Social media has become a staple of marketing but it can be a mixed blessing. On the plus side, you can go directly to your target audience, bypassing any filtering of your story by an editor or reporter. On the minus side, if you don’t know how to tell your story effectively (something the media knows how to do) it won’t resonate with the people you want to reach. With social media, a strong story is more important then ever.

A great social media story engages people and motivates them to share it with others. It may be a compelling existing story, as with Ford Motor Company’s Mustang fan page on Facebook. There Ford offers news, photos and videos of the car and encourages Mustang lovers to share their love for all things Mustang with their own photos and posts. This page has more than 8,255,000 likes!

Another powerful story is exemplified by the Ice Bucket Challenge run by the ALS Association in the summer of 2014. People around the world were asked to dump buckets of ice water over their heads and post videos of it online. They were also asked to make a donation to support the search for a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The results were outstanding: 17 million videos posted from 159 countries, including celebrity videos from Will Smith, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg and others. The campaign generated 70 billion video views and raised $220 million for the ALS Association.

Note that neither of these stories is a hard sell; a social media strategy must be subtle or the audience will tune it out. It’s worth the effort to craft your social media story before going online. You will get the maximum return from your efforts and help ensure that your story engages your audience.

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