The Power of Digital Storytelling
Storytelling has become a critical element of a successful brand. Connecting with your audience via authentic 1-to-1 communications can increase revenue, brand relevance, recognition and value.
Digital storytelling brings people together, builds empathy, emotion, trust and loyalty. Digital storytellers utilise digital tools and platforms to tell their compelling and emotionally engaging story. A great storyteller can simplify, explain and decode a complex solution.
The rise of the social media influencer has grown to an all-time high in recent years because engaging storytellers are sharing value-adding content. Social media influencers have flourished because their community of followers connect with personable and aspirational content that followers can relate to and want to experience for themselves.
Our world is a busy place. Each day the world sends an average of 269 billion emails, 95 million photos and videos on Instagram and 500 million tweets.
Mobile app addiction is at an all-time high and yet social media is not a place that's holding our attention like it used to.
Edison Research shows that social media usage has been in decline since 2016 and the latest predictions from eMarketer are that 2 million people under the age of 25 will stop using Facebook this year. This is because some social media platforms like Facebook have lost the trust of their users through data breaches, fake news, privacy concerns and younger generations like Generation Y & Z migrating to other private social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
As marketers, we often lose sight of what our audience wants and turn the focus to business objectives like revenue goals. The heart of storytelling is not selling, it's building a relationship by exchanging knowledge and wisdom. To improve your storytelling it's recommended to follow Freytag's Pyramid - the storytelling fundamentals.
Freytag’s pyramid - The Storytelling Formula
Gustav Fregtag, a 19th-century German playwright, developed his Freytag’s pyramid - The Storytelling Formula. Known among screenplay writers, playwrights and dramatists the pyramid inspires good storytelling with structure.
- An Exposition: The storyteller sets the scene and the characters background.
- Rising Action :The story builds and gets more exciting.
- The Climax (Turning Point): The moment of greatest tension in a story. This is often the most exciting event. It is the event that the rising action builds up to.
- Falling Action: Events that happen as a result of the climax
- Denouement: Where the solution to the problem is presented.
Why brands need to refocus their content strategy
Over the past 5 years the media landscape has changed due to the younger generation's (Millennials and Generation Z) consumption trends and preferences. Brands who have been successful in this landscape have adapted their approach to digital storytelling and content distribution. Brands now engage in systemic story-building, layering communications to form a single narrative. Content distribution plans are now fluid and ever-changing, with consumer insights and trends educating brands on their next move.
Generation Z (People born after 1995) is on track to become the largest generation and trends have shown their consumption trends are greatly different than previous generations. They outnumber both Millennials and Baby Boomers and making up 20% of Australia's population and almost 30% of the world's population (Source: mccrindle).
According to Fast Company they will be the most valuable consumer segment as they will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. In regards to media consumption they have been coined as the video-first consumption generation, that love and trust User Generated Content (UGC) over any other type of content.
According to Christopher Kingman, TransUnion when marketing to Generation Z focus on direct (no fluff), individualised messaging and content with a heavy emphasis on what's in it for them. They are also price-conscious, research before they buy and have a physiological need of instant gratification.
Playing to this generation's physiological desires, payment platform Afterpay sees significant growth, recording a 289% increase in sales in the year to June 2018. According to Afterpay this generation make up 75% of their customers and since launching in 2015 the company has processed $2.18 billion sales through the platform.
Having the right content distribution formula can be difficult without granular consumer insights. Knowing the behaviour and preferences of your audience is critical to the success of a brand. Time of day, day of the week, and audience preference all play a critical role in your distribution and sales strategy. Great stories can fall short of expected outcomes without the right distribution strategy paired with consumer insights from enterprise marketing technologies.
Enterprise marketing technologies
Enterprise marketing technologies have given businesses the agility to move quickly and publish content to their users needs. With faster response times and machine learning capabilities enterprise solutions such as Sitecore, Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot and Microsoft Dynamics have enabled businesses to invest in their owned digital assets whilst achieving their content distribution strategy objectives.
When it comes to investing in your digital assets a brand's website and email list are the two only channels that they own. Everything else such as social media is a rented asset. Email and web is what every brand should be focused on for building a digital presence.
Enterprise technologies have allowed brands to enrich their visitors’ web experience by creating personalised relevant content and delivering it at the right time, in the right tone and at the right stage of the buying journey. With these technologies brands are now understanding a 360 degree view of their audience through revenue analytics - metrics that measure user activity that leads to achieving a financial business objective. With these new insights, content strategies have evolved to meet audience consumption trends, whilst maximising business objectives.
10 ways to cut through the noise and communicate effectively to your audience
The media landscape is saturated with content and consumers are becoming less loyal and engaged due to information overload. The success of a brand in this digital age relates to how well a brand can cut through the noise, connect with their customers and add value.
Below are some proven strategies to assist your team to cut through the noise and communicate effectively to your audience.
- Deliver personalised relevant content at the right time, in the right tone, to the right customers at the right stage of the buying journey.
- Write content that solves a problem and is evergreen, so your content has the best potential for a longer return on investment.
- Embrace video and visuals. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and processed 60,000 times faster than text articles.
- Understand your audience, identify emerging audiences and adapt your distribution strategy to your audience’s preferred distribution touch point.
- When creating content utilise the 5 I's: Interest, Intrigue, Instruct, Involve and Inspire.
- Make your story simple and to the point. People are time poor so don't be 75% of the content that is simply skimmed not read.
- Add a personal touch to your stories so it resonates with your audience.
- Make your headlines answer your audience's question and search query.
- Evoke the user to think and express emotions so your message resonates with them.
- Captivate your audience so they want to develop a relationship with your brand.
Storytelling's influence on search engines
Storytelling is the most powerful tool in a marketer's toolbox. A connection with a brand through great storytelling overrides a users impulse to click on the first search result. Over time as users continue to make this same decision, search engines will associate your site as a valuable source of content and increase your ranking over time.
It's known that Google changes its search algorithm around 500+ times each year, however great content can combat these updates. Studies have shown that that evergreen, longer-form content consistently receives more shares and likes on social media. Publishing a balance between evergreen and topical content improves your SEO and assists with audience retention.
Good SEO copy writing doesn't read as a list of contextual keywords or phrases. Instead it has a balance of topics and key phrases delivered through the storytelling narrative that appeal to the reader, educates, influences and inspires action. Consider the purpose of your content and address the following questions to assist in producing a holistic SEO strategy. What are the key questions you want to answer? Who is your audience? What stage of the customer buying cycle is my audience at? What information makes your article unique and does the format, medium and structure appeal to your customers?
How to add a personal touch to storytelling
People want to connect with stories about real people and experiences. So when explaining a product for sale utilise storytelling in product descriptions to share insight about the experiences you can enjoy when owning the product.
A few years ago a friend was selling his car on Carsales.com.au. It was an older vehicle that had been around the block. It had a few dents, scratches and mechanical faults. Through the power of storytelling he leveraged the life moments, memories and experiences he had with the car to generate a story his audience could connect with.
By making his car a character in his story, within a few days he received hundreds of enquiries because the listing was picked up and organically shared on social media. So in your next campaign be like my friend and try making your product or your employees the character in your story. By reducing the marketing spin and positioning your product or service in an authentic way your audience will embrace the connection with your brand.
So for your next business planning session make storytelling and the utilisation of marketing technology like Sitecore as an action item - the revenue opportunity is too valuable to ignore. Need help to achieve your digital storytelling goals? Book an appointment with one of our Speedwell Digital Marketing experts.
|John King, Digital Marketing Technologist, Speedwell