About 78% of managers think that content is still the future of marketing and that branding is king. It shouldn't be any surprise.
Stories are as old as time.
The first cavemen shared stories on the walls of their dwellings, documenting great hunts and stories of heroes. Storytelling makes us sit up and take notice, makes us care, and binds us all together.
When you stop and think about stories, you quickly realize that they stick with us far longer than basic facts.
Think about your favorite movie. What are the details of that movie? Now, think about the last statistic you read. Which one is bolder in your mind's eye? It is likely the story, because our brains simply retain that information better.
Incorporating Stories into Blogging
Blogging is actually the perfect platform for storytelling, because you can use text, images, and even video to get your tale across.
Lou Hoffman, CEO of the Hoffman Agency, has a blog that focuses on storytelling. He shares that you have to think outside the storytelling box a bit when it comes to business blogs.
When it comes to business communications, storytelling by its classic definition —a narrative with a start, an end, and something going horribly astray in between — often
can’t be applied. Yet, by borrowing the same techniques found in storytelling, fiction and nonfiction alike, business communications become more interesting and thus more persuasive.
Lou Hoffman also advises on his microblog Storytelling-Techniques.com, for bloggers to focus on levity, drama, and voice, among other advice. He often calls storytelling the new black in business communications, meaning that it is a vital part of any business blogging endeavor. Hoffman stresses that while storytelling techniques are a vital part of blogging, it isn't the traditional story you've grown up with. Instead, focus on adding elements of story, such as a character to relate to, or some conflict to overcome.
Tips for Storytelling
Nancy A. Shenker is a contributor to the Huffington Post and runs the blog Bad Girl, Good Business.
Nancy confirms what other studies have shown. “As human attention spans decline (down to a whopping 8 seconds), online content (and its authors) must work harder to draw the reader in.”
Nancy shares that posts on her blog and other blogs that are most successful often do incorporate storytelling.
My most effective posts have an attention-grabbing or comical graphic.
People are tired of seeing stock art. The more personal the graphic, the better. It is also good to relate to something personal and intriguing, but ultimately make it relevant to the reader. Unless you have a juicy or sordid memoir, or are a celebrity, no one really wants to hear about your life unless it relates to the reader's life, too.
Shenker points out that it is best to let the reader know how the story can apply to her own life, especially for a business or how-to blog.
Benefit #1: Increased Engagement
There are many benefits to incorporating storytelling into your blog. Probably the most obvious benefit is increasing engagement with site visitors. Alex Turnbull wrote a case study about how storytelling increased Groove's blog engagement by 300%.
Turnbull advises wrapping your content in a great story. He compares content to medicine and storytelling to candy and tells us to wrap medicine up in candy so it is more palatable.
Groove decided to do some split testing. They ran two versions of a post. One without a story and one with. The post that included the story had 300% more visitors who scrolled to the bottom of the post, versus the one without the story. On top of that, the average time the visitors spent on the post with the story was five times as high as on the post without.
Benefit #2. Stand Out from the Crowd
Another benefit of using storytelling in your blog posts is that you'll stand out from your competitors. The stories you tell are unique and that is what will help your post be more memorable than those of your competitors.
From the time people first gathered around the fire pit and shared stories of the day's hunt, man has loved a good tale. In fact, our brains are perfectly suited to respond to storytelling.
According to Quick Sprout, we spend around 65% of the day telling stories to one another.
Using metaphors has an impact on the reader's brain. In a 2012 Emory University study, scientists found that when concrete descriptions that included texture activated the sensory cortex.
This is the part of the brain that controls the senses and this could improve engagement. There were other ways to involve the brain in an active way that increased engagement, including movement verbs and avoiding overused descriptions.
Benefit #3. People Will Remember Your Posts
Because readers will be more engaged, they also will be more likely to remember what your post was about. If the story is something the reader can relate to, then she will remember how she can apply the information to her own life. Stories are remembered about 22 times more than just facts.
Benefit #4. Readers Will Convert into Fans
Isn't one of the main goals of any blog to convert site visitors into fans? Whether you collect names and emails for a newsletter list, or they simply revisit your blog again and again, converting visitors into fans will help your blog grow over time.
Devoted fans are more likely to share your content on social media and with family, friends, and business colleagues as well.
Veteran blogger Neil Patel shares his own marketing strategy to grow his blog and hit 100,000 readers. He shows how he accomplished this by sharing his journey and making an emotional connection with his readers through storytelling.
He also points out that pictures help to tell a story and shares that Facebook posts that include a photo have the highest engagement rate.
Examples of Brands Using Storytelling
Over the years here at WHSR, I have interviewed a number of different bloggers. One thing I've noticed about truly successful bloggers is that they use storytelling at least some of the time. Here are some of the more interesting blog posts I've come across that incorporate storytelling:
Marye Audet-White, who owns the blog Restless Chipotle points to social media as the single best thing she does that drives traffic to her blog. The blog offers different recipes, which might seem pretty cut and dried on the surface, but Marye tends to put her own spin on her posts.
For example, she writes about butterscotch oatmeal cookies, sharign that the recipe was inspired by a handwritten recipe her mother left her. These are similar to the same cookies she ate a child. She tugs at the heartstrings, because we all have a favorite memory of a food from our childhood. She then goes into details about how to make the cookies. The reader is already hooked.
Home and Garden Joy
Jeanne Grunert is a Master Gardener and writes on gardening topics. She uses a variety of storytelling techniques to pull readers into her blog posts.
One example of storytelling on her blog can be found in the post Soil for Container Vegetable Gardens. She starts off by talking about a recent lecture she gave and how she is going to answer some of the frequent questions she gets when lecturing on the topic of soil. This pulls the reader into the post by making her relate to workshop attendees.
ProBlogger is owned by Darren Rouse, but offers articles from a variety of bloggers. One of the things all of these articles have in common is some form of storytelling.
Jim Stewart, SEO expert, writes about site speed and the connection to SEO on ProBlogger. He starts the post off with a story about an Australian retailer and then connects that story to speed and why it matters.
Of course, I can't leave our amazing bloggers here at WHSR. Our writers often use storytelling to engage readers. We seek out unique sources, interview experts, and tell stories to prove a point or offer an example. One article that incorporates all of these features is by our veteran writer Luana Spinetti.
In her article 7 Storytelling Techniques to Conquer Your Blog Readership, Luana starts off by talking about her own personal story with niche blogging.
She then goes on to share the stories of others, such as Alex Limberg, Will Blunt, and Alex Turnbull.
These are just a handful of some of the blogs incorporating storytelling. No matter what size your readership, you can benefit from incorporating at least a few storytelling techniques.
Ideas for Incorporating Storytelling into Your Blog Posts
Now that you see the many reasons it is smart to add at least some storytelling into your blog posts, you may wonder how you can incorporate a story into some of the more cut and dried topics.
For example, let's say that you run a blog for small business owners and you want to write a post about keeping paperwork for your end of year taxes.
That sounds pretty boring and cut and dried.
However, you can easily add storytelling into this post in a few different ways:
- Tell a personal story about the time you didn't keep your paperwork organized, got audited, and it cost you $2500.00.
- Tell the story of someone you know who should have kept paperwork for taxes.
- Find a story online, link to it, rephrase it, and then go on to your topic.
- Tell a story from the reader's viewpoint. Here is an example: “Do you scramble every year to come up with the paperwork to finish your taxes? How much time do you waste pulling crumpled receipts out of the bottom of your desk drawer? What if you could save time and money on doing taxes simply be creating an organized filing system?”
- Make up a fake story. If you don't have a story, and can't find one, it is okay to make up a scenario. I just did that above when I made up the mock post about taxes.
Storytelling and Social Media Marketing
Storytelling even translates well for use on social media. There is no denying that social media marketing is a must for businesses today. There are about 1.71 billion users on Facebook, and another 320 million on Twitter. Around 27 million pieces of content are shared on social media every day.
But, understanding why people choose to share some content and not others can make a big difference in how much traction you get on social media.
Know the Social Media Platform
First, you have to understand the platform you are posting on, so you can tailor the story to that platform. A story on Twitter is a lot shorter by nature than a story on Google+. A story on Instagram is going to be more focused on telling a story with pictures, while a story on Facebook will tend toward pictures and text.
Use visual content
Creating visual content helps brands connect better with their audiences and produces more memorable information. Successful advertising doesn’t just come down to money anymore, modern marketing has become creatively focused and customer centric.
Posts with video or images tend to get a lot of interaction from followers. Tell your story with a short video and a link to more information on your website. While some people will not take the time to read text, they will watch a video with supporting information. Features such as Facebook Live allow you to stream in real time and engage your audience.
Even on platforms, such as Instagram or SnapChat, you can utilize captions to tell your story to the reader.
It is probably best to keep the story short and to the point, or simply to encourage a click for more information. Since these platforms are visual by nature, the audience likely won't appreciate lengthy text snippets.
Share a Series of Images and Posts
Another idea that will help you tell a story on social media is to create a series of images and captions all related to the same post.
For example, if you wrote a post about how to improve your golf stroke, you might create a series of photos with short tips as captions that take the reader from choosing the right club to follow-through on the swing.
Choose a story hashtag and start a Twitter chat on the topic of your post. You can start by sharing a link to the post and then encourage followers to ask questions or start a discussion around the topic.
One of the keys to good storytelling is your own personal voice.
This is the unique cadence your writing has. Think of your voice as that element you share with a friend as you tell her a story over a cup of coffee. Voice is your unique perspective of the world, the way you string words together, and even the rhythm of your writing. The best way to develop a strong voice and strong storytelling is simply to write. The more you write and get feedback from readers and editors, the stronger your voice will grow.