Social Tools For Better Storytelling–More Insights from SXSW Interactive

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Guest Post, Katherine Miller, Hattaway Communications

As Susan Herr pointed out in her recent post, at this year’s South By Southwest Interactive (SXSW), there was no shortage of ideas about how to make online experiences better and more engaging or how to make the world a more “social place.”  As I observed from searching among the thousands of panels, hundreds of side sessions and dozens of plenaries, many of the presentations and conversations at SWSX also offer important guidance to non-profits and foundations about how to effectively use social media to have the greatest impact.

Here are just three tools and approaches, on display at and used during SWSX, that are worth a closer look at and some experimenting with if your organization wants to maximize its potential through the use of social media:

Digital StoryTelling. This may seem obvious to those of you who have attended storytelling workshops and are incorporating them into your work — but stories really do matter. Stories are a common human way of conveying information. Our brains work better on stories, too—or so the hard sciences tell us. A good story will trigger both emotion and cognition. But the world is growing cluttered with stories and the speed by which social media moves make it harder to find them and remember them. A number of new tools are now out there to help organizations find, organize and publish stories but only one, Storify, makes publishing a story using existing content on the web really easy. Using Storify, you can grab content from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and the web and turn it into stories to share. Dozens of stories about what happened and what organizations learned at SXSW are up on Storify and being shared broadly. Click here to see how the ACLU captured SXSW using tweets (and I did one, too). Here’s one on a panel focused on the relationship and impact of celebrity and non-profits. Tools like Storify help us organize all the information, make it easy to find and maximize our interactions with our audiences.

Google+ Works for Non-Profits. For many organizations, Google+ was met with an almost louder thud than Jumo. Don’t write it off or so says the former Chief Evangelist for Apple, Guy Kawasaki says. As Guy writes in his new e-book “What the Plus! Google+ for the rest of us”, Google+ is important for a number of reasons but especially for organizations because it allows you post longer content (100,000 characters v. 160,000 for Facebook or 140 for Twitter); it reaches hard to reach audiences, especially young men; and is easier to find, and network, people based on their passions and personal interests. Using it also helps with search engine optimization as “Google owns

and it can divert people to Google+ anytime it wants. For example, when Google put an arrow on its search page pointing to the button to click to join Google+, hundreds of thousands of people joined.”

Visual Storytelling is Better.  Sunni Brown, a visual facilitator, led one of the best conversations at SXSW on the need to “shut up and draw” — or using visuals to help us all better tell our story. Jessica Hagy, one of her co-panelists, summed the reasons to use visuals best: simplify a complex problem, workaround obstacles or misunderstandings, to remember something, when tensions are high and because you can.  By combining strong stories with visuals we can make things more vivid and memorable — and breakthrough all the clutter more easily.

This is just a small sampling of the people and resources from this year’s SXSW. To learn more, check out the hashtag #sxsw or check out my lists on Twitter @table81/sxswlists.


Katherine Miller is Managing Director of Hattaway Communications

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