Successful Business Storytelling: How the Authors of Freakonomics Get Their Social On

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Successful Business Storytelling: How the Authors of Freakonomics Get Their Social On

Freakonomics Authors are the Keynote Speakers for “Think Like a Freak” at Dell World 2012, December 11-13, 2012

One of the greatest challenges in social media for businesses is coming up with creative, interesting content on a regular basis. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the duo behind the wildly successful Freakonomics brand, have proven themselves masters at putting a fascinating spin on information that might seem boring or dry, were it not for their storytelling finesse.

On top of selling millions of copies of their books, Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner have built an active social media empire. Over 470,000 people subscribe to their Twitter updates, with another 17,000 tuned in on Facebook.

Freakonomics is also on YouTube and Flickr; they have a popular radio show available as podcast downloads from iTunes, and the authors blog regularly. All of these content-based social efforts ensure they have a steady stream of images, video, audio and written content to share with their social media followers.

The Freakonomics crew have a well-defined strategy for each of their two most active social accounts, Twitter and Facebook.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics on Twitter

On Twitter, they have amassed a huge following, yet follow no one themselves. This is the social channel they can use to broadcast information to people interested in their content. They’ve already told the story on their blog, or in a video or radio episode of their show. Twitter is the perfect place for them to distribute that content to the masses, via a catchy title and a shortened link. As you can see in the image above, their profile description tells people exactly what to expect if they follow the brand on Twitter.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics on Facebook

Their Facebook Page strategy is more interactive, with posts regularly asking questions of fans and encouraging discussion about their posts.

What lends to their success in social media most, though, is the quality of their content. You might think Levitt and Dubner would have an edge over the average business owner, due to their backgrounds in journalism. However, economics is by nature a topic that many just can’t wrap their heads around or aren’t particularly interested in. It can be dry and seem tedious, even to those well-versed in it.

To remedy this, Levitt and Dubner rely on their creativity and storytelling skills. Their own story began when Dubner travelled to Chicago to write about Levitt, then an award-winning economist, for The New York Times Magazine. Dubner was admittedly fascinated with Levitt’s ability to take economic issues and frame them in such a way that each became an interesting, relatively simple story the average person could appreciate and understand.

Their unique style, relaying economic lessons through realistic stories, shines through in their blog and social channels as much as in their books. For example, how would an economist explain the theory that, as humans continue to have their basic needs met more consistently and easily than ever before, they still crave having to meet those needs, regardless of the cost of doing so? You’re probably yawning already.

If that economist is Levitt, he explains the issue using a real-life example if a pricey home garden system his daughters used to grow tomatoes. The result? The Tale of the $15 Tomato, a story he told on their radio show, then transcribed for the Freakonomics blog, then shared on Twitter and Facebook…and so on. 

The Freakonomics authors deal in information that has all the potential to bore the socks off people. Instead, they turn it into conversation starters and provoke original thinking, by putting their unique spin on it and sharing their perspective via podcasts, blog posts, videos or social media updates. If you'd like to that Freakonomics action up close and personal, you can: at Dell World 2012 in Austin, TX in December. Register today: www.dellworld.com.   

How do you voice your unique take on your industry, or the problems your products and services solve, using the variety of social formats and channels available? Share your best tips in the comments!

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  • Books > Podcasts > Social Media brand extensions.  Levitt and Dubner have built a brand in the connected era well beyond traditional print.  That will be a terrific session at Dell World.

  • KapATX, Totally agree about the Freakonomics keynote being a terrific session! I can't wait to hear them speak. Hope to see you at Dell World 2012!