Wal-Mart vs. Mom & Pop Stores: The Power of Branding and How It Can Help Your Church

I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail with lead actors Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Ryan’s character runs a small independent bookshop in Manhattan, while Hanks’s character is opening a large retail bookstore with low prices (if only he’d known how technology would change the way we read) just down the block.

In the late 1990s, when the movie was made, this was a common story line. What were small businesses going to do when Borders, Walmart, Kmart and Target moved into town? How could they compete with rock-bottom prices and one-stop shopping?

To be honest, I thought the movie would end with Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner somehow spared by Hanks’s Fox Books store because of their anonymous online romance, which (spoiler alert!) materializes at the end of the movie. It doesn’t. Her shop still goes out of business. Even in the movies, the big-box store wins.

It seemed as though the growth of these massive retailers would only continue, leaving in its wake a trail of broken entrepreneurial dreams and century-old businesses too small to compete. In an economy like ours, in which the dollar is still weak and many are unemployed, such an outcome was almost a sure bet.

In 2014, that’s hardly the case.

The growth of digital (namely social) media—its early forms chronicled in You’ve Got Mail—has provided a marketing weapon for small brands. The antithesis of big-box stores, artisanal brands are sprouting and flourishing in the post-advertising age.

These small brands are built with a focus on craftsmanship, hometown pride, storytelling, a clear purpose and spot-on branding. They’ve made their businesses unique and provide consumers much of what big-box stores can never offer.

Artisanal brands can teach the church a lot about effective content marketing. Here are 10 lessons:

1. ENDEAR AUDIENCES TO THE BRAND THROUGH A WORTHWHILE MISSION

You can buy a pair of jeans 80 percent cheaper at Target, but Hiut Denim’s commitment to its mission, to go back to making jeans in Cardigan in the UK—where for three decades a factory, now closed, made 35,000 pairs a week—helps keep the Welsh town afloat. Knowing that your purchase is keeping craftsmen employed in a town that depends on manufacturing may very well make it worth it. We mentioned Hiut Denim in a recent post about brands doing post-advertising right. When they heard they made our list, they sent a direct message via Twitter that said, “Thanks for help. The town is grateful.” How cool is that?

What’s your mission and how are you furthering it?

2. GET YOUR AUDIENCE INVOLVED IN THE CONVERSATION, EVEN IF THEY’RE JUST LISTENING

One of the keys to building a brand from the ground up is to ensure that the talkable products and content you’re creating have an audience that can share them. A number of brands, including Best Made Company and Herschel Supply Co., have well-designed pop-ups on their websites that greet you with the option of opting into their mailing lists. Even their pop-ups, like their products, are custom made.

Are you giving your audience ways to opt-in to receive your content?

3. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH   With artisanal brand’s higher price point and lower consumer penetration (compared with nationwide brands), it’s imperative that staff members showcase themselves using the same products that they champion. The staff of Huckberry recently posted on the active-lifestyle company’s blog an article chronicling a recent camping trip they took, a trip on which they used and reviewed a number of products Huckberry sells.

Does your audience know you believe in your product or service?

4. TURN THE PURCHASE INTO A STORY ABOUT A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP   A focus on craftsmanship often means that the product will last a long time. While your run-of-the-mill CPG brand will try to sell you a cheap product that rarely makes it past one use, an artisanal brand helps customers understand why its price points are appropriate. Whether it’s a made-to-order ax from Best Made Company or a backpack from Herschel Supply Co., its higher price point makes sense because the brand has conveyed a transparent story that helps customers see the value, literally.

What story is the craftsmanship of your product or execution of your service telling?

5. USE A CONSISTENT AND RELATABLE TONE OF VOICE One of the best aspects of artisanal brands I’ve found while researching is that they convey a consistent tone of voice across all channels. Rarely do you find typical corporate brand jargon. You won’t hear that their products are industry leading, on demand or turnkey. Instead, the voice is friendly and down-to-earth and offers glimpses behind the scenes that help humanize the brand.

Are you speaking the same language as your audience?

6. OFFER A STEADY DIET OF CONTENT   Particularly because these brands are so small, and you won’t find Warby Parker frames at Sunglass Hut or Hiut Denim jeans at Macy’s, it’s imperative that artisanal brands constantly create content for their audiences to keep the brands top of mind. Many brands create extensive Pinterest and Tumblr pages, blogs, films, social content and more to keep a constant connection with their audience.

Are you creating enough content to remain on your customer’s mind?

7. DESIGN MATTERS Artisanal brands take pride in the way everything about their brands looks, not just the products themselves. If you want your audience to believe that your product is good, your branding had better reflect it.

Have you paid enough attention to design, particularly on your digital channels?

8. EMBRACE LOCAL   Now that big-box stores are in nearly every town in the United States, it’s difficult for them to “represent” their “homes.” But an artisanal brand often depends on its hometown—the place that defines the brand and its employees. Warby Parker’s site proudly links to the Made in NYC site which lists the “internet companies made with ♥” in New York City. The staff of Huckberry often writes about San Francisco–related topics, such as the city’s being a “bastion of the bean.”

What’s unique about your brand’s home? Does your audience know?

9. ENCOURAGE USER-GENERATED CONTENT   Warby Parker and Herschel Supply urge customers to submit photos of themselves with the product. Warby Parker puts the pictures on its Facebook Wall and encourages users to vote for their favorite pair, while Herschel Supply includes the photos on its Tumblr page.

Are you tapping your audience for content?

10. EMPOWER YOUR CUSTOMERS TO CREATE STORIES OF THEIR OWN   I bought a pre-owned Ford Escape (which I love) from a dealership back in January. In a fairly hidden compartment, I found a CD of hymns and some other items that led me to believe the car might previously have been owned by a member of the clergy. Hopefully that means he didn’t speed much. But in reality, I’ll never know. Hiut Denim puts a unique history tag on all its jeans that when entered on the brand’s HistoryTag website allows a customer to craft a story about the purchased product by uploading pictures of where he went in the jeans, what he did and whom he did it with. If ever someone else were to receive the jeans as a hand-me-down or buy them secondhand at a consignment shop, that person would know where they’d been (for better or for worse, I suppose).

How is your audience telling stories about your product/service?

These small, passionate brands are carving out niches and taking risks in the content-marketing space that many larger, inflexible brands only wish they could take. Even if you’re not in the market for an ax, an outdoor frying pan or a wallet, make sure you follow them. There’s a lot to learn.

Read more from Jon here.

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Jon Thomas

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Types of Social Media Content Your Audience Really Wants

Why do we follow brands? What’s the point? They’re not our friends. We’re not going to make plans with them on a Friday night or invite them to our birthday parties (though some we would if we could). Why do we let them into a world where we’re sharing and consuming content from the people closest to us?

Social media has provided a unique opportunity for consumers and brands to connect on a level much deeper than that of a monetary transaction. It may sound obvious, but it’s worth noting that historically, a true fan of a brand didn’t have many options for celebrating his fandom. I could watch my favorite show, but I couldn’t get behind-the-scenes content (unless that too was on television). I could purchase a shirt bearing the logo of my favorite team, but if I wore it in a special place (say I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in it), how would they know? I’d have to mail them a picture, and even if they received it, where would they share it? The relationship was one-way, aside from the moment when I handed over my money and they handed me the product, or when I sat down and tuned in to my show.

There’s no single reason we follow brands, but it’s certainly rooted in the idea that we as consumers, supporters and fans want to have a deeper relationship with them. But just because a fan wants to follow your brand doesn’t mean you’re entitled to provide them with any content you wish. On the contrary, a fan can opt out of receiving your brand’s content with a single click, so it’s imperative that they’re receiving the type of content that’s valuable to them.

To that end, we’ve put together a list of 5 things your audience really wants from your social presence.

1. Fan Content

Have you ever been to a concert and just wished that the singer would pull you onto the stage with them? Of course, that rarely happens at concerts, and chances are that if it does, you’re not the one who’s pulled up there. And just like a stage, social media is a platform that overlooks a large audience (often much larger than a concert audience!). The ultimate thank-you, which takes little time and hardly any money, is to celebrate the content created by fans. It’s not that fans necessarily want to see content from other fans (though often they do), but that they want to know there’s a possibility that their content will be shared.

2. Behind-the-Scenes Content

The casual fan may be content with the limited interaction they have with a brand. Simply buying and wearing the hat, eating the candy or watching the show is enough for them. But the true fans want to go deeper. They want to look behind the curtain to a place only a certain number of people can see. They want the unreleased footage, the photos of the actors on set and the outtakes, like this cool photo set of actors laughing in between takes.

3. Shareable Content

I used to wonder why Facebook pages like “WTF Crazy Videos” and Twitter profiles that just post quotations existed. But as spammy as they seem (I mean, with no real brand to promote, what is the page/profile manager getting out of it?), people do follow them because they provide users with content to share. I’m not suggesting that your brand start auto-scheduling quotations or scouring Reddit for the latest #fail video, but when determining your content plan, think about this: Where’s the content that audiences will want to share with their audiences? Is the content you’re creating actually worth sharing?

4. Exclusive Content

Why would a fan follow your brand’s content if everything you post there is accessible elsewhere? If you’re just posting your readily available commercials on YouTube or links to your products on Facebook and Twitter, there’s no value in actually subscribing to, liking or following your brand’s accounts. Consider releasing content only on a specific channel. This can be anything from video blogs to sneak previews to coupons to presale codes, but make sure fans can’t get it anywhere else. The Boston Celtics made more than $200 off me recently when they sent a special presale code for playoff tickets to their email newsletter list. I hadn’t planned on going to a game, but when the code provided me with great seats before most other people, my plans were set. It ended up being one of the greatest games (and days) of my life.

5. Participatory Content

Most of our personal social-media activity is passive stalking…I mean monitoring. But this doesn’t mean that social media users aren’t up for a good game or contest! One of my favorite examples is from the WGN America (a Story client) How I Met Your Mother Facebook page, where WGNA has created albums of its fans suiting up (an homage to Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Barney Stinson) as part of a yearly “International Suit Up Day.” Giving your fans a way to participate (especially if prizes are involved) is a great means of activating them, and in turn they’ll be on the lookout for your content.

Every brand is different, so not all this content is applicable to every brand; but try to be open to sharing new types of content. It not only solidifies the relationship between your brand and its fans, but also gives your fans a reason to follow it.

Read more from Jon here.

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Jon Thomas

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Keeping Your Ministry Brand Top of Mind: A Lesson from Disney

Though it was founded in 2006 (which makes it older than Twitter), BuzzFeed stormed onto the social media scene in 2012, more than doubling its 2011 traffic (per Alexa).

The format is perfect for the way audiences consume and share media today. The content is easy to consume, relevant, entertaining and frequent, as the site posts dozens of times a day. Brands like HBO and Velveeta have even joined in, co-creating content with BuzzFeed. It’s a publishing model that requires lots of staffers and community contributors to keep the content fire hose pumping.

So it was quite a surprise to see that Disney has launched its own BuzzFeed-like site. Entitled “Oh My Disney” (OMD), the site features articles with Disney imagery, GIFs and other short-form Disney-related editorial built specifically to be easily consumed, enjoyed and quickly shared. Posts like “15 More Reminders That You’re Great Today” and “You Know You’re a 90′s Kid When” are organized into five categories: Awww; Oh, Snap!; Retro; Silly; and Whoa.

The page is updated quite consistently, anywhere from two to eight times a day (even if the content isn’t necessarily timely). So how is Disney doing it?

A HISTORY OF SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS

If any brand were going to dive headfirst into publishing, Disney might be the one best suited to it. Far and away its largest and most successful platform is Facebook, where the Disney page boasts more than 42 million fans. The pages for Pixar Studios and Walt Disney Studios aren’t shabby either, having 12.5 million fans and 6.4 million fans, respectively, and the OMD Facebook page has 11,000 fans after only a few weeks of existence. Oh My Disney is also on Twitter and Tumblr.

So the foundation is there for Disney to create its own publishing channel, where a post can expand beyond the confines of a 140-character tweet or a single-image Facebook post. But what makes this possible for Disney, and difficult (though not impossible) for most other brands, lies much deeper than social media.

A HISTORY OF STORYTELLING

Having movies and characters at its core and countless physical and digital extensions, Disney has endeared itself to many through its heartfelt storytelling. Disney has a wealth of original and beloved content and characters with messages that are relevant no matter what decade you were born in. Parents watch Disney films with their children, just as they watched them with their parents when they were their children’s age. All this content gives Disney vast amounts of ammunition for OMD. They’re not creating new content as much as curating existing content.

This inherent storytelling is what makes social media and content marketing such a fruitful endeavor for entertainment-based brands. Imagery and quotations resonate with audiences forever. I still crack a smile every time the Forrest Gump Facebook page posts an update, referring to a movie that was made nearly 20 years ago (has it really been that long?).

FINDING YOUR AUDIENCE AND DELIVERING CONTENT

Another reason OMD can work for Disney is that the brand has done a great job of finding its audience. There is certainly no shortage of social media channels, but Disney carefully chooses where it will publish content and plans appropriately. Disney isn’t just creating articles on OMD and cross-posting to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr. Disney creates content specifically for each channel. Granted, the content is often very similar (photo and GIF heavy), but that creates familiarity and a unified social media voice. The key is that Disney finds its audience on the appropriate channels and uses those channels to create instead of solely promoting.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BRAND?

As a content agency, we’re obviously big fans of creating an owned channel, like OMD. But we warn brands about biting off more than they can chew. Disney has made such a commitment to content that it’s dedicated a team (albeit small) to OMD, and that’s really the only way to pull off a channel like this.

But that doesn’t mean that brands should ignore the trail Disney has blazed. Like the first brands to create custom-published magazines, Disney has decided to move beyond native advertising and own its content channels. Even though it is an established brand that’s been around for decades, Disney remains at the forefront of brand storytelling.

It’s a bold move. Do you think this will pan out for Disney? Will more brands follow?

Read more from Jon here.

 
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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Utilizing Storytelling in Promoting Your Ministry Brand

The most effective mass media is the stories we tell and conversations we have with each other. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.

We’ve all seen an endless number of ads for cars, car dealerships, and the like. If I think really hard, I may be able to remember a few of them. Let’s see… I remember the Volkswagen ad with Kid Vader (but mostly because it was so talked-about, not because I thought it was so effective). I remember the Toyota Celica ads in which the senior citizen sees a parked Celica and yells, “Slow down. This is a neighborhood!” If you gave me 10 more minutes, I could probably think of another three to five, but not much more. Considering how many car ads I’ve seen in my lifetime, that’s a pretty low recall rate, and I can assure you that none of them influenced my purchase decisions.

Recently I watched a six-minute video in which a young man, who happens to be too young to drive, tells a story that takes place in a Honda CR-V. His story nearly brought me to tears, then [spoiler alert] had me rejoicing at the end. I was smiling ear to ear, and immediately shared on every social network I could. If you haven’t heard Noah St. John’s story, you should now.

THE POWER OF STORY

I own a Ford Escape now and love it. Though I had searched for an SUV, a Honda CR-V never entered my consideration set. It just didn’t seem to be a fit for me.

But I find myself thinking of Noah and his family’s CR-V lately. My mileage is about to exceed 50,000, and I wonder where I’ll be at 100,000, and I think of Noah’s story. When my wife and I were at Babies“R”Us this past weekend to register for her shower, we looked at car seats, and I thought of it again. I wondered what kinds of practices I’d bring my child to. I wondered if my Escape would be as cherished as his CR-V. Granted, the video is fresh in my mind, but I watched a lot of TV yesterday and I couldn’t tell you five commercials I saw.

Stories are so powerful because they move us emotionally (which ads also can but rarely do). We may not remember the story forever, but we certainly remember it longer than we do that $4 million Times Square Billboard or Super Bowl ad.

THE BEST ADS AREN’T ADS

At the end of last year, our company put together a list of the best ads of 2012, and go figure, the best ads of 2012 weren’t ads. I’ll argue that Noah’s story is going to be Honda’s best CR-V ad of 2013—one the company didn’t pay a single dime for, and one that isn’t even an ad. It’s a story.

If the non-ad does come out on top, it will be no surprise. The most shareable media is most often owned or earned, and that’s because effective advertising isn’t about exposure. It’s about conversations. Since 99.99 percent of the time, the conversations people have with one another are not about your ad (or anyone else’s), only the most relevant, entertaining and informative content will be remembered and shared.

HONDA’S REACTION

I’m actually surprised by Honda’s reaction. If I were Honda, I’d be embracing Noah’s performance in a bear hug. But other than earning a passing mention on Honda’s Facebook page, Noah’s story (which has received nearly half a million views) was practically ignored by the brand. Granted, it’s still early. Honda may have larger plans. Maybe it’ll record his performance in a real studio and use it as a long-form ad. Or maybe it’s distancing itself from the story because it features a two-mother (and no-father) household. I don’t know.

Unfortunately, there’s not much a brand can do to create stories like this one. That’s what makes them so effective—their authenticity. But brands have to implement ways to find customer stories like Noah’s and embrace them in a way that will amplify the message and allow it to be more searchable and shareable. It also requires a certain commitment to quality. If the CR-V constantly broke down and was unreliable, they may have never it might never have made it to 100K.

LEAN FORWARD

Whatever the case may be, Noah’s story is 100 percent authentic. It’s from Noah, not from a brand. That allows audiences to uncross their arms and lean forward, accepting the story into their lives even if it contains a brand, because the story isn’t from the brand.

Most people don’t have 30-seconds to be interrupted by a commercial or held hostage by a pre-roll ad, but nearly a half-million people had six minutes to hear Noah’s story. Heck, I had 90-minutes to blog about it.

The greatest brand stories are the ones told by the brand’s fans.

Read more from Jon here.

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Jon Thomas

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Reminders for Making Ministry Videos Viral

An interesting insight into what makes social content effective has emerged, or at least made itself more visible, in the past year or so. Content is king, but editing may be the queen who’s actually running the castle.

Our traditionally analog means of consuming media—television, newspaper, radio, outdoor—are quickly being replaced by digital means. We supplement TV watching with our iPads, get our news in near real time from Twitter, and share life’s moments in an instant on Facebook.

This consumption of digital content has led to the concept of “virality.” Just a few years ago this concept didn’t exist. Videos, images and articles didn’t “go viral.” Exposure on all levels, particularly for advertising, was limited to the very rich or very lucky.

Now individuals, media outlets and brands alike are owning their channels, creating and publishing content in hopes of that content’s being consumed, appreciated and shared. So now the question is not whether or not to own a channel and create content but what type of content is most likely to be shared. This leads to other questions. What resonates with audiences? Where do they consume it? Why do they share it?

THAT’S WHERE EDITING COMES IN

If you’re reading this, it is likely that within the past day or so you’ve encountered an article by the likes of BuzzFeed, This Advertising Life, ICanHazCheezburger? and any of a number of other sites (there are millions) dedicated to curating and sharing quick bites of content.

But what’s important is not so much why the editors at BuzzFeed create this content; it’s more the lessons learned from how they do it. BuzzFeed has concocted a lethal formula for social-publishing success, combining dozens of unique pieces of content each day with pop culture, timeliness, topics proven to be shareable and brevity. Most articles contain images with captions, and only a few articles contain more than a couple of hundred words.

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR BRANDS?

The idea of editing and succinctness isn’t just a concept for media outlets pushing Grumpy Cat memes and Gangnam Style videos. There is a correlation between the success of viral-media sites and the success of brands on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine and other channels. Shorter content works (hence the existence of Twitter, Vine and Instagram). Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating content in hopes of achieving viral success:

1. Understand your platform
What works for Facebook doesn’t necessarily work for Twitter. Write with the platform (and its audience) in mind.

2. Push the boundaries
Many platforms have technical limitations, but that doesn’t mean the boundaries aren’t there to be pushed. Brands are already using Vine for creative stop-motion videos.

3. Stay on topic
Nothing can derail a shareable piece of content like too much irrelevant content. Stay focused and stick to what your headline promises (easier said than done, especially for me).

4. Don’t under-deliver
If you’re spending more time on your headline than on your content, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t promise “10 Tricks You’ve Never Heard Of” only to repurpose tricks everyone has heard of.

5. You can sacrifice time or quality, but not both
If your content is quick, audiences will forgive a lack of quality. But if you’re publishing long-form content, the production quality must be able to override the audience’s brief attention span (think Harlem Shake versus Kony 2012).

Of course, a brand’s content-marketing strategy must correspond to its goals, since bite-size content won’t work for every brand. But in 2013, there’s no question of the power of effective editing and the shareability of entertaining short-form content. Thinking like an editor when creating your brand’s content may just turn ordinary into viral. 

Read the full story here.

Read more from Jon here.
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Jon Thomas

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 Questions Your Ministry’s Social Media Must be Answering

The leader who shapes culture understands that not all stories are created equal. 

The use of social media continues to rise at at a rapid rate into our world.

The combination of social media and storytelling, the term social media storytelling could be the holy grail of buzzwords. Half emerging technology that everyone said would either rule the world or totally fail, half proven method of transferring emotion and knowledge since the dawn of humanity, social media storytelling is a relatively new and an oft-misunderstood term. Nearly every digital agency claims that they’re “storytellers,” and if the client is interested in a social media activation, then they’ve magically become “social media storytellers” as well.

The combination of social media and storytelling, the term social media storytelling could be the holy grail of buzzwords. Half emerging technology that everyone said would either rule the world or totally fail, half proven method of transferring emotion and knowledge since the dawn of humanity, social media storytelling is a relatively new and an oft-misunderstood term. Nearly every digital agency claims that they’re “storytellers,” and if the client is interested in a social media activation, then they’ve magically become “social media storytellers” as well.

My mom and dad are clueless about what “social media storytelling” means, and that’s okay. But I fear there are other agencies and brands that are misunderstood, and that can be dangerous for audiences.

Effective social media storytelling starts at the beginning as does all brand storytelling on any platform or in any medium, and that’s the difference. An effective social media campaign rooted in storytelling will be united by one aspect—the brand’s Story Platform.

THE STORY PLATFORM

At its core, the Story Platform serves as the emotional heart of the brand—the enduring idea that will serve as the consistent basis for the many stories that a successful brand must tell over time. It’s developed by deeply understanding a number of elements including audience, brand and category, as well as the goals and objectives of both the brand and the business.

Not just a tagline (though sometimes it can end up being the tagline), the Story Platform is a central thought around which all communications can be built. In the case of social media, it gives direction and coherence to all subsequent marketing work.

It’s the single thought that should be apparent in everything your brand does and says—the core narrative of every story that is told about your brand.

SOCIAL MEDIA STORYTELLING FROM THE HEART

Without unearthing the brand’s core story, it’s difficult (if not impossible) for a brand to effectively tell its story across social platforms. But having done it, the brand has a starting point—something it can use to ensure that every single post, tweet and video is on-brand.

From there a brand’s social media presence has a heartbeat. That heartbeat fuels the executions while offering inherent weights and measures. It helps answer these 7 questions:

  1. Who is the audience, and how do they interact with our brand?
  2. How are they innovating our brand? What are they saying?
  3. How do we differ from similar brands, and how can we use stories to persuade customers to choose our brand over a competitor’s?
  4. How quickly should we respond to social comments (positive and negative)?
  5. Which pop-culture events should we be ready to respond to in real time?
  6. What user-generated content should we encourage? Which contributions should we share?
  7. Does this app make sense to our brand? Will our audience use it, and more important, can it add value to their lives?

HOW CAN YOU FIND YOUR STORY PLATFORM?

It’s not simple or done overnight. If you have time to spend with your brand’s stakeholders, you can take a giant step toward understanding your brand’s core story (and continue to do this every few years as things change). Start by investigating your audience, your brand and your category. Try to ensure that you’re working with some sort of core story for your brand, and map all executions back to that story. Develop a content plan with that core story in mind. 

Social media storytelling isn’t telling a number of stories about a brand. It’s unearthing the core story at the heart of your brand and telling it in meaningful ways that people enjoy, appreciate and share.  

Read more from Jon here.

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Jon Thomas

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Brand Storytelling: What Fear Can Teach You

KAREN THOMPSON WALKER—WHAT FEAR CAN TEACH US

Walker, a fiction writer, explains that fear is a kind of unintentional storytelling we’re all born knowing how to do. We imagine our own futures, accurately or not, by creating stories. Doing so can alter the paths we choose to take. And as is evident in the story she tells of the shipwrecked sailors, how we read the stories we create in our minds can determine whether we achieve our desired outcomes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What brands can learn from this talk:
Creating content worth sharing often requires faith and courage. Few brands are brave enough to go out on a limb, and instead create uninspiring content that prevents most people from reacting in any way, positively or negatively. It’s the fear of the unknown and the stories that brand managers create in their minds that bind their creativity and limit their spontaneity. What if the content is too edgy? What if the article ruffles too many feathers? Won’t responding to the irate customer’s Facebook post just make the problem more obvious?

Instead of fearing the unknown, take a look at the types of content and brands that have succeeded in the post-advertising age. From Red Bull to Oreo and Warby Parker, the brands that aren’t afraid to push the creative envelope, embrace unique and innovative marketing techniques and actively (and equally) respond to customers’ praise and criticism are the brands that have succeeded.

Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of Brand Storytelling

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Brand Storytelling: The Technology of Storytelling

JOE SABIA—THE TECHNOLOGY OF STORYTELLING

In less than four minutes, iPad storyteller Joe Sabia introduces the audience to Lothar Meggendorfer and explains how Lothar’s invention of the pop-up book is helping us tell stories today. He also makes me realize that I’m underutilizing my iPad.

What brands can learn from this talk

“The art of storytelling has remained unchanged…but the way in which humans tell the stories has always evolved, with pure consistent novelty,” Sabia says. Emerging technology has allowed brands to tell stories in many ways. Consider all the storytelling options available to your brand. You aren’t required to embrace and be present on all channels, but don’t limit yourself to traditional mediums because that’s all you know. There are so many tools available that are more effective and less expensive than traditional, interruptive means, and inevitably there will be even newer tools that have yet to be imagined.

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Jon Thomas

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Brand Storytelling: The Clues to a Great Story

TED talks are a gold mine of knowledge. Because the TED website’s topics include not only technology, education and design (TED) but also business, science, activism, health, storytelling and everything in between, one can get lost on the site for days.

A number of these short talks (most are around 20 minutes) revolve around storytelling. While they don’t necessarily address brand storytelling, they do offer insights that a brand could apply to its efforts to engage audiences through its brand story. I’ve gathered four talks I found particularly useful, and I’ve included a brand takeaway for each. Enjoy Part 1!

1. ANDREW STANTON—THE CLUES TO A GREAT STORY 

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton knows a thing or two about effective storytelling and breaking storytelling conventions. But no matter the type of story, one rule remains: the storyteller has to make the audience care. Stanton draws on his experience at Pixar as well as his own life to explain what makes a good story, why the audience wants to be put to work, and the roles of drama, anticipation and uncertainty in a gripping story. If for no other reason, watch the talk to hear a great opening for a presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What brands can learn from this talk

The success of a brand, at least from a marketing perspective, isn’t defined by a collection of isolated events, executions or campaigns. Instead, it is determined by how well the brand exists over the long haul—how effectively a story can be woven around the brand and told in a way that makes the audience care, propelling them forward and enticing them to “read on” (so to speak). “If things go static, stories die, because life is never static,” Stanton says.

Ensure that your brand is consistently creating content, whether it be Facebook posts, tweets, an email newsletter or videos. You’ve heard the saying “Keep your audience engaged” time and time again, but it’s imperative for your brand’s ongoing narrative. When your content ends, so too does the act of telling your brand’s story.

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Jon Thomas

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Six Tips for Using Instagram in Your Church

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Instagram is a pretty big deal.

It’s not breaking news but something I thought about as I was going to bed last night. I was about to fall asleep when I realized I hadn’t checked my Instagram feed. I reached from my bed, grabbed my phone and scrolled through the square, filtered photos of people, buildings, foliage, workouts, posters and, of course, food. I commented, Liked and even searched through a few hashtags to find fellow Instagrammers who share my passions.

For the better part of the last decade, I haven’t checked a social media platform not named Facebook or Twitter daily until now. Instagram has quickly become one of the top three social networks, and since photos are more personal than a 140-character statement, it has the potential to connect brands with fans on a deeper level than Twitter.

 

Instagram is a channel that brands soon won’t be able to ignore, and innovative brands are already making waves on the platform.

Here are a few tips for steering your brand’s journey on Instagram:

1. EMPLOY USER-GENERATED CONTENT

If you can motivate your fans to submit photos of their own, like pictures of them using your product or just living your brand story, add them to your Instagram stream. Sharpie does this well, often featuring works of art created with its pens and markers.

 

2. OFFER A GLIMPSE INTO YOUR HUMANITY

 

While Instagram can be a place to feature your products in action, consider using it exclusively as a place where your brand’s fans can get a glimpse behind the scenes. Feature photos of faces and places they never get to see. Show them that your brand is more than just the product or service you sell. The Boston Bruins have done a great job of this, especially while the league is in a lockout. The team often shares photos of their fans, the players, and the organization’s philanthropic endeavors.

 

3. PRODUCT IN ACTION 

There’s no hard data to back this up, but I’d bet that Instagram features more photos of food than any other subject. Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants have used Instagram as a place to find photos of all their dishes in their filtered glory. There’s a thin line between sharing great content and being overly promotional, so be considerate when sharing photos of your product in action.

 

4. CONSIDER USING TEXT, BUT NOT TO BRAND OR COPYRIGHT

Overgram and other apps allow you to add text to your Instagram photos. Add a hashtag, give credit for user-generated content, or just add creative copy that will resonate. But use it for good, not evil, and not on every photo. It’s not a place to stamp your brand mark or try to copyright your images. In fact, doing this will make it very unlikely that the photo will be shared with your audience’s audiences.

 

5. DEDICATE DESIGN RESOURCES

Instagram has challenges that other social channels do not. The app is purely mobile, so the photos have to be at least published, if not taken, from a phone. Make sure your Instagram community manager knows the brand’s tone of voice well enough and has an eye for photography so he or she can capture the right kinds of photos.

 

6. HASHTAGS

The best way to find users with a common interest is through hashtags. This is a feature that quickly caught on because of its popularity on Twitter. Are you a sneaker brand? Check out #kicksoftheday. Instagram will even help you with similar suggestions and sort them by popularity. Create your own hashtag, like Tiffany’s did with #TrueLovePictures, to activate fans on Instagram.

 

Remember, there’s a risk and reward here. Instagram isn’t the best social network to help you drive traffic to your site or be a conduit for e-commerce as well as Twitter or even Facebook will. It’s this inability to “sell,” however, that allows Instagram users lower their guard and embrace the brands that use the platform well.

See more from Jon here.

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Jon Thomas

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.