It is without doubt that the web has considerably changed how we read, consume, produce and connect with stories nowadays. We are now immersed in a world with many digital devices on a daily basis and new ways of shaping content has made us rethink how to present our stories.
We all have perused an excellently produced website, but somehow we did not connect with it and a few clicks later, left the website. One of the reasons for this lies behind a nonlinear narrative which was not well developed to reach the final consumer.
An online nonlinear narrative tells us: how to behave (clicks), how to think (block content), and even how to feel (engagement). Audiences now expect to shift seamlessly among devices. The challenge now for marketers is how we are going to tell our stories and how the content is going to be delivered.
As the joke tells us: content is the king, but the queen is the narrative. As the queen controls the king, she ends up influencing the king as much as the whole kingdom. If you want to drive your audience to reach your goals, design a narrative capable of giving your audience their desires.
The nonlinear narrative
Digital narratives depend massively on your audience’s experience. The web offers so many potential entry points to your website. So you have to define a role for your audience. Simply put, you must design a targeted web narrative, within which your audience will choose their own paths.
You know the story you want to tell. You have the marketing objective. Now it is time to think about how you are going to tell it to reach your goals. That is where nonlinear narrative fits in. Plan and design content chunks, content group blocks, correlation, co-dependency. As you thread your nonlinear narrative, an immersive digital experience is also created. The narrative threads move the audience from one content to another; working as a path between your goals and the audience.
Nonlinearity requires three important guidelines:
A) Your audience could be interested in only part of your story. They may not be interested in all you have to say about a product or subject. Your audience builds their pathways: they land at any point of your story and leave from any point as suddenly as they jump on.
B) The possibility to create an infinite number of stories. Your audience scans through the web to weave their own story. Audiences no longer want to stack themselves in one fixed narrative. The story now no longer flows in one direction only, but from one to many.
C) Participation. Your audience wants to participate in the creation of the narrative surrounding your product or subject. The story that your audience walks away with after visiting your website could still be very different from the one you meant. The storytelling evolves through a multiplatform and is more participatory.
Four things to consider whilst planning a nonlinear story Immersion: your audience deepens into the story-world to learn more about it or heightening their sensory experience of it. Don’t forget the physical world which is already being considered a platform.
Integration: the narrative must be a cohesive story being told across platforms. They key point here is complement, not duplication. Don’t offer one thing in different platforms. Each platform has its own characteristic.
Interactivity: offer your audience the chance to interact with the elements of the story. Let them be participants, not voyeurs.
Impact: develop the story to inspire your audience to take action in the physical world such as purchase, share, comment and so on.
Nonlinear content strategy: give a meaning to your audience
Don’t stick to traditional concepts. Your website is also a narrative and you should plan an effective one to communicate to your audience. The way your audience walks through the website is the story for them. It is beyond usability and design, it is about the narratives all human beings live by.
How you make your audience get to the content, view it or scroll it, will help them to shape their interpretation of what you are telling them. Let your audience experience it. Make sure you thread your goals into the narrative. You jobs is to make the narrative satisfying for your audience so that your goals are accomplished too.
Three key directives
Understand your audience – it is important that you know who you speak to, what they need and how you provide their desires. By understanding your audience, you keep them attentive and engaged.
Define your goals for your narrative – thread your goal into the narrative so that it drives the audience towards an end result (conversions).
Offer a meaning – your aesthetic choice on your website should be carefully considered in relation to the narrative you are telling. Ensure everything on your website aligns with your narrative and gives a meaning to your audience. Offering a meaning is as twice as likely to accomplish a goal.