With quality, relevant content becoming increasingly important in terms of search engine optimization, storytelling is one way to ensure that online content is compelling. This is especially true for blogs and other forms of social media content, where the competition is fierce in efforts to attract — and hold — the reader’s attention.

How storytelling connects
Storytelling is crucial, whatever the marketer’s end goal (brand building, soft sell, hard sell) and whatever the reader’s ultimate goal (entertainment, research, purchase). Effective brand marketers know the impact that storytelling has on their audiences, both prospects and customers. A good story line can turn a prospect into a customer, and a customer into a loyal follower.

Several of the recent Super Bowl ads are perfect examples of great storytelling. What’s even more impressive is that these mini-stories have a beginning, middle and end — all in just 30 seconds. Take the Doritos Dogs commercial, for example. It tells the story of three dogs that want to enter a grocery store to access Doritos. The ad, which was part of a contest, uses humor to convey its message.

The importance of visuals
Brand marketers can take note here. Not all content must be in the form of words on the page or screen. Videos and images can also tell a compelling story. In fact, videos are the next big thing in terms of online marketing.

Images, too, help make a story more memorable. Many online tools are available (and even free) to help you develop content and visuals. According to statistics from the Skyword publishing platform, articles with images get 94% more views than articles without. While Skyword charges a fee, its platform helps users create, publish and measure content.

In addition, Facebook posts with images have historically tended to garner the most views. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to include relevant images in your social media content.

For blogs and other online articles, writers can find numerous sites that offer free images, even for commercial use. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to find an image that illustrates what you’re trying to convey. That’s when sites such as Spaces, with its logo maker feature, come in handy. By combining text and an icon, you can create an instant logo or visual. Best of all, it’s free. Another popular site is Canva, an online design tool with images, photo filters, icons and fonts to make customized social media graphics.

The story matters across mediums
Of course, even the most eye-catching visuals won’t increase online engagement if the accompanying content is “meh.” One reason storytelling engages audiences is because stories often appeal to our emotions. This is nothing new to brand and content marketers.

What is new is how these stories are being presented to audiences. In online communications, stories are much shorter than their traditional print counterparts. On Twitter, for example, stories are shared in 140 characters or less.

Regardless of the channel, the essence of storytelling remains the same. As with public relations, the goal of brand storytellers is to change people’s perceptions.

In order to be effective, content creators must know their audience and their marketing goals before starting their narrative. Otherwise, their stories will have an unhappy ending.

Darcy is a freelance copywriter at The Hired Hand, specializing in digital communications and email marketing. She recently received certification in inbound marketing from the Hubspot Academy. Connect with Darcy on Facebook and Twitter.

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