else to do so.

Regarding heroes, for starters there are three pivotal things to consider about what I believe defines a relatable hero:

Relatable Heroes Are “Flawesome”

You know what is really boring? Heroes without flaws. Just think of some of the most beloved heroes in adventure movies. Even though Indiana Jones eventually will save the day, he makes mistakes along the way. You can have flaws and still be awesome, in fact you can be “flawesome”, which is much more relatable and sympathetic to most people.

True Heroes Overcome True Obstacles

Heroes are defined by what they do in the face of opposition, and how they overcome their problems. The point when people stand up to someone or something, regardless of the risk, even if that risk is losing everything, is the point when they become heroes. Not because of their powers, but because they overcome obstacles despite of their weaknesses. This is why the public loves the underdogs that make it.

Heroes Fight Villains

Heroes need villains. In a traditional storytelling setting, it is someone or something that personifies what the hero is fighting against. In Star Wars, the struggle between the meanies of the galactic empire and the heroes of the rebellion is represented by the light sabre duels between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. If you want people to rally with or behind you, they need to understand what you are making your stand against, or what you have overcome.

In the real world, your villain does not need to be someone; most times it is something. Financial crisis, pollution, world hunger – whatever mission or missions you have chosen to accept. What is important is that actions speak louder than words. In fact, according to recent research, customers are more likely to buy from brands that are actively involved in doing something, rather than just making statements or donations. You need to actually do something to show you care.

Setting The Stage For Your Storytelling

Every story needs a stage. So far, most marketers have been used to presenting their messages within the frames of television, billboards, cinema, magazines and so on. In a modern marketer’s perspective this is the non-interactive framework of presenting content to an audience that cannot influence what they see. For many marketers, the tradition of one-way communication continued on interactive media, such as Facebook Page announcements with no comments allowed from the audience. That may be because so many disciplines and tasks within marketing and advertising have for so long been based on communication skills rather than interaction capabilities. But the first and very basic premise of interactive media is…surprise, interaction! So how do you tell your story while allowing for interaction? Well, let us take a step out on the stage that is social media.

The Social Media Stage

If you have read other articles by me on, the chances are that you are familiar with my basic premise of interactive media: it is not about technology, it is about the interaction between people enhanced or extended by technology. That goes double for social media. It is all about people interacting with people. That means that your stage is more like a stage in a theatre, where interaction with the audience is not only allowed, it is encouraged. This gives you the possibility to add a whole new dimension to your relationship with your audience.

To get you started, here are four basic suggestions and proposed ground rules:

Take The Audience Behind The Scenes

Your traditional marketing communications such as the promotion of features and benefits, sales promotions through various online and offline ads, television and online spots still have an important role in pushing sales. If we consider this the frontal push of messages, storytelling is the behind-the-scenes access that adds character to your perceived brand. This is where you can invite people into learning a more personal back-story of all the things that have been going on, and are going on with your brand.

Apply A Cycle Of Publish, Wait, Respond, Review, Publish

Deliver your story in self-contained chapters that can both stand alone as individual stories, and act together as a whole story. Allow for questions and comments to your current chapter. You may want to let it affect what you say in your next chapter. And by the way, there is absolutely no universal, scientific proof that a certain length of a story has more value than others. The best length for your chapters and how long the story they make up is something you will need to figure out through trial-and-error with your audience. They will have their own preferences of what and how much is interesting.

Don’t Get Lost In The Discussion

Be open to discussion and comments, but do not lose sight of the basic moral and message of your story. Remember, you are still the official face of your brand, and this is still your story, regardless of how much you are letting it be influenced by your audience. Also, sometimes we need to ask people to continue certain discussions in private, and give them a number or an email to do so. If you consider an issue to be of common interest, please note that addressing a comment of confusion or negativity in public can sometimes work to your benefit.

Understand That Social Media Storytelling Is A Task For Your Experienced Brand Guardian

Your story is your brand, and once you enter the realm of social media storytelling, this is no longer by default a task for the intern, just because he or she is your designated millennial or digital native. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. You need to assign how you handle this to someone who can tell your story and guard your brand dynamically, and that person may not be the most tech-savvy on your team.

So, are you ready to let your brand become something else, something more, to your audience? Then it is time to go looking for the stories, big or small, that define your brand in reality. The moral of this particular story is that honestly sharing true stories about how you made it to this point, and what you need to do to get to where you are going, is your first step towards letting your brand become a hero to your audience.