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The secret to Facebook’s algorithm

I'm going to tell you a story. One day, a French poet named Jacques Prévert was walking the streets of Paris when he came across a beggar asking for money. Beside the beggar was a handwritten sign which read: ‘I am blind, please help’. Prévert stopped and asked the man how it was going to which the beggar responded: “Not very well, I hear people pass by but no one drops money in my hat. Would you give me some money?”

“I’m a poor writer and I have no money. But perhaps I can help by writing a new sign for you,” said Prévert.

“By all means,” said the beggar.

So Prévert flipped over his sign and wrote a new message.

A few days later Prévert saw the same beggar and asked him again how it was going.

“People have been so generous lately. They stop and say hello and my hat fills up three times a day. What did you write on my sign?”

Prévert replied: “The same thing, just different words.”

On the beggar’s sign Prévert had written: “Spring is coming, but I won’t see it.”

Instead of asking for money, Prévert told a story – allowing people to empathise with the man.

You may have heard this well-worn story before but it’s worth remembering the power of storytelling and its ability to make people care. It’s never been more important than it is today.

I was reminded of this by our esteemed leader, George, who was raving about a presentation by Cassie Roma, the head of content marketing for NZME, at a Hootsuite-Conversologie social media event earlier this week.

An avid storyteller herself, Cassie argued that good stories compel people to change: the way they feel, the way they think, the way they act.

Using storytelling to fight Facebook's declining organic reach

In recent years organic reach on Facebook has declined to a point where some claim it is all but dead. You used to be able to throw up content and people would see it. But now, it’s got to a point where there’s so much content out there that reportedly only 16% of your fans see your updates.

It’s become so hard to achieve natural, organic reach that businesses are turning to paid content – which is flourishing. But even then, you need to create engaging content if you want to get a return on investment.

“Storytelling increases revenue,” said Cassie in her presentation.

“A great story is authentic, creative and makes and emotional and personal connection.”

“It also inspires action while taking an audience on a journey with a brand or product.” 

Stories make us remember and they make us care. They have the ability to make us pay through the nose for things that we don’t really need.

A literary and anthropological experiment carried out in the US saw researchers purchase cheap second-hand items from op-shops which were then posted on eBay with individual item descriptions featuring short stories created by accomplished writers. The 200 items, purchased for an average of $1.25 apiece, sold for nearly $8,000.

This fake banana was bought for 25 cents and resold for $76.

A great story enables people to see themselves in the story, building relationships and making people care. It’s been said that marketing is not about what you sell, but the stories you tell.

Applying authentic storytelling to Facebook posts is a way to circumvent Facebook’s algorithm and generate organic reach by capturing people’s interest in the human stories behind your organisation, brand or product. You only need to look at the success of Humans of New York to understand the power of storytelling.

Make use of the tools at your disposal

Facebook, and Instagram, have a suite of immersive story telling mechanisms free for you to use to help bring your stories to life. Things like instant articles, canvas, carousel, 360 degree images and video and Instagram stories can all be effective ways to pique people’s interest and deliver your stories.

To learn more about how to apply storytelling to your organisation and make use of the social media tools at your disposal, please get in touch with The Clarity Business by emailing us welcome@theclaritybusiness.co.nz or calling us on 09 950 5304.

You can also check out what else we have to say about storytelling:

Why you need HEROES to engage your audiences
Engage your customers more deeply through storytelling


By Daniel McCabe