Telling Stories Part II: Know Your Story

Everyone wants your story…

Facebook was probably the first social network to figure out that humans crave a good story. And thus Timeline was born, giving us context (in the form of cover photo and timeline) over which to lay all of our little plot-points (statuses, pictures, notes, new friends, etc.) so that our digital stories are easier to comprehend.

And just this week LinkedIn caught on and asked you to “tell your professional story” with their new profile design…

What they’ve done is made you more than just static data (a picture, a job, a friend-count, a percentage of completion, a wall, a resume), now you’re the story of yourself that you choose to share on the internet!

I draw attention to the trend of social media storytelling not to ridicule it, but to help you understand its velocity and how you can harness it to better your practice.

In my first post on storytelling, I posited that stories are valuable because stories are memorable. And that holds true. These days, if you’re fighting for anything, it’s attention: for you, a financial advisor, it’s attention from people–people who need financial advice, whether they know it or not.

A Story Worth Telling

Shaping your digital story–in this business at least–really ain’t worth much. Bumping your LinkedIn profile from 80 to 100% complete isn’t going to earn you any new clients, but it might earn you some new connections. Plotting every major life event on your Timeline isn’t going to earn you any more friends in real life, but you might get a few more likes on your wedding photo. That’s because our digital lives and our real lives are still very separate.

In real life, however, controlling and focusing your story is pretty important.

The first step is to realize that you have a certain amount of control over the stories that other people create about you and and your practice. If you think critically about everything that can send a message to a client or prospective client, from the quality of your coworkers, to the look of your website, to the color of the walls in your office, then you’re effectively controlling the story of you in your clients’ heads. This all may sound a little heady, but this is the type of thinking that makes a modern business. Look no further than Steve Jobs-era Apple to see this type of thinking in action.

The most effective messages

Think about an Apple product. What story do you have about Apple? Think about the packaging, the branding, the color scheme; the product itself with its clean lines and minimalist design. The message Steve Jobs was sending was one of simplicity (we like that message, too). Jobs believed that technology should be beautiful, functional, and easy to use. Was that the story you had about Apple?

Apple ads aren’t about features, and they’re not about price. They’re simple stories about you and your apple product:

iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket.

It’s a simple message, and it works. It appeals to the heart, the way any good message should. You and your songs, right in your pocket. It fits right in with our shared story of Apple: simple, beautiful, technology that just works.

Homework

So what’s your story? How might you craft the story your advisory business, and how might you tell it most effectively? 99U has a few simple tips:

  1. Figure out your controlling idea.
  2. Set the mood.
  3. Choose the right structure, and stick with it.
  4. Keep it short.
  5. Use details and images to build empathy.
  6. Show vulnerability.
  7. Practice, practice, practice

Now, to borrow from my first post on this site, A Simple Strategy For Financial Content That Works:

Why do you (and your advisory practice) exist?

Fill in the blank in 10 words or less:

We exist to _______________________________________________________________.

DJ DJ is a freelance writer, hopeful photographer, and social media has-been. He writes to financial advisors about lifehacks, science, technology, business and marketing for Blueleaf, a software that helps create dramatically simpler, more scalable financial advisory businesses. You can find DJ across the web (about.me/djswitz) or you can just follow him on Twitter (@djswitz)!