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Storytelling: is this content unicorn ready to retire yet?

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Content unicorns are your top performing posts: the ones that get the best engagement rates, and generate the most traffic. Storytelling has long-been considered a winning tactic for creating content unicorns — with 57% of marketers saying it’s their most successful tool. But has storytelling had its day? Kayleigh Alexandra takes a look

Are there now better ways of getting your audience to connect with your content than storytelling – is it time for storytelling to go into retirement, or is it still a relevant strategy for your content marketing efforts?

Recommended reading: EDITOR’S BLOG 080218 Time to tap into the “attention economy”

What Is A Content Unicorn?

According to Larry Kim (CEO of MobileMonkey, and founder of WordStream) content unicorns are your top performing posts: the ones that rank well, drive traffic to your website, and have high conversion rates. Essentially, they’re the posts that actuallyachieve the goals you originally set out for you content.

How many of your posts can you expect to be unicorns? Almost none. Stats show that only the top 1-3% of contentpublished really hits the mark. This means it could take you upto 6 months of posting 4 pieces of content a week before getting a unicorn!

Storytelling has long been considered the marketer’s best shot at catching a unicorn…

Content Marketing & Storytelling

Storytelling is nothing new — and it’s still a powerful technique which many content marketers use in order to achieve unicorn status.

Widely regarded as the first ever piece of content marketing, The Furrow, was published by John Deere in 1895. Instead of a hard sales technique, it was designed to educate, inform, and entertain its readers through content and storytelling.

And so content marketing was born —  in a very early iteration of how we understand it today. Despite obvious developments since 1895, the role of storytelling in good content marketing is still as relevant today.

Here’s why:

1.    Clickbait is out

Publishers often use dubious techniques and sensational headlines to make us click — and people are getting tired of it. Online audiences are becoming savvier to the ways marketers try to capture our attention online — and people are demanding better, more measured content marketing.

Readers are fighting back against clickbait. Even the biggest international news publishers are getting comments from readers around the world complaining that the headline is over-inflated, drawn out, and worthless clickbait.

Storytelling is the antithesis to the cheap thrills of clickbait. A real story has the opposite values to clickbait. It’s about adding to a reader’s experience and taking the time to really entertain and inform them. Clickbait is all about luring you in with a headline — not actually offering you any value.

Readers have had enough of clickbait and are actively seeking out alternative content which really benefits them.

Clickbait is out, and storytelling is here to stay.

2.    All about the journey

With all of the noise out there, marketers need to stand out and take their audience on a real journey. Good storytelling is a great way to do this: done right, it pulls its readers in and connects with them on an emotional level. Emotions are key when it comes to taking your readers on a journey that they will remember.

Patagonia is a good exampleof a brand taking its customers on a journey: arrive on their website, and you would be hard pushed to tell if you landed on an environmentally friendly adventure magazine or a retailer website. Classy, holistic, and value-packed content replace tawdry sales pitches.

By placing such high value on creating genuinely interesting content that inspires people to make their own journeys (with Patagonia equipment, of course) the brand story becomes even more limitless.

By taking your reader on a journey you’re being truly authentic about who you are as a brand. Being authentic doesn’t just add value to your readers. According to New York Times writer, Joel Comm, it’s also one of the keys to upleveling your online marketing game. Check out Marketing Speakto find Joel’s podcast episode, along with a range of other useful talks about content marketing.

3.   Live the story

Even if you grab your content unicorn by the horns and throw yourself into storytelling, simply telling the story isn’t enough these days: you need to live it and inspire your readers to do the same.

Thanks to social media, it’s easier for brands to live their stories, and encourage customers to share their own. The fashion industry has 100% capitalised on this, encouraging customers to share images of themselves in Instagram posts and tweets.

Airbnb is all about the story: telling travelling tales from its community, rather than focusing on the nature of the platform.

And of course, all of those YouTube travel bloggers with millions of views? They’re definitely living their stories.

A strong human element is important here: people buy from people, and authenticity wins over. Storytelling is the best way of conveying that authentic and people-led message.

Sure: tell your story, take your readers on a journey, but really livethat story if you want to take your content to unicorn level.

4.   Storytelling becomes story-doing

Audiences don’t just want to be passive listeners. Instead, they are looking for brands to actively engage with them.

If you want to meet that content unicorn, you really need to inspire your audience to live their own experiences, connecting them with their favourite brands. Storytelling has not retired; if anything, it has grown up and become story-doing.

Every journey is a story, every human has a story, and every brand sells stories. Implemented as part of a strong marketing strategy, great storytelling becomes story-doing, and ultimately leads to kind of connected experiences that every marketer wants its audience to have.

Conclusion: The Unicorn Is Here to Stay

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that storytelling is far from a fad which has had its day. In fact, it remains one of the most effective ways for you to increase sales through content. Capitalise on everything that storytelling has to offer content marketers by avoiding clickbait, taking your audience on a journey, being authentic, living the story, and encouraging your audience to become story-doers instead.

Author

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe, along with tips on how to tell a story with every piece of content you write. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted

Image: Pexels

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Editor and content creator for Telemedia – for 18 years and counting

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