Storytelling is an important component of online content. Much like copywriting it’s a way of turning bland, forgettable blog posts and web pages into captivating content pieces. Storytelling has become a crucial component in online marketing.
The good news is that, even if you don’t know anything about storytelling, you can learn it and this article will show you how. In the following, you will learn what storytelling is and why it is effective. After that, the blog post will give you actionable tips on how you can integrate it into your own site content.
What is Storytelling and Why Use It?
Before anything else, we need to talk about the definition of storytelling and the benefit using it offers.
Storytelling is Conveying Fact Through Narrative
Most blog posts or web pages are about conveying information, whether in the form of a tutorial, sales page, About section or else. In each case, you want to bring something across to your audience.
There are several ways of doing so. You can simply give them the information in a factual way like so:
We sell glasses cheaper than other companies.
The other option is to embed it into a story or narrative:
Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining. (We don’t recommend this.) The rest of us had similar experiences, and we were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave our wallets bare. Where were the options? — Source: Warby Parker
While both achieve the same goal, which one of them do you find more engaging? The second one, right?
That’s how storytelling works. People crave more than just facts. They want something they can connect and relate to. It’s much more interesting, much more engaging and, therefore, much more likely to elicit a response.
An Effective Tool to Create Connection
Why is storytelling such a powerful tool? Because stories are weaved into the fabric of human history. They have been used to pass on information for thousands of years by people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures and communities.
Just look at all the books, movies, plays and other pieces of popular culture. Hell, we have based wars and whole religions on stories. Stories are also how we make sense of the world (through our personal narrative) and can thus mold our thinking and behavior.
The reason why this works is because storytelling turns abstract ideas into something we can understand. One of my favorite examples from a business standpoint is still Apple’s original iPod.
Instead of boring technical jargon, they give you a simple-to-grasp image of how this product makes your life better.
In addition to that, storytelling creates trust. It creates intimacy, connection, and understanding. As a consequence, it brings readers closer to you, helps them get to know you better and on a deeper level. This creates a conversation and a relationship that is based on more than just trying to sell. Much more than marketing speech ever could.
Stories Prompt Action
Because of the above, storytelling is a great tool to create an emotional response in your audience. You can make them feel humor, nostalgia, anger, sadness, hope, inspiration and more. A good story is like a rollercoaster right through your brain’s emotional center.
Why is that important? Because, when you can make people feel something, you can make them take action. A surprisingly large share of daily decisions are made emotionally. Although we think we are rational creatures, this is far from true. Therefore, if you can tell a good and captivating story with your online content, you can get people to jump on your email list, buy your product or donate to your charity.
However, what makes good storytelling? Let’s talk about that next.
What Does Good Storytelling Need?
Humans have been telling each other stories for millennia. During that time, we have established a number of components that are important to make a story effective.
Must-Have Parts of Storytelling
No matter what story you are telling, here are some ingredients that definitely can not miss:
- Main character/hero — Every story needs at least one. This can be you, another person, even someone you made up. Characters provide a focal point for the audience. It is the main canvas for their own projection and gives them someone they can identify with.
- Conflict/journey — The core of a good story is the central conflict. It is the obstacle in the way of the main character, the challenge to overcome. Its existence makes the experience relatable and allows you to bring across lessons you want to convey.
- Ending/resolution — Every story needs an end. It doesn’t have to be a happy one (after all, this is not Hollywood) but one that wraps up the storyline, makes your point and moves on to the call to action.
These are basic building blocks to every story. If you have those, you have a story to tell.
How to Make Your Story Compelling
However, even if you have the main parts, you can still end up with a bland story. For that reason, here are some ideas on how to make your story a real page-turner:
- Turn up the entertainment factor — It’s important to keep readers engaged. If they are amused, they will continue reading if only to find out how the story will conclude. This is good for your time on site.
- Make it relatable — Tap into experiences and emotions other people are familiar with. That way, you will create a stronger connection and make your story more effective.
- Ensure it’s easy-to-follow — Your story needs to be organized to make it pleasant to journey along. It can be the best story in the world, however, if it’s a disorganized mess, nobody will bother finding out.
- Make it memorable — The better your stories stick in mind, the more benefits for you and your readers.
- Support stories with data — Proper research is important for any story (more on that below). If you can put hard facts into your stories, they will be even more effective, especially if they are of the problem-solving kind.
- Include visuals — One of the biggest advantages of digital content is that you can underline the written word with visual data. Whether screenshots, stock photos, gifs, videos or infographics — take your pick. National Geographic does this splendidly.
Alright, now that we have settled on that, let’s see how to put it into practice.
How Do You Use Storytelling in Your Online Content?
Here’s a process you can use to craft a story for your web pages.
1. Get to Know Your Audience
Without knowing who you are writing for, you won’t be very effective at putting together a story for your readers. This is the same as for blog posts and other website copy, which is why there is market research and keyword research. For that reason, the first task in storytelling is to get familiar with your audience.
- Who are they? Who are you writing for?
- What are their needs, pains, hopes, and aspirations?
Knowing this is crucial to tell the right story, the right way.
2. Define What You are Trying to Say
As settled above, storytelling is more than regaling an anecdote. If you are doing it in a business setting, most of the time you have a goal in mind that you want to accomplish. However, in order to make the story work towards it, you need to know what it is.
What are you trying to say? Communicate values? Explain your product? Motivate people to buy or use a contact form?
Be crystal clear about this before even thinking about beginning to write. This also has great significance for the type of story you will write whether it’s a drama, funny or an inspirational piece.
3. Create a Call to Action
From the objective, it’s now time to come up with a call to action. This will put into words what you want readers to do after finishing your story.
It’s important to establish this beforehand because it takes a lot of work. Also, the call to action needs to align with your objective, so it makes sense to do this next.
4. Come up with a Structure
Next, it is time to outline the rough structure of your story. This will help you visualize how it all fits together.
It’s a good idea to create this beforehand to make sure you don’t waste any space in telling your story. By creating a map for yourself, you make it easier to create a coherent piece in the end. It will also help you think about what parts are central and which are optional or can be eliminated altogether.
Alright, enough with the preparation. From here on out, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) and start writing. You have the basic scaffolding, now it’s time to fill in the gaps. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Shoot for volume first, you can always edit things down later.
6. Edit and Refine
Editing is where the real work begins. Once you have a draft, it’s time to go over it and trim the edges. Eliminate things that are not necessary, improve the language where necessary until things really pop and are crystal clear. Do this more than once to really polish up your piece.
7. Implement a Distribution Strategy
However, when it comes to online content, creating the story is only half the battle. After that, you also need to get it in front of people. Content promotion is just as important as content creation, if not more. For that reason, don’t just hit Publish and hope for the best. Have a concept in place for how you will get your story read.
How that happens also depends on the medium you have chosen. It might be written, in video form or as a podcast. For each, there are different ways to get them in front of people. WordPress plugins can help with that. Check this article for more helpful tips.
However, after that, you are done. Good stuff! You just learned to how to use storytelling in online content!
Storytelling is an effective tool in the content marketer’s belt. It allows you to communicate information in a way that is engaging, memorable, and touches on readers’ emotions.
Stories are a central part of human existence, a great connector and way to inspire and move others to action. Above, you have learned the basic building blocks of storytelling and how to make stories compelling. In addition, we have gone over a basic process of creating your own story.
By following the instructions, you are able to infuse your web pages, blog posts and marketing material with more life and make them more magnetic. This, in turn, will make your readers happy and help you move them along in their journey.
How do you use storytelling in your online content? Anything to add to the above? Let us know in the comments section below!