For a second time in April, the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge partnered with the CommBuild tweet chat. This time the topic was on storytelling and social sharing for communities. The chat featured guest experts Michael Hoffman, CEO of See3 Communications, and Melissa Roberts, engagement strategy director at Free Range Studios.

The chat opened with the question, "How does storytelling build and strengthen community?" Chat participants offered a range of responses.

One chat participant suggested that stories build community because they inspire members to take action. Storytelling unites community around a shared vision they all can believe in and care about. Stories help communities organize their thinking about the world and become invested in the outcomes of each other’s contributions.

According to Hoffman, the collected responses reflect Marshall Ganz’s three critical stories: self (who am I), us (what do we care about together), and now (why now matters).

Tweet: Storytelling allows a community to be connected through a similar vision.

The chat then turned to the question of examining how individual member stories feed into the larger story of the community. Individual member stories matter because they allow members to understand how they fit into the larger story of the community.

Individual stories also allow members to identify commonalities and learn from one another. In addition, members can draw the inspiration to share their personal stories from those of their fellow community members.

The importance of individual stories to fostering community inevitably leads to the question, "How do we get members to share their stories?" Making the process by which to share transparent and modeling successful stories is key.

Simply asking is often enough to get your community members to share their stories. Asking can be done via your organization website, phone, email, or even face-to-face. Contests, such as the YouTube DoGooder Video Awards or the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge, are another way to encourage storytelling.

Tweet: Storytelling can be a way for members to share their experiences, to allow others to learn from their reflections

Encouraging your community to continue telling their stories requires sharing their contributed stories.

From an organizational perspective, it’s helpful to have a communications strategy in place to guide distribution. Part of your distribution strategy might involve sharing stories in email newsletters or posting them to a dedicated page on your website.

Get your community involved in your distribution strategy by using social share options so they can share across social networks. Remember that proper distribution of contributed stories also serves as a way to reward community members who share their personal stories. 

If you’re interested in acquiring more digital storytelling tools and tips for your community, make sure to visit the official TechSoup Digital Storytelling page. While you're there, join the TechSoup Digital Storytelling community on the TechSoup forums or Google to learn from other social benefit organizations.

Tweet from See3: To get community to share stories, it is important to model the kinds of stories you are looking for.

Susan Chavez
Online Community & Social Media Team, TechSoup Global