Storytelling in a digital age


There are two vital factors which make up any story, they both exist independently of each other, but without one another they are pointless. They are;

  • The audience that hears or sees it

  • The content that makes the story

Not quite a ‘tree falling in the woods’ scenario, but important to note nonetheless, they are intrinsically linked.


Storytelling in digital age offers a million ways in which to deliver an adequate supply of both the above. This digital age has made the passing of information instant and worldwide all at the touch of a button. Social media platforms over the last two decades from MySpace to Snapchat, have fundamentally changed the way stories are told, the types of content produced and how the audiences are reached.

As digital marketers, this is a big blue ocean full of opportunities and challenges. We have our stories to tell, we have a million ways to tell them, and we have a million ways to reach an audience. Before it was a case of “I talk, you listen”, but now it’s a fully immersive and interactive experience. We’ll come to that in a minute, first, let’s talk about the audience.

The Audience:

Before we explore how easy it is to reach the masses, there are a few upfront important points to note;

  • Goldfish now have longer attention spans than we do

  • Interest and attention are the most valuable currencies in the digital age

Stories only come alive if they reach the right audience.

From a marketer’s perspective, finding the balance between what you want to tell and what the audience wants to hear is the most vital focal point of any campaign. That’s the challenge, if you can’t capture their attention, quickly, then you’ve lost.

The beauty or opportunity in this digital age of storytelling, is that mass audiences are already right there in front of you. If you’re clever, you can catch them in an instant. Going back to our big blue ocean; you’re fishing with a Japanese trawler now, rather than a few rods from a paddle boat, and if you’re using the right net, you’re coming home with a big haul.

Social and Digital media behemoths like Facebook, Google and Twitter have given us free tools to regale our brand stories to almost every person with access to a screen. 64% of Irish adults have a Facebook account, with 74% of these using it daily. Twitter, albeit in decline, can still reach 26% and Instagram is on the rise at 23%.[1] We’ve replaced the old school focus groups with simple click-and-go keyword searches and interest targeting. We know where the audience is, we know the content types they are consuming, and we know where their interests lie – everything ‘unknown’ that a good storyteller needs to deliver the best result, all we need now is to create.

The Story:

Every brand has its own individual story – if you can’t find a unique angle or characteristic you’re either not looking hard enough or not looking at all. If you can’t qualify it as unique to your brand, then don’t tell it. Nobody wants to hear a joke they’ve already heard a million times before, and if somebody has already delivered it better than you, well that’s just attention homicide.

Two important things to note in terms of the creation of the story:

  • Content format: pick your weapon/s of choice wisely

  • Streamline: Tell your story in an quick and coherent manner

If a picture tells a thousand words, a video tells a million more.

Digital and social media users are drawn to moving objects, it’s in their basic human nature. At the moment this is reflected in the way platforms are set up, video is king. It may not be as cost effective to create as say, a nice image, and therefore not always a viable option (I take what I said before back, budget is actually king), but is important to remember when creating any marketing campaign. If you truly know your audience, then you know what content they want. The best stories are the ones you become emotionally involved with, that take you on a journey. Correct content choice in is key to achieving this.

The digital age has given us more formats and platforms than you can shake a stick at, therein lie both the opportunities and the challenges.

Copy, imagery, short form video, long form video, augmented reality, virtual reality, user generated content; the list goes on – they are all building blocks telling your brand’s story. You can deliver a fully immersive experience through multiple touch-points to your audience by marrying your content formats together. Or you can tell the very same story to countless different audiences, but in their own preferred way.

Like having multiple storytellers, delivering the same exciting piece, but in their own individual styles. The challenge is that you must make sure they don’t skip or trip over each other, and they must tell it quickly!

- GC

Gavin Coffey