Transmedia Storytelling And Its Importance For Digital Marketing

The web is evolving at a fast rate of knots. Every time search and social media begin to walk down a new path, brands, agencies and the general public have to follow. We know more people are online, using more devices, at multiple times throughout the day. Connecting and engaging with those people at the right time, on the right device, with the right message is now the digital marketers holy grail.

In today’s fast paced, social environment, content in all forms is flying around the web. But it’s not all great content. A lot of the content produced is like a firework – fun to look at for a few minutes and then you want to move onto the next. Herein lies the problem. We, as audiences, want to be entertained. We get bored of the same old content. We want something new, something exciting, something fun, something to wow our friends with. Rightly or wrongly, Buzzfeed currently has this nailed (well, maybe not the ‘exciting’ part). Not just because of the quirky content, but because it can be digested on all devices, either through the website or apps.

As we touched on in our retail white paper, and in our mobile SEO blog post, users are beginning to demand a consistent experience across all channels and devices. It’s a logical step. If users are interacting with you / your brand / your content through one channel, and they get a different experience through another, it’s going to lead to frustration. The ‘omnichannel’ approach to digital marketing must now be targeted, focused and engaging, specific to the platform and device over which it’s being delivered.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is where transmedia storytelling comes in.

What Is Transmedia Storytelling?

I’ll let wikipedia handle the official definition:

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies…it involves creating content that engages an audience using various techniques to permeate their daily lives. In order to achieve this engagement, a transmedia production will develop stories across multiple forms of media in order to deliver unique pieces of content in each channel. Importantly, these pieces of content are not only linked together (overtly or subtly), but are in narrative synchronization with each other

At 8MS, we are firm believers that audiences are at the heart of digital storytelling. If content is at the heart of digital marketing, then it makes sense to marry the two together. Our belief is that using transmedia narrative around brand stories and content will help engage the target audience.

Multi-platform storytelling isn’t a new idea either. The increase in multi-device usage from consumers has made transmedia storytelling more deliverable and executable than ever before. My first exposure to it was courtesy of a campaign by Isobar for the Royal Navy, called ‘Get The Message’. This was put live sometime around 2008, and taken down a year or so later. In it’s basic form, the campaign was about sending a personalised video message that the recipient could receive either by text message or email. For me, it was the first real foray into interactive, personalised storytelling;

In order to generate the maximum amount of engagement, a story must resonate to the user at the point of consumption – i.e. the marketer must reach consumers across all the devices and platforms they use. This is why transmedia storytelling is important. It breaks the mould of traditional marketing storytelling and forces people to tell stories with as much gusto as they can muster, using images, videos, animated GIFs, cinemagraphs, sounds, maps, and words.

I’m Going To Shout About My Air Filter Story From The Rooftops!

It’s fair to say digital storytelling and transmedia isn’t for everyone. We’re not saying it’s the definitive answer for product marketing. Stories can be about products or services, or events, or companies…anything really. That’s the beauty of storytelling. But here’s the catch. Simple stories won’t cut the mustard. They need to be good stories. They need to be authentic and true. They need to evoke emotion. Throwing budget into a storytelling campaign around motorcycle air filters for example, might not be the best idea or get the best return.

Pros and Cons

Creating content inside a digital storytelling framework will ensure the story stays in the audiences mind for longer. Transmedia and narrative should help fuel social sharing. The downside is that stories take time to create. Creation of the words, the content, the assets…and then you need time to co-ordinate everything. Then there’s the data side of things. It’s difficult to calculate an ROS (return on stories), but we can track content and interactions across the web.

The best part is that transmedia storytelling doesn’t stop with online. It can also permeate onto TV, print, radio and even gaming. Allowing users to read, watch and listen across all media sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption. Not only that, many transmedia stories allow for audience participation or interaction, such as Bear 71, as showcased in our great examples of digital storytelling post.

If done correctly, digital storytelling is the ideal framework to allow brands to connect with multiple-device using consumers, consistently across different platforms. Content and messages need to be more targeted, focused and personalised than ever before. Engagement is becoming increasingly difficult with an audience that wants to be constantly entertained. Good stories that are authentic, true and evoke emotion could be the best strategy to achieve that engagement.

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digital marketing digital storytelling mobile multi-channel multi-device omnichannel stories tablets transmedia

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