A writer once said that a beautifully-written fantasy is more valuable than a badly-spoken fact. Why? Because humans love stories.
Storytelling is all the rage in digital marketing, and social media has become a huge part of that. In a world of percentages and ROI graphs, stories are what make brands stand out. Your own story is, after all, yours – similar to others, perhaps, but unique in its finer details.
That’s all nice and easy for brands like National Geographic or Coca-Cola. One literally tells stories for a living, the other one is drunk by over half of the planet (plenty of stories to tell there).
But what about the ones that are not so obviously inspiring? The brands that make the National Geographic pages and put the most popular drink in the world into its trademarked bottles?
If you were to ask me what is the industry that struggles with storytelling the most on social media, I would have to name manufacturing. The industry has a problem I have heard a lot of manufacturing clients talk about: the generational divide. Door-to-door sales might still work now, but just look at the millennial generation, now slowly coming into power. We literally distrust anyone knocking on our door – where was the e-mail informing us you would come a-calling?
So, how do manufacturing companies move away from posting pictures of men in business suits shaking hands at manufacturing conventions, and onto presenting themselves as interesting, engaging and, at the end of the day, original?
5 tips to improve your storytelling
1. Tell the story of your products
When it comes to products, a lot of companies will flood their social media pages with computer graphics of shiny machines thinking that is what will impress potential buyers. However, I’m willing to bet most potential buyers are interested in the quality and efficiency of those machines, and the memorable way to tell them that is to show them what their finished product could look like. So, abandon the computer graphics and get some real footage of the production process.
2. Go backstage with a camera
Behind-the-scenes footage sells just as well in social media marketing as it does in Hollywood marketing. There are two narratives manufacturing companies can use when it comes to behind-the-scenes content.
The first is literally what the name says. Your customers will want to know what your employees are like and how your production process works.
The second narrative is a little more sophisticated. Manufacturing is in itself the behind-the-scenes of how a certain product was made. Take this approach and roll with it. If you make everyone’s favourite breakfast cereal, don’t be shy about saying so.
3. Find similarities between your brand and your audience
Great stories make the people who read or watch them feel something because they feel familiar.
For manufacturing companies, the struggle to find common ground with their audiences might seem greater than it is. The first step to creating content that relates to your audience is to find out who and where they are. Conducting market research or persona research will take care of this step.
The next stage is finding out exactly what kind of content your audience is interested in. Take a look at their interests and see if you can find patterns.
4. Be honest about your own issues
Most companies find this tip hard to follow. After all, going out on social media and saying you’ve done something wrong is not exactly easy. It is, however, greatly appreciated, and a very human way of announcing you have updated a product or even launched a new one. Perhaps the reason behind this is the fact your old product had issues. If that’s the case, it’s better for you to come forward and admit it rather than social media users getting the gist from your customers.
5. Find your hook
One of the most important principles of storytelling is finding a hook for your story – something that your entire narrative revolves around that people’s attention can easily be grabbed by.
For manufacturing companies, the hook is the issues your products have the solution to. Create your content around how they stand out from other products in the industry. Discover what are the most common questions your customers ask when they start researching for a manufacturer, and make sure your content answers them.
To sum it all up, storytelling and manufacturing are not as foreign to each other as it may seem at first sight. The first thing you need to do is allow yourself to think outside the box. The next step is to come up with a plan. Once you have your plan, create an editorial calendar and then go from there.
If you’re planning to do this at a global scale, you need to bear in mind that not all your content will be relevant to all the markets you are active in, even if your product is present everywhere. Conduct market research and social media listening to check whether you should rewrite your content to fit each market or simply localise it.
Good luck, and don’t forget that every single brand has a unique story to tell. The challenge is almost always in having the courage to take the very first step towards telling it in a way that sits outside of your comfort zone.
I hope this has given you a useful introduction to how manufacturers can use storytelling on social media. For more information, read my free, full-length guide here. The full guide goes into greater depth and covers ten tips!
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