33voices interviews Jennifer Aaker Andy Smith
Andy Smith: Tell a story in 164 characters.
Andy, one of the things that really stand out for me in the book The Dragonfly Effect and I think will make any books great especially for you guys in the book is the powerful stories that you shared. And I know that nowadays there are a lot of people running around who don’t want to spending hours reading something, especially with social media of facebook and twitter. If you have a great story to share with people, how do you tell it in 164 characters?
I think the fact is that you can’t tell the whole story in under 164 characters, naturally, but you can make people interested in hearing more. There’s a whole deeper literature on how to tell an effective story but the one thing that always comes to mind is that the one obligation an author has is to keep people wondering and wanting to know what happens next. If you fail to do that, you lose your readers.
So in 164 characters you can mainly serve to intrigue people and get them to want more. In this case. In 164 characters, you are probably talking about Twitter, and you embed a link that gets people to the next level. But the key thing is the element we talked about in the book called Grab Attention: what thing is going to touch people in a way that makes them want to hear more and that makes them interested in that story. And usually you have to do this by deeply empathizing with the people you’re trying to reach. So in164 characters, you’ve got very narrow bandwidth in which to do this. We have an exercise we do that’s the idea of 6-word stories. You can tell a story in 6 words if you are elegant about the words you choose. So it’s really about figuring out what are the elements in story that are really meaningful to people. And in sort of short form that every story has a protagonist, and that protagonist goes through a struggle and that they overcome that struggle. So you need to figure out what are the elements of that story you can bring out to people in that short form while making them want to know more.
I think one thing that storytelling informs us that’s a little bit counter-intuitive for those of us in the business world is that the stories are about people going through challenges in dark times and hard times and then coming through one way or another. Whereas when we write a resume and when we talk about our business, we talk about it in a way that we always talk about success. And unfortunately the stories of success are boring stories actually. When you look at the Facebook story or any other, it’s your struggle that people pay attention to. People don’t root for the big guy, they root for the underdog. It’s something we are pre-wired to do, recognizing what plays into good story telling. It’s a thing that makes the difference between who are really successful in the social media space versus unsuccessful.