How storytelling can spur business growth

It should be simple to succeed on social media when you have a well-known story.

The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, faced the challenge of not telling an old story but finding a connection between the past and the present. The von Trapps used social networking to share stories about the next generation. They found that their reports could help them grow their business.

My firm was contacted by Johannes von Trapp’s son Sam when he began handing over the business to him. Sam began to make many changes and always told us about them.

We knew we had a chance, but we needed to give it some structure. We asked ourselves some key questions.

There were many changes and stories. How could we create a format and structure to capture the stories of Sam, his sister Kristina, and others and then write them down in a personalized way?

What channels should we use once we have the stories?

How could we measure the impact of the stories?

Most companies have many stories to tell. The problem is that they can’t find a way to say to them.

Trapp began by…

Weekly interviews. We usually had phone calls (30 minutes to one hour) and emails with different people, such as resort staff and the von Trapp siblings Sam and Kristina. Interviews lasted for 2 to 3 weeks.

We wrote test stories with different styles and tones. This helped us find a type of writing that was direct, personal, and easy to copy. It “sounded like” what we heard.

Set up our social channels, including a Trapp Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog on this site.

Free monitoring services. Not investing a lot in paid services before knowing their value. We used tools such as Social Oomph and BackType to monitor what was said about Trapp Family Lodge.

We use our e-newsletter as the primary vehicle for telling stories. Our stories were easier to write. Then, we could repurpose the accounts for our blog and promote them via Twitter and Facebook.

Monitoring Our email responses (using CoTweet to allow multiple users to tweet from the same account) and Facebook insights.

The Trapp Family team then took over the writing of the second story. They followed the Trapp Family style. Remember that the class was a true reflection of Sam’s and his sister’s speech. We only translated it.

In one of the first stories we told, Sam described a time he was collecting sap on a mountain for maple syrup when two owls attacked. This story received a tremendous response. In emails and social media, people responded as if the story had been told to them personally. Sam’s sister Kristina shared a story about how she and her children nursed back to health a highland cattle. The response was immediate and robust.

Our monitoring began to pay off. Our listening led to such insights.

The quality of monitoring is dependent on the audience. We were more interested in the genuine sentiment than volume. The best way to measure sentiment is not through automation but through personal attention.

Most responses came from resort guests who expressed a desire to return.

The other half of the group had never been to the resort. They are huge fans of the Sound of Music and the von Trapp story.

“Our dream is to visit your family one day.” This was the consistent response from those who had never been.

This listening made us think. What could entice Sound of Music lovers to finally overcome their inertia and visit the resort?

Sam von Trapp, his father, and his sister began giving resort guests family history tours around that time. We came up with the following idea: What if we offered a package called “Meet the von Trapps” to new guests? The guests would spend 2-3 days at the lodge and be able to experience the Sound of Music virtually.

The package was launched during the most challenging travel period of the year, which is what we call Stick Season (between foliage season in Vermont and Thanksgiving).

The following were the components of our campaign to launch the new package:

Create Facebook ads that are targeted at our fans and by location

Google AdWords is a great way to promote your campaign

Publication through our blog and e-newsletter

Train the staff of the call center about the package and how to discuss it

All of the above, including the box, will be approved and published within ten days

The “Meet the von Trapps” promotion started bringing in new business at a time when most hotels were closing for the month. The bottom line was affected by the company. It was a business that turned into repeat customers.

Listening to the stories helped us understand what people wanted and needed and how we could provide it. People don’t want to be associated with brands. They want to be connected with real people, like Sam, Kristina, and Johannes von Trapp.

Our monitoring of the package after its launch provided some of the most valuable validation. Our ads were a hit with people who signed up and those who saw them. When was the last instance that this happened to you?

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