I’ve been re-reading the Seth Godin classic “All Marketers Are Liars” and, while it was written before social media gained such prominence, I’ve found it no less compelling today because of the valuable lessons he imparts. Godin’s point wasn’t that marketers are really liars, but that consumers choose to believe the stories that marketers are telling them, and those stories need to be authentic in order to be believed. This acceptance by consumers requires a little bit of self-deception (That tooth-whitening mouthwash will make me more popular!) but marketers are only going to be heard today if they have compelling stories to tell.
If Godin wrote the book in 2009 his lesson of storytelling as the foundation for good marketing would be even stronger, given that I believe social media marketing IS storytelling. If you don’t have a good story to tell on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr or any other social network you’re directing your fans, friends and followers to, you’re dead in the water. Sure, it’s a story that will evolve based on dialogue with the community and what it wants, but it’s a story all the same.
The best brands today have embraced storytelling on every level. Take Five Guys, the burger and fries joint. They opened up a local franchise near where I live and have had lines out the door from day one. Their walls are plastered with all the press clippings touting their amazing food. And it is amazing. They cater to the customer and tell a good, authentic story about quality food done fast, and with free toppings! No wonder Obama took Brian Williams there when he was interviewed for an NBC special. Even the Commander in Chief buys their story.
So, if you want to truly succeed in social media marketing today, it doesn’t matter if you’re a master of every Twitter tool on the planet (Developers: I’m begging you, stop calling your service “tweet-[insert name here]” already! We get it, Twitter doesn’t work right, and you’re the spoiler on the back of my low-riding Honda Civic to pimp my tweets). If I told you in 1999 that I was a master of Yahoo! Instant messenger, could work a Hotmail chat room like nobody’s business, and built the best-ever GeoCities websites, you would probably have laughed in my face. So the next time that someone tells you they’re a social media guru, tell them you already have a plumber, and what you need is an architect who can build a great story for your brand.