Creative non-fiction is one of the most overlooked and, in my opinion, underrated narrative forms in all of literature. One of my favourite ever books is a so-called non-fiction novel by Truman Capote – In Cold Blood. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and many, no doubt, have read it also, for it is one of the finest pieces of creative journalism to have ever been peeled off the printing press.
What makes it so engaging? Well, aside from the fact that it is penned by one of the greatest English language writers the world has ever known, it’s the constant realisation, as you’re reading, that, despite how the book is written, that Capote’s narrative is 100% real, and not actually a fiction at all.
For me it has the same effect as when those all-enticing words appear on-screen before a movie commences – ‘Based on a true story.’ This invariably makes the audience sit up and pay even closer attention. All the drama, conflict and heartache is somehow enhanced by those five magical words. They bring about an added depth of reality to the tale that wouldn’t have been there without them. Sleepers, Schindler’s List, Into the Wild, My Left Foot, A Beautiful Mind, Catch Me If You Can, Goodfellas, Capote – all amazing major motion pictures, but would they really have enjoyed quite the same applause if they weren’t all ‘based upon true stories’?
It’s a difficult question to answer, to be fair, because these are all great movies. Some Academy Award-winning, in fact. And so there is indeed a very viable argument for the contrary – that is to say that, yes, Goodfellas, Catch Me If You Can, Sleepers – all of them – would have been just as enthralling even if the plots and the story beats had all been plucked right out of thin air. Of course they would. Of course they would. But still – there would have been something missing. Something that it’s quite hard to put your finger on, but nonetheless fundamental to the whole spirit of the creation.
No, for me, the reason why movie makers feel the need to insist that those five magic words are emblazoned for all to see at the start of the movie, is that they know as well as anyone that true stories engage. And indeed, that’s exactly why I love In Cold Blood so much.
It’s All About Veracity
Yes it is. As I’ve said, veracity is an underrated narrative form when it comes to the written word – albeit less so when it comes to the big screen. Why is this? When we read fiction – and indeed reviews and criticism of fiction – we hail the writer for how believable, how real the story is. And yet when we are reading non-fiction – newspapers, text books, magazines, blogs – we somehow settle for just being informed, rather than entertained.
And for me this begs a rather obvious question – why shouldn’t there be a kind of reverse crossover when it comes to our non-fiction output? Rather than being ‘based on a true story’, why shouldn’t our business narratives be ‘based on the traditions of story-telling’? Indeed, I think this is exactly why true-movies and non-fiction novels work so well – they bring the best of both worlds neatly together in one artistic expression.
Veracity, by definition (unless you intend to lie to your customers, which is absolutely not a very good idea), is already very much a part of your business story – but what it might well lack is a bit of conflict, drama and suspense to keep your following hooked.
How To Create An Engaging Brand Narrative On Twitter
Twitter lends itself particularly well to creating a brand narrative. Those little 140 character posts are just short and punchy enough that you can create intrigue, suspense and sensation very simply and quickly – everything a compelling narrative needs.
But, you were probably hoping for some slightly more actionable tips than that, so here’s what I suggest.
1. Prepare In Advance
None of the great tales ever simply oozed out of the writer’s pen without any forethought whatsoever (although, to be fair, I believe Jack Kerouac’s On The Road was supposedly crafted along those lines – and some people consider that to be a ‘great tale’, so it’s conceivable that you might, too). So, don’t begin a storytelling campaign on Twitter without mapping out exactly how you conceive each ‘chapter’ to flow onto the next one. Make a draft plan, and remember some rules of storytelling that you must embed within your campaign:
- Your story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end (There’s no point just jumping right into the middle of something without setting up the context of the forthcoming narrative. And, similarly, no matter what happens during the ‘middle’ section, you must resolve it at the end.)
- Give your story an emotional arc (To plan for this, you need to consider how you want your following to fell at the beginning of you story, and how you want to transform this at the end.)
- Plan your story to be engaging, shareable and interactive where possible (The whole idea of turning towards storytelling for a marketing boost is to try and reach out a little further than you normally would be able to. Not everyone may be interested in your brand, but, find a good story to tell, and plenty will be interested in your campaign. Encourage engagement and interaction – even if that just means that your following will leave comments that you reply to – and you should hopefully find your campaign gets shared far and wide for its entertainment value, with your brand name attached to it of course.)
2. Create Memorable, Lovable, Identifiable Characters
Stories are only as engaging as the characters that carry the audience along. But, my top suggestion here is to try and make your product the central character of your Twitter story. In this way you can imbue your product with whatever personality you can possibly conceive. If it’s a cleaning product, then you could turn it into some type of superhero; a superfood nutty product could be carried along quite cutely by some sort of animal like a squirrel; and even if you’re something like a digital research agency, you could most certainly liven up your image by having some sort of detective character in a trench coat and trilby fronting your Twitter campaign. And this in fact brings me on nicely to my next point.
3. Use Images To Tell Your Story
Social media has gone visual. There’s no escaping this fact. And Twitter is no exception. I know from experimentation with my own Twitter account, that tweets with pictures generally get at least twice the engagement as ones that don’t, and often three, four or five times that, to be frank.
And of course if you’re creating characters, then the best way to bring these to life on social media will be to create images of them. A picture really can say a thousand words, and your visual characters can be endearing at a glance to anyone who stumbles across them online. Indeed, there’s nothing to stop you from including comic-book style speech bubbles in your images, provided, of course, that such a thing is appropriate to your story and overall brand image/message.
How do you use storytelling to promote your brand on Twitter? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.