How Storytelling Increased Our Blog’s Engagement By 300%
Use this simple strategy to reach more people with your content.
“How do you make your content stand out in a crowded space?”
It’s one of the most common questions that new content marketers have.
How can you make your content different from everything else that’s out there?
It’s a tall order.
After all, there’s no shortage of valuable tips and tricks out there for just about any problem that your readers might be facing.
But there’s always room for someone to do it better.
And one of my favorite ways to do it better—and increase the number of people that your content reaches and helps—is to wrap our content in a great story.
Why Stories Are So Powerful
Your valuable content is medicine. You know that if you could just get people to take it, they’d be healthier, more successful, and their deepest burning problem would be solved.
But no matter how hard you try, many people can’t be convinced to swallow medicine. It doesn’t taste good, and it’s not fun to take.
Medicine may be what we all need, but candy is what we want. So what can we do?
Think of your awesome, valuable posts as sugar-coated medicine. They deliver what your audience wants, as well as what they need.
The medicine part is your value. That’s the problem that your post solves, or the benefit that it delivers. And the sugar part is the story. That’s what makes your content easy — and fun — to swallow.
Great content needs both parts to hit its’ mark.
We Actually Tested This
A couple of years ago, we ran a simple A/B test on one of our blog posts.
We sent some of our visitors to a version of the post that started with a simple story that led into the “meat” of the content, while others found a post with a no-nonsense intro that jumped right to the point.
The post with the story intro had nearly 300% more people scroll all the way to the bottom, and average time on page was more than five times higher.
Remember: in terms of pure “value” to the reader, these posts had exactly the same content!
Five Ways to Add Storytelling Elements to Any Blog Post
One of the biggest misconceptions about storytelling is that you have to be Shakespeare, Stephen King or J.K. Rowling to be good enough to succeed with it.
Not. True. At. All.
I’m not a great writer. I don’t have the training or the skill to grip your attention for hours.
But I’ve learned how to grab readers—if only for the length of a blog post—with a few simple storytelling tools that help make content more relatable and engaging.
A lot of the lessons we learn on our team come from conversations we have with each other and people outside of the company. Using those conversations as the starting scene for our blog posts helps readers feel like they’re in the room, learning along with us.
I love how Sonia Simone at Copyblogger does the same:
2) Fictional scenarios
A fictional story (note: not a lie) can be every bit as compelling as a true one, if it makes your message more interesting.
Nemo Chu at KISSmetrics builds up a captivating scene to help readers understand an important metaphor about growth:
Without the story, the metaphor risks sounding like a business cliche. But by putting the reader in the driver’s seat, Chu’s story makes an impact.
3) Tiny vivid details
Readers connect deeply to stories that relate to senses: sight, touch, taste, feel and smell.
You can use tiny details to engage those senses and create a connection between you and your audience.
In his Inc.com post, Jeff Haden vividly describes the scene as he and his client take a trip:
Jeff could have said “When we left the meeting, we noticed a buffet and some workers, but nobody was eating.”
Instead, he painted a picture with his words, describing the color of the staff’s uniforms and the tone of the employee’s voice. In return, we (the readers) are with him until the end.
4) Tap into stories people already know
Incorporating a story in your content doesn’t necessarily mean you have to create one yourself.
There are lots of stories that your readers already know and remember, and you can tap into those memories to illustrate your point.
For example, look at how Magdalena Georgieva uses Fight Club — a movie almost all of us know and love — to teach HubSpot readers marketing lessons.
You can pull stories from just about anywhere: movies, TV shows, books, current events, fables or history, just to name a few.
5) Use the power of visuals
Images can tell stories and capture a reader’s attention just as well as words. Stay away from business-y stock photos, though, and stick to something your readers can relate to.
We’ve had a lot of success (and fun) using stills from TV shows that we love:
The images don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with the subject of your story, as long as they convey the emotion you’re trying to get across.
How to Apply This to Your Business
Story is a powerful engagement tool, motivator and multiplier for the reach and value of your content.
I hope that this post has given you some ideas that you’ll use in your next piece of content. And if you do, I hope you’ll share how it goes in the comments.
A different version of this post first appeared as a guest post on the Buffer blog.