Author: Catherine Nikkel
One of the most compelling ways for anyone to engage with your business is through storytelling. If you think you need a rags-to-riches or wild once-in-a-lifetime story to do that, you don’t. You just need a story that your customers can relate to, says content creator Catherine Nikkel, founder of Mindful Media.
“Stories have staying power,” says Nikkel. “They’re remembered as much as 22 times better than facts. And a relatable story makes it so much easier for your audience to see themselves in your words.” Nikkel has helped everyone from CEOs to entrepreneurs and influencers triple their shares, skyrocket their saved content and boost their engagement on social media by making very simple tweaks to the way that they write their personal tales online. Before you click “post” on your next Instagram story, Facebook post, or blog, make these three simple changes she suggests.
Shift From “I” To “We”
Using the first person singular, “I,” makes you sound like the hero of the story. But the first person plural, “we,” makes you sound like a guide. “‘Being the hero generally reads as ego-driven,” says Nikkel. “Your followers are less interested in what makes you so great and more interested in what’s in it for them. Meanwhile, being the guide feels inclusive and helps your readers visualize their own possibilities.” Unfortunately, so many entrepreneurs are focused on being the hero because they have heard about the importance of creating a “hero’s journey” to share with their potential clients. “Hero’s journeys make for great movie storylines or even inspiring tales on your website, but your followers on social media are longing for guidance,” explains Nikkel. “The simple shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’ helps your potential clients and customers go from witnessing the journey to feeling like a part of the journey.”
If you’ve ever been guilty of using phrases like, “I accomplished so much in one weekend” or “My clients 10x’d their revenue because I showed them,” Nikkel says it’s time to stop. Swap those lines for phrases like, “It's amazing how much we can accomplish in one weekend when we ....” or “My clients 10x'd their revenue because they took action on a strategy we worked on together.” Small change. Big impact.
Spark Empathy, Not Sympathy
Sympathy is feeling sorry for another person, while empathy is the ability to understand someone. “Sympathy might bring you a pity party of good wishes and prayers, but it won’t get you the engagement you want,” says Nikkel. “Empathy is the basis of genuine connection.” In short, you don’t want people to feel sorry for you. You want people to feel with you.
The first step to inject empathy into your content is to understand your audience or “customer persona,” says Nikkel. “Once you define your ideal client’s fears, problems, obstacles and frustrations, you’ll be able to figure out what they’ll have empathy for,” says Nikkel. “Then present the empathic situation—and a solution—in your story.” That last part is what a lot of people get wrong, she says. “So often entrepreneurs are just airing their dirty laundry on social media and getting sympathy. But you need to tell your audience how to clean that dirty laundry and get empathy. This is where storytelling connects with what you offer, sell or create,” explains Nikkel.
Start With The Climax
There’s a reason why traffic can vary by as much as 500% based on the headline on some sites. “Your first sentence can make or break you,” says Nikkel, who encourages her clients to start at the climax, pain point or end of a story and then back up and share details. “Resist the urge to build up to the high point of a story. Begin with a bang if you want to increase conversions.”
“When telling my own story, I’ll often start with a sentence like, ‘I was paralyzed from the waist down,’ or ‘I’m walking away from everything.’ It sparks curiosity,” explains Nikkel, who had to relearn how to walk seven years ago after a spinal injury. Powerful storytelling draws the reader from one sentence to the next.
One important note: Never bait and switch your content. If you start with something click-worthy, don’t make people regret reading your story by making it about something else. “Relationships—even with customers—come down to trust,” says Nikkel. “If a person has doubts about your ability to deliver on a promise or feels misled through your content, that person becomes far less likely to buy from and refer you to others. People don't want to feel misled or bamboozled, they want to feel heard, understood and, ultimately, cared for.”