21 June 2019

Social Media Week: Telling stories through video

Social Media Week hit Bristol last week, and no amount of June rain was stopping us from attending a few sessions!

Our Creative Director, Olly, went along to a session all about how to tell stories through video with personality. Here’s what he had to say about it…

On Friday I listened to Adam Millbank from JonesMillbank weave a gripping yarn on how to tell stories through video content with personality. I’m one for getting to a human truth in storytelling, provoking a real emotional response, rather than just conveying information, so this talk was right up my street. 

We (humans that is) make sense of the world by projecting stories and emotion onto things. Take this example from a 1940s experiment where people were asked to describe what was happening on screen. Of all the participants, only one (correctly) said, shapes moving around. Others responded with answers ranging from scenarios of bullying and domestic abuse, to the plot of The Shining. Just look down the comments:

Stories engage us and inspire us when they’re authentic. If we start to see an overt brand message, we tend to switch off.

Take this story of the Agoraphobic Traveller: straight from the intriguing title we are drawn in to the story of Jacqui. The last time she took a flight was for her sister’s wedding and required months of therapy beforehand, yet she has photography from every corner of the world and now an exhibition in New York. All thanks to Google Streetview.

The references to the tech are completely secondary to the wonder of the story. If they were more explicit the story would be devalued and the chances of you being inspired in any way, let alone to go exploring on Streetview, would be slim.

Why is this a good approach? In this age of influencers, your reach (follower count) doesn’t necessarily equal engagement.

Google could easily get word to billions about Streetview, but so what?! ‘Big tech company has added function to mapping platform’. Well done Google, I’m a bit busy at the moment though. By showing us a real story of how one person has found value in the product, we feel more of a connection, both with Jacqui and, as a result, Streetview.

Stories can also be adapted to their audience. And so they should be. No-one likes to feel like they are just some demographic information with a core message being fed to them. This is where a Venn diagram I have scribbled out countless times came up:

On the left is all the stuff that your organisation/brand wants to say. On the right is your audience with their limited attention – why should they give it to you? In the middle is a sweet spot (which has been massively exaggerated in this diagram). That area is where you can start to tell your story.

By telling an engaging story, the sweet spot increases and more can make it into the audience’s consciousness (more product features and information for example).

It’s a right-to-left approach – audience first. Without your audience, there is no story to be told. Focus on the audience to increase the size of the overlap. How long should a video be? Will people watch it? Is it worth it? So many questions.

Adam was joined at the front by his client from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Paul MacMahon, who looks after all social media content, gave us an insight into what content is highly produced, what is more ad-hoc, and where user-generated comes in. Paul believes that duration doesn’t matter: if your content is good enough, people will watch it and keep coming back for more.

His approach to build a following was to offer a variety of content and build upon what works. From ‘Hero’ peaks such as the Muddy Dog events:

To content that has you ‘thinking like a YouTuber’ like their Through the Cat Flap documentary as ‘Hub’ content: 

Plus a host of other videos to give your audience what they’re looking for by covering a lot of bases; your ‘hygiene’ content. The diagram below shows view counts for this these types of content and the audience levels typically associated with each.

To wrap up the talk we looked at the categories we can put video content into – from interviews with experts to behind the scenes content; the elements of a story – characters, conflict, resolution, etc.; and the types of story – ‘the seven basic plots’. All of which deserves a blog post of its own!

Essentially, we’re all storytellers, it’s how we make sense of the world. Whether we’re communicating our organisation’s strategy, or simply talking about how our day was, we organise information, highlight certain details, and look for a response. If we do all this without thinking about it, imagine what we could do if we did. If you’re looking for help with how to tell your story, or how to engage your employees with it, get in touch, we’d love to help.


Some other cool stuff we looked at:

Danville – Airbnb https://youtu.be/7fIMpheDNSw

Gary Vee – https://youtu.be/G_iaya-EyqM

Royal Mint – Platinum Wedding Anniversary https://youtu.be/Zz2cm28UfEg

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