Why Defining Your Company Narrative and Creating a "Social Object" Is Important

How to give people something to talk about...

A few months ago I wrote a post called Virality is all about making your users look awesome in front of their friends. It was promoting the idea that you need to think about what your users get out of talking to others about your product. What was implied in the post was the concept that you need to create a narrative around your business or product that is easy for your users to articulate to others. You need to hand craft a story that is easy to remember, easy to tell and, importantly, makes the person telling it look good. Lately the importance of this point has been growing on me. What you might call "The lacking narrative issue" seems to be a core problem, not just for creating virality but for many other aspects of your business--such as attracting staff, getting investment, and creating clear design briefs--and simply for making it easy for your mum to tell her friends what you do. :)

So let's set aside what your users get out of telling others about your product, and just focus on the core narrative of what you do. It's quite amazing how many founders and company leaders are making amazing new technical solutions or products but seem to have difficulty explaining the core narrative of the product themselves. Now, if the person who built the product has a hard time explaining it, then just imagine how hard it is for others to understand it--let alone promote it. The simple question--what does your company do, and how does it help your users?--is really something you should be able to explain without the use of 25 slides or a fancy flash video. I was reminded of the importance of this when I was reading about an interesting term called "The Social Object":

"The Social Object, in a nutshell . . . . Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if [we] think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object." (via gapingvoid.com)

Human interaction is widely based on exchanging stories, so if you create a very good narrative of your company or product, it can become just such a social object. A good exercise is to spend some proper time making a good story about your business and try it on a few people. Then wait a few days and ask them to explain to you what your business is doing--and see if you like what you hear. If the story is good, it should become a social object. From there it can be shared easily with everyone from new customers and investors to your mum.

Happy storytelling.

Reprinted from Hello Henrik

Henrik Werdelin was named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business. He is the entrepreneur in Residence at Index Ventures, and adviser at Sunstone Capital. Before that, CCO of Joost & VP of MTV Development--check his bio link for more details. Follow him at twitter.com/werdelin.

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