How Midnight in Paris is like social media

I went to see Woody Allen’s new romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris, over the long holiday weekend and I loved it. During my early adulthood, Paris in the 20s captured my heart and mind unlike any other time. I devoured the writings of that era’s great authors — Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others — and was inspired by the fine art and music created in that enchanted romantic city.  Like the writer character played by Owen Wilson in the film, sometimes I wished I had lived there and then. I am not alone in that fantasy. And Woody Allen in this film masterfully engages the audience of us dreamers who yearned to be part of a community gathered around art, authenticity and courage and for whom interconnectedness was the rich elixir of creativity.

While I watched the film, I was transported to that magical Paris of my fantasy thanks to the richness of Woody Allen’s storytelling.

I mention this because sometimes we talk about “social media” as though it is technology or marketing tactics. Although these are aspects and tools, in reality, to use social media is to learn the art of storytelling.

Using the most robust, powerful, and affordable tools that have ever existed — your website, blogs, Twitter feeds and Flickr streams, among others — you are telling the story of your business, whether you are a dentist, dry cleaner or restaurant. In turn, you are listening to the stories your customers are telling about you. You respond to their stories. They respond to yours.

Once you learn to navigate the shared public spaces of the Internet, you’ll  see that they can have an almost magical way of bringing people together around passions large and small — from pizza to politics. Oh, yes, we have differences. But in this space, business and customer can learn to listen, respond, and more easily suspend disbelief — and see beyond the typed words on the computer monitor to the human yearnings for community and belonging that underlie them.

In using social media, what you are hoping for is the best case scenario. This is when something almost mystical happens, and you and your customers begin to co-create together. You have engaged the dreams of your audience and they have engaged yours.

When this happens, like my experience of viewing Midnight in Paris, you are both in the story together and it is a happy one of mutual growth. To create your own movie,  Midnight in Your Neighborhood, is what social media is about.

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