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The Viral Power of Storytelling in Content Marketing

the-viral-power-of-storytelling-in-content-marketing

In the dark-dark city, on the dark-dark street, in the dark-dark office, there was one dark-dark company, but no one knew about it because the company couldn’t tell people about itself…

Modern information consumers want more than just data. People of this generation are used to getting accessible news, ideas, information, and knowledge; they know the tricks and cannot stand importunate marketing. The more promotional lines they see in a text, the faster they stop reading it. That is why storytelling is a great idea for any marketing campaign.

People love stories. They are thrilled to read about something similar to what they’ve experienced, to delve into one’s dirty laundry, to see love stories, etc. Storytelling can be a very powerful tool for content creators. They can influence people’s emotions and get those precious likes and shares.

Why would you use stories?

The first logical question here is why you should try to use storytelling in your marketing strategy. Well, there are several reasons for that.

First of all, stories are interesting. People are curious in nature, and many of them are good listeners. When a narration is genuinely impressive, they are willing to spend a lot of time digging into these stories. In childhood, we love to listen to fairy tales; when we grow up, we hear the stories of our friends. Captivating stories are entertaining for everyone, even asocial people.

Second of all, stories gain trust. Whomever you decide to share your personal stories with, it makes you closer, right? The thing is that storytelling is quite an intimate thing. You don’t tell stories just to anyone. The same as in life, publishing an engaging story on your site will help you become closer to your readers who will come back for more stories.

And finally, people are just more perceptive towards stories, in contrast to dry statistics and facts. Last year there was some research conducted at Pennsylvania University involving physicians that proved this point. The study showed that doctors perceive and remember the information about using anesthetics better if this information is offered in the form of a story about a patient Frank.

Another research study (this time a sociological one), conducted by The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, showed that despite the content itself (whether there are kittens or celebrities), the success of a post is mostly defined by its structure. It turned out that people like stories the most.

We are social creatures who need to compare ourselves to other people, feel a connection to them and put ourselves in their shoes.

Defining the goal

If you are squeezing marketing into one simple goal, it is probably going to be “to sell”. It is true, but thinking solely about this goal when you work on your storytelling content is not very useful. If you focus only on sales, you will probably end up with a big advertising bill.

Keeping in mind that selling is your goal, you need to build trusting relationships with your potential buyers. That’s why you shouldn’t focus on sales entirely at this point, but focus on having a conversation with your audience.

Let’s look at the Best Made publication as an example (it is the company that produces clothes and equipment for adventures). The goal of this release seems to be to tell people how diligently the company creates and tests their products.

This short story tells the exciting adventure of the Best Made team to distant places of Patagonia. They visit a fascinating man who lives in a remote house among the Andes.

“When you set foot on La Isla, thigh-deep in snow, the distance sets in: between you and home, between you and family, between you and the nearest hospital. There’s no margin for error here; everything you bring must perform. And so the details we obsessed over in the months of prior product development were put to the test.” – Peter Buchanan-Smith, Founder/CEO

The text is accompanied by a series of great pictures.

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When you read this, you get the impression that the team puts a lot of effort into testing their equipment. If that was their goal, it totally worked.

So, you should also have a small and concrete goal for every one of your publications.

Now, let’s talk about the ways you can gain your audience’s trust and make your content go viral.

Recommendations for writing an engaging story

Personalize

People don’t like reading abstract texts. Tell the story from either your own, or someone else’s point of view (name this person too). Such stories are more likely to evoke empathy.

Make the story teller look as similar to your clients (users, readers, etc.) as possible, having the same problems and worries. This approach would be perfect for a marketing campaign where the main character talks about the product or service, answering the possible questions that people may have.

Here is a bright example where the story is told by a cat that was saved by the Vokra Company. The cat asks people to donate money so that the company can save more animals.

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Add emotion

Nostalgia, humor, admiration or even fear – you should tell a story so that it brings out an emotional reaction.

Let’s take the SolidWorks Company as an example. This company manages to wrap a bunch of technical information for industrial designs into funny stories. For instance, they tell you how SolidWorks solutions can help you count how much material you would need to board up your door in case of a zombie apocalypse. Clever, huh?

The SAS Company also used that trick, telling on their blog how you can visualize the data so that it looks like a cowboy hat. Those things make people smile; it’s a perfect emotion to start with.

Offer a scenario that solves a problem

You can take people’s fears, doubts, and insecurities and show them how your product can deal with these problems.

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For example, here is a dermatologist sharing the possible reasons for getting acne and the methods of curing it.

It is a great marketing move because here you have a story told by a professional. People usually trust such ads.

Think like a journalist

In 2011, the Nissan marketers realized that spreading press releases and standard advertising did not help establish a connection with their target audience. So the company created its own content laboratory.

Nissan hired former journalists who started to look for stories and data inside the brand. They searched for material that would be attractive to people and social media. Now almost all the big international companies have such laboratories. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Apple, Cisco, American Express, etc., use stories as the basis of their content campaigns.

Of course not everyone can create a content lab, but the point here is to think like a journalist. Think about what people would like to hear, see and read.

Support your story with data

Deep research is what differentiates a remarkable story from an okay one. Before you write any kind of story, you should do thorough research, find some statistics, check up the facts and look for rare and exciting information.

Your stories can be flavored by specific data aimed at people with rational thinking. This information can then be an additional argument for getting your product.

Which of the following examples sound more convincing to you?

  • Security violations are a serious problem for big enterprises these days
  • Did you know that 60% of security violations take place in big enterprises?

The second example has the logical appeal – the fact that will influence people’s decision to buy. So, do your homework before creating anything.

Organize an exciting adventure for your readers

Tell your brand’s story so that your readers feel like they have been making the journey with you. If your company develops modern technology, for example, add short stories about the history of the technology and its evolution to this “adventure”. Teach them!

Here are two good examples from the clothing company Nasty Gal and the Clif bars.

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Visualize

Thanks to social networks, the information stream has increased, and people have learned how to process that information and choose what they need. They still want to read, though.

It is clear that no one will read long walls of text about the advantages of your brand, but it is now not enough to just separate text into paragraphs and add some pictures.

The visual part should help readers dive into the text and feel the atmosphere. Think of other visual formats apart from pictures, too. It can be illustrations, GIFs, infographics, videos, etc. – you should think about it in the context of every separate story.

There is this company, Natural Valley, that produces muesli bars. A few years ago they had a successful project with the goal of creating an emotional connection with the brand and consumers. Their team went through 400 miles of national parks with cameras. As a result, the emotional and beautiful pictures, videos and interactive stories showed that the company is up for preserving natural resources. In this way, they gained the trust of many people.

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Bottom line

A story immediately adds some warmth and humanity to any product message. With the help of a story, a person can define how much your business corresponds to their interests and beliefs.

Story-oriented thinking makes you a better seller. It makes you understand the problems of your target audience better. You pay less attention to the benefits of your product, but more to the ways your product can solve people’s problems.

And probably the most important point is that an amusing story will help you stand out among your competitors.

Guest Author: William Sarto is a content marketer and passionate blogger. He loves to share knowledge and experience in his articles describing all new techniques and methods appearing in digital marketing. Feel free to contact him by email or stay tuned via twitter or G+.

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Comments

  • Carl Ramallo

    Hi Jeff,

    As the saying goes, Facts tell & stories sell. We need to make an emotional connection with our audience. Well done 🙂 Cheers!

    Carl Ramallo