Storytelling: The essence of community

Well, who doesn’t like hearing stories? Think about the last time you heard a great story. Not just any story, but a story that held your attention, one that made you laugh or cry. There must be something about that story that kept you interested in hearing more, right? 

What was it? Think. What exactly stood out to you? And more importantly, what made it a great story?

The answer is pretty simple - it connected with you at an emotional level. 

Similarly, storytelling is an important aspect of community management, because it lets you connect with your members at an emotional level. While we have been talking about identifying your members and then reaching out to them, storytelling is what helps community managers connect with their members. In this article, we’ll cover how you can use the power of storytelling to get people emotionally invested in your community.

Connect brand to the community with powerful stories

Brands that do this well can become powerful in the minds of customers, impacting peoples’ daily dialogue and resonating within society. Think of Nike or Apple, and then think of the millions of people their stories inspire every year. Storytelling helps humanize the brand, reminding us that we’re not just trying to sell products to our customers, but that we’re trying to connect with them.

Marketer Marc Gobe, author of Emotional Branding and principal of d/g worldwide, said Apple's brand is the key to its survival. It's got nothing to do with innovative products like the iMac or the iPod.

The company has established a "heartfelt connection" with its customers. This can take several forms, from building trust to establishing a community around a product. In Apple's case, its products are designed around people: "Take the iPod, it brings an emotional, sensory experience to computing," Gobe said. "Apple's design is people-driven." Learn more about it here:

However, community managers often find themselves confused - how does this apply to my brand? It’s true that storytelling is far hazier than something like identifying your members. But to keep things simple - let’s begin with story structure. 

Story structure

Different structures can work for different kinds of communities, but there are some good elements in every good story that you can take into consideration while crafting the story for your community.

To start off, study the following 6 questions carefully. By answering these questions, you’ll be able to think about how they apply to your community’s story, taking into consideration your brand’s vision and mission.

  • What is the theme of your community’s story?

  • What is the plot of your community’s story?

  • What was the background or landscape at the inception of your brand/community?

  • What were your main characters’ motives?

  • Was there a climax moment? What happened?

  • How does the story end? (For a brand, the question might be reframed as “How is the brand doing now?”)

Now, think about how these ideas that build the community’s story can be applied to other types of stories as they relate to the brand or the business, such as those told through community experiences and visual representations.

Use strong tactics in your community’s story

Crafting a great story goes beyond understanding the fundamental structure of storytelling. In order to effectively convey a message, there are a few tactics you can deploy while telling your story. It can help make your stories more interesting and memorable to your community members. Let’s look at some of the key tactics which you could use to get your members attached to your community even more.

  • One of the most powerful storytelling tactics is an element of surprise. No one wants to read a story when they know what’s going to happen. A piece of content/story that delightfully surprises through humor or unexpected twist can make all the difference in your community’s story.

  • If you’re creating a story to share with your community, you might also want to use tactics of persuasion to help inspire people to see your point of view. In storytelling, you can do this best by stating your opinion, using facts and data to support it, and then coming to a logical conclusion at the end of the piece. It’s super-effective in the community-space.

  • Finally, another interesting storytelling tactic is to start by setting the stage for where you are now and then use that to formulate what the future could be. This tactic gets people excited about what the future may bring, and it helps encourage them to follow you forward in this journey.

Glynk’s tip

Storytelling in community management takes a number of forms. For example, it can mean reaching your members through interesting content on social media, digital video, podcasting, longer content such as white papers or ebooks, film, art, or graphic design—and any of which evokes an emotion in your members to keep coming back. As a community professional, just ensure that your story is authentic. Because when you portray the story in your community that is genuinely not authentic to your brand, your members will notice.

For all the community leaders out there, the art of storytelling is the most effective skill to refine if are building a vibrant community. You can’t learn it overnight. Like any other skill, it needs to be developed and evolved over time. But, to start off, I’d suggest you understand what your members are most interested in reading and sharing. This would give you a strong base to start crafting your stories.

What do you think about storytelling in the community? Is it something that adds value to your members? Add your thoughts in the comment section. Or reply to this email. We’d love to hear from you.