Storytelling and audience growth go hand-in-hand. But how can organizations harness the power of storytelling to grow their digital audiences, and how can you make it work for your business?

Brand storytelling is sharing a compilation of the feelings, relationships, and attributes of your brand. From idea to implementation, successful organizations strategize to build a storytelling infrastructure and take their digital audience members on a person-centric journey. Often, that journey starts when a visitor sees a post on social media and clicks through to convert on your website.

But storytelling and audience growth is about much more than “the click.” Let’s discuss what makes a good story, how to make storytelling work for your organization, how to prove ROI with storytelling, and which metrics to measure to keep your strategy strong and growing.

We’ve compiled this list of seven best practices for marketers and communications teams to share the authentic stories that only your subject matter experts can tell — and grow your audience in the process.

  1. Make sure your stories cover the basics.

Good stories are structured appropriately for the story timeline and the reader. That starts with a solid basic storytelling framework.

  • A beginning, middle, and end
  • A point or takeaway
  • Appropriate spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  • A sympathetic or relatable character or hero
  • Conflict, tension, or suspense to hold interest
  • Enough information but not too much

People are confronted with content nearly constantly during their waking hours. Poorly structured content wastes their time, frustrates them, and reflects poorly on your brand.

  1. Tell a unique story that is helpful and relevant.

Sharing unique stories is a two-way conversation, not a soapbox. Transition your content messaging tone, voice, and strategy from organization-centric to audience-centric.

Good content that solves a problem, answers a question, or entertains visitors will be shared more often than boring content that is not unique. Consider the “what’s in it for the audience” angle when you prepare content. Why should a person outside your organization read, watch, or listen to your content?

Your audience doesn’t care that you published new research or won a prize. They care if that research will affect their daily lives, or the prize somehow extends their access to your products or services.

  1. Make your traditional and digital marketing stories jive.

Telling good stories takes much more than posting a clever article to your blog and writing a few social media posts. It takes hard work, strategy, and dedication.

In an integrated storytelling plan, digital advertising, social media, and traditional media work together to share a unified message. As you plan your assets for each channel, keep that channel’s target audience in mind. Create your messaging for each channel to reflect the needs and wants of the audience and engage with them in a way that is easy and makes sense.

  1. Speak to your audience in their language.

It’s important to retain your brand voice on all channels you use to remain familiar and consistent. However, you also should make a point to speak to your audience in a personable and approachable way to encourage engagement with your stories.

One way to do that is to avoid industry jargon whenever possible. Instead, swap out those terms with more consumer-friendly language. Doing so makes your brand more human and sets you apart from the perpetual stream of buzzword-riddled content your audience faces day in and day out. It’s OK to use complex terms once in a while — in fact, it can be beneficial for SEO purposes. But when you use these types of words, be sure to define them so your audience can follow the conversation.

  1. Target the right audiences.

Many organizations use a combination of paid and organic strategies to get their stories in front of more people. But it’s important to not “spray and pray” with your marketing dollars.

Strategically focus on specific demographics (location, age, gender, career) to serve your content to people who will find it relevant and interesting — and who likely will be interested in purchasing your products or services.

  1. Choose your channels wisely.

Even with today’s integrated CMS platforms, great content doesn’t post itself to the most appropriate channel. Investigate which platforms your audience spends the most time on and engages most with your content.

If you’re just starting out with storytelling, choose the top two or three channels (for example, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and focus your time and energy there. As your content plans grow, consider spreading your reach to other platforms.

  1. Measure what matters.

Growing your social media audience is a numbers game. Focus on the metrics that matter most to evaluate your success and share those numbers with your stakeholders to prove ROI.

These numbers go beyond link clicks. Consider measuring and analyzing:

  • The user journey after someone visits your site from social media
  • Increases in service requests or social media followers during your campaigns
  • Effects on total website traffic or referrals to other service lines

When done well, brand storytelling will increase your ROI and grow your audiences over time. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Most storytelling initiatives take six months to a year to really gain steam. With dedication and hard work, your organization can reap the benefits of an effective storytelling strategy.

Are you ready to take the next step toward implementing a digital storytelling strategy to grow your audiences online? Register for our courses today: How to Tell Unique Stories and How to Grow Your Digital Audience.

The Author

Christoph Trappe is a career storyteller who has worked as a journalist, change agent and content marketing executive. He is a global keynote speaker, frequent blogger, trainer and two-time author. His digital initiatives have been recognized globally. He is currently helping hospitals across the United States share their authentic stories and drive results by using his brand journalism techniques to stand out. Follow Christoph on Twitter @ctrappe.

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