Why your Company Story Should Drive your Social Media

Humans love good stories.  We love to be caught up in the ebb and flow of the emotion of the tale.  When is the last time you were enthralled by a story like this: Boy meets girl; they fall in love; they get married; they live happily ever after?

No, we like stories that go something like this: Boy meets girl; they fall in love; her family dislikes boy; girl still loves boy; boy gets sick/has an accident/goes to war (put your favorite obstacle here); girl hangs on; boy returns; they get married; they live happily ever after.  These are the stories that people want to read.  These are the stories that grab and hold our attention.

Now, contrast that with the typical company story: look at us; we have an amazing product/service; you should buy it (like other people have); like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter;  we promise you’ll  love it.  Not very exciting.

Great stories have great plots.  Company stories are no different.  They need great plots.  First, it makes your branding consistent when everyone from the CEO to the newest team member understands the story in the 30-second elevator pitch.  Second, a great story will help you define what the company does.  Equally importantly, it will help you define what the company does not do.  A great story will also drive great Social Media efforts.

There are 5 key elements to a great Company Story:

THE CRUSADE –  What do you do?  It is important that you create a true, deep meaning for your company that your employees and customers will understand and buy into.  This is not a “market-focused, process-centered” mission statement that is useless to the reader.  This is your real reason for existence. No ambiguity, no opacity, just a short, clear statement  about what we can expect from them.  This is their crusade.

THE HERO – This one is easy.  This is your company.  Partially, it’s about corporate values, but there is more to it.  What is your corporate personality?  What are your internal and external communication styles?  How do your employees behave during conflict?  How does the company manage change?

THE VILLAIN -  Every story needs a bad guy, right?  Well, in this case, the bad guy is probably not an actual person, or even a competitor.  In this case, the bad guy is likely a real problem or need faced by your marketplace.  Think about Google for a minute.  They exist to organize information.  So, as each one of us can attest to, they meet a need for all of us.  The bad guy in this case is too much information.  Can you imagine your life without Google maps?  Imagine trying to keep paper maps in your car, along with the yellow pages for ever city you visit.  Ugly.  So, Google has taken the bad guy of too much information and solved the need in the marketplace. (Of course they do a lot more than just maps,)

THE REVELATION – This is how you achieve victory over the villain.  Back to our Google example, the revelation in this particular case was the release and propagation of Google maps.  The villain was defeated and victory achieved.

THE TRANSFORMATION – Ok, so what’s different?  In other words, if you have succeeded in your crusade, why is the world a different place?  Remember, we are not talking about solving world poverty here.  In your market, why is it better?  What do people now do more easily?  What do they do more quickly?

So why does all this really matter to your Social Media efforts? There are three primary reasons:

      1. Consistency of message
      2. Consistency of expectation
      3. Consistency of service

In many of the companies I have worked with, there is one acid test I use to determine the consistency of their message:  Ask 10 different customers to tell me in their own words what the company does.  This will get to the core of whether or not the company has a consistent and well-told Company Story.  The corollary to this is to ask 10 different employees what they believe the company does.  If they are not consistent, how can your customers possibly understand what you do and do not do?  What happens if customers are told one thing via Twitter, another on your Facebook page and yet another on Google+?  The likely result is confused customers.  How much easier is it on your employees and your customers when they hear the same thing from every possible touchpoint?

If your message is consistent, your expectations will be also. United States Liability Insurance, a Berkshire Hathaway company, has a great Company Story.  They know who they are and what they do.  As part of their story, they have established an “In by 2 out by 5” service promise.  That is, if you get them the application by 2pm, you are guaranteed to have the quote by 5pm.  No matter which of the 500 plus employees you get on the phone, you will get the same level of service.  What would happen if one employee promised “In by 2 and out by 5” while another one promised 24 hour turnaround?  How quickly would their Social Media communities figure this out?  What would be the fallout if they did?  It could get pretty expensive pretty quickly.  Once again, the good company story serves as a vehicle for expectation setting and service delivery across all channels, especially Social Media.

Pre-social media, an inconsistent Company Story might never be “discovered” by your customers.  Each customer, or group of customers, could have their own expectations and be satisfied.  Now, however, the slightest inconsistency might be shot around the digital world millions of times in a day.  The lack of consistency in all your communication efforts, but especially Social Media, can be quickly and seriously damaging.

What are your thoughts?

Is a good Company Story really important?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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