Sunday, January 15, 2017

Case Study: Storytelling in the Digital Age THE STORM

I love telling stories (I once had a work review go south because I was "too chatty", which was before I entered the world of communications), so when I get the chance to use digital media to tell a story, I am thrilled. As a social media strategist, it is my job to teach my clients to use new media to get their own story out into the world, so a recent storm which knocked down a tree (no damage or injury!) serves as a perfect case study. Follow along with me as I re-tell the story of the storm and show you how I shared it as the events unfolded.

One Sunday about a week ago, I awoke to a huge sound, at first not unlike the racket of several plastic trash cans all being knocked over at the same time (this has happened, thanks raccoons trash pandas...) but which concluded with a sound I'd never heard the like of, which turned out to be the sound of a huge Cypress tree next to my building breaking and crashing down into the street, just missing several parked cars and my landlady's bedroom window. Nobody was outside at the time and no damage was done, so although we were quite sad about the tree, it became a neighborhood event and actually pretty exciting. Below, see how I used various social media channels to tell the story.

After confirming nobody was hurt, I threw a raincoat, hat and boots on and grabbed my phone to head outside for the next 4 hours. Snapping away, my first post shows the scene from a bit of a distance, and includes my car to make it personal. Instagram is my favorite platform for imagery, so I started there, and tagged local news agencies while I was at it, because my local images have been picked up for news reports in the past. (This was not selected; I later learned that there were trees down all over the city because this was a huge storm, and many of them had serious property damage, so we really were lucky!) At this point, I didn't know what # were trending, so I made up my own, like #treedown and #winter2017

Next, I created a collage to show more detail on the tree and posted it to Instagram, sharing as well to Facebook: 

And speaking of Facebook, the next thing I did was start a Facebook live broadcast, where I introduced myself and then walked around showing the scene in great detail. During the broadcast (which I tried to keep to about 5 min or less because that is the length of peoples' attention spans, on average), I asked my viewers if they were also experiencing any trees down in the storm, and I heard from a few friends that they were. As soon as the DPW showed up, I quit my broadcast to make sure I was not in their way. (Note: don't endanger yourself or irritate others for the sake of a live broadcast!) 

Not published, here is an "outtake" photo showing my car and the caution tape. After taking this photo, I made a quick video as I walked up to move my car, as directed by the DPW. I didn't do a live broadcast, just a quick 20 second video because the sound of the tape slapping in the wind was intense. This I posted to Instagram. 

As the work progressed, I posted a couple of comments with no images on Facebook about the sound of the chainsaws, and the intense piney scent of the cut tree. I posted another short video to Instagram of the chainsaw action, as well as one of the DPW truck departing with the 4th load of branches from the cleanup. Then I posted this image to let my followers know that the work was nearly done: 

AND I found something happy to put into the story: my landlady was allowed to collect the cuttings of the stump, which were heart-shaped! I love the colors and shapes in this image, which is perfect for Instagram: 

As the branch was cleared from the car, the neighbors and I watching were too tense to film, but I did snap some photos of the action and later created a photo collage as the car was freed and then cleaned of layers of sawdust: 

Cleaning the freed car; neighbors and DPW workers:

When the car was freed, and the branches were cut and hauled away, we all felt like we'd been through a major ordeal together! We were so deeply impressed by the DPW crew and how fast and carefully they worked. I made sure to post and thank them, still trying to work in a positive message: 

After being outside for 4 hours, I retreated inside to warm up and get back to my day, but I did want to wrap up my story later that afternoon, so I created a visual "card" post that I shared on Facebook as well as Instagram an hour in advance, to let people know what time to tune in for the conclusion of my story. This is one of my favorite strategies to build a following between platforms, by announcing on one that I will be doing something on another. I made sure to note my handle: 

As I began my Instagram live story, I took a screen grab which showed the results of the DPW's work. Because Instagram stories are not saved after broadcast, my followers could not watch the video afterwards on their own schedule, which is why I generally prefer Facebook live. The interesting thing about Instagram live is that they put a banner across the top of my followers' feeds, so after I began, several more people joined to see my tour of the aftermath.

For the most part, I only use Twitter for business posts, but Twitter rules for news, so I used it to research other storm reports from the area. As you can see from this screen grab, clearly things were worse elsewhere: 

To wrap up my story, I did the quintessential digital cliche: I took a selfie with the tree! (see above) This I posted across platforms to let all my followers know that everything was cleaned up and handled. I included myself in the image to bring it back to a personal level, and because I like to mix POV images with images of myself. After this, not only was I exhausted from the excitement, but I had dominated the feeds of my followers enough, so I logged off and spent Sunday evening with my family. 

Although this example occurred in my private life, these methods can be used to tell any kind of story, especially business events. If you would like help crafting your own digital story, give me a shout.