When you delve into the world of content marketing as a business owner, you quickly start to see people asking about your brand's "story." To connect with the newest generations of consumers, Millennials and Generation Y, any company that is going to be successful needs to spin stories about products and services, how they are used, and how they will change the world.
But doing so requires a very different style of writing than you might have learned, either in business school or in English class. These storytelling tips will help make your content marketing strategy persuasive and engaging, keeping your customers around for longer.
Keep your writing informal without straying into unprofessional
When you were writing papers in school, or if you've written white papers for distribution at the office, you're probably familiar with a formal approach to business writing. When you're writing for the web, unless you are writing for an extremely particular audience, you can forget a lot of the tips that your teachers taught you.
- Don't avoid contractions. While they might be verboten in professional writing, content marketing tends to straddle a cultural divide.
- Do, however, avoid text speak. "You," not u, "are," not r, and don't "lol."
- It's generally best to avoid cursing, unless you are very sure that it won't bother your audience.
- Definitely avoid racial or gender based slurs. Companies should be leaders in the quest to use inclusive language. When doing something simple like saying "they" instead of "he or she" can widen your audience base by making LGBTQA+ people feel welcome, it's an obvious benefit.
Make your stories relevant to your audience
No matter how fascinating the latest pop culture moment might be, if it doesn't relate to your business, don't share it on your business social media content.
Any story that you share on social media should do something for your audience. It should educate them, inform them, engage them, or entertain them. Since the common point between you and your audience is your product, service, or brand, the information you share should be connected back to your story.
Now, if you can find a way to relate something that's trending to your business and press your content forward then by all means, make it happen. This is also a great opportunity to build quality links and SEO friendly content.
Use outlines and calendars; keep your content on track
When sitting down to write this piece, the first thing I did was decide on the tips that I wanted to include and list them out in the order I would share them. From there, the topic was determined to fit into an editorial schedule, to make sense in the larger perspective on content that we share.
Outlines help you keep your content focused, and make sure that your story has a beginning, middle, and end. Editorial calendars keep you from repeating content and make sure that you time your stories for maximum relevance.
Read essays and great content designed for the web
One classic piece of writing advice is to read content like what you're trying to create. Fiction writers are encouraged to read in their genre, and content writers benefit from reading essays, both persuasive and otherwise. The easiest place to do this is, of course blogs. Find great bloggers, inside your industry and out of it, and read what they have to say.
You can even get analytical about this. Look for:
- Different types of content that the site posts. Consider what gets the most responses and comments.
- How the content is presented? How formal is the language?
- How far does the writer travel from their supposed "topic"?
Invite people to join the conversation
Assuming that you choose to leave your comments section open – not everyone does anymore, at least not on their website – you should always invite people to join your conversation. Some thoughts:
- End your post with an engaging question - "What do you think about (this topic)? What advice would you give someone in (this situation)?" But don't end with "tell us in the comments!" That was overused before it even got popular.
- Create a poll on your blog and ask people to explain their reasoning.
- Invite fans to post pictures or videos of themselves talking about or using your product or service.
- Make your story personal and compelling.
When you create content, you should be thinking about starting a conversation, instead of considering your post the definitive comment on a situation. This is what engagement means, after all; inspiring discussion and commentary.
What tips would you offer to someone struggling with storytelling in their content marketing?
Margarita Hakobyan is a businesswoman and an entrepreneur that is addicted to creating. As an owner of several businesses she brings a wide range of education and experience including business strategy, business ethics and leadership. Founder and publisher of Solopreneurs, online publication for solopreneurs and small business owners