When I was in college, I always had two jobs. One of those jobs was as a sports writer for the local newspaper. The second job changed a few times.
For a couple of years, I was an assistant manager at a Blockbuster video. Then I switched things up and spent a few years as a graveyard taxi driver. Arguably, these jobs were just as much about storytelling as my job as a journalist (aka a storyteller).
At Blockbuster, most conversations with customers were about content that neither of us had created. We talked about movies; great stories that made our conversations even better.
As a taxi driver, the stories were about the passenger. As you’d imagine, people who call for a taxi in the middle of the night in smalltown Montana have some interesting stories. It was an interactive story. I’d ask questions, they answer, and things would unfold from there.
As these roles parallelled my time in print journalism, it was fascinating. Now we’re in a new era, adding some complexity to the fundamentals of storytelling.
Live Storytelling in a Digital Era
At Tagboard, we have the opportunity to work with media & entertainment companies, sports franchises, brands, and agencies that are all doing some of the best storytelling around, and as the digital landscape continually evolves, the way they do this storytelling is shifting.
I like to think about storytelling through the lens of the content people consume, so let’s take a look at the two distinct ways we consume video content today:
- Live: This is generally how we consume sports and news, or sometimes our favorite TV shows. As the social networks push live products, this is how we consume more snackable content in 15-minute chunks as well. An interview with a thought leader from our industry, a tour of our favorite celebrity’s house, etc.
- OnDemand or OTT (Over-the-Top): Pretty much how we consume everything that doesn’t have to be live. I don’t have cable, I have 8,000,000 OTT apps instead. Unless it’s sports or breaking news, I don’t watch much live, anymore.
Luckily, live streams on the social networks are generally available on demand after the fact, so you don’t have to watch everything as it happens. As a marketer or producer, this is a huge incentive to invest more in live streaming. Not to mention, it’s cheaper than a full TV production tends to be.
How to Power Live and OnDemand with Social Content
In addition to the growing focus on live streaming, many media companies, brands, and agencies are operating with leaner teams and budgets, so they’re finding new ways to source content for their stories. This means turning to social media, not just for distribution, but for new content.
If I have a one-hour broadcast each day, filling that time with new and interesting content can be a challenge. By turning to social media, I can source content from celebrities and athletes, interact with my viewers in real-time, and discover breaking stories or interesting content that I would never have come across otherwise.
As a digital storyteller, it’s important to focus on how your audience will consume the content, and focus the dynamic content that will serve that type of content best.
There are two main ways to use social media content to tell stories.
- Social-Sourced Storytelling
- Interactive Storytelling
Let’s take a look at some of the key differences:
What Is Social-Sourced Storytelling?
In the first category, Social-Sourced Storytelling, I’m searching for and discovering rich stories on social media, and using those public stories and that content to power my own narrative.
If you’re watching the NBA Playoffs on TNT, you’ve seen this in action. Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquile O’Neil, and Ernie Johnson bring in content from players, fans, and celebrities to make their halftime show more entertaining. This type of storytelling takes some of the burden off of the hosts and producers, and helps keep things interesting, bringing in diverse perspectives that we might not get from their team.
Another example comes to us from the news world. When there’s an earthquake in Alaska, or protests across the country, local news stations don’t always have the resources to send news trucks and field reporters. What they do have is the ability to find footage via social media. Snapchat allows them to fence in a specific area, Twitter gives them access to a number of search criteria, and Instagram allows them to search by location. By leveraging social content, news producers are able to get live footage, in real-time, with a raw, on-the-ground perspective.
What Is Interactive Social Storytelling?
In the second category, Interactive Storytelling, I’m involving the audience in the content I’m producing and the story I’m telling, in real-time.
To stick with the NBA Playoffs example, the Blazers have been doing a fantastic job of this with their Facebook Live Pregame Show by asking questions, polling the audience, and fielding audience Q&A that appears live in the broadcast. This type of storytelling inspires participation, and increases engagement because viewers know they could become part of the story or get their questions answered.
On the news side, we see local news take questions and ask for examples from their viewers, pulling their Tweets, Instagram posts, or text messages onto the screen, live.
At sporting events, concerts, conferences, and festivals, massive video boards often display fan content to bring attendees further into the action. The Golden State Warriors do this masterfully through their “Strength in Numbers” campaign.
When to Use Each Type of Storytelling
The cop-out answer is “it depends” but there are definitely some considerations here. Interactive storytelling has a shorter shelf life, because participation is time-bound. Especially via video. When it’s a live or digital experience, this type of campaign can be more ongoing. Social-Sourced Storytelling is more focused on the content itself, so this tactic is hard to force, but can lead to great evergreen pieces that can be used over and over again.
As a storyteller, it’s important to make sure each piece of content fits your broader narrative, and the end goal of the project. Make sure you’re thinking about the best way to not only create your content, but to use what already exists.