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Social Media Storytelling: How To Market With Empathy

“We’ve got what you’ve been looking for. Buy now!”

“Hurry before they’re all gone! Pay here.”

“We’re overstocked. Get yours!”

“All of your friends have purchased theirs. Are you buying yours?”

These are common taglines in the marketing space, and they’re all designed to motivate consumers to take action, now! And to note, there’s nothing wrong with marketers deciding to take a strong approach in their marketing copy. In fact, there are times when a heavy hand is necessary.

And there are definitely times when one’s marketing copy needs to appeal to a consumer’s emotions in order to offer extra motivation. Fear, urgency, acceptance, power, love, pleasure, they all play a part in assisting marketers with reaching their financial benchmarks. But here’s one thing that heavy-handed marketing fails to do:

Reach consumers at the deeply emotional level

Yes, most marketing media touches on emotion by using trigger words in order to add that extra push that the consumer needs. But it’s very, very rare that a “push” phrase tells an empathetic story, one that’s designed to make the consumer feel something at the gut level.

And this is why many marketers have learned in that in today’s relationship-based marketing climate, it’s crucial for brands to create marketing content that takes a storytelling approach. There’s several reasons why storytelling works successfully to literally get to the heart of the matter:

1. Stories allow the brain the slow down

Not only is today’s marketing climate far more relationship based, but almost in opposition, it’s also overwhelmingly fast-paced. Today’s consumers are bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages, daily! And that’s only counting their email marketing media. This says nothing about the countless social media marketing posts that people are exposed to. It’s enough to make a consumer feel that they need to learn how to consume the messaging at lightening pace.

Creating social media posts that lead to longer-form content stories (along with short form stories posted directly in social posts) literally force the consumer to slow down their brain’s processes long enough to connect with the story. Once their mind has slowed down enough to engage, it’s far easier for the consumer to open their hearts while they draw upon memories triggered by an empathetic story.

2. Stories facilitate neurological and spiritual connections

The Nimble Blog quoted researchers on why stories have such a marked effect on consumers:

Dr. Uri Hasson, as associate professor of psychology at Princeton University, found that when you’re listening to an engaging story the response patterns in your brain become ‘markedly similar’ to those of the storyteller’s.

In fact, neurologists have found that our brains make little distinction between an experience we are reading about and one that is actually happening. Dr. Uri Hasson suggests, ‘Communication is one act, in which the brain of the communicator, and the brain of the listeners are trying to be coupled, and merging as one.’

Empathy is at the heart of human relationships and human relationships are at the heart of marketing.

Making it work in 140 characters

Here’s the question that often arises in marketing circles: “I’ve only got around 140 characters to hook new leads and sales prospects. How the heck am I supposed to tell any story, let alone an empathetic story, in 140 characters?”

The answer rests in the concept of using social media platforms natively. This means that the marketing creatives need to think of creative ways to par down their message in a way that makes sense for each of their marketing platforms, especially as that pertains to social media platforms.

For example, platforms like Twitter and Instagram don’t allow for a lot of text, so these are perfect platforms to load video. After all, videos do a wonderful job of telling stories. They completely envelope the consumer into an immediate, empathetic content experience.

But you can’t upload a video clip without some type of lead in, right? So here’s what you’d do:

You could follow Starbucks example. They summarized the empathetic moral of the story (Finding understanding, and happiness, and love, and that’s my hope.) This was posted in the body of the video, but the message could certainly become summarized to fit Twitter’s 140 character requirement like this:

Finding understanding, happiness, love, and hope…

Immediately, this message touches the heart of the consumer-after all, who hasn’t experienced the need for understanding, happiness, love, or hope? The consumer is now compelled to click and engage in the longer-form video. All of the technical and native advertising requirements were met without any dilution in the goals of the content.

But of course, you don’t have to use video as a marketing tool. Your blog will suffice, and you can use pull quotes to attract link clicks to your site. You can also link to your email list and allow your email marketing media to perform the storytelling “heavy lifting.”

To close with more wisdom from Big Fuel:

For customers to empathize with a brand, it has to be more like them.  As Lisa (Bright) put it, “Be human, not alien.” The wisdom here goes back to something we were all taught as children: put yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective.

Terri Scott

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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