Whether you’re looking to crowdfund up a storm or creating the most kick-ass online community around, storytelling is a vital part of community creation. When I say storytelling, I don’t mean having an ABOUT that knocks the spots off a giraffe. Or having wonderfully optimised copy. These elements can be part of it.
It’s about saying to your audience why they should care about you on a deep and personally fulling level. Let’s take a deep dive into storytelling in community creation
Why do you exist?
Community creation cannot begin without bringing people together to rally behind something. It doesn’t matter if it’s an ideal or a brand, people want to know what their community stands for.
The first thing any potential customer is going to want to know about you is why you exist. How did you come into being but more importantly, what problem do you solve?
This is your opportunity to talk about the positives and remind the potential customer as to why you are the better alternative to their current circumstance.
There’s a wonderful way to do this, which is to focus on the idea of complaint and compliment. This is a device of serving the needs of your customer and showing you care about their pains and problems.
E.g. “I love what you do. It must be hard overcoming a tricky aspect associated with your business. Here is how I can help.”
I know this sounds simplistic, but it is generally what people are looking for. People want to know you understand them enough to help them. Anything less than that creates confusion and invites decision fatigue.
Speaking of decision fatigue
Humans are funny creatures. If they don’t get enough information, they are suspicious about the gaps or become high touch customers as they attempt to fill them in. If they get too many options, decision fatigue creeps in.
Being in business and telling your story correctly means ensuring the chance of decision fatigue is minimal. Decision fatigue is a fancy pants way of saying don’t make your clients think too much. They are hiring you to reduce their burden. They don’t want 16 menu choices and a bunch of stuff to work out by themselves. They probably don’t want the 4 carefully thought out “choose your own adventure” options you have written for them.
They want to be able to trust in your judgement.
The more you ask someone to take on the mental and emotional load of wondering what the heck you are on about and what they should do, the less likely you are to keep and maintain them as a client.
Some examples of areas where businesses unwittingly create decision fatigue in their customers include:
- Way too much of an ABOUT page to wade through. If someone can’t capture what you do in a small paragraph and plonk it in an email to the quality assurance team or the person approving the budget, you’re boned
- Having too many menu options. Don’t give people 17 things to choose from with 4 inclusions each. While we may say we value choice, the truth is that cognitively, you ask someone to think of more than 3 options at any given time, you draw too much energy. Keep it simple
- Giving too many disaster scenarios. Send me a 2-page email about everything that is allegedly going wrong with some aspect of my business or life where I am not the most confident and you know what happens? I find 3 other suppliers, get quotes and see if I can verify your claims. Even if someone has built their house on a cliff out of marshmallow, they may still like the view. You must give them hope instead of telling them one day, the rain will wash things away. Even if that is the truth. Be the hero by offering the person to fall in behind, not the person outlining all the problems without solutions or worse still, 17 of them to freak me out
- Providing the full report. Smart NFPs and government agencies release the report in full if people want it but provide a crib notes 1-page summary of the highlights. This allows people to get the gist of the information and the story without having to devote their life to it like an allegoric tale. Choice again wins the day
You build trust through reducing the potential for placing too much labour on the customer. This in turn validates your story and makes them more inclined to believe you. No matter how good storytelling techniques, it’s this trust factor that makes all the difference.
Hey you. What do you do?
Let me understand you, not the buzzwords you’re regurgitating.
What do you lead the field at? What drives you? How are you different? Why should I care about you and your approach?
These are the questions that your storytelling should answer. Your potential and existing customers want to know who you are, what you stand for and be a part of something.
This means you should look at key cornerstones of how you present yourself to continue affirm what you do. Community creation is about consistency of message.
What you do however is not a list of your skills. It’s far more interesting and nuanced than that. What you do takes the form of things such as:
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you reduce time, frustration and decision fatigue for your customers?
- Why do you do what you do? What inspired your business and powers your products?
- Who is behind the operation? Let’s see that team!
- Why do you care about the products and services you provide?
- Do you stand for something in the community? E.g. local jobs, high quality craftsmanship, do you work with charity etc
- How do you out-fox and out-class your competitors?
- What does it say about your customers when they choose you?
- Do you identify with a style business, a sub-culture or some larger indication of your personality?
- What do your customers look like?
Gone are the days where a laundry list of services reading copywriting, marketing, coaching will do. Your customers are spoilt for choice. They want to get behind your brand and muck about in all the guts and glory of your operation.
Say something about who you are in the strongest terms to your customers and you’ll attract interest. Leave it up to them to fill in the blanks and again, it’s too much work.
community creation is about translating like to love
The essence of community creation is about converting the casual into the connected. Think about the kind of person that gets a tattoo of their favourite guitar marker or football club. Those guys really have a storytelling relationship that goes both ways. Getting customers that are that proud of your business means your story is on point and truly touching something within them.
How do you get your customers to support you in that manner (or similar if the idea of being a tattoo on someone is not really your bag)?
- Know your supporters- speak their language. Use the opportunity to talk to them in depth and in sincere terms
- Educate them- spend time explaining your products and immersing them into the experience you offer. Never assume they have enough knowledge and instead, quench a thirst
- Help customers find personal fulfilment- we like to think the things we buy say something about us and create a perception of who we are. Think about what drives your customers and what they care about. Incorporate this in your brand storytelling
- Utilise transparency- explain situations and small and large-scale bumps along the customer road openly. Be available for commentary. Have a strong disaster plan and make use of it when you need to. Make staff available to service your social media, emails, phone and more when required
- Respect your customers- don’t play tricks or assume they must be smarter than they are. Don’t set your customers up to feel disengaged and foolish
- Focus on your current supporters- never forget that your current customers are your greatest source of champion content. They will drive your community and tell their friends. Plus, they’ll police your social media. Make them the benchmark of love that new customers aspire to
- Make it fun- if you can’t poke fun at yourself or admit when you’ve come unglued, the story will lose its sheen. Make giving a two-way street
Look for ways to convert interest into love. That is what community is truly about.
Want to improve your storytelling in community creation efforts? Contact me now.
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