One of the oldest, most tried and true methods of conveying information, dating back to Homer and his epics of the Trojan War, is telling a story. But what about now, in the twenty-first century, when your average Joe is so surrounded by devices that can steal his attention with a mere beep or rung that he scarcely has time for your 140 character Twitter feed? Is storytelling dead? Has the internet robbed us of the art of spinning a good yarn?
The simple, obvious answer is this: No way! In web content, and content writing in general, storytelling is, and will continue to be, a major component. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Go to just about any website, and read their “About” page. What’s that but the modern version of the Odyssey?
Now, in the 21st century, almost every website has an “About” page, with a story or timeline of how the company started, and grew into what it is today. And it’s not just the tinier things that no one has heard of! Apple has one. Microsoft has one. Each of them use storytelling to personalise their company in some small way.
So, you’re thinking, what about me? How can I use a story to better promote my product, and better connect it into the world around me? There isn’t just one answer!
Let’s start with the obvious: the “About” page. That’s more than a chance to promote what you do, and what makes it unique within your marketplace niche. Your “About” page should focus on your company, not just as a business model but as a real place, employing real humans, with a history that other humans can relate to. Don’t waste this space! It’s your chance to tell your users your story, from how the notion was conceived, and the gap found in the market, to how it grew from a few hackers in a basement to a multimillion dollar enterprise. Users love these stories – don’t deprive them!
But, you’re maybe thinking, my company doesn’t have an engaging back-story! Or maybe you have no desire for that to be the focus. See there other ways you can use storytelling in your web content?
The answer, which should come as no surprise, is yes. Of course! And it’s done constantly, not just by the little guys. The tech giant Google, on its “About” page, doesn’t highlight the story of the company’s formation. Instead, it focuses on something else. A documentary series that they’ve produced, called “Search On”, that explains how real people have used Google’s services to solve real-world issues. Once again, using storytelling to personalise and humanise something so vast it can feel unapproachable, into something that everyone can relate to.
So, as you see, storytelling plays a major role in web content, and is a major tool in the arsenal of any web content writer. What storytelling does for your content is make it more approachable, and more personally relatable. Rather than feel like they are merely reading the promotions of a tech supergiant, users who view “Search On” will invariably feel more personally connected to the individuals featured within it. It’s ab undeniable fact of our shared human nature.
So, how can you take advantage of this, as a web content writer? And so it without forfeiting a focus on profit and long term gain? The quick answer is that web content which is more personable, and narrative driven, will invariably spark more interest, and ultimately draw in more revenue, than the typical “Product X is designed to do Y”.
As a web content writer, therefore, your goal is not only to showcase your product, but also to showcase stories of something relatable to the masses, anything from the story of how your company found its niche, to specific cases in which your product helped someone out of a rut. (And if you’ve got that client’s testimonials, better!)
Compare the following:
“Product X is a cutting-edge new technology that targets users based on location rather than search history, designed to increase the reach and broaden the scope of traditional marketing solutions!”
“As a small company who specialised in online marketing, we were appalled to discover that many of the leading brands’ approaches to advertising simply weren’t getting to the folks they were designed to reach. So we had a new idea. Target ads based not on search history and complicated schemas, but just on where you’ve physically been. And, perhaps most shocking to our startup team of twenty-five hackers, it works! As Gabi, one of our earliest clients, says, ‘Company X saved me from shovelling my hard-earned money to people who’d just misrepresent me. I’m a Caribbean based company, and I was getting emails from people who lived in Alaska! Now I get customers who are a perfect fit, telling me how they found me online. Thanks, Company X!'”
Is it longer? Yes. But the second does something the first does not. It contains all the same buzz words. But it gives you a glimpse into creation and process, into the narrative behind the company. Are you more likely to research further into the product based on the first story or the second?
Lastly, does this approach work only for U.S.-based, English language websites? Obviously not! Say you’re a Spanish web content writer, writing copy for a website that focuses advertising on Mexican-American families. Imagine the above two examples in Spanish. Which is more likely to spark and retain interest? The answer should be obvious!
As you see, you don’t need a lot of storytelling to make your web content more relatable. You don’t need to be the next Homer. But if you take simple, little steps, and add tiny stories (or even the hints of stories) into your website, whether you’re an English or Spanish web content writer (or another language completely) your website will be that more memorable and engaging!