The problem was deeper this time. This time the numbers were bad because there was no story, no hook, nothing anyone could care about. Lack of a story derails more websites than realize their problem is poor storytelling. Since STORY and the ability to tell a story is so critical to Internet marketing success here are 5 tips to tell better online stories.
Tell Better Stories Tip 1: Tell Heroic StoriesThey were drinking pretty good at the Algonquin that day, Hemingway and some writer friends. Ernest, as only he could, slammed a challenge they couldn’t resist. He could write a short story in six words. Hemingway picked up a napkin and wrote:
For Sale, Baby shoes, Never Worn.Hemingway won the bet. His story had a beginning, a middle and an end. It had pathos, pain and economy. One reason we struggle to tell great stories is we think too small. We fall into the trap of information.
The trap of information is falling into the quid pro quo of answering questions. Answering questions is important but not inspirational, not Hemingway. Answering questions is a branch on the story tree NOT the tree.
The story tree is rooted in the big questions:
- Why am I here?
- Where is my life’s meaning and purpose?
- What can I or should I believe in that is bigger than me?
- Work Experiences.
- Questions and Answers.
- Meaningful random moments.
- Meaningful experiences.
The tricky marketing problem is to NOT fall down the funnel of your niche. Stay on universal branches, branches all can relate to and understand. The most common complaint at last year’s Content Marketing World was the boring and so un-story worthy nature of the businesses in attendance. At one session a Heating and Air Conditioning vendor said it was impossible for him to tell anything other than a boring story.
Mother, twin babies, hundred degrees, no AC.One more word than Hemingway, but those 7 words capture reader attention. The hook is set; now tell the rest of the story. Tell the heroic story.
Tell Better Stories Tip 2: Set The HookYour first sentence needs to intrigue, create a sense of mystery and explain. The first sentence of this piece was:
In a meeting today it was clear.“It” is a search engine stop word so “it” should be used sparingly, but making the sentence more complete in explanation doesn’t set the hook as well:
In a meeting today the importance of storytelling was clear.Better first sentence for the search engines. There are more keywords and we eliminated the “it”, but the second sentence is less compelling, less mystery wrapped in enigma.
Hooks draw you in, keep you reading because, much like a cat, you must chase the mouse of curiosity.
Tell Better Stories Tip 3: Ask A QuestionOne way to tell a better story is to engage your reader’s “story” mode. In story mode we prepare to listen harder, follow more and project ourselves into the story. What is your favorite story?
The beautiful, simple power of a question is listeners start to answer. They answer by scanning their memory and pulling in a group of answers before deciding on the top of the stack, the answer to your question. The magic of “story mode” is your audience is highly receptive. You just helped them think of a positive memory. Your question, when you start answering it, builds on their experience. The distance to project their perspective and memories into your story is short.
Tell Better Stories Tip 4: Include PicturesThe hottest rarely used places on most websites are directly below a picture. Few pictures are captioned, yet everyone’s eyes fall below the image looking for a caption.
Pictures, especially captioned ones, are where our eyes go first. We check the writing against the picture. Online we scan more than we read. Great web designers know how to build a path through the woods with images, headlines and then finally text blocks.
Once we’ve arrived at the text you (the webmaster) want us to read because the hook is set so well and our eyes have been skipped across the web site’s visual pond like a rock skipping on the glassy surface of a calm, quiet lake then we want to scan/read exciting, sticky content full of analogies. Pictures, like the one below from a famous video game, can tell entire stories all by themselves. Pictures are so powerful they reduce the stress on your writing.
Tell Better Stories Tip 5: Write Pictures With WordsA spotted Dalmatian walked past the firehouse. Easy to see how much more powerful this opening sentence is than, “A dog walked by a building”. Details add romance, mystery and intrigue. You can never be too specific when you write online copy.
Specific writing is keyword dense helping SEO. Even more important is how much more exciting reading specific copy is for readers. They feel included, warmed by the fire of your detail and able to project themselves into your story. Details are different than adjectives and adverbs.
Simply adding more modification to nouns is NOT adding details. Adding more adjectives can blur details.
A densely spotted black and white Dalmatian walked past the 1880s brick firehouse with a bright red door.See how blurry details become when the story is over modified? The pace slows too. The best pace for online reading is FAST and FASTER since few enjoy reading online. Break up your specific, visual story with bullets, pull quotes and other “scanable” material to keep attention and increase the perception of speed created by HOW you write