Social Media: The Next Great Storytelling Platform

Could Kevin Durant's fake neighbor be to Twitter what Orson Welles' War of the Worlds was to radio?

Recently, I’ve been looking back on old Facebook photos, messages and wall posts, using social media sort of like a diary or journal. Turns out all of my social media activity, be it Twitter, Foursquare or YouTube, makes for one hell of a time capsule. Bad haircuts, regrettable outfits, old friends — it’s a trip.

I imagine social media will be used as a primary storytelling platform before long. This is something Facebook has acknowledged with yesterday’s announced plans to create Friendship Pages, which, according to Mashable.com, “pull together the public wall posts, comments, photos (based on tags) and events that two friends have in common.”

There’s potential across other social networks, as well. Nike’s realized this with its latest campaign featuring Kevin Durant. I follow the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar on Twitter. Yesterday morning, he posted this curious tweet:

Like others, I clicked to find out who Durant’s new neighbor was and why he was “trippin’.”@kd35sneighbor is Mathias Murphy, a fictional teenager who claims Kevin Durant has moved in next door to him. His Twitter profile links to a YouTube channel with a series of videos meant to appear as though Murphy is spying on Durant:

Not everyone on Twitter has caught on to the ruse, but as of this morning, @kd35sneighbor is up to 1,123 follows (up from 200 when I started following yesterday morning) and “his” YouTube videos have received nearly 93,000 views. In the latest video, Murphy answers Durant’s invitation via Twitter to come next door and meet him. It should be interesting to see a) how Nike incorporates itself into the story and b) where the story goes.

I work for a consumer marketing agency that prides itself on social media know-how. We’ve recently been honored for a global campaign based almost entirely on social media. Still, my co-workers were abuzz with this awesome stunt. Whoever’s responsible for brainstorming Kevin Durant’s “neighbor” — likely Weiden + Kennedy — has a serious grasp of social media’s storytelling potential. (And if that’s the case, W+K has had the best year ever with the most recent LeBron James commercial and Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign.)

There’s already rumbling about both of these storytelling techniques. Facebook Friendship Pages are running into some privacy issues, per usual. Mike Melanson of ReadWriteWeb wrote, “In the end, the feature is just one more reminder that we live in the open with our souls – our friendships, our thoughts, our embarrassing moments – bared to the world unless we are extremely cautious.” And with Durant’s fictional neighbor, some folks on Twitter seem genuinely concerned:

Fiction or nonfiction, I’m excited for recent developments involving storytelling and social media. Like it or not, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and YouTube keep a more accurate history than a journal or diary could. And just like Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds, the Durant campaign shows how an audience new to a storytelling platform can struggle to separate truth from reality.

Storytellers, run wild.

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One thought on “Social Media: The Next Great Storytelling Platform

  1. I know you are not into the zombie thang, but since the parallel to the famous Orson Welles stunt are much more exact (and very much deliberate) you should probably at least know about @wasauloner and his ongoing struggle (for exactly a year now, actually) to survive a massive zombie outbreak in central Wisconsin. It is hard to just jump into his stream now, but I know if you Google it there are a few articles that describe how he started the saga, which was quite ambitious in scope. It is quite simply great storytelling, making solid use of Twitter. I’m not convinced it is the future of creative narrative, but it is certainly inspiring to see people exploring these sorts of ways to use the medium.

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