Digital marketing has a lot of new opportunities for audience engagement. But in the end, success usually comes back to good storytelling. Here are four helpful tips.

Digital campaigns require a strategic and thoughtful approach to be successful. In the early days, they were more or less the same old tactics wrapped up in a new digital packaging. For example, many brands or agencies used to simply drop a marketing website into an iframe on any social networking site and call it a day. This left much to be desired.

We know the digital social landscape is always changing, and in order to flourish, brands and agencies should be able to navigate those changes, but without losing center. Terms like “mobile first design,” “social currency,” and “responsive layouts” come to mind as a part of that change. But new technology alone won’t engage your audience – they need a reason to be there and to be a part of what you’re doing. So, what is that central element that can determine the success or failure of a campaign?

The answer: Great storytelling.

To do this digitally, we need to go back to the basics and rethink how we accomplish this with new technology. There are four key pieces that can help a story succeed in our digital world.

1. You need to know your audience.

To inspire people to participate with you, good storytellers must know their audience. Knowing them allows you to create tailored content and to meet them on their turf. Here at Deloitte Digital, we have an Intelligence capability that brings us close to our audience. Their work helps us get to know the people we’re talking to. We study various metrics and social conversations to understand them, speak in their language, and give a voice to their priorities and interests. Once you understand who your audience is, you can design a campaign experience that produces real value and resonates with them as individuals.

2. Your story needs a well-designed concept.

A good storyteller who knows the audience can design a strong and effective concept. The concept is the core of the story. The concept is the content, the positioning, the engine in the car.

To employ another metaphor: think of a concept as your favorite dish. You take the necessary ingredients (e.g. value proposition, brand, market, audience research, goals, etc.) and combine them in a certain way to create something unique and delicious. With a strong concept, your audience will likely delight in the dish and come back for more. The concept might be the most important piece in all of this. To borrow from Aristotle, we might call it the sine qua non ‘without which there could not be.’ If you have a strong concept, your audience will likely want to engage. They’ll follow through because they’re recognized as individuals, rather than merely targets.

3. Your goal is to inspire engagement.

A good storyteller must also inspire engagement. Direct involvement from your audience means valuable actions such as sharing with their friends or remembering the brand’s message just a little more clearly.

Each decision made on a campaign – from research, ideation, creative, design, through to development and promotion – must be carefully calculated, all of it done to enhance the experience for the audience. However, don't confuse taking a shot in the dark with taking calculated risks based on Intelligence.

For us, successful campaigns result from the marriage of compelling technology and good storytelling. If you want to inspire engagement, you need to be sure your content, your story, is something your audience cares about. You can accomplish this goal through intentionality in each decision with a focus towards enhancing the story and a quality experience.

4. Quality execution is essential.

Your worst enemy often isn’t your competitors; it’s your execution. Depending on the campaign, execution means developing in a way that the tone of voice and visual language enhance each other so your audience feels at home with the brand. If the user experience isn’t intuitive, then your audience can become frustrated with your product, and in turn the brand. Industry-leading execution requires not only the aforementioned elements and others, but also a strong team who is fully invested in the project from the start. Some form of agile workflow, fitted for the project and team members afford flexibility and fluidity. And finally, a quality product. If it’s full of bugs or not device agnostic, then your audience won’t stick around. Any campaign is made up of many moving pieces, and it takes only a few broken ones to turn a good thing into a bad thing.

Good storytelling lies at the heart of successful campaigns

The ubiquitous nature of social media and mobile devices has forced a significant shift in the landscape. There are staggering statistics about web-enabled mobile device, social media adoption, and usage rates. Billions of pieces of content are shared and engaged with across the web every day.

The way your audience wants to experience your brand is changing. We must adapt to new technologies and new media, but some things won’t change. Good storytelling still lies at the heart of what we do. We will still tell great stories, but in a smarter, more effective, and more measurable way. Knowing your audience is increasingly important, and so is delivering relevant, tailored content and experiences. Deliver your audience something they connect with and delight in, something that will last. Otherwise, you may fall short.

Joe Register is a Quality Assurance Engineer at Deloitte Digital's Pioneer Square Seattle Studio.