A new era of storytelling online
By @MadreRoothman, Digital Strategist
Over the years I’ve come across several online storytelling techniques that signal a new era of cultural activity – and storytelling. The ones that (usually) receive the most traction are those backed by paid media or big ad agencies that heavily push PR (think of the Audi Superbowl commercial). But the below digital narratives, however, received traction over the past few years because they were extremely original and told by people in cool, creative ways. Ways that made them famous, made them money or just paved the way for a new era of storytelling online.
The crazy stripper saga: Feat. @_zolarmoon
Influence: 591 tweets, 88.8K followers, 77.2K likes
Stripper Aziah “Zola” King got internet famous when she started narrating her impromptu road trip to Florida on Twitter. What made it special? Well, it all began at Hooters, Detroit, and includes 21-year-old Jessica Rae; her boyfriend called Jarrett; a violent Nigerian pimp, “Z” and a murder. The Rolling Stone called it “Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted, and since then was scooped up by James Franco, Andrew Neel and Killer Films to make the film version of the account. Obviously. You can read some of the tweets here and below.
Minecraft Roleplay: Feat gizzly14gazza
Influence: 1,422,505 subscribers, 393,025,761 views
Gizzy Gazza creates digital narratives via Minecraft – also known as “Minecraft Roleplay”. Popular shows include Minecraft School, Haunted Hotel, Minecraft Five Nights At Freddy’s and his original show, The Altered Adventure. His content includes a variety custom maps, general gaming videos and trending topics like the Try not to laugh Challenge as well as general fan content. A pretty cool and nifty new way of digital narration.
That Reddit thread that got made into a movie: Feat. James Erwin
Influence: 3,692 (94% upvoted) [basically viral for 2011]
American freelance writer and military historian, James Erwin, posted a question on Reddit asking the community if he could destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if he traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU. The Reddit community loved the thread, along with Warner Bros who loved the story concept so much they created a movie from it. The movie is titled Rome Sweet Rome that, in a nutshell, follows the plot of what would happen if modern Marines battled the Roman Empire. The full thread is not available due to production rights, but feel free to read the discussion on Reddit, or watch the trailer below.
Toy reviews – by a kid: Feat. Ryan ToysReviews
Influence: 6,823,371 subscribers, 10,785,932,105 views
This kid basically doesn’t have to work a day in his life. And he’s four. The channel sees Ryan playing with toys, and reviewing them (with obvious in-between sponsorship). The channel is currently ranked 13th in the world based on views, beating YouTube producers Shakira, The Ellen Show and David Guetta. Also once beating YouTube’s most-viewed and most-subscribed creator of all-time – PewDiePie. Think about it though, who would you trust most to review toys – an adult, or a kid who plays with toys every day?
That guy who proposed to his girlfriend in Mario Maker: Feat. Retro Shanerator
Influence: Details per channel not available. 2,381,645 views
The title says it all. Just watch the video.
Movie made from a YT comment: Feat. John Wikstrom
Influence: 3,104 subscribers • 2,543,503 views
The PBS Game/Show, a YouTube gaming talkshow channel, asked its fans whether video games can be a spiritual experience? One user, 00WARTHERAPY00, responded by describing what he experienced when he raced the ghost car of his late father on Rally Sports Challenge, 10 years after his passing. John Wikstrom, a filmmaker, saw the comment and created a beautiful short film of the user’s experience. You can view the comment on Imgur, watch the above mentioned PBS game show video, and the great piece that was produced by John Wikstrom below.
When looking at all of the above and bringing advertising into the mix, I think it’s easy to forget what storytelling is all about when you have objectives and a set of KPIs (oh yes, and limited budget). But creativity seems easily embraced by online communities when stories are shared using improv (Reddit and Twitter threads), aims to entertain (Minecraft storytelling), educates (Ryan reviewing toys), includes theatrics (the Mario Maker) and instills moral values (honesty in one YouTube comment about loss). Old school play variables. So what am I trying to say? Don’t shove brand messages down the throats of consumers. Use the new era of online storytelling to your advantage – tell your brand stories with old school variables.