The folks at content marketing firm Contently in New York City believe in the power of storytelling so much, they’ve adopted a Hopi Indian proverb that reflects their mission to create a better media world:
Those who tell the stories rule the world
They’ve even painted it on the wall of their office.
I’ve never been to Contently’s office, but I did have the chance to chat with Shane Snow, Contently’s co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, about the elements of a good story.
Shane knows a lot about storytelling. In addition to co-founding Contently, he’s an award-winning journalist who writes for publications such as Wired and The New Yorker. He’s also the author of the recent book, Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.
For Shane, there are at least three things that comprise a good story:
Fluency : Can you get through the story quickly? Or are you bogged down in the sentences rather than the ideas?
Relatability : Is the story something you can personally connect to in some way?
Novelty : Is there something about the story that is surprising or new –even if it is something that is rooted in ancient storytelling templates, themes, or morals that haven’t changed in a long time?
These storytelling concepts work in novels and movies. But I asked Shane whether the elements of good storytelling can be applied to shorter form content such as blog posts on LinkedIn.
His answer? Absolutely.
As a LinkedIn Influencer, he’s written a lot on the platform and has attracted a large following. He shared two tips for writing posts that will resonate with readers and encourage them to share:
1. Tell a personal story to connect with readers–and convince them to stick around.
“One way people will remember and connect with what you’ve written is through the utility of your content. Linkedin is a place where a lot of tips and education are being shared. That’s where relatability, novelty and fluency come in. Can you get the message across quickly in a way that’s relatable? Is it information that actually matters to me? And is it new, something I don’t already know?
Either that, or you need to try for memorability by telling a good story. A lot of posts I write start out with a story – not all, but a lot of them. I do this because of what Linked is as a community and social network.
I recently saw Guy Kawasaki, the author of 12 books, give a presentation about giving good presentations. Every presentation he does starts with a custom slide of a picture of something from his life– a picture of his kids, his bookshelf, or something like that.
I like to do that specifically on LinkedIn to connect with the audience, because they can be a great source of stories that persuade people to stick around and read to the end, and they might make them more likely to share.”
2. Find your “set” of people and write something that will be irresistible to them – and ignore everyone else.
“In order to stand out on LinkedIn, you need to publish consistently and slowly build an audience. But you also need to aim for hits.
And that’s about finding the right audience. A lot of the lessons that you can learn from Buzzfeed are pretty apt here. They’ve figured out how to do that in their own listicle format , which is not necessarily the format that you need to apply this lesson. But in their own format, they’ve discovered a way to make things that are more likely to be spread among certain groups.
They find a small niche group and write something that everyone who belongs to that group and relates to that identity will share if they see it. They don’t write posts on ’10 things that everyone in the world will love’, because that’s a lot less likely to be shared.
Instead, they write pieces like the one a friend forwarded to me recently: ’15 things that happened to you if you grew up in America with an Asian Mother’. There’s a relatively small group of people that has experienced this, but if it has happened to them, they can all relate to the funny things Buzzfeed writes in that article, and they’ll share it with others.
They slice out a tiny segment of the market and write something that you can’t not click on, you can’t not share if you belong to that group. And everyone who is connected to you will share it around with their friends too.
So that’s the advice I’d give on LinkedIn: Find your ‘set’ of people who really need what you’re writing and write something that is irresistible to them –and ignore the broader audience. And that’s the way to eventually generate hits and build up on these platforms.”