Social Selling: What The Ancient Greeks Tell You About Storytelling

Social selling is a key part of any modern sales process and the inbound methodology. It's the act of developing relationships as part of your marketing strategy. A big part of social selling success is the ability to tell stories, be it through campaigns, stand-alone blogs, or your brand's personal journey.

The art of storytelling is a great one, though not hard to master. You are born a storyteller, and, without realizing, you respond to stories every day. Not just you, but everyone. People don’t buy products and services, they buy stories and experiences. They buy magic.

But even magic tricks have strategies behind them. There are a lot of tips and tricks to storytelling, but the art of communication, rhetoric, and narrative begins with three ancient words: logos, ethos, and pathos.

All three, inspired by the ancient Greeks, are known as modes of persuasion and are used to convince audiences. Also known as the three artistic proofs, the trio has been key in effective storytelling for centuries.

Photographer: S O C I A L . C U T | Source: Unsplash

1. Logos = Logic

Logos is the logic behind a story. This has never been more important than today, where every action is driven by data and there is so much fake information out there.

It’s imperative you fill your brand story and content with statistics, facts, and information that supports, demonstrates, and reinforces the logistics behind your arguments.

Logos highlights why you think the way you do, and this openness shows willingness to be held responsible for your own actions. Which in turn, makes you accountable, reliable, and trustworthy - and all relationships are built on trust.

Though logic is essential to show what grounds your story is laid upon, statistics are often boring. Humans relate best to shared experiences, and that’s why the next element of storytelling is all about emotion.

Crunching the numbers
Photographer: William Iven | Source: Unsplash

2. Pathos = Emotion

Pathos is your hook. It’s the emotion that drives storytelling, evokes feeling from your audience, and keeps them wanting more.

By revealing a personal experience or vulnerability in your story, your audience is more likely to connect with you and become emotionally invested. This encourages them to hear you out, or watch that marketing video, until the end.

This is why creating emotion-driven marketing is essential, no matter what. Use metaphors, personal anecdotes, and relatable experiences as foundational elements in your story.

Creating empathy, the ability to understand what another person is thinking, feeling, and experiencing, is a critical part of persuasion.

Albeit an emotion, empathy relies heavily on logos. That ability to understand a person’s thought process is critical even when that person is a brand, therefore linking to sources and showing evidence of experiences is crucial.

Work out of your parent’s garage while you struggled to make ends meet and setting up your business? Yeah? Let’s see pictures then. Tell me what it was like, not knowing if you could cover the (generously low) rent your family was charging you to be here. They needed to make ends meet too, after all.

Social selling is all about relationships
Build relationships through shared ideas and experiences. Photographer: Becca Tapert | Source: Unsplash

3. Ethos = Character (not ethics, but yeah)

Ethos, though linguistically more akin to ethics, is, in fact, the Greek word for character.

This is all about beliefs and ideology that motivate your brand, which should also mirror the ethical considerations of your target audience.

If you’re building a big campaign, get behind a topical issue that reveals your brand's character well. Use logos and pathos to inform your choices: Do you care about climate change, why? How about the good of the Internet?

It’s essential that your brand and story reflects good character, after all, customers aren’t as fickle as they once were. The modern customer wants to do business with brands that have pro-social messages, and sustainable and ethical business practices.

Nielson’s 2015 annual Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that, globally, 66% of consumers will pay more for a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, with 73% of millennials indicating so.

Millennials don’t just want good business ethics, but 81% actually expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of corporate citizenship.

An attendee of the March for Our Lives rally in Denton, Texas, representing fellow introverts.
Photographer: Heather Mount | Source: Unsplash

Social selling and modes of persuasion equal success

Today, this is evident in many marketing campaigns and stories.

Take frozen food store Iceland. Their television advert, focused on deforestation, palm oil usage, and its detrimental effects on orangutans, was banned from tv. Allegedly, for being too political.

The advert achieves pathos through an emotion-led story of an orangutang losing its home. The animal then stays with a young child, who begins to question why it's there. The child’s questions and innocence can be interpreted in many ways, but ultimately the ad uses emotion to encourage the boycotting of products that contain palm oil.

Towards the end, there are also deforestation statistics, including the number of orangutans that die every day as a result. This establishes logos by showing research and facts to back up the advert and Iceland’s stance. It also makes the company accountable by opening up the potential for factual disputes.

Note, this is at the end of the video. While crucial in reinforcing the point, Iceland may have lost interest if it led with the statistics.

Again, people don’t buy products and services, they buy stories. This story is an emotive one, and coincidentally, Iceland had recently banned palm oil from its own-brand products.

As a result, Iceland successfully positioned itself as an ethical and accountable brand, which customers are then more inclined to buy from. This is because the brand is aligned with its customers' ideology and they've established a relationship, making the modes of persuasion key elements in social selling.

This campaign would have been significantly less effective if they had not banned the use of palm oil in their products and used facts to back up the advert.

Modes of persuasion must be used together

If your brand puts logos, ethos, and pathos at the heart of its campaigns and stories, you will uncover the ancient secret to a solid brand story that resonates and generates empathetic, active customers.

Remember that they must be used together. Logos and pathos are somewhat redundant without ethos. Unless your brand is ethical and credible, you risk looking as though you’re jumping on the bandwagon, whatever issue that may be.

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