Marketing professionals have always known the importance of storytelling. Earlier this summer, “What Richard Branson and Phil Knight Teach Us About Brand Storytelling” in ends with an assertion:

I met Chief Storytelling Officers at Accenture, Microsoft, Google, SAP and Salesforce. These companies are hiring or designing individuals as Chief Storytelling Officers because stories educate, inform, illuminate and inspire. Tell more of them or hire someone who will.

In the MIT Sloan Management Review, “The Power of Consumer Stories in Digital Marketing” takes this a step further: find some Chief Storytelling Customers.

This dovetails well with what we’ve been told about how important it is for business to connect with customers on social media.  But connect how?  Just showing commercials isn’t going to cut it anymore—it’s all about relationships.

The MSMR cites several studies at that seem to prove the power of customers’ stories in helping to build those relationships:

In fact, across the three studies, there was an average increase of 32% in purchasing consideration when consumer-based storytelling was employed . . .  In addition, respondents who were more likely to “see themselves in the story” had a greater willingness to consider the brand and felt higher levels of self-brand connection and trust.

The authors suggest four steps a company can take to gather and utilize consumer stories.

  1. Work with consumers to generate believable and compelling stories. Connecting on social media is invaluable for gathering testimonials.
  2. Convert stories into high quality presentations. But avoid slickness!  While you don’t want poor quality video, overproducing your consumer stories creates skepticism about authenticity.
  3. Embed stories into your social media mix. “Encourage comments, sharing, elaboration, and the creation of consumer-to-brand and consumer-to-consumer information chains across your array of social media.”
  4. Integrate paid media strategies with voluntary sharing of stories on social media. “Companies can pay to include stories in news feeds on Facebook and other paid sites; in addition, look for synergies between social media and mass media.”

If your company has experienced uncertainty as to how to start using social media, the MSMR article gives lots of practical suggestions to get you started.  And if you’d like to talk about some shakeup strategies, personal or professional, send me an email at and we can set up a time to talk.

photo credit: Geoff Livingston Moonrise on the Cape Cod National Seashore via photopin (license)