How To Tell A Digital Story
In December 2012, The Experience concert caused a stir on the internet. Having moved the concert from the Tafawa Balewa Square to a smaller venue, the venue was ticketed, and free concert tickets were issued online at random periods of the day, through an app, available on web, Facebook and mobile. The platform recorded over 50,000 daily visits over 2 weeks. The daily camping on the site, waiting for the ticketing app to open become a reference point for how to milk demand.
In late May, 2014, the Bride Price app went online, and viral; breaking records for organic engagements in Africa, with over 10 million conversations/engagements generated within the first week of launch.
On May 11, 2015, Access bank launched an online recruitment drive, using a web app. The campaign was so popular, the entire bank server crashed for three straight days. Two months previously, Premier Cool launched an online video campaign, tagged “Call Your Mum”, targeting young men, and encouraging them to call their mothers on Mother’s Day, using a free call app. The campaign, executed with zero production or marketing budget, broke servers on Mother’s Day.
The common thread with these campaign was that the Anakle Team needed to find new ways to use the internet for marketing and promotion activities in our market. In this blog, our team is sharing insights from our digital projects – how to tell a digital story.
Focus on strategy
Munachi, Creative lead
Strategy is the heart of every digital story. Strategy connects your original idea, from execution, to marketing. Strategy is what decides if your project, however brilliant it is at ideation stage, will succeed in the market. Strategy is everything.
To create a winning digital project, serious thought needs to be given to every step of the project, including idea, market acceptance, target audience, technology, content, etc. Strategy helps piece these critical bits together.
It is always important to pause, stop everything and bring the team to the table to have a conversation on the project. We have found in our team that conversations always helps to shape the direction of the project strategy. The best project strategies our teams have designed have come out of very light hearted conversations, exploring ideas from a wide range of team members (as a rule, strategy sessions are semi-formal at the most, and mostly casual). There is no limit to who can contribute during sessions – our drivers have sat in and contributed to sessions targeting the low income audience.
Defined strategy helps you deal with consequences post launch. Sometimes, after projects have been launched, variables change and teams become confused. This of course is when teams receive all kinds of advise, from an equally varied range of sources. Setting out strategy and objectives at the beginning helps filter through the noise, and maintains a focus on what really matters.
In 2014, our team was on the verge of releasing a ‘product’ we expected would be a winner, but also very controversial. Our earlier strategy sessions were about content, product design, and ensuring our technology worked for the brilliant idea we had. But we still had a problem – “What about negative feedback? How do we handle it when it happens.” Critical decisions were taken regarding ownership of the project, how the team will behave while the product was out, and how to handle press. When the heat started piling from some of the negative feedback, it was easy for the team to absorb, yet continue on the all-important winning direction.
It might look like taking time to think through strategy for a digital project is a waste of time, but it’s important to remember that once content get’s out on the internet, there is no going back. So it is rather important to ensure that strategy is right before going to market.
Know your audience
Assume a product or campaign is a story. Every story has an audience. Without an audience, the story ceases to exist. The customer is the audience. So we focus on the question “what does the customer want?” Every campaign is a story.
The average client brief comes with a target market, and every campaign is targeted at an audience. Making a story connect with the online audience is the primary task of the story teller. The better the connection between the story and the audience, the better the campaign performs.
It is important that story tellers write stories in the language that their audience understands. When the language does not connect, the entire campaign fails. A good example is the rush by brands to place their content and stories on gossip blogs. Not every brand will fit on the timeline of a gossip blog. The lack of alternative platforms with the right amount of traffic forces brands to all compete for space on the same blogs. If you must be on a gossip blog, you have to write your content like gossip blog content.
The experience of most brands on gossip blogs is that their PR pieces do not get the same kind of attention as the real gossip. This is hardly surprising. Brand content on gossip blogs will do better if they are written in a style which matches the rest of the blog.
Technology is just a tool
Ofure Ukpebor, Technology lead
It’s not the technology. It’s the idea. Many brands and agencies Anakle has worked with have often asked “can you do that for us too?”, referencing a component or application we built as part of another campaign. Our answer is almost always “No”. Yes, we can reuse code or rebuild a product, but the application does not tell the story.
Technology for us is a tool to tell the story.
During the launch week of one of our most successful viral apps, our strategy team was placing bets on the number of clones which will emerge, and how soon before the first one came out. It took four days, but as expected, the cloners took more time cloning the technology, rather than the strategy.
Technology is often the simplest part of executing great digital or social media campaigns. Once a great story has been conceived and the right ‘sale’ strategy designed, it is then easy to use build the ‘tangible’ parts using technology.
The place of technology is explained through our “Iceberg” concept. Technology is often the most visible, or ‘tangible’ part of some of the projects we work on, but the output is just a small part of the strategy, planing and UX modelling, which goes into the project.
A top 4 Nigerian bank recently worked with our team for a UX project to improve growth for a channel product. Their competition were already successful with similar offerings, but they were having trouble delivering good numbers. We identified a distribution problem which restricted adoption. The client hired us because they expected a technology solution to their project, only to end up with a simple non-tech workaround, which solved the problem.
Test, test, test!
Tokunbo, Campaign management
Audience testing is critical for the success of digital projects. Products and campaigns which do not go through testing may fail due to unverified assumptions.
When we design projects, we try to use a diverse team which closely mirrors the audience for our product. It is never strange to find drivers, gatemen and office assistants contributing during strategy sessions for projects we build in-house. This ensures that we’re not just audience testing, but getting potential users involved in the product design. According to the Google UX team, UX is everything we need to do to create the right product for the right users. There are only a few ways to do this better than getting users involved at the heart of the product design.
Testing for highly confidential projects throws up interesting challenges – because the projects are confidential, testing is possibly more difficult. Our online reputation management team has since found a way to test unpopular topics through organic scenario modelling. We model a scenario similar to our client’s, but put questions out through unrelated media or back channels. Sometimes we use reverse testing, which provides very honest responses, and provide a background for fine-tuning responses.
How far can your one tweet go?
In 2014, Anakle created the Bride Price App, an experiment to show what is possible for brands in the social media space. The runaway success of the viral app has become a reference for social media agencies across Africa, generating over 10 million worldwide social engagements within 4 weeks. The Bride Price app is summarised in this short film “One Tweet”.
The untold story of the the bride price app is that we never released it; it was leaked accidentally. A member of our team had sent it to a friend for independent review. That friend shared with another friend, who posted the results to Twitter. One tweet. From that one tweet, a few retweets and then a few more people jumped on the not-100% complete app. By the time our team noticed the hits on our analytics dashboard and scrambled to touch up the last bits of cosmetic work on the app, it was already running away. An hour after the first tweet was posted by a random person, the app had been seen over 15,000 times around the world.
That first tweet:
My bride price is NGN418,500.00. Elders Verdict: Premium babe! via @bridepricecheck
— Ms Shokoloko Bangosh (@Maynezee) May 24, 2014
One random tweet started a viral product. In the end, the app generated about 20 million social conversations around the world, and was reported by the world’s leading news services, including BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Yahoo, CCTV, Guardian etc. Millions of hits from zero PR dollars.
This case study will be our team’s reference to how to tell a digital story for a long time.