Story propagation – what creators can learn from marketing

I’m a great believer in learning from trades other than your own. Never has this been more important than now, when a content creator would need to be a great storyteller to have a story to gather an audience around, a good programmer to be able to augment the story with tech that enhances the experience, a brilliant marketer to get the initial and lasting attention and engagement and a skilled analyst to be able to make sense out of all the data that can be gleaned about audience behavior today. Not to mention being a good writer, director, producer, editor, psychologist, economist… you name it.

Since it’s pretty darn hard to fit all of this into one person, we tend to gather teams around our projects. But even here it pays off to know what the others are on about, and have more than a passing knowledge of the skill sets and traits required to achieve the goals that have been set up for the different fields in the context of the project.

One example I read these last couple of days come from the lands of Twitter, where a study on Twitter, brands and television shows that brands that get how to use Twitter can have some serious windfalls coming their way from an active audience that eagerly responds to Calls to Action.

To translate Twitter’s three key findings from the study (consisting of 12.000 users across all demographics) from market land to story land (where I tend to reside most of the time), this is what they found:

  1. Brands are already an integral part of Twitter conversations. I.e. don’t be afraid to be officially, loudly and proudly doing what you intend to do on Twitter, namely get more people to be aware of and interact with your project, your story. 80% of the polled users had mentioned a brand in their tweets over the past six months. Now – what you need is for that brand that they mention to be your brand, your project! Research brands close to your field, watch how they are mentioned on Twitter and try to create something with even clearer calls to action and obvious benefits for the audience. Also try to build on the attention you do manage to raise; have a longer term plan in your back pocket!
  2. Consumers take action both online and offline after seeing brand mentions in Tweets. For us it means that we can count on attention on Twitter spilling over to our websites, our blogs, our videos or even our real life. Now, the key is to not let people down, but to have awesomness waiting around the corner, for anyone choosing to engage that much with what we’re trying to do. What kind of awesomness? Whatever kind fits your project and your target group, of course! That’s where audience research comes in…
  3. The source of the Tweet containing a brand mention affects consumer actions. 45% took action if the tweet was from a brand, 63% if the tweet was from a non-brand source. People rely a bit more on people than on brands; make sure that you’re offering up something that your target audience want to share or talk about. Draw your conclusions from your target group studies – what do they talk about on social media. How can you tap into that conversation in a natural and logical way?

All of this is easier said than done, naturally. But in the end it’s simple. Create great stories, set them in great settings, carve out a role for the audience in the overall narrative and give them clear calls to action with a guaranteed celebration of recognition for anyone choosing to interact! Then just be prepared to harness the flood of interaction in a meaningful way and have the long tail strategies up to scratch! 🙂


Simon Staffans is a content and format developer and media strategist, employed by MediaCity Finland. He works with multiplatform storytelling, transmedia development procedures and great stories. Contact him at simon.staffans(at) or follow him on @simon.staffans.


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