Here you are … confronting that dreadful moment again.
Your company is planning a brand conference to attract more leads, and you’re in charge of coming out with guns blazing, as if you are in the Wild West … or at least, that’s what it feels like.
Not only do you have to deal with the logistics, you also have to promote your event.
Once again, you fear failing yet again at … social media.
You already know how it will go.
After preparing a few nice Facebook ads, LinkedIn announcements, and Instagram posts about the event, you’ll publish them all and … crickets.
Nobody will react.
Best-case scenario, your posts will receive a few likes from your friends and a few shares from your boss and a few colleagues.
Let me tell you a secret: If you want to promote your event, social media doesn’t work. At least not in the way you think it does.
An uninspiring image on Instagram and a generic-looking ad on Facebook won’t do much.
People have become so accustomed to these images that they don’t even notice them anymore—they scroll right past them without a second thought.
That’s why, if you want to succeed and promote your event the right way, we need to have a chat.
The case of Starbucks
Let’s put aside social media for a minute and focus on what makes people tick.
Let me guess: You’re one of the millions who head to Starbucks before work for your morning caffeine fix.
You look forward to the experience: the smell of fresh-brewed coffee and warm pastries, the ambiance, the exemplary customer service, the regulars, the music piping in the background. Maybe you even have some interesting encounters or stories from your Starbucks trips: maybe you ran into an old schoolmate there and reconnected, or maybe you brainstormed the idea for a new product during a working session with a few colleagues.
If you have some memories associated with Starbucks, you are definitely not alone.
As the book “Storytelling: Branding in Practice” suggests, Starbucks used storytelling to build a bridge between its brand and their customers.
Over the years, Starbucks employees gathered hundreds of stories from people who met their future spouses at the iconic coffee chain. One day, the company decided to capture all these stories and celebrate them as part of a Valentine’s Day action titled “A Match Made Over Coffee.”
Becoming a part of the brand
Starbucks received over 600 entries from people who had a romantic story related to their coffeehouse experience. On February 14, the winners were announced.
As indicated in the book, “With the ‘A Match Made Over Coffee’ contest, Starbucks hoped to highlight the emotional dimension of the brand which revolves around their vision of the so-called ‘third place.’
The third place is the place between work and home where people congregate to find a sense of community, a place where you can be yourself and hang out—alone, or, with friends and family. In other words, Starbucks is more than quality coffee and hand-crafted beverages—it’s a certain experience, a certain atmosphere.”
The book concludes, “By tapping into these otherwise tacit stories, Starbucks invites their customers to become part of the brand, which is much more appealing than anything they could do through traditional advertising.”
Why do you think that happens?
Our brain is wired for stories
As Lisa Cron writes in her book Wired for Story, “Neuroscientists believe the reason our already overloaded brain devotes so much precious time and space to allowing us to get lost in a story is that without stories, we’d be toast. Stories allow us to simulate intense experiences without actually having to live through them.”
Whether it’s a Netflix series or a captivating book, storytelling is a massive, powerful medium. Stories make us experience joy, sadness, awe, wonder, hope, disappointment … the range of emotions is endless.
When listening to a story, a person’s dopamine and serotonin levels will increase, which heighten a person’s genuine intrigue and anticipation.
As Nancy Duarte highlights in her book Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, “Ever since humans first sat around the campfire, stories have been told to create emotional connections. In many societies, they have been passed along nearly unchanged for generations.”
She adds, “People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face. When we listen to a story, the chemicals in our body change, and our mind becomes transfixed.”
You can use storytelling to deliver complex information, grab people’s attention, and—yep, you guessed it!— promote your event.
How to use social media storytelling to promote your event
From Instagram and Snapchat to Facebook and YouTube, you have a wide range of possibilities to reach hundreds of thousands of people with the stories you create.
Social media storytelling became a powerful tool you can use to build a community and promote your event.
As the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk indicates, “Social networks and mobile devices have created a gateway drug to consumer awareness. They have commoditized communication and storytelling.”
To help you sort these things out, here’s a list of steps you can follow to craft and tell your story on social media to promote your event:
Step #1. Define the story of your brand event
That’s the hardest part.
For example, Vaynerchuk notes, he has more than 800 people who spend all of their time on thinking about how to actually market and tell a story.
So how can you, just one person, design a story for your brand event?
Here’s some good news: Even a 15-second story can make the magic happen.
Let’s take it step by step.
First, decide on the unique value your event can provide.
Is it solving a burning pain? Will it provide access to bright minds and thought leaders? Will it be a meaningful platform for networking?
Once you’ve identified your event’s special value, wrap that value into a story.
You can take as an example the Instagram account Humans of New York. You’ll find multiple photos of people (mostly pedestrians) and their compelling life story in a description.
You could try to do the same and create a narrative with an Instagram caption.
If your event provides a powerful networking platform, you can use a smart trick.
You could publish a series of photos of individuals with stories about how each was super anxious and uncomfortable to engage in networking at events.
You can also showcase stories about weird encounters people had when interacting with other attendees.
This is something most people will resonate with.
Show me one person who goes to a networking event and experiences absolutely zero stress or awkward moments.
Afterward, to promote your brand event, you can publish an explanatory Instagram caption that describes how your event’s networking dynamic (let’s say it’s a B2B matchmaking) will diminish those feelings of anxiety and ensure lots of fun, minimal (if any) awkwardness, and access to meaningful connections.
Step #2. Come up with an attractive character
When telling a story, it’s always recommended to have a character, particularly some kind of hero.
But how can you create a hero, especially when you want to design a sort of Instagram story?
It’s simple: Let your attendees be the heroes.
Design the story around someone who has the same problems, needs, and expectations as your target group. Obviously, before doing this, you must know your target group very well, have already defined a detailed profile of your attendee personas, and gathered all the emotional characteristics they may manifest.
As presented in the first example (Step #1), the people who’d share their stories about uncomfortable networking experiences would represent the attendees themselves.
Step #3. Launch a truly attractive campaign
To promote your event, think about designing an engaging campaign. This is a long-format story that may evolve during several days or even weeks.
Whether it’s travel related or a collection of teammate photos (or videos), this can give you (and your brand) a lot of exposure.
One idea is to start a challenge and involve as many people as possible. Needlessly to say, the challenge must be related to your brand event’s topic or your company’s products.
Step #4. Tell your story on Facebook groups and pages
Here’s a more persona strategy you can use to promote your event: Try to engage more with people in different Facebook groups.
For example, if your brand revolves around helping entrepreneurs, you must be reactive. Search for Facebook groups mostly comprised of entrepreneurs.
Ask to join the group and start engaging with people by telling “your own story.”
In other words, instead of just “selling” the event with a link to your site or the event webpage, be creative. Start by posting extremely useful comments.
You’ll be eager to talk about your brand and your event, but exercise caution here: if you try to start selling right away, this will be a huge turnoff to people and have the opposite effect.
Some groups even have rules against this, and you might be asked to leave the group.
Post comments frequently so you can establish yourself as a known figure in the group.
Once you’ve established your presence and authority, then you can publish a lengthy comment about your story, your problem, and the solution you found. You can have a motivational approach and even synthesize a few takeaways for the group.
The story must be as personal and engaging as possible.
At the same time, you can customize your Facebook profile, making a few posts public and adding a featured image to the event.
Usually, if people like and respect you on these groups, they’ll check put your profile, and probably click on the links you have on your own newsfeed.
Step #5. Go professional and share video stories on YouTube
If you have the team, resources, and time, go bold and focus on video stories.
This can help you not only promote your event, but also build an entire lifestyle around your brand.
From adventurous to funny videos, you can always explore a great variety of options.
Plus, if you already have a community around your brand, you can always engage other people. Challenge them to send you their video stories (take the example of Starbucks and their romantic stories).
As a result, you can encourage your community to provide you with content. Subsequently, you can use it for a well-structured storytelling strategy to promote your event. Apart from that, if you’ve run other brand events in the past, you can always take interviews from the previous attendees. Get them to share a story about how attending the event helped them solve a burning pain.
Social media is not just for sharing dry information. To promote your event, you must do much more than just publish a link to website. It’s also wrong to just showcase the visual elements of your upcoming event with the general data.
If you are not Tesla or Apple, people will most probably ignore your event.
That’s why you should think about using social media wisely. Wrap your brand with a nice story that will grab the attention of your attendee personas.