Appealing to Audiences with Authentic Storytelling
Humans need stories, and the more compelling these stories are, the better. Nowhere is this more true (apart from the entertainment industry) than in digital marketing. Audiences love it when a brand keeps them enthralled and every brand out there has a story to tell. But how do you write a brand story so that audiences choose your services over competitors’?
The answer is simple: make sure that what you’re writing is authentic human storytelling.
What is Authentic Human Storytelling?
Let’s start with the part most people are likely to get confused about, which is “storytelling”.
Storytelling in marketing refers to a process used by brands to communicate a message to a target audience. As with storytelling in anything else, particularly literature and movies, the idea of this storytelling is to make the reader feel something. When the reader feels something, they may be inspired to take action.
In the case of most businesses, it’s important that the action the reader is inspired to take is to buy the product or service being sold. To get them to do this, it’s important that the brand’s storytelling helps potential customers to understand why they should care about it in the first place. It should humanise the brand, and this leads perfectly to talking about authenticity.
Authenticity refers to something or someone being real and genuine. These are both things that carry significant cultural and emotional weight in the real world – no matter where you are. If a brand seems authentic, then it’s more likely to gain the trust of audiences driven into its website as traffic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a brand seems fake or insincere in its message, then audiences are less likely to trust the brand and what it’s selling.
Brand owners should be looking to create something authentic at all costs, not just saying whatever they want or think an audience wants to read. In a modern world filled with opportunities to conduct research and to look at reviews, they should do it with this warning, too: audiences will know if you’re not being genuine!
Why is Storytelling Important in Digital Marketing?
There’s more than one reason storytelling, and making sure it’s authentic to you and your brand, is important. We’ve explained these in a little more detail below.
It Helps You Connect to Audiences
People – in general, not just your target audience – see ads every day. Whether it’s online, on television, or on the sides of buses, you can hardly go anywhere without someone trying to sell you something. It’s so commonplace, our brains have become conditioned to skim and discard information they don’t think is worth their time. Good, genuine storytelling gives you a better chance of being noticed instead of being told to get lost.
It Helps Build Trust
Customer trust and brand loyalty are the keys to any successful business venture. If people trust you, they’re more likely to buy from you. If they like what you have, they’ll become loyal to your brand and buy from you again. Of course, you have to convince them to trust you first. This is where you’ll find a difference between storytelling and plain old marketing materials.
Good storytelling convinces people to trust your brand. It’s the online equivalent of talking to a person, rather than the robot you might imagine you’re talking to with marketing materials. The latter will often give you all the information you need to know about what you’re buying, but you’re unlikely to make a connection with it. It’s clinical and cold and just wants a hard sell.
Using storytelling, on the other hand, shouldn’t come off this way if it is done well. Instead, it should address customers more warmly and personally, working out their pain points and demonstrating how the brand’s product or service can take care of them. It shows that what you have to offer is genuine and has your customers’ best interests at heart.
It Doesn’t Feel “Pushy”
A lot of marketing experts over the years have been brought up on what other, older marketing experts told them in training: the rule of “ABC”, or “Always Be Closing”. You need to scrap this immediately in your digital marketing. It’s an old rule and no longer applies.
Now, customers are actually more likely to be put off by aggressive or hard sells than they are to buy anything from them. It’s easier than ever to avoid them, too, with online shopping – a customer can simply click to close the page or bounce off your website and not come back.
Developing your storytelling and building a relationship with your customers is the opposite of this. Think of it as the difference between approaching a stranger in the street and immediately telling them to buy from you, and striking up a conversation, gaining their trust, and then asking them to buy from you.
The first one will probably make them uncomfortable and want to leave the conversation by any means necessary. The second helps them to relax and makes them more likely to listen to what you have to say.
It’s Valuable to Your Audience
Writing truthfully and genuinely helps to distinguish your brand as a source of valuable content. If a customer trusts you, they’re not just likely to buy from you again. They’re also likely to come back to you for further advice and information related to your brand.
It Generates Shareable Content
If you really want your brand to be noticed, it has to be taken further than your website. Getting on social media helps this, but what you really want is for customers to be inspired to share your story with others. Authentic human storytelling is designed to make an audience feel things, so if it’s done well it has the potential to get audience members clicking to share it.
It’s an SEO Booster
Search engine optimisation is one of the cornerstones of having a successful online business, and good storytelling helps to give this a boost. It does this by:
- Encouraging audiences to share the content
- Encouraging the creation of backlinks to your website on other authoritative websites
- Filling your website with valuable content
It Sets You Apart
No other brand has your brand’s voice. Good digital storytelling is the way that you prove it.
How Does Google’s Algorithm Fit in Here?
Google’s algorithm, the process by which websites are ranked based on authority and quality of information, is constantly changing. More recently, it’s started evolving to be people-driven, rather than keyword-driven.
This means the algorithm has started noticing trends in how people interact with websites based on how the content on those websites reads. Websites that sound like they were written by people, for people are starting to outperform websites that are written simply to rank on the search engine (meaning they’re just stuffed full of keywords).
These up-and-coming websites are being rewarded for their performance with higher rankings in the search engine results pages. The only thing they might have done to get there? Been more genuine and authentic in the content they’ve written. This is proof that making a move towards better storytelling on your website can have an impact on where you sit in the SERPs.
Making Brand Storytelling Better
So, how can you make your brand’s storytelling better and more authentic for a modern audience? There are different approaches, strategies, and tips you can use:
Approaches to Storytelling
The approach you should take to storytelling will depend almost entirely on your brand, but we’ve listed a few of the ways which might interest you most:
- Data-driven storytelling, which is using the data you have available to help develop your story. Collecting data is vital for businesses in the modern world anyway, and gathering more to help improve storytelling is also a must.
- Using images to complement data-driven storytelling. People process images faster than they process text, so by making your content visually appealing you are more likely to grab an audience’s attention.
- Turning to other forms of media, not just copy. Video content is a popular method for delivering a lot of information passively and in a short amount of time, and can easily be incorporated into websites and social media platforms.
- Using customer-generated storytelling to let the product or service sell itself. How often have you bought something online based on a review, rather than a description? Providing a platform for customers to share experiences does this for your business.
Strategies for Storytelling
Effective digital advertising uses a range of strategies that can help you connect with your customers:
- The brand story is the narrative that connects your audience emotionally and provides information. You should aim to know it so well, you can concisely answer why audiences should choose your brand.
- Use the “Show, Don’t Tell” method, which you might also think of as “less is more” in your content. It means describing the product or service and letting the audience recognise its value that way, rather than going over the top with the hard sell.
- Keeping your storytelling consistent; this means that when you are trying to sell a product or service, you shouldn’t attempt to change the narrative too much too quickly. If you do, a potential customer may lose trust in you.
- Carry out multi-device optimisation. Many people now view content on mobile phones and tablets as well as desktops and laptops, so it’s crucial to ensure your stories are as easily viewed on these as well.
- Carrying out A/B Testing. This is a randomised test where multiple variables (like a webpage and web page elements) are presented to different web page visitors at one time. The aim is to see which variable will generate the most click-throughs.
Tips for Storytelling
For truly effective and authentic storytelling, you can also incorporate these tips and tricks:
- Use your storytelling across multiple platforms and different forms of social media; otherwise, you might miss out on customers who only ever visit one website or application.
- Build up your credibility with different platform users; present yourself as a knowledgeable and like-minded resource, not as an intrusive presence. Remember, you’re gaining their trust, not demanding things from them up-front!
- Speaking of credibility, always make sure that what you’re saying is honest. You want audiences to be able to trust you and you want them to return for more; they won’t do either if they find out what you’re saying doesn’t match what you’re selling.
- Develop a tone of voice for your brand; think about how you want to communicate core beliefs and value positions, and how you want to read and come across to audiences. Just be warned that this can take some time – don’t expect instant results.
- Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to your brand when needed, but never aim to surprise your audience with the unexpected. If you’re planning updates or even rebranding entirely, do it carefully and let your customers know.
- Keep it realistic. There’s nothing wrong with having big plans, but you should always scale everything you do to keep it doable for your time and budget. Shorter stories are more efficient and are often more effective in the long run anyway.
- Keep track of what you do. Every good digital marketing campaign is working towards a goal, so you should know what you’re aiming to achieve and the metrics you’re going to use to determine success.
Need Experienced Storytellers to Create Content?
Even if you’re not sure where to start, there’s no need to worry.
Clever content creators can kickstart a campaign that’s bound to boost your brand online – and have audiences amazed by your authenticity in storytelling. We have a team of them right here at Bamboo Nine, ready and waiting to work with you on a variety of different campaign types across multiple industries.
Why not get in touch and see what we can do for your content?