Digital storytelling has become a buzzword among those looking for effective ways to market their brands, but many miss the ways in which the technique has evolved over time.
In other words, digital storytelling doesn’t look like it did in its early days and what worked ten or even five years ago isn’t guaranteed to get you results anymore.
In this post, we’ll take a quick look at what digital storytelling is, why it works, and how to level up your digital storytelling game to make sure it’s relevant and fresh. We’ll also look at a few recent examples of digital storytelling along the way.
What Is Digital Storytelling?
Marketers describe digital storytelling as a way to make your ideas stick. In other words, it is the use of a narrative to communicate one main idea. In marketing, that idea is your brand and what it offers.
Also, check out this podcast episode on, “Brand Storytelling: Doing it Right with Melanie Deziel.”
How Does Digital Storytelling Work for Marketing a Brand?
If you’re like most of us, you’re likely to have a harder time remembering exact dates than recalling the general gist of what happened in major world events. You may be bad with names but good with remembering faces. Memory is tricky like that and emotions can help.
Stories heighten our ability to remember information by effectively attaching that information to feelings. When we’re told a story, many chemicals get released into the brain. The three most important ones are dopamine, oxytocin, and cortisol.
Explore the image below to learn what these chemicals do.
Image via Genially
When we hear any story:
- Dopamine helps us stay engaged by regulating our emotional responses. This prevents us from losing interest and helps us focus on the story.
- Oxytocin helps us create and maintain deeper connections with the characters of the story through empathy.
- Cortisol helps us create memories. When a story is able to activate cortisol, we will be more likely to remember that story.
Together, these three chemicals create a response in our brain that activates memory and emotions and ultimately makes us feel connected to the story we’re hearing.
Thus, when we take advantage of storytelling to communicate who we are as a brand and what we stand for, we help our audience associate positive emotions with our brand.
The greatest uses of digital storytelling are to create awareness, build and nurture customer relationships, increase engagement, and acquire new customers.
We can use digital stories to build trust among our clients, explain what we do and offer as a product or service, and, ultimately, persuade an audience. Effective digital stories, therefore, mean higher sales and increased customer loyalty.
That’s a pretty big promise, but digital storytelling delivers it.
If you’ve generated only a few results from the use of digital storytelling, you may be following outdated trends and guidelines when building your digital stories. You should follow the latest trends and technology and also improve your digital storytelling copy using these copywriting tips.
With all the digital noise in 2021, it’s not enough to just tell a story. If you’re telling the same story you’ve told since the foundation of your brand in the same way you’ve always told it, you’re likely missing a big opportunity to catch and keep your audience’s attention.
Let’s learn about ways to leverage digital storytelling the right way.
Ways to Improve Your Digital Storytelling Game in 2021
Here are 10 ways to level up your digital storytelling game and tell the right story right now:
1. See What’s Trending
Pantone comes out with its featured color(s) each and every year, and soon enough, Pantone’s color of the year is well, everywhere.
Every element of marketing is in constant evolution, and even the colors you’re using can send a message about how relevant you are as a brand.
Whether you’re a small fish in a big pond or the biggest shark out there, the reality is that the ocean dwarfs us all. Pay attention to what’s floating around you and make sure that your story doesn’t fall flat.
That’s the way to make your digital storytelling work.
2. Make It Visual
It’s always amazing to see how many brands don’t take full advantage of what’s possible today in the visual sphere.
Options like images, graphs, animations, and videos have become more and more accessible. Businesses that aren’t exploiting them for digital storytelling are missing out.
You should use images, graphs, and infographics to make the information easier to read and consume. Making your content visually appealing is an effective way to pass on your knowledge without making people feel bored.
Other than images, you should also consider using motion graphics and videos.
Paying attention to “motion” was once the key to human survival as people struggled to eat and not be eaten. Interestingly, due to their early necessary adaptations favoring attention to moving things, items in motion still attract our attention. The effects of this show up everywhere.
One Intel study found that a digital sign attracted 400% more attention than static signs. If hiring a team of graphic designers, videographers, and animators is out of your budget, consider trying out inexpensive tools that allow you to add simple animations to your stories.
Check out the visual marketing facts you should know when using visuals for digital storytelling.
3. Encourage User Interaction
We’ve all had a teacher who thought that PowerPoint presentations and hour-long lectures were the best way to ensure that they had covered all of their material. Covering the material doesn’t mean you’ve ensured learning.
Similarly, while telling a story increases the likelihood that your audience will remember you, interaction can ensure that they do.
To encourage user interaction, you can do something as simple as adding a button or two to your art, pitch ads, images, videos, website carousels, and other content formats for digital storytelling. You can also hide information for your audience to discover for themselves.
Here’s an example:
Image via Genially
You can also find ways to encourage the viewers of your digital stories to create user-generated content (UGC) for your brand. This will help you increase user interaction and engagement further.
Toy Story filmmaker, Andrew Stanton, says that people ultimately want to work for their meals instead of being passive observers. What’s the catch? They don’t want to know that they’re doing it.
The key to making your story engaging but not exhausting is a fun presentation.
Free content creation and writing tools that focus on interaction and animation can be of great help here.
If you’re overwhelmed by all of the options, consider trying digital storytelling tools such as Genially, the tool we use to create our graphics. You can use it to make just about any digital story come to life.
4. Center Digital Storytelling Around a Cause
While using a cause as a center for digital storytelling can help, make sure that you choose the cause for your digital story carefully.
The impact of a great story told on an important stage (think TED Talks, for example) can be felt in the roaring applause that comes after it. What if you tell a bad story? The results will most likely range between silence and maybe even backlash against your brand.
Find a cause you believe in and that somehow aligns with your brand’s philosophy, but don’t toy with greater causes without thinking through what this new connection means. Many brands have made mistakes that have cost them dearly.
The recent Wix commercial that portrayed their competitor, WordPress, as a man in therapy facing a mental health crisis comes to mind. Needless to say, it has generated plenty of backlash due to its clear lack of awareness and sensitivity.
5. Have a Single Person Tell Your Digital Stories
Isaiah Mustafa, fondly known as “the guy from the Old Spice commercials,” is a great narrator.
The ads he stars in are a product of the marketing insights that showed the Old Spice team that women were often the ones making decisions about which body products their male partners were using.
In his story, men who use Old Spice products become more (stereotypically) masculine.
Check out the video below to learn about the art of digital storytelling.
Video via YouTube
These Old Spice ads are engaging, get a laugh, and the use of the same actor helps viewers quickly identify the story that’s about to be told. It is memory reinforcement at its best and helps to create a strong association between a positive experience and Old Spice products.
You can create similar content for your brand to generate views, engagement, and buzz about your products and services through effective digital storytelling.
6. Pull Digital Stories From Staff
Tight on cash? Looking for a story that feels more sincere? Your best asset may be right under your nose.
Your business’ staff (and maybe that’s you) are often the best sources of human interest stories starring your brand. Using them can be an effective way to level up your digital storytelling game.
Highlight great employees and your brand at the same time by letting them tell stories about why they work for you. You can also have them tell their life stories. It’s a strategy where everyone wins, and it helps your audience to associate friendly faces with your brand’s name.
However, you should ensure that the employees you select to tell your stories have great communication skills.
Use employee stories on the team page of your website to gain more traction.
7. Utilize the Element of Surprise
A Microsoft study found that the average attention span of humans in 2000 was about 12 seconds. By 2013, it had dropped to mere 8 seconds. And now, it is even lower, as represented in the image below:
Image via MediaPost
If your story lasts more than 3 seconds, and we hope it does, you’ll need a trick to keep your mobile audience engaged.
Regardless of the digital storytelling medium you choose, grabbing your audience’s attention in the first few seconds is the key to generate enough engagement.
Plus, a great story deserves an exciting ending. By “exciting,” we don’t mean that it has to keep viewers holding onto the edge of their seats. Your story may simply provide a new angle on what was shared in the first half.
Other effective ways to add a small twist to your story include revealing new characters, changing the tone (sad to uplifting), or changing the pace.
8. Go Global
If the last year has taught us anything, it is that we are all more connected than we’d thought. Stories that highlight unity, community, and friendship are on the rise. Brands that connect their clients are well served by highlighting that aspect of their services.
9. Create a Series of Stories for Effective Digital Storytelling
Do you know what works better than a single video story? Several stories revolving around a single, powerful idea!
Creating a series of digital stories based on successful case studies, company values, or a recent problem-solving innovation can do wonders for keeping your viewers engaged.
Like interaction, variations on a story invite viewers to revisit who your brand is and what it offers while skipping any potential boredom caused by the predictability of seeing the same thing twice.
Magicians never do the same trick twice. Jokes should never be told twice to the same person. This is one of those things.
For effective digital storytelling, you should compile a list of stories related to the same topic or concept and present them as a story series to engage users.
10. Talk to Young People
The world is changing at an incredible rate and no one has a better pulse on what’s coming than young people. Your niece, kids, and neighbors likely have insights on the direction the world is heading, and they may not even realize it.
Staying in tune with the technology and media that young people are consuming can be a great way to give your digital storytelling tactics a chance to stand the test of internet time.
How long are we talking? With the power of virality on the internet, the real answer is that a difference of a few days may give you the time you need to get a big break.
We’re not saying you need to buy toys or play video games to stay relevant, but paying attention to the point of view of young people around you and how they consume information can give you a leg up on enjoying the benefits of game-changing trends like creating a story format for TikTok and other social media platforms.
Ready to Leverage Digital Storytelling the Right Way?
Reading these kinds of lists is just the starting point. We hope you’ll be able to implement the insights we’ve offered to level up your digital storytelling game.
Have great storytellers craft your brand’s story in different content formats. Keep your digital stories short, crisp, and engaging. Leverage media professionals and storytelling tools to improve efficiency and amplify the reach of your content.
Leverage these tactics and watch your audience and engagement grow.
Do you need help leveraging digital storytelling to grow your brand? Connect with us in the comments below.