If you don’t already know who Chris Brogan is, you need to read this. If you do, you won’t need any convincing, skip past the next paragraph.

For anyone who needs a refresher, Brogan is a co-author of The New York Times best-selling book "Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation," and "Earn Trust and Impact Equation, Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?" which the New York Post picked as a “Smart Book” for 2012. He’s also been a keynote speaker at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 and Tools of Change conferences.

But you can forget about all of that because Brogan doesn't rest on his laurels, nor does he point out that he has 261,542 Twitter followers -- more than LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Salesforce boss Marc Benioff and Yammer founder David Sacks combined. And though Brogan is considered by some to be a soothsayer and evangelist of all things Social, these don’t seem to be terms he’d use to characterize himself.

Social Media Stats Don’t Always Equal Impact

What’s more important to digital relationships than Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and LinkedIn?

"He who collects the most likes, followers or connections doesn't necessarily win,” said Brogan, “unless they translate to impact.”

And that’s hard to make happen with so many channels available on the web.

Companies who are smart are creating concierge-like services in social spaces, explained Brogan, they’re responsive digitally and they’re creating smaller places to gather. “It’s more nuanced. You have to pay attention, you have to follow, and you have to do what needs doing,” he added.

Stop Orating from the Podium, Start Engaging

Customer Experience, Chris Brogan Explains the Key to Digital Relationships
Talking at your intended audience doesn’t work anymore, said Brogan, companies and individuals need to engage.

How exactly is this done, we had to ask. “State an issue, present a challenge, seek real legitimate help,” said Brogan.

That doesn’t mean that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social network can’t factor into the equation, he explained. Brogan told the story of Joe Sorge, a Milwaukee restaurateur who literally built his clientele at AJ Bombers via Twitter (check out what the walls of the restaurant look like). Sorge literally tweets his daily specials, like P-Nut Butter butter on Banana Bacon Waffles out to his 22,000 followers and responds to their questions and replies to their many compliments and complaints. He has a relationship with his customers.

“That,” said Brogan, “is engagement.”

And taking action on the engagement is impact.

Be a Great Storyteller

People engage via stories, so what makes a good storyteller we asked Brogan.

Make the story about the person reading it, not writing it, he said. “Make the reader the hero. Think about Steve Jobs, he put 7,000 songs into everyone’s pocket and who became the life of the party? It’s you, not Jobs.”

We asked Brogan for other storytelling tips. Here’s what we learned:

  • At their core good stories are emotional, they’re not about the plot
  • The best business stories are personal, they have a human connection. Brogan gave the example of a headline from the paper in front of him, "What’s Wrong with JP Morgan Paying the Chinese Prime Minister’s Daughter Nearly Two Million Dollars?" “Now that’s a story I’m going to read,” he said.
  • Equip your community with ways to participate in the story, invite them to comment.
  • Add videos and photos that people will want to share (think about the picture of the waffles you saw if you clicked the link above).
  • Include hashtags, make it easy for people to discover you, let them know that you exist.
  • Brevity matters. So does laughter -- tell a joke.
  • End the story with a visible or invisible next action.

We also asked about the link between data and storytelling; Brogan offered a share worthy quote, “Data in and of itself is not useful, data that helps us tell or understand a story is useful."

So What’s More Important to Digital Relationships than Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and LinkedIn?

“Social media tools exist to help me tell a story,” said Brogan. “The tools aren’t amazing. I am amazing,” he adds. And the “I” he is talking about isn’t limited to Brogan, it includes you, too.

Note: In addition to his company Human Business Works, speaking engagements and his blog, Brogan now publishes Owner Magazine.