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Telling a good story is not enough.

Really another story about story telling?

We talk about connecting with the customer all of the time and there have been enough posts recently on social media about how we’re pretty sick of people telling us it’s all about telling the story to warrant a closer look.

I had it quoted to me once as ‘cutting through the wall of apathy’. A brilliant phrase that sums up the fact that our potential clients can seem to take a pretty laissez-faire approach to listening to what we have to say. In fact, getting hold of people’s attention long enough to get a message across is one of the key things we have to overcome in order to convince them that our solution is the one thing that they are missing in their strategy to take over the world.

But as ever it is worth looking at it from the customer’s perspective. And the best way I know to do that is to act like a customer.

So I took a peek at my own Facebook and LinkedIn feeds, in some detail, to see if I could understand why I am as likely to react apathetically as the next man. The next man in this instance being your prospect.

We’ll ignore the impact of email, telephone calls, text messages and carrier pigeons for the moment and look only at posts from those two social media platforms as a method of communicating your credibility to your prospective customer whilst concurrently conveying the value of your solution.

Actually, before we dive into the sordid nature of my own social media feeds, it’s worth noting the research in a great article posted on LinkedIn by @Zachary Lukasiewicz on the 13th Feb 2015 (http://bit.ly/2lM2fug). It’s a great Pulse item on the various habits of how people react to various forms of communication. The Social Selling piece at the end is well worth reading, but at the beginning of the article there are three questions that set the tone.

  1. When do I send?
  2. What do they read?
  3. How can I best spend my time?

The author goes on to answer the first and last questions really, really well. But as for what do they read, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at that from my perspective.

More Social Media Stats? Really?

My Facebook feed is pretty standard, I have roughly 350 ‘friends’ (chuckles quietly to himself), but the top 100 posts that were within my ‘Top Stories’ feed as of the 7pm on the 15th February broke down like this.

Standard Facebook stuff, nice photo’s, questions around what film should I watch or what I should have for tea. Rants about how ‘Brexit’ is stupid / the best thing to happen to the UK. People shouting ‘look at me I’m in Tanzania eating local food, Crazy’ etc. Lots of stuff around how they’re awesome, or their husband, wife, girlfriend, son is awesome. Some quizzes, (questions and results), and of course because it was on the 15th Feb, how much in love with their girlfriend / boyfriend / wife / husband, someone else’s husband / wife… you get the picture. Only 1 joke and 1 food related post, which surprised me, but then that’s more likely to be found on Instagram / Pinterest and I don’t subscribe to the ‘Overpriced Food-Box of the Month Club’ so, you know, dodged that bullet.

Only 4% was sponsored by Facebook, (nattily described as suggested reading now,) and only 2% were selfies. So there may be hope for the human race after all.

I do subscribe to a couple of groups, films, local interests and so on, so a lot of the opinion seeking came from there and I do like a political rant myself, so at least 1 of those posts was in response to something mildly inflammatory I probably posted last week. I’m also guilty of posting random weird videos. It’s kind of my thing.

How many of these do I read though? That’s the question that is being asked. And the answer is, on a normal day, I’ll skim over the top 30 (ish) posts and read maybe one or two.

LinkedIn is an entirely different story, I’m not a ‘power user’, I am connected to 500+ people, follow 3 dozen companies and influencers and am part of 20 odd groups, all work / industry / technology related. But the split is unsurprisingly and quite obviously different.

Nearly 40% of my feed is opinion sharing, in the form of links to blogs, links to Pulse articles, paragraphs of information and so on, then pride in the writer’s company, or an individual within the same, followed by an outright sales pitch and then bizarrely, selfies, look at my car, and one post that simply said “Hi”.

In total, sales driven messages (I’m not counting the photos of cars,) amounted to 67% of my feed. Outward facing broadcasting that is created entirely to draw the reader in, make them aware of something that they might not have considered before and then dropping a unique service or product that will solve the problem that they weren’t aware that they had before reading said article. This post is no different, (except it’s a little meta, which I like.)

I am not judging the content here. I am simply making the point that It’s difficult to tell a unique story on LinkedIn when you are competing with something in the order of 7 out of 10 of the posts as were presented to me, that span dozens of industries, points of view, quality (in terms of hook and delivery) and are all designed to sell you something. It is the 21st century equivalent of watching actors sell laundry detergent in the 50’s whilst watching your favourite TV programme. (I said equivalent, not the same thing!).

According to Social Pilot, 91% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to share content whilst the time spent on the site by the average user, (of which, at the time of the study, there were 300 million) is 17 minutes a month. That is a lot of content to get across in a very short space of time.

It’s easy to think that telling a story, making it compelling and delivering a great hook at the end, (posts with images get 98% more engagement, posts that end with a question get a 50% higher engagement, posts with a link get 200% higher engagement and so on, same source) but you’re not just competing with every B2B social media marketing guru on the planet, you’re also competing with Nice Photo’s and opinions on Facebook, Twitter, being on someone’s mailing list, telephone calls, voice mails, text messages, daily commutes, radio ads, click bait on stories about Z-list celebrities and, you know, at the end of it all, work!

So what’s the point in doing it at all?

Well, I think we can do away with the terms ‘Apathy’ and ‘Laissez-Faire’, it is simply time management. You are not going to regularly and consistently get leads only from Social Media. In fact, speaking from personal experience, I tend to skip past the overtly sales lead content and read posts based on customer behavior, because that’s what interests me. You are going to get to readers whose interest you pique, but that is a numbers game. The simple fact is, that when you broadcast a message, you are going to engage with far less than 1% of your audience.

This is an excerpt from a study done on Social Media interaction by Track Maven last year

Despite large audiences, LinkedIn drives low engagement for B2B brands. Machinery brands perform best on LinkedIn, but still sport a measly average engagement ratio of 1.98 interactions per post per 1,000 followers.

Across industries, B2B brands have an average engagement ratio on twitter that is below two interactions per post per 1,000 followers. With the exception of the biotech and financial services industries, B2B brands see the highest average engagement ratios on Instagram.

So, why do it at all?

Refining your communication strategy, getting in touch with your customer and starting the journey needs to overcome a number of hurdles, not least of all the constant stream of information that bombards our prospective clients every minute of every day. Crafting a compelling story is not enough, there are simply too many slick story tellers out there. People see through clever marketing ploys and are (thankfully) wise to even the most sophisticated attempts at click bait. Getting in touch with your customer should be done across multiple channels based on a consistent message.

Once you have made contact with your prospective client, it is your credibility as a consultant in your chosen field that should be the focus of your content, which should be created to be useful and relevant to your customers needs. As we have said on this blog before, people buy for three reasons only.

  1. Credibility
  2. Utility
  3. Relevance

It is the credibility of you and your knowledge of your customer’s interests that you are demonstrating, in order to create a useful solution that is relevant to their needs. So when you are creating your story, think about that, rather than clever techniques to draw the target in. The chances are they are not going to read it within minutes of you posting it, however, once engaged through other channels, they are more likely to want to know what you’re talking about.

This is where LinkedIn is extremely useful.

Your approach is what matters.

Post often, be consistent, but more importantly be useful. Don’t try to sell, but rather ‘Give stuff (your knowledge and insight) away for free’. Share your insight and build a credible library of information so that you and more importantly your customers can refer to it at their leisure, when they’re checking out your story.

The good story that you are telling is not contained within a single post, it is the culmination of everything that you talk about and publish, do so with relevance, utility and credibility.

If you have found this useful, please like and share it. I would love to hear of your experiences on creating content, not just on LinkedIn, but whether you have found more success on Pinterest or Instagram. Drop me a line here