Social Media Storytelling: Narratives to “Shareatives”

Podcamp Western Massachusetts Board. Photo courtesy of Seth Kaye

The 5th Annual Podcamp Western Mass, an “unconference” dedicated to social media literacy, rocked the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College on March 30, 2013. A dizzying amount of panels and informative sessions occurred where knowledge and ideas served as currency. I was fortunate enough to attend a hard-hitting seminar, moderated by Leslie Rule, concerning narratives in social media and how humans translate storytelling into digital realms. Here are some of the findings we explored:

Internet communication consultant Bill Weye raised the salient point that words can dramatically alter the temperature surrounding a subject and its intended perceptions. He highlighted the recent controversy involving the National Rifle Association and the spectrum of definitions regarding “assault rifle.” Individuals and companies must be aware and knowledgeable of connotation, denotation, and context in crafting messaging.

  • “You have to be the best at recovering.”

Narratives on social media inherently belong to everyone else. Social media narratives are all part of a larger ecosystem, “a cumulative narrative.” There are individuals, groups, and companies at the smaller levels. A wider perspective re-frames the picture to include industries, spheres, and the societal zeitgeist (re: cultural pulse). The ability to adapt and evolve is a fundamental necessity to successful storytelling on social media. A simple example: plenty of local businesses have seen the effects of Yelp! smackdowns. Commentators with the most persistence, strongest voicing, and most mobilized audiences will dictate the course of a story which may have your organization playing catch up and damage control. Brands must remain consistent to core tenets and values if they want any meaningful conversation to stick.

“Social Media Narratives” moderator Leslie Rule

  • “Do what’s comfortable. Do what’s doable.”

Being the best at recovering means a superhuman commitment to social listening and reputation management. For many small businesses, this requires an astounding investment of time and labor which is not realistically possible. Steve Swanda (@SteveWanda) offered the advice that knowing where your audiences are will help determine where you should spend your time (quality). Don’t jump on a platform just for the sake of being there (quantity).

Takeaways (tl;dr):

  • Understand the tone and phrasing of your words or you risk misinterpretation.
  • You are not the only author of your story.
  • Successful storytellers punch and counter-punch. They change, fit, and transform to the dynamics of each situation.
  • Speak consistently in whichever avenues you choose.

Remember that conversation within a context serves as the real road map for building a story. Truly valuable exchanges occur when organizations understand the capabilities of each technology and how their audiences consume information.

Be Sociable!
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