Social Media Storytelling: Is Advertising better than Marketing?

Social Media Storytelling: Is Advertising better than Marketing?

Social Media StorytellingOver the past five years or so I’ve seen lots of discussion about where Social Media should sit in an organization. Some will say it has to be in the Marketing department, others insist that it is a PR activity. What everyone agrees on is that the  Advertising department shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Social Media toolbox.

Social Media Storytelling

Social Media is all about storytelling, or so the “guru’s” will tell you. That’s when they aren’t telling you that it’s all about relationships. Ok so I am supposed to tell stories to people so they will “like” me as a brand and that will create a relationship? Actually that is a pretty fair description of the way social media should work. It can’t be about a relationship without there first being something to attract attention. Back in the day, as people are want to say around here (Texas), we used to practice a principle called AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. That has, for some people, fallen out of favor, but I have no idea why. It works, and it works at all levels of human interaction – which is afterall what Social Media is supposed to be about.

Think of dating. If you aren’t aware of someone, then how will you take an interest in them? If you have no interest in them you are unlikely to find yourself desiring them, and if you have no desire you are unlikely to take any action – well any positive action. This holds true for every scenario that you can imagine for human interaction. Whether it is between two humans or a human and a brand. So first we need to create awareness and interest. Storytelling is definitely a great way to do that. Let’s look at some examples:

Social Media Storytelling – Old Fashioned Advertising

Storytelling is being trotted out as the “key” to Social Media as though it were something new and wonderful, recently discovered by the social media “guru’s”. It isn’t. Watch the video below:

That ad is from 1970 – the jingle went on to be covered by The Carpenters and became a hit on both the US and UK music charts (that’s what they call viral these days). Notice that the name of the brand doesn’t appear until the end. The focus is the young couple and their story. This is story telling, but it is also advertising. In 1970 the nearest thing to a mobile computing device was a pocket calculator which would have cost you approx $1800 in today’s money. Social Media meant talking about last night’s TV and yet here we were creating stories to bring a brand closer to its customers.

Take a look at this next video – it is fictional of course, but it mimics the thinking of the late 1960′s and the revolution that was advertising in the age of David Ogilvy. In Mad Men, the character of Don Draper isn’t a Social Media guru – he is an ad man and he tells stories (and yes there is an ad before the clip).

Social Media Storytelling – Advertising 2.0

So many of today’s Social Media “specialists” have no grounding in marketing, PR or advertising. They have reinvented themselves a hundred times and this is just their latest persona. 3 years ago they were SEO experts, before that they were Website experts, who knows what they were before that. Don’t get me wrong, I too have reinvented myself a hundred times (a long story for another time), but when you reinvent yourself it is incumbent upon you to know the history of the field that you are entering.

Social Media Storytelling isn’t a new thing, it’s just new to those who are new to the business of convincing people to buy things. Storytelling has always been the best way to sell things – to build an emotional attachment to a product, to set it apart from other products or services in the mind of the consumer. So when you are deciding how to shape your next Social Media campaign, take some time to talk to the advertising department. Ask them how they would tell your story, what emotional attachment they might bring to the fore and start from there.

How do you tell stories to customers?

image – simon salt ©2011 All Rights Reserved
About Simon Salt

Simon Salt has been creating online content since 1993 and blogging since 2000. He is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He can be found on most social networks as "incslinger". When he isn't working he is either taking photographs or riding his motorcycle - sometimes at the same time.

  • Anonymous

    Nice reminder that the media is new but not the principles.

    • http://www.theincslingers.com/blog Simon Salt

      Thanks Casey, yes the principles don’t change much over time.

  • Annet Scheringa

    Hi Simon,
    Thank you so much for your article. I’m especially touched by the last paragraph:
    “Social Media Storytelling isn’t a new thing, it’s just new to those who are new to the business of convincing people to buy things. Storytelling has always been the best way to sell things – to build an emotional attachment to a product, to set it apart from other products or services in the mind of the consumer.”
    I’ve been working with storytelling (in communication, organizational change, branding) for a decade now (I orgininally have a background in communication), have written books and articles about it and what keeps amazing (and I must agree: bothering) me is how lots of people keep repeating social media = story and storytelling = a hype or trend. To me, storytelling is NOT a hype or trend (it has been there for ages, it has been the subject of research for decades and, as you show, it has been incorporated in marketing at least as long). And tweets, text messages etc. are NOT automatically stories. Often I sense there’s a story BEHIND a tweet or text-message. In one of my books, I spend quite some pages on defining ‘story’. I KNOW there are stories beyond that definition. And it’s certainly NOT my intention to prescribe what a story should or should not contain. But there are some basics. And it’s important that people who want to work with storytelling (e.g. through social media) are at least aware of the fact that storytelling on the one hand is something we all do by nature, but that on the other hand, to use storytelling with a purpose within an organizational context, requires a certain knowlegde of what stories are, what storytelling is or could be within e.g. communication, organizational change or marketing. there’s lots of good information available. And to form their own ideas on the subject, based on the information available.
    sdo, thanks for sharing your article (and the great examples – I’m a big fan of Mad Man)
    Annet Scheringa
    TheStoryConnection