The idea of using a good story to engage an audience has been around as long as language itself, but it’s still an emerging concept in digital marketing.
Successful companies have the ability to tell compelling stories that both reinforce their brand and boost sales. Telling your brand story in a way that will intrigue your audience is crucial. An entertaining story that people can relate to makes your brand more memorable.
Digital technology, the explosive growth of mobile devices, and the most popular platforms in social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. – have provided a ready-made network for capturing the interest of a range of customers.
Brands that can generate social conversations are far more effective than those who cannot. Good stories make a difference in our lives, and visual storytelling is the best way to go about this. Your audience is far more likely to recall images and feelings than facts or text.
The following eight steps will help you learn how to create intriguing and engaging stories that establish emotional connections between your brand and your target market.
Know what kind of story you want to tell
Before you include storytelling in your social media marketing campaign, you will need to spend some time on preparation. Begin by identifying your brand and the message that you want to communicate to your audience.
The most basic and simplest form of storytelling can talk about how your brand began and about the values that have guided your company to its present market position. Whichever story you decide to tell, make sure it has a human element that your audience can identify with. Also, make sure it aligns with your brand’s values.
Land Rover, a brand that has a reputation for adventure, is a great example of a company that perfectly presented its brand message through a multimedia story The Vanishing Game. The digital story is a well-written narrative that brings in excitement and allows the audience to identify with it.
The Vanishing Game is essentially an interactive online novel penned by the famous William Boyd. It was made available on a custom-built Tumblr page and also as a free e-book from Apple iBooks Store or Amazon’s Kindle Store.
The Vanishing Game follows the main character Alec Dunbar on a road trip from London to Scotland and portrays a series of suspenseful and exciting events. The story consists of eight parts that feature interactive text, photography, video, sound, animation, and narration. The multimedia experience allows the readers to engage with the content and become a part of the adventure.
Land Rover used this digital story to perfectly convey its core value – adventurism. As a result of the campaign, they managed to bring in a completely new audience to their brand and significantly raise brand awareness.
See what your competitors are doing
Researching your competitors and their approach to social media can greatly help you with your storytelling. See whether your competition has achieved any big successes or failures on social media and learn from their experience. Doing so will help you avoid wasting time on failing strategies and focus on the ones that have evidence of success.
See how your competitors approach storytelling and gather as much information as you can. Then improve on their strategies and avoid things that haven’t worked for them.
You can find inspiration in your competitors’ concepts, but don’t copy their style and content. The stories you tell should be completely original and accurately represent the values of your brand.
Research your audience
Just as it is important to research your competitors, it is vital that you research your audience as well. Failing to define your audience is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in marketing. It’s important to understand who your ideal customers are and to identify the topics that will entice them to engage in conversation.
Spend time researching the target market that you want to reach and then craft stories that appeal to their values and needs. The demographics and other information you gather about your audience should guide your storytelling style. This will help you avoid telling your story to the wrong audience.
When you post content that resonates with your audience, you’ll notice that a lot of people will share it. As a result, you’ll gain more visitors and followers. By creating a context that has relevance to your audience, you will have the necessary rapport to introduce them to your brand’s message.
There are a lot of different tools that can help you research your audience. For example, Typeform and Survey Monkey can help you survey your market while Followerwonk can provide you with data on your Twitter audience. Choose the right tool and get to know your audience!
Understand the basics of a good story
Once you’ve identified the story you want to tell, researched what your competitors are doing and understand who your audience is, it’s time to write the story.
Marketers often lack formal education and experience in writing stories, so learning the fundamentals of an effective story can go a long way. Just as in fiction, your brand’s story should consist of a beginning, a middle and an end.
Begin your story with a strong and enticing description of the characters and the setting. During the middle of your story, introduce the problems that your characters face and the conflicts that they need to resolve.
As you close your story, let the audience see how your characters’ lives have improved after overcoming the obstacles that they had faced. Create an exciting experience for your readers and they will continue to return to your social media profiles to find out what happens next.
Don’t forget that a good story intrigues its readers with suspense as well. Jaguar’s 2014 David Beckham campaign in China is a great example of this.
Before announcing Beckham as the new brand ambassador, Jaguar built up the hype with the help of social media and good storytelling.
The brand launched its “Calling for Answers to Mr. Jaguar’s Identity” campaign on China’s social media networks WeChat and Weibo. By posting hints, videos, and interviews, Jaguar enticed its audience to try to guess the identity of Mr. Jaguar in order to win prizes. One of the prizes was meeting Mr. Jaguar himself.
Jaguar’s high-suspense campaign generated over 80,000 reposts and was a huge success in promoting its British heritage.
Create relatable characters
Your readers should be able to identify and become emotionally involved with the characters in your brand stories. You can, for example, tell a story from your employees’ point of view and showcase your company culture.
You can also choose to tell stories from the perspective of your ideal customer without needing to create fictional characters. Such stories portray the customer searching and discovering the product or service that meets their needs.
You should remember that stories with characters your audience can emotionally connect to captivate your readers’ attention and causes them to come back to your social media pages for more.
Remember how Dove used “real” women in its Real Beauty campaign instead of supermodels? What’s more relatable than everyday people?
Dove started this campaign to revive the brand. In its ads, Dove used women of different sizes and body shapes hoping to start a conversation about real beauty. The campaign challenged the stereotypical ads that portrayed only slim models in their campaigns.
By using likable, everyday characters that the majority of women could relate to, Dove succeeded to engage its audience and raise brand awareness.
Despite the use of fiction, your story needs to have honest and accurate values that realistically portray your brand. It also needs to deal with real-world circumstances that affect your industry and your market.
Keep your stories on track by following three important steps for building brands. First, make sure that you have a consistent message. Secondly, persist in your presentation. Rather than just telling one story or one part of it, you should maintain an ongoing social media presence by telling a series of stories that keep your audience constantly engaged.
Finally, exercise restraint. Stay focused on your message and show how your company and brand add value to the lives of your customers.
An example of honest storytelling is Adidas’ Impossible is Nothing campaign with Lionel Messi. The famous soccer player had problems with growth hormones when he was younger and Adidas used his story in its campaign. Adidas filmed a video where Messi talks about the problems he had while growing up and how he overcame them.
The reason why the campaign was successful is because it told a true story and showed the viewer a real-life example of overcoming obstacles to succeed at a certain goal. Adidas was able to portray the campaign’s concept through Messi’s authentic story and created an emotional connection with the audience. The brand truly lived up to the campaign’s slogan: Impossible is Nothing.
Avoid posting sterile copy that seems more like an advertisement or a sales pitch than a real story. Storytelling differs from creating other marketing materials in the way that it allows the author’s personality to shine and it aims to establish an emotional connection with the audience.
Also, your stories have the ability to bring to life the persona of your ideal customer, so that the readers can identify with the challenges and desires that your brand addresses. Therefore, even when you’re telling the story of your brand, you should keep it personal and relevant.
An example of great personalized storytelling that entices emotion is eBay’s campaign “eBay Thanks You.” The campaign consisted of several videos that featured eBay’s customers and even some celebrities who all use eBay.
The videos showed us the reasons why all these people use eBay. The campaign is engaging and inspires action by showing there is emotion behind almost every transaction on eBay’s website.
One of the people featured in the videos is Ed Church, a guy who sold his motorcycle 30 years ago and found it again on eBay. And for Ed, finding that bike again was more than just a purchase, it involved a lot of emotion and a trip down memory lane.
As a result of this successful campaign which featured personalized storytelling, eBay witnessed an increase in their YouTube subscribers greater than 100%. Also, more than 1 million people viewed the videos from the campaign on YouTube.
Choose the right channels
In order to successfully execute your storytelling campaign, you need to select appropriate social media channels. Once you finish researching your audience, you will have a better idea of the social media platforms they use.
If you want to expand your reach, you will also have to evaluate your existing platform choices. Generally, different social networks have their own strengths and appeal to different user groups and content types.
Facebook, for example, offers “Timelines” that lend themselves to sharing stories over a prolonged period. On Twitter, you can create a sequence of posts that reach a precisely targeted audience. Using Pinterest and Instagram, you can tell your stories visually focusing only on pictures.
Whenever possible, you should present your stories on multiple channels. Whichever channel you choose, you should maintain a consistent message and a high-quality standard with all the content that you post.
Use the above steps to create and publish effective stories that strengthen your brand and grow your audience on social media. Choose platforms that suit your audience and present your stories in multiple formats when possible. As long as you persist and create personalities to which your audience can relate to, storytelling will be an essential part of your digital marketing strategy.