Social Media is Storytelling.

Social Media is Storytelling.

I spend most days studying, talking about, writing and thinking about the social psychology and human behaviour aspects of social media and the web. It’s my area of expertise and my passion. It is a topic that both intrigues me on an intellectual level and excites me on a personal one. I have been blogging for 13 years, and have been fortunate enough to ride the wave and make a career out of the study and analysis of what many view as fluff, or time-wasting, or entertainment. If you’re reading this blog, you probably share my view that it goes beyond that, but I also spend a lot of time convincing others that it goes beyond entertainment and marketing.

A big part of what we are trying to do at Schematiq is build systems and models for strategic engagement. In that, there is a lot of research and analysis and modelling and structure. Yeah, I am kind of the person who has sucked all the fun out of social media and made it boring and neurosciencey, but… hey… bear with me… 🙂

What motivates people to react, respond, share, and how to begin to think like a “social” business? How do you make a business, or a brand, or a government organisation appear human, in a place where humans interact? I could talk about authenticity, transparency, humour. I can talk about the “Laughs per minute” concept as it applies online. Or, I could just show you.

It’s about empathy and shared experience.

This video is one of millions that are uploaded to YouTube every day. It caught my attention last year.

Try and watch it without completely dropping your bundle. I dare you.

You want to know what Social Media is?


Sharing those stories, hearing those stories, living.

Furthermore, this is just one video. Of millions. Of people putting themselves out there, every day, sharing those stories and reaching out with the hope of maybe, saving just one other person from not having to live through the pain that they have.

That is what makes this truly revolutionary. Over 700,000 people watched that video.

We often joke about Facebook and Twitter overshare. Lamebook is one of the funniest showcases of humanity at its… um… finest.

But you know what? How cool is it?

I remember back in 2009, when I posted, on my personal blog, a letter I had written to my doctor detailing all of my symptoms and requesting action. At the time, I was frustrated. I wasn’t getting the attention I needed and was suffering from years of seemingly unrelated acute health problems that weren’t being addressed. So, in my frustration, I put it out there. I eventually got diagnosis and treatment and more than that, my Doctor took notice and ran the tests I had been asking for for years.

But, more importantly… that letter? It inspired someone else to write one to THEIR Doctor and they got their diagnosis and treatment.

In 2010, when I blogged through my experience with caring for my dying Grandmother, and the grief after her death, it was my only real outlet. I write when I am stressed to organise my thoughts. But, much like the letter, or any other personal topic that I have written about, it also served as a means to connect with others who had lived through similar experiences.

When we write about shared, human struggles like illness, the death of a loved one, grief, relationships… we share our humanity and our vulnerability. Everyone is vulnerable sometimes. Everyone goes through life with extreme joy, extreme lows, and times when they need to reach out to others. I get emails saying how me writing about these topics over the years have inspired others to make brave decisions. I have had emails from other people who have told me that my blogging through my experience with palliative care, cancer and death has helped them cope a little better with their grief. Or how talking about my “invisible” illness has made them feel less alone.

And it’s all just one post. One story. And one video, like the one above.

It’s about empathy.

The reason I believe so many brands are failing on social media, is because they think they are doing the right things, but… they lack empathy. They are going with the middle ground, the safe territory, and don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable. This is the true magic that is inherent in everybody being able to create content: everybody is creating their story and is probably kicking the butt of your entire Communications & PR team, because it’s real. It is vulnerability and empathy and highs and lows that make us human.

So yes, by all means talk to your customer. Talk about engagement. Talk about ways to capitalise on social media. But don’t forget that the personal stories are what make this time truly revolutionary. And only when you listen, and empathise, will you truly understand what it means to be social.

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