Digital storytelling strategies for your content creation
Often when we witness compelling digital content that inspires us or impels us to action, we’re so caught up in our own reaction to the material that we don’t process why and how the content accomplished its aim. The best way to become a better storyteller is to pay close attention to why certain works captivate you and why others bore you, and how to implement those strategies in your own pieces. As a team dedicated to helping people tell their stories, we at Adobe often analyze what works in Adobe Express content and what could be improved. To that end, here is some background information on digital storytelling and tips to communicate and build an impactful digital storytelling strategy gleaned from our experiences as content creators ourselves.
What is digital storytelling?
Digital storytelling is the practice of telling a story or communicating a message via a computer-based tool. It is usually a shortform piece frequently referred to as the production arm of content creation. Utilizing multimedia programs, a digital storyteller can bring any kind of narrative to life.
Elements of digital storytelling
- Point of view
- Who is telling this story? Where are they coming from, and what are they trying to accomplish with this story?
- What is this story trying to achieve? Does this story have a purpose, and what is it?
- The question
- What is the central question that drives the story’s plot forward? What gives it meaning or motivation? Is there a puzzle or mystery to solve?
- Emotional content
- For a story to be successful — meaning that it holds the audience’s attention and gets its central point across — there needs to be an emotional connection to the material being presented. Effective digital stories manage to access fundamental truths that viewers can interpret for themselves.
- Narration of a story by its maker can further personalize the material and make it more accessible for the viewers. It can also add nuance to larger themes.
- Whether completely silent or packed with dynamic soundtrack selections, a digital story needs a background of sound that further illustrates what is happening. Silence can allow for the action to speak for itself, while scoring or songs can underline the emotion in the moments being presented.
- Timing, pacing, and economy of tools
- As with all things, editing is essential. All digital stories need direction, so make sure you have storyboarded each part clearly, and know how you’ll be utilizing text and visuals so as not to overwhelm the production. Make sure before you start creating that you know how your story concludes, and how to get it there in one piece.
Strategies for storytelling that work
- Adopt universal concepts
- Highlighting a universal quality can go a long way toward inspiring empathy in viewers. No matter what story you’re trying to tell, identify the universal experience or common emotion present in your work and find a way to deliver it to your audience with a related anecdote, narration method, or imagery. Establishing universality can not only evoke sympathy or empathy in your viewer, but it can also inspire action, especially in the case of a fundraiser or advocacy event.
- Maintain a steady pace
- Keep viewers interested by paying special attention to how your story is paced. Do you have a clear beginning, middle, and end? Pace plays an essential role in defining the mood and energy of a story, while editing the pace around key plot points can maintain your audience’s attention.
- Use personal perspectives
- Viewers can get overwhelmed when presented with a major issue immediately. It can help to slowly build to your broader message by starting with your own personal story that viewers can connect to. Essentially: start off small to inspire empathy, then go big by broadening your story to explain the central significance.
- Know your audience
- It’s important to understand who you’ll be telling your story to so you can edit your style to a certain value set or attention span. Are you looking to convince your viewers of something specific? Try reverse-engineering your story from end to beginning to ensure success.
- Choose the right format for your story
- Digital storytelling is not a one-size-fits-all production. The message you’re trying to convey should match its format, whether that be a music video, a narrative film, an interactive text or webpage, a podcast, branded selections, or any other digital format that could work for your creative context.
How to create digital content with Adobe Express using these strategies for storytelling
- Start by creating a new Adobe Express video project.
- Clicking the big plus button on web or in the app will open a slide-based editor tool. We suggest storyboarding your video within the app by selecting one of the preloaded story structures or creating your own by adding notes to slides, which will guide your creation. Each slide should represent just one point, thought, or concept.
- Add media to your slides.
- Choose between images, video clips, icons, or texts to add to your new set of slides. You can search for free photos or icons within the tool or upload your own images or footage. Add up to 30 seconds of video at a time to each slide.
- Pro-tip: The length of each Adobe Express video slide is dictated by how long the recording is. The shorter the recording, the faster and usually higher energy your video will be. Play around with breaking up large pieces of text into various syntaxes and see how the energy of your story changes.
- Select pre-designed layouts.
- Present your media in a variety of layouts by selecting one of the preloaded placements in the top left corner labeled “Layouts.”
- Use text to communicate key information or calls to action.
- Text on screen makes sure those watching your video without the sound turned on get your full message. If you’d like to speak directly to your audience, simply record your voice by hitting the red button and speaking into your phone or computer.
- Pro-tip: Your story doesn’t need sound, especially if it’s posted on social media. Recent stats confirm what you already know: 85% of people who view videos on Facebook do so with the sound off. Remember this during your production period and make sure to add captions or accessible visuals based on your distribution method.
- Give your story some texture with a theme and soundtrack.
- The Adobe Express free video maker comes pre-loaded with themes that control the overall look and feel of your video. Themes power transitions between slides and the motion of elements. Simply tap the “Themes” category and choose from a variety of unique themes.
- Pro-tip: Did you know you can upload your own audio file to play in your Adobe Express video? Click on the music tab from the create view, then select “Upload a song.”
- Publish and share your digital stories.
- Once you’ve finished making your video, save it to your camera roll as an mp4 and then upload it to Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or Twitch. Make sure to click the expand icon in the bottom left corner so your video plays in the mode (landscape pr portrait) that works best for each app. Select a cover image that showcases your most engaging scene so it looks great in your feed.
- Share your creations with the hashtag #AdobeExpress for a chance to be featured on our social channels!
Free Adobe Express templates for digital storytelling
Will you need social media imagery to showcase your work? Explore these free customizable templates, as they can all be used for sharing your digital stories via Youtube, TikTok, or Twitch!