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You’re about to read an awesome article about storytelling – and I guarantee it’ll help you market your business and improve your LinkedIn experience.
I’m not usually so bold with an opening passage – but I can be now because I’m not pioneering the methods I’m talking about, I’m simply relaying them to you from the brain of Shane Snow; the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder at Contently.
Shane’s an award-winning journalist who writes for Wired, The New Yorker and other world-class publications. He’s also a massive Ryan Gosling fan – which won’t make any sense unless you watch his TEDx talk and become as invested in him as I am (through, you guessed it, some exceptional storytelling).
I’m not stealing Shane’s ideas, I’m just keen for you to use them – because they’ve worked for me, and I believe without question that they’ll work for you too.
What is storytelling all about?
There are no tricks at play here – storytelling is exactly that; using your platform (in this case, LinkedIn) to tell a story, either about you, your product, your team – or any other part of your business that’s worth telling people about.
But why? Why would you want to tell a story about your business? Who cares?
Well, perhaps no one cares right now – but that’s exactly what stories do; they make us care, they build empathy in your audience, they create an emotional investment in what it is you’re doing. It’s through storytelling that you build incredible audience numbers, encourage new business, build authority, enhance awareness – and all those other things you signed up to LinkedIn for but have never really got around to doing.
So, it’s all easy enough for me to say – I’m a writer, storytelling is what I do – but I can promise you that storytelling doesn’t have to be done by a writer – it just has to follow a few simple tips.
Understand who your audience is
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The very first question you need to ask yourself when you’re about to tell a story on LinkedIn is “who am I aiming this at?”
I recall reading an interview with Shane where he talks about Buzzfeed and their ability to write articles that are absolutely irresistible if you happen to be the small sliver of a demographic they’re aimed at. For instance, if you happened to see “12 Unfortunate Truths You Have to Face as a Freelancer Photographer” you’d be far more likely to click and share than if you saw “5 Things Everyone Can Relate To”.
People read, like, and share articles into groups of people who are like them – creating even more exposure. Working out who your stories are going to appeal to is absolutely key to putting what you’re saying in front of the right people.
When you’ve worked out who you’re writing for, write only for them. Forget about the other people – and forget about trying to make your story appealing to anyone else but the core audience that you’re looking to connect with.
Share something significant about you
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As a freelancer, you don’t have to create a brand image as such – you’re the brand, so you only really need investment in you.
The question is – what do people want to know about you? Well, again, probably nothing at the moment – but that’s only because you haven’t created anything yet. Right now, you’re just a random freelancer – just like I am.
So perhaps I could tell you something about me? (and I promise you, this is 100% true)
I didn’t plan to be a writer. I started doing it because I love my partner, Jane. She’s a teacher (a really amazing one) who works with kids in a really poor part of northern England, not far from where we live. The trouble is, Jane’s got a little girl – my step-daughter; Elsie. Elsie’s a cool kid and I love her like she’s my own – but kids need to go to school – and Jane’s work means she can’t take her.
I went full time with my freelance writing because it meant I could walk Elsie to school and pick her up again – and it meant Jane could keep doing her dream job. Writing works around that – and it turns out I love doing it. I work super hard to write well – because as part of her job, Jane is now doing a Master’s degree in children’s literature and how it can be used to help children to grow outside their social circumstances. We don’t have a heap of money – so I’m helping her to pay for the course.
What do you think? If you were a site owner, would you trust me to deliver the work you want? Do I seem like a stand-up guy? In reality; you don’t know – but you probably get a feeling from my little life story there that I’m fairly trustworthy and will work hard for you – which in reality, is what people are looking for.
You don’t have to spill your heart out every time you write – just make your story authentic and relatable – it grows people’s connection to you more than any portfolio of work alone ever could. People like doing business with real people, not just random freelancers on LinkedIn.
Storytelling is a rich and important part of our psychology. As children, it’s the first thing we use to make sense of the world – to learn lessons and see how other people act and overcome problems.
The truth is, that doesn’t stop in childhood – we continue to learn from others, through the stories they recount and the stories we observe playing out in front of us. We even tell ourselves stories – ruminating on the things we’ve done – seeing how they play out differently in our heads if we’d said something different, taken a different path, etc.
By the time we’re adults, we’ve seen, read, heard and thought about millions of stories – and when you’ve worked your way through that much storytelling, you develop a nose that’s highly sensitive to BS.
As such, it’s crucial that you don’t try to spin a fairy tale and make it your own. If you do and you get caught out (which is highly likely) then your storytelling is worse than useless – you’re now a liar who’s trying to manipulate an audience for your own gain – and if there’s one thing we can learn from politics, it’s that no one takes kindly to that.
What should storytelling look like for you?
Photo by Thought Catalog
To continue my appropriation of Shane Snow’s ideas – I’m going to wrap up with his main three points that create a good story:
When you’re scribbling down some notes about what your next blog article should be – or what you’ll next post directly to LinkedIn, just ask yourself if your story is quick enough that people will read it? Will your audience connect with it? And is there a novel twist? – whether that’s something funny or new, or a connection to some kind of universal truth that is worth pointing out.
You don’t have to create a masterpiece – if you write authentically and from the heart, you’re on the right path.