I am sitting here on a Friday at 4.23PM in…
If you are an owner of a digital business, your website tells your story, which is why storytelling strategies can also be applied to your digital business. Every good story contains certain elements: a beginning, a middle, an end, a climax, crisis and resolution. But what turns a good story into a great story? And what are the implications of great storytelling on digital business?
1. Great storytelling is all about the experience
My favorite thing to do on Thursday nights is watch the newest episode of the hit ABC television show, Scandal. Scandal is ultimately a love story between the president of the United States and a famous PR agent named Olivia Pope intertwined with various political drama in the white house. Now on its fifth season, some of Scandal’s twists and turns are becoming repetitive, yet I still find myself in front of the television, consuming yet another episode. What has me hooked? The experience that the story of Scandal creates. Every week, I enjoy being able to step into the foreign world of political jargon and affairs, while also being able to resonate with the familiar themes of love, hope, fear, and victory. And I’m not the only one who is hooked. An average of ten million other viewers also watch Scandal on Thursday nights, probably for the same reason I watch it–after a long day, they like the experience of being able to displace themselves into an experience that is new, different and exciting. These days, every website is striving to create an unforgettable user experience. What designs or strategies can we implement in order to create the best user experience possible? What kinds of user experiences lead to the most business? Only digital businesses with the most exciting and captivating user experiences will have customers coming back for more.
2. Relatability turns unprofitable business into profitable business
Podcasts have always been known to be an unprofitable business endeavor. Journalists and producers do not expect to get rich by making podcasts. There is a very limited customer base, and few opportunities for revenue considering almost all podcasts are usually available for free. In a recent interview at the USC-held event, “Binge-Worthy Journalism”, Sarah Koenig, writer of the podcast “Serial,” was asked who Serial’s target audience was when it first was released. Koenig’s response: “Well, considering no one listens to podcasts, I don’t know….my mom?” However, to Koenig’s surprise, Serial reached many more people than just her mom. Serial exploded into the most popular podcast in history, hitting 5 million downloads on iTunes in less than 9 weeks, providing tons of revenue opportunities through advertisements and even Serial paraphernalia.
How did Serial gain so much attraction and fame in a typically overlooked industry? Fantastic storytelling. In an interview with Julie Snyder, the producer of Serial, she talks about what makes Serial different from other podcasts: “it’s a very traditional story in that we’re pretty solidly in the realm of a true-crime story, which is not breaking any new ground. I feel like the difference of what we’re trying to do compared to a lot of stuff you see, especially on TV, would be to try and tell a story, to talk about the case in a way where you understand that everybody is a real person and that it happened to real people and not play it for exploitation.” Snyder is essentially saying that Serial was a success because the story was told in a way that was relatable to everyone. Although not everyone has first-hand experience in a murder case, Serial depicted the people involved as real individuals with real lives–so real in fact that any of them could have easily been you or me. Serial used storytelling to transform an irrelevant experience into a relevant one for everyone, and its popularity has revolutionized the podcast industry. Serial is living proof that the power of relatable storytelling can transform an unprofitable business into a profitable one. The same can be applied to digital businesses. Even the most obscure digital businesses can become successful if their websites are made relevant and relatable to the customer.
3. Great stories create lasting brand identity
Great stories are remembered forever. Take the Star Wars series, for instance. With its cool spaceships and light sabers, it is one of the most popular interstellar sagas in all of history. But one can argue that it isn’t the spaceships and light sabers that makes the Star Wars truly memorable. It was the story that Star Wars told. Beyond the fantastical space elements, the Star Wars story line included the timeless themes of love, loss, defeating evil, adventure and the search for identity. Star Wars’ fantasy interwoven with captivating themes has caused the Star Wars hype to be passed down through multiple generations–The recent 2015 remake of Star Wars (The Force Awakens) is the fastest revenue-earning movie in all of history, and was based on settings, themes and characters that were used in the original Star Wars movies over thirty years ago. Whether it be through ticket sales, toy sales, or apparel sales, the Star Wars brand has been generating revenue for decades past and decades to come.
Star Wars didn’t have to try remarkably hard to create a brand for itself; the story did that on its own. To this day, any product merely has to flash the Star Wars logo in order to generate revenue. Just as great storytelling has created the age-old Star Wars brand, storytelling can have huge implications for any digital business’s brand, including e-commerce, news, blogging, social media and more. If your website tells a memorable story, the story will create a lasting brand, and lasting brands generate generous amounts of revenue.
Just one example of a website that incorporates great storytelling is Google, the most popular search engine in the world. Google’s story includes themes of simplicity, exploration, anticipation, and discovery. In Google’s minimalist home page, you can see good storytelling elements such as great user experience and relatability. Google’s search bar is straight-forward and easy to use, and it’s personalized.
Google is one of the most simple websites, yet its story drives it popularity. To put its popularity in numbers, Google generates over one-hundred billion searches every month.
So what story does your website tell–Is it merely a conglomerate of facts and information? Or is it facts and information creatively woven to be relatable to your viewers? Does your website endow an unforgettable user experience?