What I learnt in Morocco about social media

Story telling with social media

In the city of Marrakech in Morocco, there is a huge public square called the Djamaa El Fna. By day, it hosts the usual thoroughfare of big cities. By night, it comes alive.

Pop-up kitchens with long trestle tables line the streets as tourists and locals enjoy the most amazing street food. Here, you will also find an ancient and proud tradition of Morocco – the square’s story teller.

Story telling originated as a way for the educated to pass on cultural, religious and topical information to a larger, uneducated and illiterate audience. In fact, the presence of story-tellers is one of the main reasons that Djamaa El Fna enjoys UNESCO World Heritage Site status, proclaimed as one of the “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.

One night in the square, I wandered over to where a large crowd of about 200 people had gathered. There, huddled in the center was a small old man speaking Arabic in a soft but commanding voice.

His name was Moulay. He was a ‘hlaykia’ – a story-teller – and the crowd was hanging onto his every word.

He told a few different stories, some long, some short, some comedic and some tragic. The crowd would gasp and laugh at each narrative. After one particular story, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

I loved it.

What was the most amazing part of this experience? Moulay didn’t speak a word of English, and my Arabic at the time extended as far as ‘please’, ‘thankyou’ and ‘where is the toilet’.

Yet I was engrossed in each story.

Such was Moulay’s ability to tell a story – something that I think we have largely lost. So what can we learn from the Berber story tellers of Morocco?

Target your content

A hlaykia would change his stories every night. They also change depending on who is listening to them. Moulay could sum up in a second who was standing before him, whether they were local, foreign, their age group, wealth status and if they have kids.

This is exactly what we need to do with Facebook posts. Who is looking at your content? When are they looking? Are they likely to buy from you and if so, what are they likely to buy? Is there another time or another day when that audience will change and which content are you going to show them?

Keep it simple.

Moulay’s stories were really intricate with sub-plots, twists and turns, and I would not have been engrossed in them otherwise.

Your Facebook fans are the same. They are a fan of you because of your content, because they want to hear more about you, and because they want to get engaging content which might entertain them, if only for a few seconds.

Let your audience market for you.

I was in Marrakech for about two weeks and in Morocco for a couple of months. During that time, I heard numerous tourists relay the story of Moulay. Interestingly, most of them had rudimentary Arabic at best as well.

Moulay had harnessed the power of social marketing, whether he was aware of it or not. He had a fan base raving about him and his work and directing loads of other people to it. And each time that happened, his ‘business’ grew.

Keep them wanting more.

Think about the soap opera ‘Days of Our Lives’. You could tune in and out of the ongoing saga days, weeks, or even months since the last time and still pick it up. That’s great story-telling!

But the show also knows the power of the pregnant pause. The awkward silent moment before cutting to commercial where the actors stare at each other – or off into space – longingly, angrily, pondering or whatever. This is the moment where they know you will hang around until after the ads – they have kept you wanting more.

Are you doing this with your social updates? The trick is to engage people obviously. But if someone wants a lolly, you don’t give them the whole lolly shop. If you did, why would they come back?

Translation isn’t necessary.

There is nothing worse than a business’ blog, Facebook Page or other social media content that’s full of industry jargon or other things that need translation for the average reader.

Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. Think about Moulay – keeping me hanging on every word in a faraway country in a completely foreign language. If he can do that, what reason do we have for not being able to do it with customers who speak our language?

Are you a good story teller? Are people interested in the story of your business? Let us know in the comments below.