What story can you tell about this cat, kid and goldfish?

What story can you tell about this cat, kid and goldfish?

I’ve been at this social media thing for two years now. Just moving into the first grade. Yes, I had to repeat SM kindergarten. I find it’s as finicky as a five-year-old.

The “experts” through their blogs, ebooks and Slideshares, have been trying to teach me the trending. The numbers. Why you’re supposed to have a gajillion followers on Twitter or you’re not cool on the playground. How to game the AdAge 150 ranking. What I’m supposed to be posting on Facebook. How I should be scheduling tweets.  FYI, SEO aids ROI. My Technorati training wheels keep falling off. I find StumbleUpon aptly named.  Digg this! “Aaaah the madness!” I cried.

For a media that’s supposed to be about “The conversation,” all I hear about are “The Numbers.” But the numbers tend to belie the conversational strength of social media. These particular stats are from “Groundswell”:

Only 18% of people online actually create anything to share, while 25% of those online are “Critics,” meaning they actually comment on the “Creators” work.  The groups overlap, so a lot of those critics are also the creators. What’s it all mean to the “Sister Mary John” school boy inside me? There not a hell of a lot of “Conversations” going on out there. Most internet denizens are more comfortable being wallflowers as they peruse from the shadows. Is that why the numbers are so dam important (Sorry Sister)? That’s called a “Broadcast” medium, not one that is actively engaged in conversation.

People Don’t Read, They Scan.

That’s bull-hockey. They don’t read because very few of us have something decent to say. Or say it very interestingly. Including, apparently, me. My “numbers” are in the tank.

Until now.

I’m going back to what all kids, including those inside of us, like: Stories!

The moral of this post moving forward is: “Stories sell.”

You want to be sustainable? Tell better stories.

I’m leaving the “How to’s,” and “The 10 Reasons Why,” and the “Lists” and the abbreviated text to the engineers and the PowerPointers. That’s all low resolution storytelling, and it’s no longer for me.

I’m not interested in folks strafing my blog anymore. There’s little interaction and no engagement. It’s not worth my time, or yours.

Instead, I’m going back to what I do best: Telling better stories. And I’m pulling from a whole new set of experts, including Steven Pressfield and his remarkable book, “The War of Art.” His “Writing Wednesdays” tip is a terrific inspiration for storytellers.

Did you know you can overlay the structure of a screen play onto everything from a Cardinal’s football game to a compelling sermon? I’ve learned this by studying Blake Snyder’s screen play bible, “Save the Cat.” Now I’m into his “Save the Cat Goes to the Movies,” where Snyder, adding credence to his structural thesis, outlines the  “Beat Sheet” for 50 influential movies, with another 50 films referenced throughout the book.

Just finishing David Mamet’s, “Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama”.

Up next: Seth Godin’s, “All Marketers Tell Stories,” while studying über screenwriting professor, Robert Kckee’s, “Story,” on the substance, structure, style, and the principles of telling better stories.

And finally, I’m going to share with you the intriguing work of Dr. Sam Ham (Yah, I know, a name right out of Dr. Seuss) and his moving work in “Thematic Communication” in environmental marketing and sustainability.

Why the bibliography? To underscore to you that I’m furiously serious. Stories can intrigue, incite, educate and move people. I’ve known that all my life. Just Google, “I’ll raise your a rabbit,” and you’ll see what I mean. But, like the “Apple in the Road” plot twist in a “Golden Fleece” movie genre as described by Snyder, somehow, in all the glitz and glamor of social media and its ROI and numbers, and scanning, and brevity, we have lost site of the power of telling a great story.

When was the last time you heard a good joke? I bet it’s been awhile. Email has killed the craft of joke telling. It’s not what you’re telling, it’s how you tell it. Email takes the human dimension out of a great set-up and punchline. And if we’re not careful, the pruned back, PowerPoint ideology of blog writing is going to kill the story. At least the online version of storytelling.

But where there’s conflict, there’s opportunity. Plate tectonics create both earthquakes and mountain ranges.

I’m going to be telling my story, “The Cold Shoulder of Social Media: Why it hasn’t worked for me, and probably won’t for you, unless… at the Social Media Arizona conference SMAZ on January 25 at the Mad Cap Theaters in Tempe.

And get this: Fred Von Graf, SMAZ’s producer, has even included me  as an “Expert.” I’m proud and honored to be listed with the likes of Jason Baer of Convince and Convert, and Greg Chapman of Sitewire. They’re the real experts that know how to operationalize social media, and they both have their own great stories to tell.

Mine is about what has – and more importantly, what has not – worked for me using social media. And I can tell you, whether you’re communicating online or off, it ALL begins with how well you tell a tale.

What’s your story?