Stories are the fuel that helps drive human culture. Sharing stories and experiences is a uniquely human characteristic that has shaped much of what we know about the world that surrounds us today. Many of us may not get the opportunity to travel to all the parts of the world that we want, but if we are determined enough we can look up stories about these distant locales and the people there so we can, in a way, still experience these places. This is just a sliver of the influence stories have on our everyday lives.
Technology has greatly improved our ability to communicate and tell stories across oceans, borders, and cultures. However, the ease of communication has caused a type of bottleneck effect in which some stories or messages are not always able to reach their intended audience. Today, there are so many avenues of communication from social media, email, blogs, message boards, SMS—just to name a few—that experts say that the average American is exposed to thousands of ads per day.
When it comes to marketing and storytelling for businesses, cutting through all these competing stories and advertisements can be challenging. It seems that the traditional advertising channels that businesses have relied on previously are becoming less trusted by the contemporary consumer. According to a 2018 study by 4A, a top advertising firm, nearly a quarter of American adults report strongly disliking or even hating ads.
Sharing your business’ community story, or the on-going interactions and relationships your business has with your community, can be what makes your business stand out against all the competition and the advertising noise. Your community story is a collection of stories about the good you do and what you give back to the community. Out of all the communication and advertising channels, word-of-mouth recommendations, which can be influenced when your community story is a visible part of your business identity, are still the most valued and trusted. Advertisements can still be emotionally resonating, the difference though, is authenticity.
Being that your small business is so intertwined with your community, how you speak and share your story with your local customers is authentic by nature. We know from our 2020 Spring Into Kindness Small Business Study you give back to the community consistently throughout the year. If you are one of the many small businesses engaged with the community through giving, you have a story to tell with your audience that can create authentic emotional connections.
After all, you are doing good for the causes they care about and in the places where they live and work. However, doing good is only one part of the community story, sharing what you did with your customers and audience helps bring the kindness full circle. When your customers are able to see everything you put back into the community, it lets them know that their purchasing dollars are being used to help the community grow.
How and where you share your community story is of great importance. According to a recent study by the eCommerce Foundation, 88% of consumers go online before heading into the stores. Needless to say, a good amount of your customers are looking up information about your business and offerings before coming in, and what your digital presence is saying about your business could make or break the purchase decision.
When you research your business online, is the good you’ve done for your community a visible part of your business identity? It’s understandable that out of humbleness you may want to keep your good deeds anonymous, but as a business owner, sharing the results of your charitable campaign actually helps increase the effectiveness of what you did.
Seeing your kindness in action can inspire your customers to rally around your business and cause, and it also helps to amplify the impact your charitable giving has the potential to achieve. Sharing authentic stories about the good you do in the places where your customers are looking you up—like on your website and social media accounts—can have positive marketing and PR benefits that can’t be achieved by traditional advertising campaigns. And if word of your business’ kindness is spread through a shareable story on your website or social media, it increases your word-of-mouth potential naturally.
During our speaking engagements, we always drive home the importance of being authentic, transparent, and visible about your community giving so that you and your community can grow. We have found after talking to many small business owners that many want to share their community stories, but do not have the time or know-how to craft an authentic story around their giving that doesn’t come off as self-promotional. Like we explained above, your customers are craving these stories of the good you do, because by supporting you they are also a part of the good you do for the community. So if you have a story you can tell, let’s start with these few simple tips for authentic storytelling.
So, our first tip for authentic storytelling is pretty earth-shattering, get ready. It’s this: JUST DO IT! That’s right, sharing anything at all about your kindness is the first step in creating real, emotional bonds with your customers. You would be surprised at how many kindhearted people are reluctant to “toot their own horns” about their business’ charitable giving, but if you keep your kindness a secret, no one else can be inspired by it. Sharing is caring, remember that!
Now, we’re going to hit you with another platitude: a picture is worth a thousand words. For your website and especially on social media, this is true. Let’s say your business donated some goods to healthcare workers who are on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are able to capture moments of your business dropping off these goods at a location or get a moment to take a picture of you and your team preparing the goods together, take them. Marketers and advertisers that study consumer behavior online know that when businesses share stories that have some sort of visual component, either as a photo or a video, engagement and interactions with these pieces of content increase markedly. So if you feel like you’re at a loss for words, let the pictures do the talking!
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Sentimental
Being in business means being professional, right? Well, for small businesses that operate within the communities that support them, being professional also means being personable and approachable, almost like a neighbor. This intimacy allows small businesses to really show their hearts when they talk to their customers. Almost everything that impacts your community impacts your business. Given this close relationship, you and your customers share similar emotions, experiences, and have similar hopes for the community.
A great example of this in action comes from a talk we had with Mary, an employee at Enlightenment Coffee in Walton, Kentucky. Recently, Enlightenment Coffee was featured in a local news story featuring the good they were doing for first responders in their community. The idea started from a barista who wanted to show these essential employees how much they cared about them and the work they do for everyone’s health and safety, but grew to something much larger than a one-time event.
Mary told us that this lead to a program that allowed customers to sponsor Enlightenment Coffee care packages to give to these frontline workers. “The community can now be involved in helping our first responders, because they are there everyday … and we want to do our part of what we can to give back,” she told us during our chat.
This goes to show that your community most likely deeply cares about the same things that you care about. When you open your hearts and are honest about your motivations to give back, your kindness can inspire your customers to participate and even recommend others to help join your cause.
seedership for Authentic Storytelling
Now that you know the benefits of sharing your story, let us help you create your business’ community story. With the seedership platform, you are able to organize all the good that you do for your community into one easy-to-use platform. Create your business’ digital profile that showcases the good you do for your community. With our visual storytelling dashboard, you input your good deeds and we help you create engaging and sharable stories, infographics, automated monthly summaries and other pieces of content that helps keep your business top-of-mind with your customers.
From there you can export these stories and share them with your customers on your website, social media, email, digital newsletters, and anywhere you connect with them. With seedership, we help you create engaging stories around the good you do so that you can focus on helping your business and community grow.
Learn more about how seedership can help you build and share your community story today!