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How can your content marketing effectively lead your brand into the future? We all know that wading through the multitude of content on the internet can be tedious and mind-numbing. It is a crowded, noisy place. In the age where content is king, where facts are not enough to engage customers, how do you catch interest?

OK, here’s how to get your customers to stop, read and engage in six steps.

The wow factor

First, make sure your content marketing has stunning visuals. An image has 8 seconds to engage before it is scrolled past, and honestly, the way most people scroll on their phone it seems more like 2 seconds. Any images used to tell your story must be worthy of attention. They have to be fresh, interesting and make viewers pause. Offer an escape from whatever it is they are currently doing. Make them feel compelled to stop for a moment.

Arguably National Geographic has some of the best photographers on the planet, so fantastic images are a piece of cake for them (their 87+ million followers on Instagram likely agree). Now don’t expect to instantly become the next @natgeo. Start with getting creative. Pics of your product are not enough anymore (no matter how stunning you think it is). Add context, show people using it, use colour and lighting. Use artwork or visual quotes that express who you are and why you do what you do.

The hook

Those first few words had better be good ones. Here is where you have to grab onto emotions. Whether it is something interesting, unusual, shocking or emotional – this snippet, plus the visual, needs to compel the viewer to click, to want to immerse themselves further into the story. It has to seem more important/interesting/compelling than whatever is going on right now.

Check out the guys at ASAP Science (@asapscience) to see an example of unusual visuals without expensive photography, combined with a few words and a dose of humour that makes you want to go further.

The plot thickens

Now is the time to paint the picture with words. Provide lush detail, the reason behind the image, why it is important. Powerful content marketing engages and draws people in so they want to know more. This is where your storytelling skills shine. A great narrative will be relatable, believable, and evoke emotion. Tell a great story.

Leave out the promos

Now is NOT the time for shameless self-promotion and ad placement. Try those tricks and it’s like exposing the wizard behind the curtain. All genuine feeling is lost and the viewer feels tricked. Pics of your product are not going to cut it anymore. Authentic content makes a connection between the brand and the audience without any pressure. Today’s consumers want to have trust and a personal reason for choosing you, they want to relate to your reason for being. There are a multitude of pretty products available at our fingertips. Give them a reason to want yours.

No surprise sound

With the advent of autoplay videos, we’ve all experienced the shock of sudden sound from our device, broadcasting to all around you that you are indeed watching videos of swimming puppies instead of researching the topic for your next post. Please, for the love of letting people take a discreet break from work, provide subtitles. Any sound should enhance the image, for those of us who are alone in a quiet place, but not be necessary to understanding what’s happening.

Better yet, use those fancy 360° videos to encourage interaction. Want to experience Times Square in a blizzard? Ride a roller coaster at Universal Studios? Anything is possible here. Have fun with what you can do for your story while making people feel they are really there. (Friendly warning: getting on YouTube and looking at their “Best of” 360° videos is a rabbit hole you may disappear down for hours without realising it. But remember to mute your sound first.)

Make them fear they are missing out (exploit FOMO)

When your social media storytelling content marketing is so good that people keep coming back for more, eventually they’ll start to wonder if they’re missing out on even better content. This is how you convert from free social media user to email subscriber or even paid subscriber. If your content is consistently amazing, a bold call-to-action will convert the masses who need to satisfy the desire for more (or just make sure they’re not missing out).

Again, National Geographic takes the cake here – on their website you get a gentle pop-up (there is such a thing!) inviting you to sign up for their email list that says, “Let Us Take Your Breath Away.” WOW.

To sum up: Storytelling content marketing needs to tick all of the boxes to get your potential customers to stop, read and engage.

WOW: Catch attention with visuals

HOOK: Use your way with words

PLOT: Time to tell a great story

AUTHENTICITY: Please stop with the product promos

NO SUDDEN NOISES: Be considerate of your viewers

FOMO: Hold some things back for your paid subscribers