Not long ago, I joined a professional association of communicators, and subsequently connected to the associated LinkedIn group. Within seconds of being accepted into the online space, my newsfeed for that group was filled with posts from a single individual. The little round picture of her face created an uninterrupted pink border that ran the length of two entire pages on my computer screen.
Day after day, the same thing happened. I really began to wonder if the group were owned by this one individual—it wasn’t—or whether she was paying to advertise on this page—she wasn’t. Post after post about this and that until all of this one person’s shares and musings and comments became a blur that I found myself pressing on the downward key until my screen thankfully revealed a new face. After a few weeks of this same experience, I opted out of this group altogether. I even found that I became less interested in the group’s regular e-letter and stopped paying attention to its upcoming event postings. I finally stopped engaging with this group all-together.
I started looking forward to the next post so I could find out what happens
Contrast this experience to an associate’s recent set of carefully spaced posts about her invitation to speak at an upcoming high-profile conference in her field. She had two, maybe three, posts in the week or so leading up to the conference. During the conference itself, she shared a live post from the event about being happy to be there. On the day of her talk, about 20 minutes before she was to deliver her presentation, she posted about being excited for her turn to speak and about her slight nervousness about being beside such esteemed co-presenters. At the end of that day, she shared how much she had enjoyed her time speaking and appreciated the presentations of the other panelists.
About a week after her appearance, her organization featured her in a blog post on its internal blog. She shared the link to the post. Soon after that, she also wrote—and shared–a post about what she had learned at the conference and how she would be applying these new lessons to her work within her organization. A week later, she posted another photo of herself speaking. She thanked everyone again and said she looked forward to next year. And that was it.
I found myself hooked
While my friend posted fewer times by far than the now long forgotten member of the online group, I remember her comments more completely. And, this is not just because she is someone I know. Because I don’t actually know her well—I only met her once truth be told. But she created such a memorable story that I feel like I know her now.
Each one of her posts said just the right thing in the moment. I found myself cheering her on as she approached her event and became sincerely interested in what she had to say. I thought, ‘oh interesting’ as she reported on her co-presenters’ talks. And in the end, I cheered her success.
In took, maybe, 10 posts for her to convert me from passive, slightly bored LinkedIn reader into a cheering, enthusiastic, anticipating fan.
Now I’m waiting for the next story
That’s the secret: her posts created a complete short story: She set a dramatic stage by creating a rising sense of anticipation for what would happen next. She brought me along to her big event so I could experience it with her. She had the unexpected twist in the plot by sharing her organization’s blog post about her talk. She thickened the plot by taking a sideroad to explore a related thought–and possibly foreshadow a future story going deeper into this new direction (ah.. and thus creating more anticipation). And then she wrapped it up with a happy ending.
And now I’m hooked. She left me on the lookout for what will come next from her. I’m like a follower of crime or romance novelists waiting eagerly for the next book or story. And believe me, I will read and follow, and look forward to each new posting from her.
I’m a fan. I’m a follower. If she were selling something, I would very likely right now be a buyer.
For communications professionals, there’s a lesson in my new eagerness: In a world of mind-numbing overload of content and clawing demands for us to pay ever thinner slices of our attention here, now there, now over there, we must not lose sight of the basics: good story telling, in its classic form, will be noticed and remembered. And… it will lead to action. Guaranteed.