The New Era of Creative Storytelling (Part 2 of 2)

{Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part post focusing on what we’ve learned as social media marketers over the years and what our industry looks like moving forward}

Live journalAs you (hopefully) read in the first part of this post, social media marketing and user behavior have covered a LOT of ground in 15-ish years. First, being able to share written word on the Internet, then the ability to start your own personal web page with photos and music, on to easily being able to create and post content of all kinds online, interacting directly with brands and organizations, and eventually live streaming content that “disappears” after a few seconds. Creative storytelling has never been more complicated. Which brings us to today…

2018: The Modern Age

What is Happening?

Blog period3There’s a TON of noise. And individuals are (successfully) trying to find better ways to receive and organize the information they want. The social media algorithm pendulum has swung from content we wanted/selected, to what the platforms assume we want to see (the echo chamber effect), back toward the content we interact with most often (but definitely NOT chronological, because there’s no money in that). The interesting outcome of the “Hooli Effect” (mentioned in Part 1 of this post), is that individuals are using social platforms the way they want to use them, not necessarily how each platform would want you to use them.

Individuals don’t share everything on Facebook anymore (thankfully). But they do share Back to School photos with their friends and family, ask for advice/recommendations for landscaping companies, and set up fundraisers in lieu of gifts for their birthdays. Similarly, Twitter has evolved into a space for breaking news, “second screen” TV show engagement, and an unparalleled amount of snark, and Instagram’s main feed has evolved into a “perfect picture” medium (and the resulting, well-documented FOMO and travel-related issues), while Instagram Stories tends to be a place for you to show your friends what you’re up to on a daily basis.

Put simply: Not everyone uses every social platform – and definitely not in the same way. We’re in a period of unparalleled creativity, customization and psychographic differences.

What are Marketers Doing?

Unfortunately, many marketers are still trying to use the “one-to-many” model – posting the same content on multiple platforms, assuming a wide demographic (e.g., Millennials) all act the same way and want the same things, and spending budget on “one and done” content that has no shelf life and doesn’t properly cultivate an audience to take them on a journey. Very few marketers are customizing their content in an audience-first manner.

So, What Should We Be Doing?

(Audience-First Storytelling)

What does audience-first really mean? It starts with understanding their wants and needs. What problems do they have that your product or service can solve? Where do they spend their time online and how do they consume content and like to be talked to? Answer those audience behavioral questions first, and then find out how and where your brand/organizational message might intersect with your audiences’ needs, then tell that story creatively.

The Bad News: This might mean having a central theme or story, but telling it four different ways to effectively reach four different key audiences – and within those four audiences you’ll likely need to create content specific to five different social media platforms (20 individual pieces of content). It’s labor intensive, to say the least.

Finding stories that resonate with your audience, then taking them on a storytelling journey is where we're headed.

Finding stories that resonate with your audience, then taking them on a storytelling journey is where we’re headed.

The Good News: In the Modern Age bigger isn’t better, but effectiveness is. And we have the means to measure effectiveness down to the penny. We need to stop trying to “go viral” or somehow duplicate the Super Bowl Oreo tweet and spend that time creating content aimed at cultivating specific, high-quality audiences instead.

And don’t stop there! Once you’ve got a micro-audience’s attention, keep them coming back with an episodic journey. The data we all have at our fingertips (who clicked, where they clicked, where they went, how long they watched, when they stopped watching, when they purchased, etc.) creates efficiencies, helping us understand what that audience responds to, what they want next, how we can create a successful look-alike audience, and ultimately how we as brands can find that balance between brand awareness/engagement and driving measurable action.

To be sure, the audience-first approach takes more time, strategic thought and creativity. But the alternative is to ignore the changing times and become irrelevant like so many social platforms in the Bright Shineyolithic Object Period.

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