5 min read

The important role storytelling played in building an empire of empathy.

The important role storytelling played in building an empire of empathy.
The eighth edition of the CVB weekly newsletter for Marketing leaders and business owners

Welcome to CVB Weekly, where I will share some of the most valuable learnings, ideas, and news related to building customer value every week. You will find actionable bite-sized tips in each issue. Building customer value unlocks transformational growth, and marketing is your rocket! πŸš€

And remember, if you aren't interested in the context, jump to the pro tip. And if you need deeper help, sign up for the paid subscription. 😎

πŸ‘‹ Get CVB weekly on a Tuesday at 12.15pm πŸ‘‹

Imagine getting 67 likes on a post today.

Imagine ten years from now, and you are receiving two hundred thousand interactions on every single post? Ok, not every community can achieve these levels, but it's worth considering how a focus on engagement could grow your business.

That's the journey Humans of New York took, and this edition of CVB weekly will share the steps he took so that you can start to build them into your daily practice.

Let's start with a little context. And remember, you can jump past the context and into the tips at the bottom of the newsletter if you like.

Humans of New York is a storytelling platform with more than 30+ million followers. New York magazine called the platform an 'Empire of Empathy'. From a bond trader to a photographer who didn't (and still doesn't, by his admission) know how to take the perfect photo.

Imagine building an empire of empathy?

​Ten years & ​10 thousand interviews.

Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers talks about what it takes to become an expert. Ten thousand hours of practice.

HONY's soul (yes, that soul) purpose is to connect its community to the stories of others - "a one-person philanthropy machine."

Brandon Stanton is a storyteller. That is the practice he has built up over more than ten thousand hours of conducting interviews.

In researching this week's newsletter, it was hard to track him down, yet his platform proliferates.

He often says (when you can manage to track him down) - "the more I disappear, the more influence HONY has." The only photo of him you will ever see in his blog is the one where a bird pooped on his face. 🀣

He has an immovable brand promise. One that he made to his audience and refused to break.

Don't underestimate the power of a 'promise'. It builds trust, and trust fast tracks the time it takes for a customer to move through their journey. For some, that journey ends at a sale. For others, it ends with a deep engagement like HONY.

His promise means he refuses to monetise the platform. He only makes money from 3 books and ten speaking gigs per year. Yet his platform has raised 12 million for his various philanthropic efforts.

He knows that the platform relies on engagement.

πŸ“· "The engagement doesn't drop when I go to Pakistan or a prison (from his original location of New York). When someone hits like on my page, it's like a contract. I agree to follow you for you to give me this. Not self-promotion or ads. They agreed to follow me so I could give them stories of people on the streets. That is all I put on my blog. And that is why my engagement is high. I have never broken that covenant." {speaking on Chase Jarvis podcast)

And he focused on engagement from the beginning to listen to what his audience wanted to see more of.

Customer data (including engagement) is your listening tool; we all know how it feels when someone truly listens to us.

βœ… From the green lady, where he gained 67 interactions per post. To now receiving an average of 200,000 interactions per post.

A simple caption that changes how he created content forever.

β€œI used to go through different stages. But then I found that I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”

That statement is relatable! It helps me see something of myself in the green lady. πŸ’—

HONY is now a social-media empire with nearly 30 million followers where community members go "to affirm, relate to, and weep for the ordinary people on display."

The stories are profoundly honest, authentic and vulnerable, as that has been his intention from day 1.

"Vulnerability is... being willing to express the truth no matter what. The truth of who you are is the essence at the core of what you feel at any given moment. It's opening up your soul and letting it flow so that others can see their soul is yours." Oprah, in discussion with BrenΓ© Brown

That's why HONY is so powerful. We can see our soul is theirs. And even if we don't recognise ourselves, we can empathise and learn through their stories.

It has inspired me to think about the next ten years. That's how long it took for him to build HONY through what he calls an obsessive daily practice.

Imagine what you could create in the next ten years if you learnt from his experience and applied it to your business or the business you work for.

Pro top

Define your brand promise - this is the contract you will never break.
Create your obsessive practice - the daily action you will commit to despite the despair that may come when you only get 67 likes.
Research 3 similar brands to yours and check their engagement rate via Phlanx. Use that as your new target. Say it's 67 likes and ten comments. That will be your lighthouse.
Track your engagement rate every week. Keep an eye out for your version of the green woman. Get curious (like Brandon did) to understand what is unique about that post. And do more of that. Your engagement rate is the total number of interactions divided by the total number of followers as a percentage. You can read more here

If you enjoyed this tip, check your inbox in the coming weeks as we dig into what we do next. Emails will be sent on Tuesdays at 12:15 PM because I love Tuesdays. πŸ’•

Finding this step challenging, jump on my Instagram account and ask a question on one of my posts, and I am happy to answer.

Additional reading/ listening

Chase Jarvis interview is amazing as you dig deeper into his motivations.

Tim Ferriss interview is really lovely if you need to hear about the challenges of staying on point.

Imagine all the People is a great podcast if you want to learn more about the mechanics of what he has achieved.

What do you can do for me

If you value the free advice, share the love on social media or pass the tip on to a friend.

You can also sign up for our 'customer love' program that will hold your hand as you use customer love to grow your business. Coming soon! {if you are paid subscriber, you will be one of the first to learn about it πŸ˜‰}

Happy Tuesday - thanks for stopping by. πŸ₯°