Mary has been staring at her laptop for good thirty minutes… Another cup of coffee has already gone cold. She finished the post she'd been working on and is now dealing with a new dilemma: whether to hit “publish” or simply erase it and start the whole thing all over again.
Her writing had to be really good. It had to make people comment and truly engage with her story. But still, she had her doubts. Did she tell it the right way? Did she provide enough detail? Is the information intuitive and relevant?
Figuring out and serving content that your users are interested in requires research, feedback, and constant optimization. As a writer, through trial and error, you can find out what style of writing and which topics will be the most successful for your audience.
It’s up to you to determine what content will be the most effective, while writing in a style that creatively showcases content in a neatly wrapped package. The goal is to serve your audience with a tasty story that they will eat up with enthusiasm, which is a lot of pressure, and sometimes isn’t successful. Anyone who writes professionally has been there. You create great, informative and entertaining content, yet still don't get the response you’d hoped for.
Storytelling started as a trend in content marketing, but over time, has turned into a crucial element to many campaigns in order to engage readers. Although we, as marketers, can see the value of including this in our content, it’s not an easy task.
Here are some tips that will help you dramatically improve your user engagement through storytelling…
Paint the character in detail
Every good story needs a hero that the audience can relate to and empathize with. Readers can put themselves in the shoes of someone who's going through a journey that will bring value, relief, and inspiration. This is important because the more you can relate to your audience, the better chance you have at keeping them on your site, reading more of your content, and ultimately, generating conversions.
Your hero can be whoever you want it to be. It can be your marketing persona as the solution to your customer’s problems, your customer, who is their own hero, or anyone else you can think of. They key point here is to offer a focal point, a person, service, example, or advice, that acts as a hero.
Start by doing some research to find out what angle you’d like to project; the best thing one can do here is to be as specific as possible. Knowing your audience's pains and needs is extremely important. After some basic research, you can go deeper and find subtle, yet meaningful details that make your hero relatable.
Is your persona a college student dealing with homework overload? Then think of the moments, that got you over the tipping point when you were in this situation. Do you remember the annoying buzzing in your head when you looked at your watch and realized you had an assignment due tomorrow, while your work shift started in a couple of hours?
Is it a successful business person, seeking ways to boost their productivity? Then try imagining how they feel when their phone is exploding with the number of notifications, which are all important, yet definitely impossible to handle at the same time.
We all are different. Nevertheless, we tend to have similar reactions dealing with issues in our lives. Crystallize the emotional response from your target audience and appeal to it as much as possible.
Get Creative with Structure
Well-structured stories can captivate an audience and get them sitting on the edge of their seats. There are many formats you can play with that don’t follow the traditional format of introduction -> supportive content -> conclusion.
A great way to get your audience glued to your narrative is starting it right in the middle. The approach is called in medias res, which offers no foundation or scene setting. You start your story right in the middle of exciting, shocking or provocative circumstances and build your story on the factors that led to the situation. Then, smoothly bring it to conclusion. The ultimate goal is to get people go, “what the heck just happened here and how is this going to play out!?”
You may either start with an incredibly happy picture, inspired by the result of the product, service or idea you're offering. Otherwise, you can paint a dark picture to demonstrate how effectively your offering can change the user’s situation for the better. Either way, you are creating a positive association between the customer and what your company is offering.
Spice It Up
No matter how good your story is, your listeners might still get wary of it at some point – That's why it’s important to shake it up once in awhile.
Classic cliffhangers can always be depended on to hook your readers. If your story can be broken into several parts (a series of blog posts, an email advertising campaign, or a sequence of videos), try to make each ending exciting enough to get your audience anticipating the next release.
Another way to keep interest at peak height is to include the element of secret in your writing. For example, if you have some cool advice about facilitating blogging efforts for small businesses, save the best one for the very end.
Intrigue has always been a surefire way to encourage audience involvement. Whether you’re developing a novel or a marketing campaign, the way you word your content is important and can be more or less effective depending on how you present it.
Let them tell it
The simplest way to get people do something for you is to ask. Provide your audience with an opportunity to express themselves and contribute to the big picture you're painting.
Are you launching a new Instagram campaign? Promote a caption contest to inspire your audience, which will in turn, give you valuable insight to their interests. Are you planning to start working on advertising series? Give your audience a writing prompt and wait for the story to develop in the comment section. There are endless opportunities in which you can interact with your audience, so get creative!
Most of your customers still crave recognition and belonging within a group, which is why showing that you care and are ready to satisfy their needs is a highly effective tool. By doing this, you will build personal connection between your brand (either personal or corporate) and your target audience. Treat everyone with appreciation by really listening to your customers – they’ll notice. The impact this will have on your business is that your audience will develop a strong sense of community and belonging with your brand, which creates consumer loyalty.
“C” is for consistency
A consistent voice and writing style creates a dependable persona that your audience will learn to trust. Although it’s fun to shake things up a bit once in awhile by throwing in an unexpected turn or surprise, maintaining a consistent voice and tone is crucial to maintaining a relationship with your audience.
The key to a truly efficient storytelling is quite simple: choose a path and follow it. There should be exciting twists along the way, but ultimately, your story needs to be tied together with a reliable and authoritative voice.
You may have a lot of stories to tell, which will unwind as blog posts, ads or images. They may have different plot, hero, or issue, but they should always have something, that binds them together. Create unity through your writing style, imagery, or by some other means to maintain your consistency.
Monitor your user engagement
If you want to monitor your user behavior and find out if users are actually engaging with your content, Mouseflow offers a variety of features that offer some great insight. This software tracks users and gives you data that shows you how people are behaving on your website in the form of session replay, heatmaps, funnels, and form analytics. By analyzing the data, you can optimize your content, placement, and layout to attract and maintain an engaged audience.
In the Attention Heatmap below, you can see the red overlay, which shows us where users are spending the most time engaging with Mouseflow’s blog page. The hover menu shows us how long the average customer engaged (measured by mouse movement like clicking, hovering, or otherwise interacting) with that part of the page, as well as a couple other data points. This can be extremely valuable, because it shows you where users are interacting on each of your pages.
Shape your story the way you want it. People are more likely to engage with something that we understand and care about. Your audience will be more likely to relate to you if you are putting a bit of yourself in your writing, so don't be afraid to give it your own, unique human voice. Have fun with it!
Mary took a sip of the ice-cold coffee and hit the “publish” button. No cliffhangers here…
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Regine Ward is a freelance writer/blogger and tutor at Do My Homework Online. Her main values are lifelong learning, helping people become the best versions of themselves and constant self-improvement. In her free time, Regine travels, reads, drinks coffee, and bakes cookies. Find her on Twitter.