Narrative Spotlight: A Strategic Narrative Can Sweeten Social Media and Drive Real Change

In many respects, the social media narrative is souring as its worst qualities have come to light. Anyone who follows the news has seen countless stories about data breaches, election meddling, its addictive nature and even its impact on mental health – and studies back these claims.

For instance, social media is now reportedly linked to depression in teens. A study completed by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK revealed that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat all had negative effects on mental health in young people (ages 14-24). A study featured on Psychology Today’s website revealed a link between depression and social media use in adults. And then, outside of the mental health realm, there’s the unsettling news of our data being mined on Facebook – with talk of government regulation as a solution to protect our privacy.

Industry leaders have a responsibility to define new standards to retain trust. While daunting, there is an opportunity to drive change and sweeten social media for everyone.

The Opportunity

First, this sour situation isn’t new.  Many industries have battled and continue to battle negative narratives. Think about oil and gas, real estate, and the government. The good news is that tainted industry image should create a sliver of hope because major setbacks often force change and an opportunity to step into leadership.

So, what should a business leader do? Do they try to promote all the great things they do and why they are different, despite the proven bad?

In the struggle for damage control, that might seem like the right move.

But, we think there’s a much better approach – and it all lies within the narrative.

Underneath all of the bitter realities, there is an opportunity for a leading social media company to step up and acknowledge the current state of affairs, define a new industry vision and demand a better approach that would benefit the overall industry.  Not only to create a positive brand narrative but to drive REAL change.

Enter Strategic Narrative

An industry-focused strategic narrative aims for betterment and improvement. Good leaders in every industry need to consider this approach because it’s so much more powerful than using fluffy marketing language that falls on deaf ears and fails to inspire. A strong industry narrative provides a clear vision to help improve an industry – it’s selfless and for the good of all.

How a strategic narrative works:

  • First, business leaders need to take their eyes off themselves and look at the bigger picture. Perhaps things got to the point that they are at because they’ve been looking downward, at themselves for too long. And it’s likely that fellow industry leaders have been too.
  • Next, is a discovery process that helps business leaders take a deeper dive into the state of social media (or whatever industry is struggling) as it stands today. Which issues need addressing, what are the positive trends, the negative perceptions, the misperceptions, and then what is the overarching vision or call-to-action that can help move the industry in the right direction? It offers more than promises of self-centered improvement. While self-reflection is good, most companies fail to define a true vision for the industry. In this case, where is social media headed and how can we help get it there?
  • It’s not always easy to get to this point. It requires a different way of thinking, and it also requires getting the entire company on board with this new approach. Then it’s the company’s job to share it and continuously evangelize the narrative. When this happens, other companies will start to grasp the new narrative, and collectively the industry can take control of a more positive dialog.

This is much more than “messaging,” and it reaches far beyond marketing. A strategic narrative ultimately helps companies shift into being an industry driver. And, it can help an industry – in this case, the social media industry – from spoiling due to a negative narrative. It leaves a better taste in everyone’s mouth and offers the substance to create a new, better way of doing things.

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