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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E77. How to Tell Engaging Stories on Social Media

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Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching, to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story, and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right, on with the show.

Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. Today, we're going to do something a little different. Normally, this is an interview show, where I talk to speakers, storytellers, marketing experts. But what I'm going to do today is I'm just going to look at a couple of stories that I have told that have done very well on social media on LinkedIn specifically, and I'm going to break down why I wrote them that way, why I told them that way, and how exactly I turn them from just a story that happened to me to a social media post and what sort of lessons you can get out of a story like that. The reason we're going to do that is because one of the most common things I hear clients struggling with is the actual crafting of stories. So something happens to them, they want to tell it, but they're not sure how to make it interesting, what should stay in what needs to come out. And I find that when I explain to them my process, and I take them through the process that that you're going to hear me do now they start getting it and they start figuring out what are all the the things you need to do to just turn something that happened into a story worth telling. I posted this out in writing. So the language would have been a little different than what I'm going to use here. I'm just going to tell here normally, as I will tell it live on stage. And then later, I'm going to tell you how I changed a normal oral story into a written social media post. So we can see what some of those differences are. So they're going to be two stories. Both of them are personal stories. One of them is funny. The other one is kind of cute. So that's it. Let's get to it. I hope we get a lot from it. The first time I went skiing with my girlfriend, I was convinced she was cheating on me. So a few days before she'd gone away for a weekend to the ski slopes with her craziest party girlfriend. And when she got back, she couldn't sit properly. And I said what is what's wrong with your butt. And she said, Oh, I just fell so many times on the ski slope but I really suck at it. I think I bruised something. So when the two of us went skiing together, and I get down the mountain, and I look for her in she she's she's still coming down. But she's coming down really fast. Like she's flying down the mountain like a bullet. And I thought there was no way that someone who can ski like that fell on her ass multiple times. I mean, we've just gotten back together and she's lying to me already. So I got ready for for a very uncomfortable conversation when she got down to the bottom of the mountain. And, and as I looked up, I saw that she was still coming down the straight down and picking up speed. And she was going on a straight course for the fence. And that's when I realised that she was only going down that way because she had no idea how to stop. And then I looked at the fence I looked at her trajectory. And that's what I noticed that some really large guy was just crossing her path. And then I thought this is definitely happening. So she ploughed on the mountain and then bumped into the guy bowled him over. And you know, they rolled over a few times and luckily nobody got properly hurt. But that was the first and the last time we went skiing together. Now if we go to the ski slopes, I ski and she drinks hot chocolate, but she's never had any problems sitting again in I Learned to Stop jumping to conclusions. Alright, so that was the story. When I say on social media I did I put, I posted it on social media, I did it in writing. So I did it a little differently. I'm going to go through some of the changes. But first, I want to talk you through how I crafted a story. So what I knew, or what I had is, you know, we went skiing, and I thought she was really good. But he turned out she wasn't, and in all this stuff about her having hurt her, but with her friends on the ski slopes, that that's all true. So all of that stuff is what happened. But how do I turn this into a story that's more interesting. And this is this is the crux of this particular story is that the moment I saw her speeding down the mountain, I thought she she had been lying to me. And because she had just gone away with you know, a positive friends,

I thought she has been lying. To me, this is probably not a good reason. And, you know, maybe this has something to do with why she couldn't, she couldn't sit properly. So I knew that this suspicion, this, this jumping to conclusion, part of the story that had to appear very early on, and I made it the first line, because the moment they say, you know, the first time I went skiing with my with my girlfriend, I

thought she was cheating on me. Now all of a sudden, this is an interesting story, something you wanna you want to listen to. And then I just need to give you a tiny bit of context and a bit of context is about her going to the party, then her she can sit properly. And I didn't see anything wrong with that. But you absolutely need that little bit of context. Because the story immediately moves to the problem right after, which is me on the mountain, seeing her come down like a really competent skier. And thinking that there's no way that this is someone who could fall over and over. So I had the before part of the story. So the context, now I'm introduced the problem, the problem is that there now believe she's cheating on me, then I basically just tell you what else happened, which was, I'm preparing for an uncomfortable conversation, she keeps coming down. And then I realise that she has doesn't know how to stop. And that's why she's skiing that way, then she balls over the guy that's just a bit of comedy, although it's actually what happened. So I've given you the problem, I've given you what happened after the problem. And then at the end, they give you the the after, right, so the consequences, which are that, you know, she doesn't ski anymore, you know, the fact that she can sit properly. Now, that's again, just a bit of comedy. Also true, the and the most important part, which is I Learned to Stop jumping to conclusions. Now the way I structure most stories, and the way I teach my clients to structure stories is with the super basic structure of before. But so an after so before is the context. But is the problem, the complication, the surprise, so is what the characters did, because of that. And after are the consequences. So how are how are we now different from how we were at the beginning of the story, stories are about change. If at the end of the story, I'm someone who doesn't jump to conclusions, then at the beginning of the story, I need to be jumping to conclusions, which is exactly what I did there. That's a fairly simple story, there's just a few things that I want to highlight that I did there, that you might not even notice a great deal. But they can make a very big difference to the story. So one of them is that I say a little further down in the story than I would have done in the written version. I say, we have just gotten back together. In she's already lying to me, I do that I put I have that line there. Because I want to raise the stakes of the story. So you know, my girlfriend's cheating on me, that's already a problem. I think most people care about adultery. But I want to emphasise that, you know, we used to be together now we gotten back together, but already the relationship is going sour. And if that is the case, then this is this is definitely a problem. Okay, so I'm just doing something there to raise the stakes. The other thing I do I'm doing is I say at some point that there is no way that someone who has kids like this could have fallen or harass she she is lying to me, we're about to have an uncomfortable conversation. So what I'm doing is I'm making predictions of the future that are not actually going to turn out to be true. And that is just again, another way to raise the stakes of the story because I'm telling you, there's definitely a problem here. Something is wrong, I'm going to have to deal with it. None of those things actually happen. But by saying it confidently instead of saying, well, maybe I have a problem here. Maybe she's not been completely honest. I just make the story more meaningful. I raise the tension, and you want to listen to what happens more than if I hadn't done those things. And the other thing which I think is also important to highlight this, when I told the story the way I just told it now, the moral of the story or the lesson is literally one line at the end, which is an I Learned to Stop jumping to conclusions. And in a perfect world, you wouldn't even have a moral of the story, the story will be obvious enough that everybody will get it. But one line or two is absolutely fine. And that's the way I try to tell most of my stories, if I need some sort of moral anyway. Okay, so this is the oral version of the story. The differences between the the written version is that in the written version, I had a slightly different line to begin with, which was, she flew down the mountain, and I just knew she's cheating on me, again, very, very similar. But this line would be really awkward in conversation. Like, I wouldn't start a story of someone saying, she flew down the mountain, and I just knew she was cheating on me, cuz we were like, What are you on about. And that's why I say no, the first time I went skiing with my girlfriend, so I'm giving you some sort of location, so we can picture it. And I'm just making it more natural. But in writing, it's fine to just to just move an interesting part of the story to the first line. Overall, my language is also a bit less casual. Because you can get away with certain things in writing that you wouldn't when you when you speak. So the second line in that story in writing is actually we had just gotten back together after years apart. And she was lying to me already. So I move that line up. Because again, on social media, you want to keep get get people's attention and hold them. So the story is sounding more important that it has higher stakes, right at the beginning, is is better, you don't want to lose them at the second or third line. Everything else in the story is essentially the same. Okay, language is slightly different. But it's essentially the same story. What I did when I posted it is, is I had that little one line for the moral of the story, but then I developed it and what I wrote was, in business, we jumped the wrong conclusion all the time, we assume every influencer is killing it. When many are barely earning a living. We imagined that everyone will see through our insecurities when they're too concerned about their own, will convince ourselves that most of what we're doing is fine, when the results are different story. But another conclusion only a few people ever get to that their communication is boring, that they come across like everyone else, that no one is excited by their poster presentations. And if you don't want to keep speeding down that mountain, maybe you should start telling some stories, or a story behind will be the least of your problems. There's a lot of things I'm saying they're in some of them, I don't think are actually justified by the story I, I started talking about jumping to conclusions, because there was my link to the story. And then I moved a bit sideways about conclusions people should be getting, it's okay to do that on social media in writing, I wouldn't do that with with with a story I just told on stage, you want to have the story the most of the work. But the advantage of doing this in writing on social media is that it gives you the chance to be more specific to the audience you're talking to, in ways that the story itself won't allow you to. So you give a much more interesting flavour and example than you would if you just pick a business example. But then you develop that a little bit. Now, you don't need to do that. Sometimes, you can just make a broader point. But if you're trying to target a very specific audience, then you probably better off developing the sort of the moral or the business licence from the story after that. Alright, that was the first story. Let's go into the second one.

So I'm 14 years old, and on my summer holidays, and I'm about to go into town with my friends. But just before I leave the house, my en sees me grabbing some extra strong breath means laughs and says who somebody thinks they'll get a kiss tonight. So I get really embarrassed, and I rushed out the house. But that wasn't even true. The means were just in case I felt brave enough to try one of these cigarette things for the first time. Because the truth is, I never kissed a girl. And I don't have much hope that I ever will. Because, you know my glasses are too big. I have a terrible haircut. I'm the kind of kid that loves superhero comic books a little too much. And to make matters worse, I don't have a clue of what to say to a girl. And that's why I'm taking completely by surprise when later on that night when we were just hanging me and my friends are hanging just next to the to the arcade. One of one girl comes up to our group and says to me, my friend thinks you're cute. So I do the only thing I can think of I walk up to this to this pretty blonde girl. I introduced myself and I Ask her to take a walk with me, as if I'm the coolest boy who ever lived in, she looks at me, looks back at her friends. And I just know that this has been a terrible, terrible joke. But then she smiles, takes my hand, and we walk away.

Okay, so that was the story. And very simple, very basic one. And you might have noticed that that story doesn't have any, any obvious moral, like I didn't say anything at all, at the end of the story. And it doesn't make a lot more sense, when I tell you how I, I used it in social media. But I use the story a lot in workshops, because it's one that is very easy to highlight a lot of the important things that you need to do to do when you tell a story that other people care about. So let me pick some of those lines apart. The first thing I do is I say, I'm 14 years old. So I'm placing the story in time, and I'm using the present tense, which makes it feel like it's happening right now it is if we were to leave the story as well. So I'm 14 years old, I'm on my summer holidays, and I'm about to go into town with my friends, that alone, I'm hoping that you're picturing, you know, being on the beach, or in a beach town, going to town with your friends. And that has taken you back to your own childhood. And that's a place that most people find very relatable. And a lot of our important stories have happened, then. So you know, I talk about grabbing some extra strong breath means I'm just giving some detail there. And I actually thought about giving the name of the breath means but the ones I would have grabbed, which has holes are ones that people in the UK would know people in Brazil In Brazil would know. But a lot of Americans which are a lot of my audience wouldn't know. So I think it would be it would be detrimental to the story to give you the name of the breath means if you had no idea what they are. And so my my aunt says something to me, it's dialogue, it's better that I say what she said, Instead of telling her she said this thing to me. And you'll notice that I didn't I didn't have make any accents. I didn't even change my voice in any way. Because often that just sounds kind of artificial. And I don't usually do that. I might make her voice quieter or louder, but I won't necessarily change the way I'm talking. So she says that. And in I know I get embarrassed, I rush out. And then I tell you that you know, I just wanted to maybe try a cigarette. Again, I'm just making this relatable taking you back to a time that either you stopped smoking or thought about smoking or thought you would never smoke. But we've all gone through that period in our lives. So that again, making the study relatable, and then is when I become vulnerable, I say, because the truth is, you know, I never kissed a girl. And I don't have much hope I ever will. Some people relate to that some people will not to that specific thing. But I think a lot of us can relate to feeling awkward at some point in our childhood or teenage years. And that's what I'm going for there. I want you to remember who you were and how insecure you felt back then. Then I tell you that my glasses are too big that I have a terrible haircut, haircut. And I'm the type of kid that loves superhero comic books a little too much. To be honest, I probably could have just given to the line about superhero comic books. Because if you're from my generation, you know that the kids who love superhero comic books or role playing games, were nerds, or geeks. The reason I give you I gave you some physical characteristics is because I want to give a little more characterization that you know, I'm not, I'm not an attractive boy, I'm not likely to be the one who's going to be having girls come on to me. And also because if you're not from my generation, you might not immediately get the reference that I was a nerd or that I wasn't attractive to gross, because you know, superheroes have become very popular these days. And then I just add on that, you know, I don't know what to say to girls, I'm just painting this picture of being some really clueless person. In the end, I tell you that. So I've given you plenty of context on who I am as a person. And now I'm going to give you it's not really a problem. But it's the surprise that the strange thing that happened in the story, which is that some girl came up to me and said, My friends thinks you're cute. I also said that my friends are hanging out by the arcade. Again, I'm giving you details. I want to make sure you picture where I am and what's happening in hopefully remember something from your childhood too. So the friend says, I think you're cute. Then, you know, I walk up to her. I said it's kind of awkward thing of you know, take a walk with me. And then this is a really important line. I say she looks at me looks back at her friends and I just know that this has been a terrible, terrible joke. I'm making predictions of the future of something that is not actually going to happen. But at that point, I'm just adding a little bit of tension in raising the stakes. So saying, you know, this, you know, I'm really awkward. I'm never gonna kiss a girl. Oh, hold on, maybe I'm about to say girl. Oh, no, it's gonna go wrong. No, we didn't. Okay, so it just makes the story a little more exciting. And then, you know, she smiles takes my hand, and we walk away. So one thing I did in this story, that is that is slightly different than then what I did in, in in the other one is in the other one I kind of started with not in the action, but I gave you something that, that told you what the story was about straightaway. So I said, you know, the first time I went skiing with my girlfriend, I thought she was cheating on me, or I was convinced she was cheating on me. This time I didn't this time I just said, I'm 14 years old. I'm on my summer holidays, and I'm about to go into town. This is a more straightforward way to start a story, which is just location and action or time and movement. So place the story, give us something to visualise. And then just tell us something happening, you're doing something you're about to do something. But it's more straightforward. And I think most people find this a more natural way to tell a story. When I put this on social media, the only thing that I really did that was different is that I, I moved what my aunt said, you know, somebody thinks they'll get a kiss tonight, I move that to the first line, because that is way more catchy on social media, then I'm 14 years old, on my summer holidays, and I'm about to go into town with my friends that the line about being 14 years old, I don't think that many people stop and read that post. The other one is intriguing. You want to know what's going on. I often say that the beginning of of your posts, or your speeches should be WTF, which is weird, thought provoking, or funny. And that's particularly true on social media, you want people to have a good reason to stop scrolling, and read what comes next. And intrigue. weirdness is a very, very good way to do that. So again, as I said, this story doesn't really have much of a knob views point, you can connect with me, you can feel that I'm someone like you. And that is a very powerful thing to get out of a story. But apart from that, it's not really a strategic story. I'm not making any business points with it, unless I was just trying to share something that if I'm talking to people that are likely to be reading secure, maybe this is a good story, because it shows how I was that person at some point in my life. But I tend to just use it on workshops, because I can highlight a lot of the good important things that our story should have. On social media. What I did is I didn't even pick a model of the story, I just told you all the other models that have historical have. So I said, it took me decades to learn all the business lessons I should have picked up from that night, you never know when an opportunity will show up. It's way better when my ideal clients come to me. I didn't have to look or be like anybody else for my brands to be attractive. And market research is invaluable. I only know why she liked me, because I asked in attracting them is not enough you need to deliver, which I'm not sure I did. As there was no repeat business is Miley laughing emoji. And then my last line there was after all these years, I've learned that a brand is a lot more than just how we look. It's the stories we tell. And almost anything, even your first case can become a business story if you know how to tell it. Same thing. As I said before, on social media in writing, you can develop these things way beyond the point of the story was in when you tell it on stage or to a friend or in a meeting, I wouldn't try to pull so much away from from what the story actually does. Because otherwise, it just feels like you're shoehorning a story into whatever point you're trying to make. And, and I don't think that's the best way to use a story. So I like to use this one because it's very easy to highlight how stories should have relatable characters, problems that they care about. In this case, not ever having kissed the girl before. Or feeling awkward is the real problem of feeling secure feeling like you're not good enough, which is something most people can relate to. And that those stories should be told through specific details in a moment in time. So both this story and the previous story, they happen over a very short period of time. The other one essentially just happens when my wife is coming down the mountain scheme. And this one happens when I'm about to leave the house just got into town and then meet this girl. So the real time of the stories is just minutes. Of course in your head in your thoughts and your feelings. The story can be dragged out a little longer, but in what the action scene that you're describing is a very short one. And when you think of structure because I talked about that one before, in this one is, you know, the before the context is just me about to go into town, then the problem, the surprise is the girl coming up to me, then what I did is walk up to her and ask her to go away with me. And in this story, I didn't actually have a NAFTA, right, I didn't tell you that I stopped being awkward, or that I'm now confident, I'm leaving this one to your imagination, which sometimes you can do. But if you're trying to drive a point home, you probably want to have the consequences of your actions to be a little more explicit than what I've done here. So there we go. There's a couple of stories there. Now, the main thing with any story when you're trying to craft it is you want to decide what the point of the story is going to be. Because if the point of the story is you're jumping to conclusions, then there shouldn't be a lot of things in your story about jumping to conclusions, if your story is going to be about how insecure you felt when you were a kid, and how you didn't know a lot of things that today, you know, then those things need to be obvious in your story you need to come across as insecurity to come across as someone who thinks some things are important when they're actually not. And that's how you make the story feel like it's an actual arc. The care the character in the beginning is not the character at the end, there has been actual change. And that is what makes stories powerful. It's what makes them engaging, and what makes them effective at the end of the day, and if you're telling stories in business, you want them to be effective, and not just engaging or entertaining. Alright, I hope you found that useful. I will from time to time do one of these shorter, more technique based or craft focused episodes. But as always, we'd love to hear your thoughts. If you'd like to hear me break down larger stories, more of these short stories focus on the orals stories on the how to use them onstage, how to use them social media, just get in touch.

I love to hear from from my listeners. And as usual, thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.

I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story

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