How to Have Fun With Your Digital Storytelling

Ever feel boxed in by your content management system? Your content doesn’t look its best or you’re constrained to a certain layout? I hear ya.

Sometimes you just have to try something new. The great thing about online storytelling is the panoply of platforms you can try. I’d like to tell you about a few that I’ve gotten to try (with success) recently!

1. Storify

New York Times Storify

I’ve spent most of my time after graduating college as a news reporter and editor, and let me tell you, this platform is HUGE in the journalism world. It’s easy to see why: Storify lets you create online narratives, told through your followers. Here, the New York Times has curated content using a hashtag and cherry-picked solely Instagram photos for its Storify.

As you can see, the NYT personalized its message at the top, then dragged and dropped social media updates to build its own multi-media post. Pretty cool. It works with tweets, Google News items, Flickr images, Instagram pics, Facebook updates and more.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.06.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.07.06 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.07.17 PM2. BuzzFeed

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.18.03 PMDid you know you don’t have to be a BuzzFeed staffer to create a post on BuzzFeed?

Thank. Goodness. Because we have been having SO MUCH FUN with BuzzFeed on my web marketing team (see what we’ve been up to here). It might have something to do with our slight obsession with GIFs. It also might have something to do with our students loving the heck out of these posts. So there’s that, too.

These posts are super visual, what with all the flashy and hilarious GIFs, and they give you a chance to let your hair down and just have some fun. We were happy to see OU’s Housing & Food Services joining us and embracing the GIFs on BuzzFeed with “7 Things to Do on a Bye Week at OU” (way to go!).

 3. Playbuzz

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.37.47 PMAn offshoot of BuzzFeed, Playbuzz is a website that helps you create quizzes. Before you ask, “I’m a writer – why would I create a quiz?” think about what we’re talking about here. DIGITAL MARKETING. The goal is to create content that will surprise and delight your audience, stuff they’ll find helpful. Stuff that makes them giggle. Stuff that enlightens them and compels them to share.

That is exactly what the Playbuzz quizzes do. We’ve used this in the WebComm office once so far — when social media marketer Candace wrote a “Which OU Janux Course is Right For You?” quizz — but I see lots of opportunities in the future to pull it back out of our toolbox.

4. Blogs

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Ain’t nothin’ new about blogging. But! It’s a seriously easy way to break out of CMS and showcase your expertise on something (that’s how we do it here on #TeamWebComm).

Take a second and think how your department could utilize a blog. Maybe this is something where students in your college are on an amazing study-abroad trip and are blogging anyway. Hook’em up with a legit OU blog that you’ve created and showcase their adventures there. Not only are those easy and interesting posts for social media, but they can be featured on your departmental page, too.

Also, check out what Sam Noble Museum is doing on tumblr. It’s got some ridiculously creative blog posts featuring the comings and goings of the museum.

 5. Widgets

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Keep your eyes open for fun and interesting widgets that can complement your storytelling. One of my favorites is the Spotify widget, which enables you to share a digital playlist with your audience. You create it and embed it into CMS. It can steal the show and be the main focus, or it can be a little treat you throw in there for fun.

We used this a lot at AOL’s, where we would create Valentine’s Day playlists by asking our readers to comment on a post with their favorite love songs. We would turn their suggestions into a Spotify playlist that they could listen to right there at their computers.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is a wonderful example of how you can create content around music — something everyone loves.

6. Ask yourself: How else can I tell this story?

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Before I was hired at OU, the masterminds of my office had already decided how they wanted to tell the story of OU to celebrate the university’s 125th anniversary. It wasn’t a written story or a quiz or a series of blog posts, but an interactive timeline that walks readers through the history of a university that started with one man and an empty prairie.

I’m not saying everyone flock to the extremely busy WebComm developers to get your timelines pieced together — because I’m pretty sure I’d have some angry developers on my hands then. What I’m saying is: Find the best and most creative way to tell your story and don’t rely solely on the content management system that you’re given. Experiment!

I’d love to know how others at OU have branched out in their storytelling. What platforms have you tried? Which do you like, and why?

— Morgan

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