James Mayes

Blog: No, I’m not “telling you a story”

In Blogging, Personal, Social Media, Twitter on October 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm

So one of the folk I follow on Twitter is Chris Brogan. Many of you will know Chris, if only by his prolific output.  I take an interest in the stuff he puts out and he’s inspired me to write previously. Oft-times, I agree with him. On this one, I’m not so sure though.  It started with this:

Chris Brogan story telling

I think I disagree.  I’m not completely decided on this point (hence this post!), but for me, Twitter is both personal and fleeting. Telling a story over twenty tweets? How often have you looked at the last twenty tweets of a person. Maybe when you first followed them, or maybe just before you meet someone you don’t know that well.  I tweeted as much, and was greeted by a responsive from another of my favourite tweeters, Steve Ward, taking an opposing position:

Steve Ward tweet

I guess my point is that I love the real-time transparency of Social. The people I engage with, the immediate responses.  I love it when somebody shares content with a comment that’s insightful, especially if it’s a train of thought I wouldn’t normally associate with that person.  I hope I’m guilty of those things.

The stuff I write, the things I share, the responses I give are quick, rarely proof-read and honest.  Put that in the context of story-telling and the first word that enters my mind is “contrived“. That feels somehow wrong on these platforms.

Feel free to disagree – comments are, as always, unmoderated!



  1. This is something that I’ve equally wondered about over the time I’ve been banging about on the latest iteration of social media.

    Perhaps it’s a point of semantics rather than anything else. I do see all contributions to any aspect of the social sphere as brand building. And there is a timeline/biography line on this.

    Whether you call this a story or an ongoing dialogue is just another side of the debate.

    Having said that, I do buy the story analogy. If you were to follow someone for years and read all of their contributions, you probably would see an arc of progress. Which is like a story line…

    I do feel that Brogan’s original point is more about consistency than anything else. Perhaps that’s where he was heading…

  2. Have to say James, I’m in agreement with the tweet from Steve, and with you. I don’t think about the story I’m telling when I tweet. I just do. But I am aware that those who follow my tweets will see common threads emerging that create a story. And that’s something which we all have to play around with.

    There are plenty of independent consultant types who want nothing more than to use the story telling element to their sheer advantage. And to them I wish them good luck, but it’s not for me, so I unfollow. But there are equally those who get what it means to engage with their own story and how to share it. And they’re the ones who have the true nuggets to share.

  3. This is a good perspective James, however the context if storytelling is essential.

    The point by Chris Brogan is if someone hit your twitter profile; would you last 20 tweets reflect you accurately? The term ‘story’ there is misguided; so actually I am in effect disagreeing with him once again. (common theme)
    Your last 20 tweets should give a reader a good idea of your typical content, so yes; this IS genuine.

    Ref my storytelling tweet (not knowing it was that Brogan tweet to which you referred) – yea, there is a fantastic trend that CB is hooking onto, of brands telling stories to gain advocacy and sales of their brand. I have LONG been a supporter, and user, of this method of – well sales technique – I guess. It separates the genuine from the giant.

    So storytelling is good – but Chris Brogan misplaced the word ‘story’ in his hope of a catchy RT-able tweet.

    (and maybe the odd mention in a blog post…!) 😉

  4. .And damn you for publishing a tweet of with the drawn-in tache!! 😉

  5. Only just had the chance to respond but I agree with the thematics already commented on here.

    There is appeal in the question “Do your last 20 tweets reflect the story you want to tell?”. I don’t see the contrivance but more a reflection of “what do your last 20 tweets say about you?”.

    Twitter especially is very good at commanding authenticity – you can’t help but show who you really are in this space. Now that may be a contriving, story telling, marketeer but it will show this to be the case, maybe over time!

    I guess the reality is that you either want to engage with “social” or with “media” – the “story” tells people which is leading for you.

  6. @Neil – your point about consistency I agree with – in retrospect, I’d say you’re right, that was indeed CB’s intent.

    @Sukh – I think we’re pretty much in agreement there then! Thanks for jumping in.

    @Steve – I buy story-telling as an analogy as far as Neil describes – if you follow someone over a period of time, a coherent picture builds and it could be seen as a story. No issue there. My issue is more with those who come out with comments like “Consider how you’re telling your story”. As I mull over these comments and my thoughts from last night, I think intent is the key. If you do what you do naturally and those aspects become obvious after time, I have no issue.

    As I said in the OP, when something on a social platform makes me think it’s contrived, I get uncomfortable. I guess that’s also why I largely avoid company Twitter accounts. If it tweets interesting stuff, chances are the people behind it also tweet interesting stuff, so I’ll hunt them down and follow and ignore the company account.

    • Yes – regular followers get an `over the period of time` picture. However, if in any way we are using Twitter for largely commercial reasons – and many of us are – then we are in the business of attracting customer audience.
      People are more selective in following these days – If a potential new customer sees your profile, and chooses to get a feel for your content before electing to follow – then we have to, within reason, ensure our content matches our personality, our natural style, and the purpose of our existence.

      It’s not about being contrived – it’s about occasionally managing personal branding. We should all be conscious of our tweet content – this is just another method.

      Do I check my last 20 tweets often? Hell no – but my market is a wider audience – and I totally like to be `natural` – jeez, I have a drawn moustache on my profile pic!! I am just conscious of what I tweet and how I present myself and therefore, my business.

      What CB is misrepresenting, as Neil says, is `consistency` or `authenticity`- by using a current trendy word like story.

      Sometimes we need to listen less to the likes of Brogan – because quantity of thought inevitably brings occasional dross.

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