Storytelling can take many different shapes and forms. Especially when it comes to social media, a story can capture interest more efficiently if it’s told in the form of a short, amusing incident.
Anecdotes are different from stories in that they are usually short, stand-alone accounts of a single event. Anecdotes are often amusing, but they must always be interesting! When used in the right way, anecdotes can become a part of your brand story arc. They have the benefit of seeming very personal, which helps to create a stronger connection between you and your audience. But there a few rules you’ll need to follow if you want to create a successful anecdote. Here is an overview.
Give it Meaning
A funny incident may get you plenty of shares and retweets, but the aim of brand storytelling is to engage people with your brand. So, unless the incident is relevant to your brand and fits in with the wider story arc that you are building, leave it be, because it won’t give you the long term engagement you are looking for. The perfect anecdote relates something important about your brand. Every story you put out there needs to contribute to the overall vision.
Make it Tru(-ish)
Suppose that you heard someone else tell a great anecdote, and you thought to yourself, “I want to use this for myself. Can I get away with it?” You might, but this approach is risky. If you want to tell the anecdote, it’s better to be truthful about the source. The best thing to do is to tell something that really happened. You can take some poetic license, but don’t drive exaggerations too far. The story must remain credible. As soon your audience starts to question your story, you are further from your goal of engaging them than ever.
Keep it Short
An effective anecdote can be told in one or two minutes. Any longer, and you have included too many irrelevant details. If you find that all the included information is essential, then your story is not suitable for an anecdote. Don’t throw it out the window, however. Use it to develop a longform story, also called a longread, instead. To do this you will need to develop a plot with a protagonist who is on a quest full of pitfalls.
Make it Personal
The best anecdotes are often those that come from your own experience. By sharing a personal incident that led you to learn a valuable lesson you show your audience that you are only flesh and blood. Drawing on your everyday life can uncover a wealth of suitable anecdotes; even seemingly unimportant incidents can be adapted to carry an important message. Try to think of an interesting encounter, a funny turn of events, or a misunderstanding. The more personal you can make it, the better.
When you are writing or planning your next anecdote, remember that brand storytelling was born out of a need not only to engage with online audiences, but also to bind them to your brand in a mutual relationship of loyalty. Just like straight facts presented on a web page were not enough to hold an audience’s attention for long, an anecdote without meaning, no matter how funny, won’t have a long term effect. An effective anecdote is short, personal, exiting and has meaning to boot.