Businesses have long used the power of storytelling to strengthen their brand identity, reach audiences, and promote their products and services. The advent of digital media has amplified this practice to the point where the market is saturated with brand stories. To connect with customers, businesses must understand what digital storytelling is, how it works, and how to tell stories that resonate.
What is digital storytelling?
Digital storytelling is a way to connect with your customers using a narrative approach that shapes your brand story, identity, and values. Done well, it can evoke emotion and inspire customers to engage with your brand. It helps people understand the benefits of your offerings and makes them want to learn more. This storytelling is done through a variety of digital mediums, including:
- Blog posts
- Graphics and photography
Each of these mediums has unique benefits depending on the type of story you want to tell. Consider using video to lead your customer seamlessly along a storyline that illustrates the benefits of using your product; or try an infographic to take a more educational approach that explains, through a combination of words and graphics, why your product is the right choice.
Whichever medium you choose, use digital storytelling in your content marketing to bring your brand to life and differentiate your business from the competition.
How story structures work in digital storytelling
Consumers are more likely to support a brand to which they feel a connection. One way to form that connection is by telling a story that provides your audience with a solution to an emotional need. And, by telling the story through the mediums your audience is most likely to use.
But to tell your story effectively and truly engage your audience, you first need a story structure. Once you have the structure, you can add in the details that make the story authentic, show a human element, and help to develop an emotional hook.
Three story structures to use in digital storytelling
There are many story structures to use in telling your brand story and throughout your content marketing. Here, we’ll focus on three common structures.
1. The ascent, or mountain structure.
This story structure evokes emotion by introducing a character with a problem that continues to grow. It’s an uphill struggle—until the character discovers a solution. At this point, the stress is alleviated, the character descends the mountain, and the outlook is better than before.
2. What is and what could be.
This story structure provides contrasting views―one that shows the character with a rising struggle, and one that shows a utopian view of what could be—if the character were using the right product or solution. This contrast creates the connection and desire for something better, and this is what inspires the customer to act.
3. Hub and spokes.
This story structure brings together several stories around a main theme, each spoke drawn to the hub, which represents a common solution. This structure is especially effective in illustrating how diverse a solution can be, and how far it can reach to help people of different backgrounds or needs.
You don’t have to use the same structure across mediums or channels. You may choose to make a video that shows your character trying to manage an intensifying struggle on the way to the “top of the mountain,” create an infographic that shows contrasting views of life, or write an article for an online publication that pulls three disparate stories together around the same solution.
The benefits of digital storytelling
As it’s been throughout history, sharing stories helps to:
- Form emotional connections.
- Build trust and loyalty.
- Inspire people to act.
By telling compelling stories, through the digital mediums your customers are using, you’re better positioned to connect with your customers, encourage them to take the next step in purchasing your products, and to build long-term fans and loyalty. All of which, ultimately, drives business growth.
See digital storytelling in the real world
Canadian food retailer, Loblaw, is a great example of bringing all the pieces together to tell a compelling and engaging digital story. In their “Food Lovers Unite” commercial, they’ve used the power of video with upbeat music to a structure that resembles “what is and what could be.” They’ve shown people who love their food and people who don’t―all shopping in their grocery store chain. They pull the two views together by bringing their audience to common ground in the ending scene.
As you view other commercials, read blog posts, or scan infographics, take time to identify what makes them work and why you’re drawn to them. Take notes about how they’ve implemented story structure and what mediums they’ve used to tell a compelling story. These insights go a long way when you sit down with your team, face-to-face or via a conference call, to begin your own story.
Getting started with digital storytelling
The right tools go a long way in effectively drafting and presenting your brand story―especially when so many teams are working remotely. To get started, take inventory of the tools you have available to your team and consider adding tools that you need. These may include:
- A messaging or chat application. Collaborate with your team in real time with a messaging platform that allows you to track conversations, make calls, and video conference to share and refine your story ideas.
- Cloud storage. Manage and share your files from anywhere, and with anyone, using a cloud storage service.
- Word processing and presentation applications. Work together in real time to make edits, comment, and refine your story as you work toward production―using a common word processor and presentation application across your team.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it should provide a good starting point for the tools to help you begin collaborating on your next digital story.