I have a tattoo. It's a fairly new addition to my life. It's the First United Methodist symbol. Half of the reason is because my grandma passed away this year, and she was a devout United Methodist, as am I. Half of the reason is because it's on my right arm, centimeters away from an injury I sustained during an abusive marriage. I am proud I survived, proud that I have full mobility back in my right arm and hand, and I know that my faith was a large part of getting me through all of that. My dad's very Catholic side of the family didn't believe I actually got a Methodist cross on my wrist until they saw it in person at my cousin's graduation-- my dad still apparently has issues over it. ("You can be Methodist without tattooing the symbol on your wrist!") But, it's a large part of my story up to now--> my faith, and my survival. It will always be a large part of my story.
You should have seen me go get the tattoo one day, after work, in my pink work dress and stilettos. I was very confident, pulling up the symbol on my phone, and then realized that there are a thousand things to consider when getting a tattoo. I had no idea which way to put it, what size to get. My very patient tattoo artist kept telling me, "I'm not the one who has to wear it the rest of my life", every time I asked him a question. We really hit a head when I wanted the cross to face me, and he told me that tattoos needed to be right side up for the person seeing it, not for us. I argued that, as he had been constantly telling me, I was the one that had to wear it the rest of my life, and I wanted to see the cross right side up. After deciding to take a few minutes to cool down, I thought that he may have a point, and that I already had a relationship with Christ, and knew what the cross symbolized. I didn't need to see it right side up, but others might, others that might have never seen the Methodist cross before.
One upside down cross (to me) later, I was volunteering at The Salvation Army, and someone called out my tattoo, saying how brave I was to get it tattooed on me, in such a visible spot. Brave? I never considered getting it brave. The story behind the cross on my right arm exists for me, and I own it, whether I have it tattooed on me or not. Since then, I've had others comment on it (mostly positive ;) ) and it's amazing how many connections I've made over my tattoo.
I never truly connected the significance of my tattoo until I heard a sermon tonight about telling stories, and the importance of connecting to others. My pastor said, "Want to know what someone cares about? Listen to what they talk about (Or look at what they have tattooed on their body :) ). We connect to the human side of stories. Although the obstacles are real, so is courage. People trust people, and are inspired by their stories."
Wow on a personal level, and wow on a professional level. Not only does my pastor's story-telling advice apply to all of our personal relationships, but it also applies to social media on a major level. If you want to enter people's social conversations, you better have a HUMAN side to your content marketing. There needs to be some element that says-- "Hey, we are more than about making money, we actually care, and here's why"-- or you will lose your social audience. You might have a million followers, but you will have zero engagement and miss out on the opportunity to build brand loyalty and trust. Are the brands you see as successes on social media simply putting out advertising messages, or are they saying, "Hey, here's our story-- what's yours?"
What's your brand's tattoo? What's something so important to your brand on a human level that everyone who stands for the brand would be willing to wear it on their own body? If you're still figuring out your tattoo, then start by asking, and listening, to your consumers' own stories and 'tattoos', and join the conversation that way. Create an app on facebook that allows users to submit their stories about your brand's influence in their lives, create a Twitter chat around an important topic in your industry that has a human side to it, create an Instagram hashtag where people can submit photos of their stories that somehow relate to your brand, take advantage of Throwback Thursday to give consumers insight into your history --> do anything to incite more authentic story-telling.
Oh, and one more important thing that I almost made a mistake of with on my own tattoo --> Make sure that you present your tattoo right-side-up to the consumer, not to yourself. Don't be selfish and show your story in a light that looks good to your internal brand, but show your story in a way that makes sense to the consumer-- in a way that they can relate to it. While I may have to view my Methodist cross upside down, I already understand the significance of it inside out. I have to show it right side up to those I meet, so they have an opportunity to also understand the significance and possibly relate to my story.
And, as my very Catholic side of my family will never understand the necessity for me to tattoo another denomination's symbol on my wrist, you will have consumers (and most likely internal associates, as well) that don't understand your story. Be prepared, but don't let it stop you from being authentic, genuine, and, may I say it, human. You will create a thousand times more meaningful brand loyalists through telling your story on social media, then you will through acting like you're some perfect brand that we all know does not exist.
Oh, and for those who are interested, here is the sermon that inspired this post: Say: You've got a story to tell
- Marji J. Sherman