Digital storytelling: Turning insights into success


“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Joan Didion wrote that in 1979, but it’s always been true. It still is today. Only now we have infinitely more ways to tell and share our stories. We can shoot and edit high definition video on our phones, then upload what we make to any number of social platforms: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc. We can easily combine media, bringing text, images, and audio together. We can amass millions of followers without ever having to land an agent or publisher. We can share our thoughts and opinions to an audience who’s listening. 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities.

Are you paying attention, marketers?

Digital storytelling is more than a way to reach consumers—it’s a way to involve them, and learn from them. In this post, we’ll cover a few key ways your organization can use insights gleaned from digital storytelling to help drive success.

Turning to Content Creators for Honest Feedback

When people tell their own stories, they’re also telling the stories of the things they like—the things that make them happy. From makeup tutorials to video game reviews, content creators are sharing their opinions and influencing their audiences. And you should listen to what they have to say—even if it doesn’t paint your product or service in the most flattering light.

After all, these are the people you should be trying to win over. They’re passionate, well informed, and dedicated to the same awesome stuff you are. They’ve spent time thinking about why X is better than Y, and they want to share their reasoning. They’re helping others make purchasing decisions. If they like what you’re selling, it’s a ton of free advertising.

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And if they don’t, there may very well be a good reason for it. Perhaps a particular foundation really is too powdery. Or maybe the latest RPG would be more fun with a better open-world design. These examples make it sound simple, but that’s only because it doesn’t need to be complicated: listen to feedback from the people who really care and who are truly knowledgeable. If you think they’ve made a fair point, implement it.

Discovering Which Channels Matter Most

Among households where the head of household is under 35, one in three don’t have cable or satellite. How long before that number becomes two in three?

Traditional TV advertising is no longer the behemoth it once was. Meanwhile, the number of channels on YouTube earning six figures is up 50% year over year. Probably a smart bet, then, to advertise among nontraditional digital storytelling platforms.

But how to know where you’ll find the most success?

Thankfully, it’s fast, easy, and cheap to gather good analytics these days. By tracking click-through rates, you’ll be able to see which channels provide the highest yield on the web. And if you’re interested in tapping into the ever-growing podcast market, you could have several hosts broadcast one of your promotional codes and see which one brings in the most business.

Telling the Stories Your Audience Wants to Hear

So far, we’ve focused on listening to and working with digital storytellers to help grow your brand. But you’re not limited to such passive role—you can become a digital storyteller.

Reflect on what you know about your audience, then try to imagine what they might want to see. Are they creatives? If so, why not make a video that documents the design and production process for one of your products? This will show potential consumers that you care about craft as much as they do.

Or maybe your audience is more interested in giving back to the community. If this is the case, you might try creating content that shows how your company shares their same values—perhaps an Instagram account dedicated to images and videos of company-sponsored community service.

Another option is to create a platform where users can share content specific to your organization. If you hold a contest where these same users vote on their favorite entries, you’ll learn a great deal about what you audience wants to see.

Available technologies and platforms provide endless opportunities for creative experimentation. Be bold, take risks, and—in the spirit of digital storytelling—listen to what folks have to say. They’ll tell you what kinds of stories resonate with them.

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