You know when you’re sitting around with a bunch of friends at dinner or over drinks (tea, coffee, or otherwise) trading life stories? When one person shares a story, others want to follow. That conversation is what nonprofits should be striving for with their audience.
Before I get into this post, I want to remind you and let new readers know I did a series of posts on storytelling and took you through the process from beginning to end. I looked at different examples of stories in the news and explained how staff at organizations can write similar pieces. (If you didn’t read the series, you really need to check it out!)
This post is more about how to write a serial story on social media. I’m not finding exactly what I’m looking for online, so I’m going to create an example here. And continued in part two, I’m going to give examples of nonprofits that are doing storytelling well.
I think the best position for this in an organization would be a roving reporter, likely in the communications division but it doesn’t have to be. By roving reporter, I mean someone who doesn’t sit at a desk all the time, but goes around talking to people face-to-face — getting the story out of people who sometimes don’t know they hold one.
So here’s what I think is a great way to go about telling a story on Facebook. You could also write the entire story in a blog post (or series) and promote snippets of that. (This is just an example; I know parts of this might seem a tad unrealistic).
Let’s suppose the following:
Marge works at a for-profit social enterprise. It’s an organization that buys hand-made goods at fair prices, mainly from people living in developing countries. Part of the organization’s mission is also to empower these workers. Marge is in the field checking up on a project that involves buying silk from local weavers for fair prices. The organization offers the weavers classes in subjects they request (and the weavers get paid to attend the classes).
We’re going to be doing a series of posts over the next week or so from Marge, our new representative in the field, who is checking in for her first time with our silk weavers. We’ve been buying from them at fair prices for about three years, and we also offer the weavers free classes of their choosing. For more information about the classes, visit (include title of website page, and link to website page).
[Include a link to the webpage about the silk weavers, which should pull in a photo from that page.]
Marge drove out to the countryside to check on our weaving project today. We talked to her, and she said she felt a bit overwhelmed by some of the poverty in the area. She met with the weavers, who explained the process to her, and they haggled with Marge over the price of the silk (as they should!). We told Marge to expect this, and that usually they ended up agreeing on a price toward the end of a visitor’s stay. But something caught her eye at the same time. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what that is.
[Include new image of weavers.]
Marge said she was with her translator, and they were driving to visit the project. She saw a small convenience store on the side of the road with colorful handbags hanging outside. Driving through villages it’s not uncommon to see such stores on the side of the road, but the handbags seemed unusual. Marge asked the driver to stop so she could take a closer look. More about the handbags tomorrow.
[Include image of store and handbags from a distance.]
The owner told her that she hung the handbags up for the occasional tourist passing by. Many of the women in the village could make them, and they’d take turns selling their designs. Marge told us she was amazed and that the quality was good. Of course, we’re also excited about the designs too back in the office, but we need to see them in person to make any decisions about whether we can sell them or not. Marge didn’t say anything to the owner yet, but bought a couple of handbags and took some photos. Stay tuned to see if Marge returns. And let us know what you think of the handbags!
[Include closeup image of handbag.]
In the meantime, Marge said she has been spending a lot of time with the weavers. Things are going well, and the women are eager to start another financial class. Marge has been working with the women to find a teacher. She is spending a lot of time with the weavers, learning they are fun to work with. They like her too, and she said they nicknamed her, “carrot,” because she always seemed to be munching and sharing carrots. But what about the handbags?
[Include photo of Marge with weavers.]
Great update about Marge coming later today folks! But first thank you all so much for following along and posting comments and sharing some of your own stories! Marge is following along as well when she can. A lot of you have asked about the weavers after that last post. We’ll also be posting more updates on them as soon as Marge returns to the office, but more information is also available on our website.
[Link to website page, which should pull in a photo from that page.]
Marge didn’t forget about the woman selling handbags. She’s been talking back and forth with us for several nights about it. We’ve given her the go-ahead to see if the woman might be interested in expanding her production. Marge thought the woman would be thrilled to sell more handbags. But when she returned the woman was suspicious and turned her down. Marge was distressed, but she bought a few more handbags so she could send more photos back. She said she wasn’t giving up.
[Include image of more handbags.]
Marge told the weavers what happened and they laughed. She said they told her to bring them to talk to her, and that they could convince her. So Marge is planning to bring two of the weavers back with her. She will pay them for missing a half day’s work. What do you all think? Have you ever been in a similar situation to Marge having to convince someone of something?
[Include image of the two weavers with Marge.]
Marge said when she arrived with the two weavers everything was much less tense. The woman invited other women to come out and hear from our weavers. The handbag makers agreed to make even more samples, and Marge told her she’d be back in three days to buy them. Marge doesn’t have much time left before she returns home.
[Include image of the group.]
Marge returned with the samples and they are great, although they need a few minor alterations. But they should be up on our website this holiday season. We’ll post a few here, but we’re also going to keep a few designs secret for now:) Marge will be heading back in just two weeks to work out a further arrangement. p.s. At Marge’s suggestion, we’re going to give the weavers a small commission for helping us secure this seller.
[Include image of more handbags].
I’m way oversimplifying the story here. It’s very unlikely things would ever go this smoothly, but you get the idea.
Of course these are also just the main posts. You could also definitely expand it based on comments you get, as well as respond individually.
But here you’re letting people get to know an employee, the group of weavers, plus you’re building support for another possible product. Now who wouldn’t want to buy from these entrepreneurs?
Stay tuned for part two when I share some examples of real nonprofits telling stories well on social media.
What did I miss? If you’re out there reading, let me know I’m reaching you in the comments below.