I’ve been looking for examples of great storytelling in social media. There aren’t an abundance, it seems. I’ve asked some other, more prominent social media junkies, who haven’t been able to come up with much, either. I can point to Tom Martin’s excellent Mardi Gras Twitter experiment. And Danny Brown pointed me to this great story about Smith Family Farm. Personally, I think pure brand storytelling is one of the most underutilized social strategies.
It’s just one form of storytelling, but why don’t more brands share photos, videos, anecdotes, lifestreams, to give us an inside glimpse of what makes them tick, their cultures, their values? What better way to make a personal connection? Maybe because their cultures aren’t as engaging as they could be in the first place? : )
Zappos does a great job of this, generally. Their storytelling reflects one of their core values: create fun and a little weirdness.
When I first started on Twitter I saw a photo that @zapposCEO shared of the coffee machine in one of their buldings that has been rigged to look like Rosie on the Jetsons. It made an impression: “Fun, intelligent brand.”
Last week, in doing some research for a presentation, I also came across this more recent video of a prank that employees there were playing on each other, involving dropping a bunch of ping pong balls on other employees’ heads. Funny, sort of. But stupid funny. It, too, made an impression: “Are they paying any attention to my order?”
So I did more digging and learned from a great post from ReadWriteWeb that the Zappos site aggregates the tweets from all of the Zappos employees on Twitter. As the post pointed out, there are no tweets that say “drunk”; however, at the time I first viewed the aggregation, the first tweet in the stream was something about how too much Jagermeister was going to make for a bad morning the next day. This, I believe, definitely falls in the “TMI” category. But I also understand that it’s an isolated tweet, and that overall the stream sends a positive message. It’s more “real” because of the imperfections and the fact that its not scrubbed corporate clean. They also aggregate non-employees’ tweets about Zappos – positive and negative – which takes serious guts and I applaud.
I’m a big fan of leaning towards more transparency. I’m not suggesting that employees should be heavily “censored” or edited. But even if you let the silly pranks fly, wouldn’t it be OK to simply ask employees to not tweet about drinking? As far as social media policies go, “Don’t tweet about getting wasted” seems pretty lenient. What is “fun” and what is “stupid fun” is highly subjective. Jagermeister is…Jagermeister. Don’t you want to be seen as fun AND professional and trustworthy?
My point? This type of transparent storytelling, while a great strategy, walks a fine line between “fun” and “too much fun, not enough business.” Quite honestly, I’m usually the first one saying that people take themselves too seriously; but I do think Zappos could create stories that better reinforce their brand of great customer service. There’s a difference between storytelling and strategic storytelling. I’m excited to see what Zappos will do next now that Mullen is their agency.
Have you seen any great social storytelling? When do you think social storytelling goes too far? Where’s the line?
Photo credits: Rosie from DYN on Flickr.