If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, you’ll have heard about the importance of plot. Without plot, a story is just a story. It’s something that happened in the past. There’s no action, nowhere to go. The plot is the interest that drivers the reader, viewer, or listener to continue. All the other elements are decoration.
Introducing plot into content strategies is becoming increasingly popular amongst marketers, and with good reason. If you’re devising a marketing strategy, an enticing plot can be the difference between great content people enjoy but ultimately doesn’t lead them anywhere, and content that grabs attention and drives conversions. If your great content strategy is just sitting there getting little interaction, take a look at these reasons why you should introduce some plot.
It adds an emotional edge to your content
Appealing to a customer on an emotional level is one of the strongest ways to earn a conversion. Humans make decisions based on emotions, especially financial ones. Probably more than we’d like to admit, our desire to purchase something is based less on rational decision making and more on the way the advertising appeals to our emotions.
Ever had an emotional reaction to a pair of shoes? You’re in love with how they look and scared you might not see them again unless you buy right then and there. Your content strategy needs to appeal to this same kind of emotion. A good plot is an excellent way of doing this. Good plots work because they keep you hooked through the ups and downs because you’re emotionally invested in the outcome.
Whatever emotion you’re trying to exploit to convert the user, a good plot can complete the process. Your plot can grip them by appealing to their curiosity, make them feel happy, or exploit their insecurities. Without a plot, your content has the potential to feel emotionless and dry, which makes it difficult to appeal to a broad audience. Emotion is a powerful thing in marketing, best achieved by making the audience care about what happens next and how it will affect them.
It builds a sense of urgency
It’s simple marketing, create calls to action that build a sense of urgency. This is almost certainly already a major part of your content marketing strategy, but within the confines of a plot, you can play to a different kind of urgency.
If your calls to action work, users should feel like they need to purchase something then and there. The plot does this through a mixture of the points we’ve already talked about. It relates to the user, making them think they need to purchase to be themselves. It hooks them into the story, making them want to seek out further story elements on your website. Urgency is created through the exploitation of emotions, the same kind that makes you want to rush to the conclusion of a book to make sure the characters make it out alive.
It demonstrates the product or service
A good plot in a unique content strategy doesn’t need to be Citizen Kane to convert. There’s no reason to aim for high art when the best converting content plots are usually just subtle demonstrations of the product or service in action. Here’s another lesson you might remember from a creative writing class: good writing is about showing the audience, not telling.
Consumers appreciate the chance to see something in action before they put money down on it. While a list of features might encapsulate everything about the product neatly, at best, it won’t get read fully, and at worst, it will bore the reader and drive them away. Essentially, it’s an uninspiring way of getting people invested. People react to the visual of a product or service in action. It gives them something tangible to latch onto that will stick in their mind and help to build trust that what you’re selling is everything you say it is.
While you could put out a video showing a member of your team demonstrating the product, it’ll gain much more traction if you place the demonstration within a real-world situation. Not only does it take it out of the vacuum of promotion, but it also makes the presentation more memorable.
It hooks potential customers
Then again, it can pay to get creative with your content…
A great plot can hook a user in a way poor content could only dream of doing. People are looking for something they can stick their teeth into and get excited about sharing with their friends. Introducing a little story for them to follow along with and get invested in is a classic marketing tactic that still works in today’s online environment.
People react to classic story structure; that’s why novels have been following the same basic plot guidelines for centuries now. When devising content designed to hook a user, think about following the traditional elements of fiction plot structure. In this guide to plot structure, we can see the elements of a traditional plot outline. Rather than building the basic elements of the main characters, status quo, motivation, and crisis simply to entertain, think about how they can be used to sell your service or product. Can it be tied in in a natural way that doesn’t feel like you’ve created a short film and tacked in some product placement? Why does the character need the product? What crisis drives the desire for the product? If you can find these elements, there’s no reason you can’t emulate this structure.
To really entice consumers, think about how you can play with the conventions of this structure. Throw in some mystery, or base your content around a cliffhanger. Some of the most heavily invested in stories of all time have played to the mystery of a cliffhanger, from whether or not Jon Snow is really dead to who shot Mr. Burns? It pays to make these factors interactive to invest them further and give them a reason to visit or return to your website. Don’t be afraid to add some creative license to set your content apart.
It tells the story of your brand
As consumers, we’re now less concerned with individual products and more concerned with being part of a brand story. Many of the biggest brands of the planet have built their popularity on an idea or image consumers want to be associated with, rather than a totally unique product or service. Take a look at fashion brands such as Supreme or travel companies like Airbnb. Their consumers are less concerned with the actual product and more the status that comes with wearing them or experience of using them.
Part of what helps to build this idea of wanting to associate with a brand is a great story. Great content with a clear plot outlines to consumers who you are, what values you stand for, and where you’ve come from. Depending on the story you want to tell, this can make you relatable or something to aspire to. Whatever your aim, a clearly defined story of your brand gives your audience something to latch onto and remember when they’re a step away from converting. It can be the reason they go to your website rather than a competitors’.
The greatest strength of a well-constructed brand story is how it builds familiarisation with your brand. A comfortable consumer is one that’s more likely and more eager to shop with you.
It makes audiences relate to you
Relatability is an essential element that modern content must achieve. The internet is awash with boring content that doesn’t take advantage of people’s desire to be involved and spoken to directly. When being advertised, people enjoy seeing themselves in the situation, and a good plot is a fantastic way to achieve this.
Crafting relatable characters has been an issue for writers since the beginning of time. It’s harder than it looks to achieve the perfect balance of a hero that people want to latch onto and an everyman/woman people can see themselves in. Part of the joy of content marketing is you don’t need to craft multifaceted characters to achieve the same goal. Relatability can be achieved through a few simple elements, such as how a character looks, where they spend their time, and the problems they’re facing. Using great characters in a plot that people can relate too allows a consumer to see themselves within the confines of the content and visualize how life would be after they make a purchase. There are few more effective methods of marketing than relating to someone’s issue and then showing them a solution.
It’s vital that your content strategy places whatever you’re trying to sell within the real world. Ironically, realism is best achieved through fiction sometimes. Creating these scenarios helps to develop your place in the real world and make people more inclined to buy.
It helps you stand out on social feeds
Social media can be a content minefield. There’s so much on the platform, both good and bad; it can be hard to stand out without having something totally unique. Many of the top social media platforms are more geared towards selling than ever before, with the introduction of features such as Facebook marketplace and shoppable Instagram posts, so not only are you competing with traditional user-generated content, you’re battling for room against a plethora of strategies looking to convert users. It’s vital to have an edge that sets you apart, and a good plot can be that edge.
Introducing plot elements into your content marketing gives your followers and other users something to more to get invested in. Social media platforms don’t always reward attention, with the sheer volume of content limiting the potential for something to stand out. While this is a fast-moving medium, there are ways to invest an audience in your product, service, or brand long term.
The plot can help introduce characters and situations that grip a user leading to a higher quality of interaction on social media. Having a plot to your content, even just continuous threads that run throughout, is something that makes you stand out against the run of the mill competition. Introducing good plot elements also lets you get a bit more creative on newer social media features with high user numbers, such as Instagram stories. Although these have been around a few years, they’re still fertile, developing grounds for content where users are looking for something new to latch on.
Essentially plot helps to tease and entice an audience on social media by being so distinctive from the competition. Social media is so geared towards trying to fit it, that sometimes it really pays to be different.
It gives users something to come back to
Remember how we talked about cliffhangers? A long-running plot that runs through multiple content strategies isn’t just unique; it’s a method of hooking someone and giving them a reason to keep coming back after the initial conversion.
You can sit on an idea for years, bringing it back at opportune moments to re-capture audiences with a sense of familiarity. If people see content with a character, plot, or scenario, they recognize they are more likely to watch, where you can expose them to the latest marketing element. It’s building subliminal brand loyalty through investment, as people don’t want to miss a piece of the story and feel left you.
So much content passes people buy, and marketers assume people don’t necessarily remember what they’re putting out. Customers can have long memories, though, especially of something they react positively to. Appeal to that feeling.
Introducing a plot into your content strategy isn’t a quick fix; it’s a long term solution that can require extensive time and creative investment. As we’ve explored, though, the rewards can be vast. Converting someone from a user who enjoys your content into a customer is easier said than done, but with a bit of creative license, you can set yourself apart and grip users longterm.
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