A German hairdresser is celebrating this morning after winning the “world’s best beard” contest in Norway – a story that is proving hugely popular online. Indeed, it is the second most shared item on the BBC News website, after the story about bomb threats to London. It is evidence taht we love stories – particularly unusual ones. We like to go “wow”, or “that’s interesting” or “I didn’t know that”. We love to be amazed, surprised – even startled.
This is confirmed in new psychological research conducted at the University of Delaware which showed that people are suckers for a good story. In the research people were asked to decide if they would lend money to other people. The study found that we are prepared to lend to people who have a bad credit score and who have a bad loan repayment history if they tell a good personal story. Indeed, in the research story telling trumped objective facts every time.
Story telling should feature on your website
Story telling is clearly fundamental to us. Indeed, your parents read you stories before you could speak. The rhythm and style of story is embedded in our brains from infancy. Is it any wonder we are so attracted by story. Yet, most websites in the business world fail to carry any kind of story telling. Even their case histories are not stories, but a list of facts – “we did this, we did that, and this is what was achieved”. Oh boy; how dull.
What about telling the story of the day you thought the world was falling in when your accountant told you that your pension fund was on the verge of collapse. You didn’t really want to go to that morning meeting with that on your mind. But you met a potential client who sensed you were a bit down in the dumps and suggested you have a jolly lunch together. Off you went to his favourite venue – only to find it was the restaurant at the golf club where you also played. So you chatted about golf, arranged a game together and became friends. Weeks later as you played golf together your new found friend says his current supplier for the kind of service you provide was proving unreliable. Could you help? Not only did you help but you were shown to be twice as effective for the same price.
You get my drift here I hope – a personal tale like this is much more engaging than the factual evidence. You are not changing the facts – indeed if you lie in a story you will be caught out. But instead you are sharing the information in story format – which your readers engage with much more readily.
How to use story telling on your website
Story telling is clearly important to us – it helps us engage and understand; plus it feels “natural”. Use story telling in your case histories, by all means. But also use it to convey information. Tell stories about your customers, your suppliers or your staff. Look at social website for inspiration – you will find them full of stories about what people are doing with products and services and brands. Those are the items that are engaging.
You can also use stories to explain things. If your information is technical or difficult to grasp easily, a story can often convey the information more easily.
As the research from the University of Delaware suggests, stories have a much greater impact on the recipients than we might otherwise believe. Adding story telling to your website can significantly improve what you can achieve online.
And if you don’t believe me – well go and grow a beard, enter the competition in Norway next year and see how many people share your story when you win. There will be lots more, of course, if you are a woman and manage to achieve that…!
- Story Matters (corporate-eye.com)
- Google Gets Emotional When Telling Stories … And So Can You (mpdailyfix.com)
- The Science of a Story (presentationpartners.wordpress.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+