Six Ways to Leverage Your Customers' Natural Storytelling
Encouraging Satisfied Travelers and Customers to Share With the World
By Peter Friedman CEO and Chairman, LiveWorld | January 17, 2016
The use of stories to entertain, influence, educate, and connect is very old. Humankind used storytelling to communicate ideas and values long before the birth of written language. They shared stories orally, painted them on rock walls, carved them into trees, even tattooed or sliced them into their bodies. Storytelling has always been social, too, with individual tellers embellishing, adding details, altering key plot points, and tailoring characters and images to ignite the interest of their particular audiences.
Today we understand more about why stories are so potently persuasive, thanks to several decades of sociological and psychological research mining the connection between emotional response and learning. As the movie producer and business mogul Peter Guber writes in Tell to Win, "Stories that work transport people emotionally." It turns out that if your story is good enough to rev up people's emotions, your audience is much more likely to internalize and remember the information and values you seek to communicate. Providing them with a list of data points and abstract statements making your case doesn't stick like a story will.
True social storytelling, in which customers themselves drive the stories that define brands, isn't that common yet. There are plenty of tactical best practices for collaborative storytelling in an asynchronous, interactive medium. But most companies are still focused on broadcasting content created by their marketing team, pushing it out through social channels, and then hoping for applause in the form of Likes and comments. But however entertaining it tries to be, most brand content is still the annoyance that interrupts the content we want- whether it's a favorite TV show or our friends' photos.
Travelers love to tell stories: the snorkeling trip they took in the Molokini crater in Maui, or the fabulous dinner they had at a hole in the wall in a far-flung city. They regale their friends and family with stories of their adventures, showing them pictures, recommending their best spots, and warning them off bad experiences. Some of them will post on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, sharing their good - and bad - encounters with your company on their journey.
In the travel and hospitality industry, this form of storytelling can be a goldmine for companies when customers actively participate. As travel companies know, customers tend to plan 6 months ahead of time. While they're planning, and right before they head out, customers want to know specifics about their destination, and from people like them that were just there. Not only do customers become the heroes, but also so do the companies providing services. And because, according to Neilsen, online opinions are the second most trusted source, eclipsed only by recommendations from friends and family (which of course today are mostly shared via social media), it's critical to get those customer reviews raving about your sangria, soft beds, or sightseeing tours.
Remember, your customers are playing a leading role in this story, not the company. If you get their attention and get them invested in telling their stories, they will do the promoting for you. These are six ways that have worked for companies in the travel and hospitality industry - and beyond.