It was a Saturday morning, I was just sitting on my couch when my phone pinged to let me know an email had arrived. I put down my coffee and looked at the notification. It was my friend Jonathan, and the subject had one word. “Help.”
“I’ve been posting online for a month now and I’m not getting any traction at all. I don’t have a bunch of money to put into ad words, and people tell me that I’ve helped them in the past. Why can’t I get any traction online? It seems like everyone is shouting and nobody is listening,” he asked.
He was right, I struggled with how blunt I was going to be, I saw the problem – the reason nobody was reading Jonathan’s posts was that they were boring, unoriginal, and had no unique point of view.
“You’re right, Jonathan, Twitter often feels like a big, vast echo chamber. The idea is to present a unique point of view in a way nobody else is doing it. You’ve got some awesome insights, but you’re fighting against the big guys, they’re louder, there’s more of them, and they aren’t afraid to post constantly. You seem afraid to actually take a position, so you’re showing two sides to the story when we both know one of them is right and the other is wrong. Let’s meet for a beer (my treat) and we’ll put together a plan.”
What Jonathan needed was to tell a story, he didn’t need to “share his unique value proposition.” We sat down for an hour, and I explained to him how storytelling works.
What is Storytelling and How Can I Use it?
Storytelling is the style of writing where you tell a story about something that happened to someone, and how they overcame the challenge.
The Elements of a Story
A Reason to Care – Why do I as a reader want to become invested in your story? This reason to care, or “hook” needs to be the first thing that your story starts with.
With a good hook, your readers will be engrossed and want to read more.
A Problem – Something that needs to be solved, and that you were both able to identify, and can show a resolution to.
Involve Characters – You need to have actual people involved. A story about “Company X” is not as interesting to readers as a story about “Bob at Company X.” Remember that companies are made up of people, and the people are easier to be invested in than companies.
Offer a Conclusion – All stories have to end some time, they best stories have a moral or a lesson at the end of them. The conclusion should wrap up the problem in a satisfying way, by reframing the problem from the beginning and reflecting the “hook” at the end. If you can include an actionable element that the reader can implement, all the better.
My story’s conclusion
It turned out that Jonathan’s email had arrived at just the right time, Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium had just tapped a Milk Stout with Ghost Peppers that was spectacular! We looked at the way he was communicating, and he moved away from blog posts to interviews with happy clients. He started seeing traction immediately, and while he’s not in quadruple page view numbers, his pipeline doubled almost overnight.
Tell a story about characters, what is their problem, how did they solve the problem? What did YOU add to the conversation. What was your take on the problem, and how did you help solve it. What was your unique insight?
Telling a story with these features is far more valuable than being another voice shouting into the void.
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Brian Garside has been building websites for two decades and has worked on some of the largest websites in Canadian media. He focuses on creating good user experiences and building websites that make their owners money. Brian is certified in blogging and content marketing from Shaw Academy.