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How to Attract an Audience with Honest Storytelling

A lot has been said about using storytelling in marketing—especially digital marketing. At its heart, marketing is about forming an audience for your brand and product. But saying that is easier than doing it.

Only 34% of businesses have a clearly defined marketing strategy as part of their existing, traditional marketing strategy. 49% of businesses say they’re doing digital marketing in general, but don’t have a clearly defined strategy. That’s a pretty significant number who are fumbling around in the dark, deciding what to do.

One of the easiest ways to implement digital marketing is to have a well-defined strategy. Here at Lunar, we prefer using data to help guide our digital marketing strategy, both for ourselves and our clients. We have a few other blog posts that are handy for those looking at starting digital marketing, or starting to create a strategy. Here’s everything you should know before you start digital marketing and a rundown of how to make your strategy match your goals.

And part of your strategy is deciding what the voice of your brand is and how to tell your brand’s story. That’s storytelling—and it’s probably something you haven’t actively thought about when it comes to marketing, both traditional and digital. (We also have a blog post on developing your brand’s voice and brand voices that are known to be most effective.) In this blog post, we’ll walk you through why storytelling is as important as ever, even in the age of digital marketing.

Storytelling in Marketing Strategy

Just like every brand has a voice and every product has an ideal customer, every business has a story. Even yours.

Is your business a family affair? Was it started by your grandfather, passed to your father, and then you assumed leadership?

Or is your business your passion? Did you grow up watching your grandmother cook, think “I want to make a product that improves her life?”, and actually do it?

See, every business has a story. Even if that story is saving it from collapse from a previous owner. Even if that story involves a lot of mistakes, or misjudgments, or stumbles.

Authenticity is important to brands of all sizes. Discussing your business’s humble beginnings, or a time where you really struggled with whether you were making the right decision, is an important part of being authentic. You don’t have to share every detail with your customers—but using these lessons in your marketing is important.

What does this have to do with storytelling and marketing? Deciding how you want to be honest with your customers, potential customers, and social media followers is an important step towards incorporating that into your strategy. Let’s discuss a few examples of what this would look like.

Example 1: The Family-Owned Business. You grandfather started the family business. When he passed away, your father assumed ownership and, over the years, you started to take a leadership role. Your digital marketing strategy might include the following topics: positioning yourself as trustworthy because you come from a long line of experts; leveraging your family history that potential customers can see themselves in; and discussing how the company has changed over the years, but the desire to create a family atmosphere remains the same.

Example 2: The Passion Business. You created a product that you are passionate about. You saw a need in your own life and you filled it. Your digital marketing strategy might include the following topics: what the need was and the process you went through to come to your end product; why you were so passionate about that particular issue; and how you hope to expand on the product in the future to cover other issues and problems.

See? All of these are elements of storytelling. You use your business’s story to dictate and expand on topics that will help potential customers identify with both you, your brand, and your product—and hopefully, become customers and loyal fans.

In practice, these topics might look like:
  • Instagram posts featuring old photos of your family, discussing the family history of the business, and how you carry your grandfather’s spirit in the company today.

  • Email marketing that emphasizes a particular issue that your product solves and what made you so passionate about that issue (let’s say: waste produced by plastic packaging).

  • Video ads that expand on your company’s values in relation to your story.

Storytelling in Social Media

Social media is one of the most effective ways to develop storytelling. It’s where you can experiment, gauge response, and adjust before applying to other areas of your marketing (like email and digital ads).

Here are a few examples from Lunar Logic’s Instagram:

Being a woman-run company (our CEO, Celeste Edman, is one of the best role model’s out there for young professional women, if we do say so), our Instagram content focuses around issues surrounding women in tech and marketing, young professionals starting their careers (mentorship), and how our company has come to this space over the last few years.

This kind of content is much more honest and open than we post on, say, Twitter. Instagram is a platform where we don’t expect to see a ton of growth, in terms of numbers, but we wanted to experiment and gauge the response we would have from other businesses regarding our unique perspective on what the tech and marketing industries could be. Lunar Logic has a really special company culture; some people get it and some people don’t. That’s just part of our story—and including the story of a workplace that gives young professionals a chance to learn, that encourages women to take the shot and not settle for less than they deserve, and that encourages real work-life balance is an important part of that.

How can you start incorporating more elements of storytelling into your social media? And better yet, how can you use that to gauge the response to a new social media strategy and use that data to apply it to other elements of your digital marketing?

1. Design a Plan

Once you know the story you want to tell, start determining what platforms you want to experiment on. You might have a really effective Facebook strategy that works well for your brand right now. But you might be struggling to make Instagram work for your business and product. That can be a great opportunity to start experimenting and see if a different approach to social media could work for your brand.

Once you know what platform will be the first one you experiment with, it’s time to pick the basics.

  • How often do you want to post? (Once a day? 3 times a week?)
  • What do you want these posts to look like?
  • What kind of topics will you cover?
  • If you plan to use Instagram, as an example, you might decide to post 3 times a week at a specific time (we find that late evening, 6-9pm, is the best time to post). For Instagram, you’ll always need a visual element. Do you want your images to follow a similar aesthetic? Do you want to use a specific type of image? We use Unsplash for stock photos and you can create collections to better determine if photos go together.

Once you have all these pieces in place, it’s time to actually write content.

2. Creating Content

Creating content that is honest, authentic, and tells a story that reflects your brand can feel like a monumental challenge. But if you build it up too much, it can start to feel like an impossible task—which is absolutely is not impossible. Whether you’re sharing family photos from the start of your business or talking honestly about imposter syndrome in the tech industry, once you start, you’ll find it easier.

And remember, incorporating elements of storytelling into your digital marketing, and social media content, doesn’t have to mean you tell a story every single time. What you’re doing is creating a thread that runs through all your content: focusing your product on the issue you’re passionate about (the environment; mentoring young professionals; making life easier for home cooks; and the list goes on) or creating content that supports your business’s mission.

Here are a few great examples of short-and-sweet pieces of content that combine storytelling and social media.

In 2014, Always released the first #LikeAGirl video], which went viral, of course. As Always says, they have “been empowering girls globally, bringing puberty education to millions of adolescent girls.” This video is different from anything Always had done before, but it combines storytelling, video marketing, and their company’s mission into one succinct video.

REI has one of the best social media marketing strategies out there—they implement user-generated content to incorporate into their story of experiencing the outdoors. This is just one example, but their Instagram is a great example of the ways you can easily use user-generated content in your digital marketing strategy, without breaking from storytelling.

And remember, if you’re using Instagram as your test platform, having a good hashtag strategy is also important. You can read more about that here. (We like Display Purposes for generating hashtag lists.)

3. Measuring Results

Now, the important part: you start using elements of storytelling in your social media and you’re ready to see if it has made a difference—and how to know if it’s time to move forward in other elements of your digital marketing.

First and foremost, any change to your social media strategy should be measured for 6-8 weeks before deciding if it works or not. New things can be scary, especially for those who have been following your business for years. But remember, this is about re-engaging existing customers (and turning them from lukewarm followers to loyal fans) and gaining new customers in the process at the end of the day. 6-8 weeks is the bare minimum to determine if your strategy is working—but realistically, giving yourself 12-16 weeks is even better.

You should be running monthly social media reports anyway (....right?). Most social media scheduling software has this option to do it automatically, so if you aren’t, don’t stress; you can access reports easily no matter what your platform. Once you’re ready to determine results, gather reports from 6-8 weeks before starting your new strategy, then the entire time period of your new strategy. Compare month to month statistics. Are they going up? Are they roughly the same? Are they going down? How’s your engagement? How’s your follower count?

If you’re comfortable with the direction your stats are moving, congrats, your strategy is working! However, if you feel your numbers are slipping, or not doing what you were hoping, you have two options:

  • Re-adjust your strategy in a different direction, whether that means doing different visual elements, different written content, or a better hashtag strategy, OR
  • You can keep on your current strategy for another 4+ weeks and see if things look better or worse then.

4. Moving Forward

If you decide to move forward and incorporate your fancy new content into other areas of digital marketing (like advertising, videos, and blog content), it’s time to sit down and really think about what you want that to look like.

For us at Lunar Logic, we started taking the topics we had written about on Instagram and turning them into larger blog posts, like our take on imposter syndrome. We also started having our CEO Celeste vlog again (you can watch those on our YouTube channel), because Celeste is passionate about a lot of the issues we cover on our Instagram. (Celeste’s vlogs also provide a lot of other opportunities for content, from social media to email marketing.)

Incorporating storytelling into all elements of your digital marketing will be a slow process. Jumping into it at once can often lead to realizing that you weren’t totally prepared for this new writing style or method of doing things. Going slow, piece-by-piece, through your digital marketing strategy to create a more authentic, branded style of creating content will be extremely beneficial to your brand in the long run.

You might decide that your Instagram efforts were good—and transition that content to Facebook. You might find that even more successful, so you alter your email marketing to reflect those changes—and your email marketing efforts go even better. It’s time to think about how to incorporate elements of storytelling into your blog content, at that point, as well as your website’s content as a whole. From there, it’s a short step to incorporating storytelling into your digital advertising, whether you use Facebook ads or Google AdWords.

Within a year, you could have a completely different digital marketing strategy—one that more completely represents the best parts of your company culture and the story of your business. And at the end of the year, you’ll have an audience that loves and appreciates your honesty, your authenticity, and your product.
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