How to Use Storytelling in Your Online Marketing

Humanity has used stories as a way to teach, pass on valuable information, and communicate since the dawn of time. Long before there were written languages, people used stories to pass history and culture down from generation to generation. Humans are wired to respond to stories with an immediate connection and emotional reaction.  When your marketing content seems dull, uninspiring, or boring, consider using stories to enhance your marketing communication.

Stories are particularly appealing to the millennial generation. As digital natives, they are used to consuming entertainment online and look to the internet to find and connect with their tribe. Stories are a powerful way to connect with your audience. Following are five ways to use storytelling in content marketing.

Number one: Use visuals to enhance your story. The human brain is visually-oriented. In fact, some studies estimate that over 90 percent of our communication is non-verbal.

Marketing research has shown that blog posts featuring imagery are 180 percent more engaging than those that do not. Many popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest prominently feature visual media and are a perfect vehicle for visual storytelling.

Number two: Use traditional story structure. We are conditioned to expect a beginning, middle and end. If you neglect story structure, your audience will know that something is missing and won’t connect to the story or your message. Use action and conflict to make your story exciting and memorable.

Number three: Use unforgettable characters to bring your stories to life and fill them with personality. Many very successful, high-profile advertising campaigns featured great characters.  Think of the Geico gecko, the Bud Ice penguin, Spuds McKenzie, or Mayhem from Allstate. The list is endless. Great characters make us laugh or root for them—and most importantly, are memorable.

Number four: Tell the truth. Stories need to have a strong foundation in the truth of your brand. They should enhance the rest of your marketing message and be consistent with your other marketing efforts. Confusion is the fastest way to kill your brand.  Use creativity to craft an entertaining and engaging story, but don’t let it cause you to stray too far from your brand message.

Number six: Leave something to the imagination.  Try to create cliffhangers in your stories that will keep your customers coming back for more.  Consider writing a long-form story and publishing ‘chapters’ on your blog in a series. Customers will tune in every week to find out what’s happening next.

Some people find the prospect of creative writing intimidating. However, it is easy to create stories if you know where to look for ideas. Here are some ways to find inspiration for marketing stories…

Don’t forget the classics. Look to classic literature for themes, timeless characters, and story-lines.  If you refer back to well-known stories from the classics, you will easily connect with your customers and they’ll already be familiar with the characters, stories and examples that you are using. Be careful with this approach. Do not quote recent literature—only select material that is in the public domain.  It is safest to use stories that are 70 years old or older. If you are unsure – don’t use the story. You can also use classic literature as a jumping off point to create your own, unique story.

When handled properly, stories are a powerful way to bring marketing messages to life—to entertain and inform customers and create deep connections with your audience.  If you use photos or illustrations, give your stories structure, create memorable characters, tell the truth and leave something to the imagination, you’ll create stronger ties with your audience and improve your conversions.

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