Stories have captured people’s attention for centuries. And today, in an endless array of information, they still help convey the message to the audience. Brands build loyalty and reach out with good storytelling. However, for the tool to work, fantasy alone is not enough. It is important to know your target building audience well, be able to unobtrusively present the product, and adapt content for different marketing goals and stages of the sales funnel.
In the book “Storytelling in business. How to talk to people so that they listen to you, they believe you, they agree with you ”authors Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow share a fail-safe formula to help you build an audience with content.
Good storytelling develops relationships and grabs people’s attention. And historically, the best relationships with consumers have developed precisely with those companies for whom stories work. We’re talking about newspapers, magazines, TV networks, Netflix, HBO. These companies boast loyal followers that the rest of us can only get to for money.
What is worth learning from them? What’s their secret? Upon closer inspection, you can see that they all, in fact, work according to the same time-tested scenario.
We call this “flywheel” system. First, content is created, then the methods of its distribution are determined, after which the stage of optimization of both the first and the second begins.
You may remember Upworthy, a well-intentioned site launched in 2012 by a pair of smart, socially-oriented journalists. Upworthy amassed an incredibly large audience simply by turning our flywheel faster than any other publisher.
Upworthy’s strategy was to take an inspirational video created by someone else but go unheeded by a wide audience, repackage that story into a beautifully designed article with a new headline, provide it with an attention-grabbing photo and intriguing introduction (create), and then share this new version of the story with multiple Facebook users (get across).
The authors of the site then checked if the new version of the story was able to attract more attention than the original (optimized). Have people read the entire article? Have you watched the entire video? Did they share the link?
Thus, the creators of Upworthy tested dozens of versions of similar stories. They came up with new headlines, inserted new photos, and shared content with different Facebook user groups until they found the best headline and the perfect picture (created) to give the story the maximum chance of going viral. An optimized version of the story was sent to everyone they knew via e-mail (reported).
Thanks to this strategy, the site grow traffic five times faster than any other media company in history – because it turned the flywheel faster than anyone else.
But a word of caution: After years of growth, Upworthy’s traffic dropped sharply when the company stopped using its flywheel.
There were several reasons for this. First, Facebook changed its news feed algorithm, blocking Upworthy-style content after dozens of copycats began using its most successful headline templates. As a result, Upworthy traffic crashed in just a day. And instead of optimizing the process with these changes in mind – finding another way to deliver the content to the audience or adapting the strategy for its creation – the site did not adjust.
Upworthy’s abrupt disappearance from the top of the traffic charts is also significant because every good storyteller uses one version of the flywheel (create, communicate, optimize) to build an audience, but only the best of them never stop improving and adapting.
Want some good news? Modern technology makes it possible to do this more efficiently than ever before. Before the internet, creating, communicating, and optimizing required a print press, delivery trucks, and a staff of delivery boys. Today, a laptop and an internet connection are enough.
But now that we know about the flywheel, the real test begins. How to get the most out of it?
Deliver: the target of storytelling
One important factor to consider when thinking about what content to create is how you plan to communicate it to your audience. So let’s focus on the second stage of the flywheel.
There are new ways to connect with your audience every day, so we can’t tell you exactly where to send your content tomorrow. What is known for sure is that the new rules of the media game provide brand owners and aspiring publishers with perhaps the greatest networking opportunity in history.
However, in the world of social networks, everything is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to predict which tactics will be optimal. However, we can give you the formula to help you calculate it.
Roughly speaking, there are two types of companies: B2B (a business that offers goods and services to another business) and B2C (a business that offers goods and services directly to consumers). Typically, their goals fall into two categories: branding (what people will think of you and how) and conversion (getting a person to take action, such as buying something or consulting a salesperson).
Some companies may fall into several categories at once, and that’s okay. It’s just that they will have more difficult tasks than others.
No matter what category your company falls into, the most powerful way to reach your audience is with a website. This is where you control both the branding and the conversion process. Through the site, you can make people see exactly what you want to show them, and so that they have a desire to take the actions that you expect from them.
But with rare exceptions, the entire potential audience of the company does not flock to its website on its own, so you need to look for other ways to reach consumers.
The second most effective way of establishing contact is in the territory of potential consumers. This is their email. This method is also suitable for all categories of companies. By sending an email, you largely control both the branding and the conversion process. The content comes from you and goes directly to the recipient’s inbox.
If you do not have email addresses for your target audience, then you will have to lure them in some way. You will need to catch the eye of potential users in those places where they usually spend time on the Web.
Where to find your audience? What social networks? What sites? What communication channels does she prefer? What applications does he use?
The category to which your company belongs will help determine this. If it’s a B2B company interested in promoting a brand, by far the best solution would be to find contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and podcasts. If this is a B2B company interested in increasing conversions, then you should probably focus on Google Search, SlideShare, and similar company subscriber lists.
If you’re developing branding for B2C, you can target the same places as B2B, but go for Instagram and Reddit over LinkedIn. If you’re a B2C company looking to boost conversions, then it’s best to channel your energy towards Pinterest and Instagram.
The type of content depends on which channels you intend to use to deliver your content to your target audience. Your stories should match the specifics of the selected channels.
Further, the strategy is simple. Each story should bring the audience at least one step closer to the center of the target. Your LinkedIn posts and YouTube videos should include an email invitation to subscribe to additional content. And top-notch content in your mailing list should draw people to your site – over and over again.
Again, platforms will change over time, but the principles behind this technique shouldn’t.
Once you have an overall strategy for reaching out to your audience, you can start thinking about the content and format of your stories.
Create: funnel story matrix
Just as strict requirements for haiku structure make it immediately easier to compose an impromptu poem, so the parameters of the diagram below help you craft stories to build relationships with consumers in the ways we just talked about.
We call this strategy the funnel matrix.
The funnel-shaped die has two axes. The first one roughly corresponds to the stages of a typical sales funnel: awareness, interest, purchase. They, in turn, roughly correspond to the stages of our target: while your audience uses some kind of digital communication channel, you are trying to attract their attention. Once you succeed, you should interest her in cooperation. And at the stage of communication between a potential client and your sales representative, your task is to persuade him to buy.
Which stories you tell depends on your current relationship.
Optimize: improve efficiency
In the third stage of our flywheel, the winner is determined among the competitors. The winner is the one who, based on in-depth analysis, makes the necessary adjustments in the first two stages of storytelling (create and convey).
The essence of the third stage is to study examples of successful stories, highlight their common elements and the most effective techniques, and then simply repeat what works best.
It’s like endless racing. We put 10 horses on the tracks, according to the results of the races, we select two winners, we get offspring from them, again we select the best from the offspring, and so on over and over again.
But which story should be considered successful? What content parameters really matter?
At the moment, content marketers want to divide all content parameters into two groups: useless and overriding. But in this changeable area, there can be no absolute values.
Content goals should be driven by your company’s business goals and, in turn, indicate key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to you. Take a look at an example of a table from the Content Methodology Practical Experience Report:
We consider the following indicators to be the most interesting.
Number of users involved
The number of people who spend at least 15 seconds viewing an article.
This is also an important indicator. If a person takes the time to share your content with their contacts on social networks, then your content deserves it.
Average time spent on site
The average length of time spent by a person on your content while performing some active actions: scroll, click, select text. (In other words, he didn’t just open a tab to keep himself busy while lunch was warming up.)
Average viewing depth
This indicator tells you what percentage of the article is viewed by users. If they read no more than a quarter of the text, the headline may have misled them and the article didn’t live up to expectations. If the average viewing depth reaches 90 percent of the text, then you are doing everything right.
This indicator is calculated simply: clicks on links in social networks/clicks on the site + 1. It tells how much additional organic social traffic content can bring, and helps to select priority distribution channels.
Average content per user
Are visitors staying on your site to read more than one story?
Qualification of press mentions
This metric measures the relevance of content-triggered press mentions based on the relevance of a particular publication to your target audience and the reach of that mention. We, for example, actively invest in our own research. Not least because they bring us a lot of attention from the mainstream media.
If you are concerned about lead generation, analyze your engagement metrics: as we said before, no one gets married (or buys anything) after a first date. The chances of converting a person (to a life partner or a buyer) will be much greater after a relationship is established between you. In addition, there are additional metrics to help assess the contribution of content to lead generation.
Subscription conversion rate
One of the best indicators of a quality story is its ability to convince audiences to subscribe to our newsletter.
Lead conversion rate
It’s even better if the story convinces the reader to take an interest in the expensive software product.
This metric measures the likelihood of a lead converting to a customer based on a number of factors (company size, name, industry, and other information).
These are people who enter your sales funnel through content on your site and demonstrate a willingness to become a customer. For example, 50 percent of Contently’s customers are users who read our content or download an e-book.
You can go on and on. Trying to determine your favorite content performance metric is like picking your favorite ninja turtles character.
Another good practice is to tag your article (by topic, person, format, etc.) and compare cost metrics with return metrics. In this way, you can understand which stories do not meet KPIs, and which ones overfulfill them. In fact, you can publish dozens of articles of different formats, topics, etc., determine the winners (the most effective), and adjust your content strategy accordingly.
This leads to another important nuance. In many cases, assessing the effectiveness of content by key indicators is needed not only in order to optimize it but also in order to have a reason to report on your success to senior management and get additional resources for more ambitious content projects. The article was prepared by the service great resumes fast.