What is the key behind a successful content marketing strategy? How do you create truly engaging content for social media? How do you make sure that people will stop for a second and actually read or watch the content you shared?
These questions are often asked by many who work with social media and content marketing. In a world where new content is constantly being shared and where what people see on social media is so controlled by algorithms and search engine optimization (SEO), it can be hard to know what is the right strategy.
They key to creating engaging content in today’s world is often said to be storytelling.
You might wonder what I mean by storytelling and no, I’m not talking about fairytales and children’s stories; I’m talking about the narrative, the story, the experience and emotions you create to draw your customers or potential customers in.
For many the sole focus is on what they do and how they do it. They are presenting me their product and what it does, how great it is and all the functions it has that competitors do not. But have you ever answered the question why your customer should buy your product? Do you know your customers well enough to understand what problem you are solving for them?
Maybe you recognise the why, how, what framework. It was presented by Simon Sinek in his TED talk back in 2009. It now has more than 38 million views, and he later wrote a book about it called “Start with why.” With these numbers you might think he may be onto something. What I believe we should consider more in our content strategies is making clear why we do what we do. This relates to the much bigger purpose of your company and your product. It relates to the story of how your company was founded and the people behind the brand. It makes your company more than just a logo and a product or service; as soon as you start creating the narrative and the story you are giving the customer the opportunity to become part of something. Becoming part of the story, part of the community, and to understand what your company stands for and the kind of culture and values it embraces, which all ties into buying your product or service, is very appealing. We all want to be part of something.
That is why stories appeal to us, as Harvard Business Review explains. We are drawn to stories because we are social creatures and relate to other people. We have been communicating through stories for most of our existence. So why not use storytelling to enhance your content creation strategy? If you start to think about what story you are telling in your content marketing, you drastically increase the odds of people relating, sharing and actually remembering your content and your brand.
So how do you get started with storytelling in your content creation?
There are many ways to go about using storytelling in content creation but a classic structure for stories is Joseph Campbell’s monomyth or Hero’s Journey. It is basically a 12-step structure that we naturally feel drawn to. The main idea is the home-adventure-home setup or beginning-middle-end, where everything is normal in the beginning, the hero is living his/her life and we get to know the world and the characters. Then they are called to adventure or to solve a problem or conflict, which often happens with a sacrifice or some level of crisis. In the end they return home to their ordinary life but something in them has fundamentally changed.
This might be very much a framework for fictional stories but it has been adapted in many forms and shapes by content creators, which may make the adaption to content creation more easy to see. Dan Harmon’s Story Circle was made with sitcoms in mind, but can be very useful for content creation as well. It consists of eight steps, explained to you below:
1. Comfort zone
Most of us live in our comfort zones and go about our daily lives. This is where the main character is introduced in the story, so most often that would probably be your customer.
2. Need or desire
What will happen sooner or later is that your customer will have a need.
We always need something: more sleep, healthier food, a better way to keep track of time.
To fulfill your need you need to go somewhere or take some kind of action. It is important to remember the need above needs to be big or serious enough for your customer to want to take action or really do something about it.
After leaving, the customer is searching for the solution to his or her problem. The person will be searching for an answer or maybe a product that can help them with their problem.
5. Get what they wanted
Here the customer finds what he actually wanted to find. The solution has been found and this is where your product or service comes in.
The customer still has to make the decision to choose the product and pay the price that comes with that.
7. Return to comfort
In the end, the customer goes back to their comfort zone and to the place where everything began.
They are not the same though, because the entire experience has shaped and changed them.
The story circle might sound a bit forced to you right at this moment, but the key can often be not to take every step too serious if it doesn’t fit into your narrative. The key is to understand the premise of the framework, a customer with an ambition, which is relatable to many consumers in today’s world.
We all have changing needs and desires, and we all go in search of the solutions to these problems. Sometimes that process can be hard and challenging and it might change us, at least when it comes to more profound, spiritual and emotional needs.
Other times all we want is just a really good sandwich.
The main point is that stories works. They engage us, intrigue us and we relate to them on a deep, human level. It is natural for us to explain what happened to us using stories. We create narratives all the time, when talking about our day, when explaining a funny incident that happened at work or explaining the problem we had with our car. Try and keep the above framework in mind next time you are creating content for your company; it might be just what someone needed to hear.