By Rachel Levy Sarfin

When you hear the word “storytelling,” you most likely think of people gathered around a campfire, listening raptly as one person spins a tale.

It’s worth considering this ancient method of communication in your digital communication. Storytelling makes shoppers feel as though they know you better and gives your store a recognizable, human face to stand out amongst competitors.

Why Storytelling MattersCitation

Crystal Vilkaitis, CEO of the social media training firm Crystal Media, is a strong advocate for the practice of brand storytelling on social media. “Customers don’t just want to know what you sell, they want to know who you are!

They want a taste of your culture, your personality, your values,” she said. “One of the biggest things that set independent stores apart from the big box stores is their story and their people.”

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Storytelling has powerful emotional and psychological impacts. In 2011, scientist Uri Hasson and colleagues from Princeton University conducted a study about the effect of storytelling on the human brain. They recorded a woman as she told a story while laying inside an MRI scanner. The researchers measured her brain activity as she spoke.

Afterwards, the scientists played the recorded stories for a group of volunteers. The volunteers listened to the recording as their brains were scanned. As the scientists watched the results of the brain scans, they noticed something extraordinary: the brains of the storyteller and the listeners were synchronized.

When the storyteller’s insula (an area of the brain associated with emotional experiences) was more active, so too were those of the listeners. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. Essentially, the storyteller had planted thoughts, ideas, and emotions in the listeners’ brains.

Listening to a story isn’t the only way to feel its emotional impact. Other scientific studies have shown that reading a story, especially when it’s written with evocative adjectives, can actually make the reader feel as though he or she is experiencing what’s happening on the page.

Storytelling and Social Media Citation

So how do you use this powerful tool in your social media marketing to attract and retain customers?

“Don’t be afraid to be yourself,” Vilkaitis said. If your store’s vibe is laidback and quirky, make sure that comes through in your social media posts. Authenticity is vital—customers can tell if something doesn’t ring true in a story, so you don’t need to make things up.

When it comes to writing social media posts, Vilkaitis recommends treating each post as though it is a conversation with a customer. “You want to be professional, but don’t be a robot,” she said.

It’s also important to know what your customers value most about your flower shop. If shoppers come to you mainly for wedding arrangements, share love stories. Start with your own. If customers give you permission to tell stories about their weddings, do so.

Vilkaitis encouraged florists to take every opportunity possible to tell a story. “Every post [and email]… is a chance to connect with customers,” she said.

However, it’s crucial that the story is relevant to the customers—otherwise, they’ll lose interest. And the social media educator counseled would-be storytellers to include only the details that matter (if you get lost in the weeds, your story loses momentum, and your readers get bored).

Storytelling at Work: A Social Media Success StoryCitation

Crystal Media’s CEO shared a success story from the social media training course, Social Edge, that she runs.

Social Edge member Heather Waits owns Bloomtastic Florist in Columbus, Ohio. Before Mother’s Day 2016, Waits filmed a Facebook Live video in which she showcased a number of bouquets for the holiday.

The video gave the florist the opportunity to talk about the individual flowers in each bouquet and where they came from. During the video, Waits shared a promo code for online orders.

The campaign was successful – Waits actually ran out of flowers! Her video garnered more than 3,000 views and more than 30 customers redeemed the coupon code, leading to almost $3,000 in sales.

Storytelling might be an ancient art, but it’s alive and well today. Many entrepreneurs, including florists, use it to successfully attract customers and boost their sales. Humans are hardwired to read and listen to stories – figure out what yours is to make a lasting connection with shoppers.

Rachel Levy Sarfin is a Toronto-based freelancer who has written about technology for a variety of publications and blogs.

Rachel Levy Sarfin
Rachel Levy Sarfin is a Toronto-based freelancer who has written about technology for a variety of publications and blogs.

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