Social Media
by Sunil Mahantesh

Across continents and generations, research shows that the recommendations of friends are trusted more than any other form of advertising. People love to hear, watch and share stories with the people who matter most to them. The Story feature on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and even Google encourages users to share their choices and experiences more frequently than ever.

Rather than interrupt those stories with ads, your brand can become the topic of these stories—if you deliver an experience worth sharing. The main factor that drives these experiences is not the size of your staff or marketing budget; it’s something we all possess: creativity.

Below are five key touch points to consider when creating your strategy to spark share worthy stories about your brand.

Use your staff as story drivers

People value authentic human connection in a brand experience. Lyft’s social media interaction with customers is a great example of elevating the “customer service” to “customer celebration.”

But you don’t need a whole social media department to spark these stories. The Library Hotel, a boutique hotel in Midtown Manhattan, sparks conversations in the lobby and online by adding staff members’ favorite books to their name badges and celebrating shared enthusiasm for reading. This inexpensive action inspires selfies that get shared and liked across the web.

Make a scene

An aesthetic environment encourages people to take and share pictures. By elevating the traditional brewery visit into a more interactive, multi-sensory experience, Guinness found an engaging and picturesque way to tell its story and quickly became the most popular attraction in Ireland. Merci, a concept store in Paris, uses affordable materials to constantly innovate the interior of their store through a simple rope installation. Customers happily share this experience with friends and regularly return out of curiosity.

Make your product the star

It’s no surprise that an ingenious product such as Tentsile’s tree tent gets widely shared and talked about, but Bottega Louie, an Italian restaurant in downtown L.A., managed to spark stories with the simplest product. Their baguette is made of flour and water, like any other bread, but its shape elevates the humble baguette to an Instagrammable piece of art that is the first item to sell out every day.

The main factor that drives these experiences is not the size of your staff or marketing budget, it’s something we all possess: creativity.

Cover to discover

Some may claim there’s no way they can change their product itself to make it spark conversation. Then how about its packaging? Unboxing videos are some of the most watched videos on YouTube, with some having over a billion views. Music festivals such as Tomorrowland in Belgium start the festival experience weeks before the actual event by mailing the entry bracelet in an intricate box that’s more of a keepsake than an afterthought. Tomorrowland’s unboxing videos alone get hundreds of thousands of views, not to mention the millions of views from other online videos that cover the entire experience.

Add value, not valuable ads

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a software developer to use your online presence as a word-of-mouth marketing tool. Forbes’ compelling Quote of the Day overlays the website as the page is loading. Readers screenshot and share them across social channels with friends and colleagues.

If you’ve got resources and time to dive even deeper, you can gather and share educational content like software company HubSpot did with HubSpot Academy. Visitors share and discuss the topics they love with their peers as they learn, helping companies draw goodwill and word-of-mouth favours from customers they may never have been able to reach.

Instead of stealing valuable time by making ads obligatory, create experiences that inspire happiness, teach valuable lessons, and/or compel participants to share with loved ones. You can also charge a premium for these experiences. In other words, stop telling your audience how amazing you are—make them experience it, and they’ll spread the word.

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