Combining data and storytelling for great content

4 min read
Laura Cooper
A laptop displaying stats

Unless you like dealing with reams of cold, hard data and can visualise it before you like a numbers whizz-kid, the answer’s probably stories. Stories are easier to hang your hat on and relate to and they allow points to be illustrated in an emotive way.

However much you might try to make them, numbers and statistics on their own aren’t very memorable, but they can help to make stories more robust and give them some factual grounding.

Compelling people to take action

Consider this – consumers make decisions based on feelings and emotions. So, if you can create stories in your content that make people feel something (*note: not hatred for you) then they’re more likely to engage with your brand and buy your products.

Adverts for charities are incredibly effective at showing off their storytelling skills and are a really good example of using emotionally persuasive techniques to encourage people to take action.

If a statistic about how many dogs are given up for rehoming every year is thrust in front of you, you’ll probably feel something about it…unless you’re dead inside. But imagine how much more powerful an advert would be if you actually see a dog being given up, moved to a shelter and then eventually rehomed. Seeing an adorable puppy’s little eyes light up as they meet their new owner for the first time (be right back – I’m off to the RSPCA).

It’s an emotive journey that allows people to see the real-life examples behind statistics.

Data helps stories to become more trustworthy

Okay, so apparently we’re living in a post-factual society…(FAKE NEWS!), but for the moment – when it comes from a reputable source, data has a big part to play in making your stories more authentic. A story about a dog being given up and re-homed is bloomin’ heart-warming, but if it’s combined with statistics then it can become even more compelling.

Storytelling can hook people in and create emotion and the data can provide people with logical reasoning for why they should get involved. You can show the life of a rescue dog and provide statistics to show how much your contribution to a charity can help their wellbeing.

RSPCA Ad for abused dogs

Consumers are usually afraid of making the wrong judgement. We go through life, balancing on a tightrope and hoping we’re not going to get ripped off. For some people – all they need is the story, but for another group of consumers they need the story and details that show them this is the real deal.

Statistics just don’t tap into the same parts of our brain that storytelling does. Data allows the parts of our brain that deal with numerical reasoning to make logical decisions. And stories can help to push that decision making in a certain direction.

Combining data and stories

So, the story gives us the emotion and the warm fuzzy feelings. Data provides us with the unemotional, objectives facts that build authenticity. Think back to school (ugh, I know) and when you wrote basic essays. You always had to reinforce your theories or arguments with supporting evidence. And the same can be said for creating content and writing persuasive copy.

It helps to aim your content at the second type of consumer we mentioned; the type of person that will listen to stories, but needs another level of authenticity to make a decision. And more often than not, data can provide that extra layer or trustworthiness.

Basically, instead of chucking a story away and creating something cold and statistical, you can use data to confirm everything that you’re illustrating with a story. You can relate to people on a logical and emotional basis.

Leading your content with a story can hook people in and gives them a ‘journey’ to follow – or as digital bods like to say ‘create the narrative’. You can then weave your data into your content in an engaging way. Plonking stats here and there might not make a big difference, but producing a data visualisation or giving a step-by-step analysis of key patterns in your data can help to highlight the best things about your data.

People want to make decisions with their heart (*theme tune to cheesy 80s movie*) but they also have a desire to check their instinct against some objective, fact-based data.

Let us know your thoughts below!

Consumers make decisions based on feelings and emotions. So, if you can create stories in your content that make people feel something (*note: not hatred for you) then they’re more likely to engage with your brand and buy your products.

Social Media Management Software

In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.

By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.

In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.

At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's homepage

We recommend: Hootsuite

There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).

They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.

The free version of this software lets you:

  • Manage up to three social media profiles from a choice of channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Schedule up to 30 posts in advance at any point in time
  • Track follower growth, likes and comments
  • Integrate two RSS feeds in order to find and share compelling content
  • Access Hootsuite’s online help center and community forum

Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.

But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.

Website Tracking Software

We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.

By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.

There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.

Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.

Screenshot of Hotjar's homepage

We recommend: Hotjar

Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.

Hotjar tools include:

  • Click, move, scroll, download and share heatmaps that can also be split by device type
  • Visitor recordings that allow you to replay sessions of real site visitors
  • Conversion funnels that identify on which page and at which step the most visitors are leaving your site
  • Form analysis that can help you to discover which fields take too long to fill, which are left blank and why your visitors abandon your form and page
  • A customizable widget that allows you to create pop-up feedback polls
  • Responsive surveys that can be distributed through web links and emails, or featured your site just before your visitors abandon the page in order to discover what their concerns are
  • The ability to recruit test users in order to get instant feedback on your site

Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.

While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.

For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.

Remember

Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.

What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.

If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.

Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.

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