Storytelling content is the most powerful messaging tool available to us. It doesn’t matter if that story comes from blog articles, video, podcasting, or other channels. Nothing can convey the heart and soul of brand, product or personal essence like a solid story that can be retold (shared) with contemporary social tools.
However, you need more than a great story.
A product or brand story is a different beast than a “back in the day” story from grandmother, or the tale a friend tells next to the campfire. These stories require time, familiarity and willingness to participate by engagement or simply being open-minded. All of which the typical social media audience member has very little of.
There is a reason the vast majority of viral videos are less than 30 seconds. There is a reason why the best advertising on television can be retold while staying connected to the brand. There is also a reason why stories fail when you have to fall on your sword and say, “I guess you just had to be there.”
Think of the following principles as modular building blocks. And while I certainly wouldn’t suggest using all of these methods, they are often interchangeable if you use a little creativity and flexibility.
Make Me Laugh Storytelling Content
Satirical or funny content is most often shared in through social media. Nevertheless, it is probably the hardest to pull off. Creating humor with a broad appeal is possibly one of the most difficult things to achieve. If you do pull it off, replicating that success ups the ante and can kill a campaign. If you’re thinking about trying a couple of “one-hit wonders,” I suggest working with a creative agency and highly trained copywriters that double as standup comedians.
Keep. It. Short.
Brief content is the key. If your video can’t get its point across in less than 30 seconds, I’m certainly not going to subject my friends, fans, and followers to it. Edit video content, interviews, and quotes quotes in a way that that allows you to distribute it in little chunks. This also means each chunk has to stand on its own, as well as fit into the larger narrative. Long-form pieces such as podcasts or blogs are the exceptions to the rule.
Naughty is Nice
Sex sells. Always has and always will. Innuendo and heavy petting have always been a fan favorite, and allow for us to wink at the audience without going triple X. Do yourself a favor if you’re creating content that might edge toward “adult” subject matter, and make sure you do a little testing of your own before serving it up to the masses. Creative people often underestimate what might be offensive. Despite their best intentions, the design and copywriting team might have an edgier collective sensibility than your audience. A little due diligence on your end could pay dividends in not getting the brand in hot water. Now let me contradict that statement by saying that if your sexy content isn’t sexy enough, it will be a flaccid attempt and cause shrinkage in your audience ;)
That happens to everybody!
Videos, memes, inspirational quotes, articles, and clips that show everyday life in its many forms is often well received by the broadest audience. It’s easy to connect with content that reflects a genuine “day in the life” that people can relate to. Whether it is getting a parking ticket, caught the rain without an umbrella, having too many emails in your inbox, or arguing with your spouse about where to eat, you can usually extract valuable themes from day-to-day life.
Those Godforsaken Lists
Everybody loves lists. Whether it’s “10 Things to Remember When Going on Your Next Date,” or “Orlando’s Best Taco Joints and Barbecue Shacks,” (I have never-ending opinions on that list – email me for more), the popularity of lists rages on. From Mashable to Buzzfeed, the popularity of this technique is perpetual, and more often than not well received. Much to my chagrin. Sigh.
Remember that a big part of storytelling is the ability for others to retell the story. Therefore much like creating content about what happens to everyone every day, you can also look to the past and find content that will resonate with your demographic. If you’re trying to appeal to Generation X, for example, discussing the ‘80s and ‘90s will probably be well received. Additionally, take a look at the geographic and socioeconomic attributes of your target audience. You should be able to find additional information that can be incorporated into the messaging.
Many brands are scared to offer an opinion about damn near anything these days. They shy away from it because having an opinion means you might be contested or debated. However, debatable content will more often than not create engagement. This engagement may not always be positive, so you need to weigh it against the importance of connecting to your audience. The key to sharing an opinion on social media is to have an equal willingness to change your opinion if your audience or counterparts can sway you with logic or constructive criticism. And let me let you in on a little secret: No one likes a brand that is unwilling to listen to its audience.
In the same breath as the “hotly debated” topic, think of “piggybacking” as simply creating content that puts your position firmly in the bandwagon of the popular “position of the day.”
How many times have you shared a five-second video of a Russian guy who tries to jump into a frozen pool and ends up landing HARD on his ass on a thick slab of impenetrable ice? Maybe that’s just me — But over 3 million other people seem to enjoy the same content as well. And by the way, Impenetrable Ice will be my wrestling name in my next career.
These last few topics have just as much to do with production quality as they do with subject matter. The content I refer to as High-Pro Awesome” is usually incredible footage from incredible places, with incredible people doing incredible things. People want to dream, and they want to achieve things they didn’t think were possible. This is the reason why content creators such as National Geographic and The Travel Channel have high retention and such passionate fan bases. However, it is important to understand your audience. Don’t speak over them in such a way that you may unintentionally offend their sensibilities by creating content that is perceived as unobtainable.
DIY Storytelling Content
Lastly, the good old fashion “do-it-yourself” style of storytelling content is often a winner. Think of this as your Vines, Pinterests, Instagrams, and cell phone videos. The look of an interview shot with a “man on the street” style versus a professional studio with polished talent covered in unrealistic makeup will resonate with two very different audiences in very different ways. Just be mindful that you use production quality and techniques to accent your chosen style. You may find that simpler is actually better.
More often than not, the key to creating sharable content is asking yourself the same questions your audience would. If you understand the content simply because you are so close to the brand, product or service, then your audience might not connect if they don’t share the same familiarity.
I hope this list will get you started in the right direction in creating epic storytelling content. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions, techniques or conceptual thoughts that would be worthy of adding.