You’ve probably heard people insist that stories make for great copy (i.e., stories sell stuff) and that storytelling in your content writing is a must. It’s true that stories can be a very powerful thing and I love this quote I recently stumbled upon…
If that doesn’t quite hit home, here is something I think we can all relate to. Whether it’s through our own learning or helping our children work through all those textbooks and information overwhelm, I think we can see a kernel of truth in this.
Could you imagine if our history teachers actually told us interesting stories about Ancient Greece or the American Revolution? We’d remember all those details a whole lot better.
When I think back to my studies (ahem, I do happen to possess B.A. in History :-)), I remember the people and some of things they did…the rest has faded away. However, if it had all been taught in the context of an interesting story, rather than a mundane textbook or lecture, there would probably be a lot more data in this noggin of mine.
There’s no doubt that stories are memorable and they can also have a great impact on as well. Stories make you think and they evoke emotion. Further, stories have always been important in people’s lives, and now with the growth of the social web, stories are once again very central to our daily existence. In fact, I find it very interesting that there are many people online that I know only through their stories…some mundane and some exciting. Either way, it all ads up to relationships built on stories.
It’s a sign of the times and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of my favorite actors (who happens to be growing as a storyteller through directing and producing), said this in an AskMen interview:
So how does all this relate back to your content marketing? How do you make sure your stories are relevant, that they’re interesting and that more importantly, they have a positive impact on your business? These are important questions to consider because adding stories or baring your soul on Facebook willy-nilly isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Before we get into that…
Let’s talk about why storytelling in content marketing can be powerful:
- We’ve already talked about the Internet and its social nature. In short, web users are immersed in storytelling. They’re sharing and consuming stories on a daily basis through social media, Youtube and just about everywhere else. Whether you connect with stories on social media, via email or in your blogging, knowing a bit more about you is what our audiences have come to expect.
- Stories provide insight into who you are, although not all the stories have to be about you. Even when you tell stories about other people or even fictional stories, how you tell them reveal a lot about you.
- When people learn more about you, they feel like they really know you and this familiarity is critical. When people look for solutions to problems, they go to people they know. You want to be that problem solver people turn to.
- When it comes to products we sell, stories have tremendous power. Whether it’s a story from one of your satisfied customers or you explaining how you used a product yourself, it’s that experience that provide more concrete information, social proof and inspiration for others to follow along.
- Stories can keep people following along. Telling little bits of the story through a series of blog posts, emails or whatever medium, keeps your readers coming back for more. Give your readers sneak peeks into what is coming and reveal a little bit more each time you engage them.
But how do you ensure your storytelling is effective? Now let me be clear. Nobody says you have to be telling epic stories all the time. And it’s not that you can’t post what you ate for dinner on your personal Facebook profile (Hehe, one of my favorite things to do, accompanied with a photo, of course), but when it comes to your marketing, you do need to put more thought into your storytelling and connect with your audience.
Here are some tips to help you do that:
- Stories should be relevant to what you’re trying to say. If you’re going to share a personal tidbit within a larger email, post or anywhere, always relate it back to the main point and what message you are trying to convey.
- Think about your audience and what they want to know. Tell stories that will be meaningful to them, not ones that simply stroke your ego or make you look like some kind of superhero.
- Don’t force the storytelling…don’t just tell a story because you think you should. Tell stories that are natural in the context of the conversation. Make sure they are meaningful and you’d still them, even if you weren’t trying to sell something.
- Let stories to reveal something new about you. Give your readers insight into something they didn’t know. Not every story will do this, but the one that do will have the greatest impact.
- Be honest in your storytelling. There’s no need to bend truths or change facts because they’ll come back and bite you later on when you contradict yourself. On the other hand, if the story you’re sharing is fiction, make sure your readers are aware of this. Don’t mislead your audience because they’ll always remember that and that’s definitely not good for business.
- Make sure your stories reflects you positively, even if they share something dark or unfavorable about yourself. People are always interested in how you have dealt with issues in your life, but illustrating oneself as a current train wreck doesn’t usually get the results we want. Show how you learned from mistakes or overcame obstacles because these are some of the most powerful stories.
Stories can be inserted everywhere in your content and your general marketing. From blog posts to emails and sales copy, they can form an integral part of what you have to say. There’s also social media and even your company story. Why did you start your business, how has it evolved and how is that story relevant to your readers?
And if nothing else, remember the words of the Gryphon in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…