Introducing Velocity String – a new digital content format
At Velocity, we’re always looking for new ways to tell stories and always in the market for a new content format.
But lately we’ve started to feel a bit… format-constrained.
We’re pretty comfortable with the core content marketing format portfolio: videos, ebooks, emails, slideshares, websites, infographics, blog posts, landing pages, listicles, glossaries, FAQs, prezis, interactive graders & quizzes, long-ass web pages…
But we can’t help but feel that, as an industry, we B2B content marketers haven’t really gone fully… digital-native yet. To find new content formats that use our big and small screens for what they do best.
Let’s not pull our punches, a lot of the content formats B2B marketers use would still feel familiar to Johannes Gutenberg (YouTube would probably blow his pre-hipster beard off but you know what I mean: we’re kind of still in a pixellated version of ink-on-paper).
Coinciding with this digital storytelling restlessness is a voracious appetite for data about how audiences consume our content.
Our content performance team is getting really, really good at linking web analytics to marketing automation and CRM to start to piece together whole customer snail trails.
Having tasted the insight generated by this data, we’ve gone all greedy. We want more, more more.
So one day, we were eating lunch at the tables in front (Feel Good Bakery sandwiches. Yum.) and a few writers and designers started chatting to a few developers about the need for new formats that would feed back more data. Really granular data about how each user experienced each story.
And the devs got that look in their eyes and slunk off to their dark, pizza-strewn corner of the Velocity Towers campus (Think Googleplex but without the budget.)(Or taste, scale, ambition and sense of entitlement).
And, like a month later, they called an informal meeting to show us something cool.
The cool thing was an HTML presentation tool called Reveal.js – a framework that re-creates the functionality of Slideshare but on a web page. With potential for a whole lot more.
Fast forward a few months and the team had extended the core reveal.js framework to give us more developer control and better analytics. And, voilà, we had ourselves a new digital format called… (drumroll…. hold it…. longer…. cymbal crash!)
Introducing Velocity String™ – a new content format
A Velocity String™ is a new digital format for telling stories. And we’re really, really excited about it.
String (we’ll dispense with the TM from here on — who are we kidding, we haven’t trademarked it yet) combines a lot of things we like about our existing formats into a new thing that has user experience, creative production and analytics benefits.
Here’s a summary of its main features:
User Experience things
String is born for the screen, not the page. But it still creates familiar experiences that people will recognise and feel at home in. It has stuff like:
- A slideshow viewer – the core metaphor
- A range of transitions – kind of limitless; but you don’t want to over-use these
- Video – for backgrounds or whole embedded videos of any length
- Audio – embedded and played automatically or on clicking
- Animations – cool little twiddles or full-on SVG animations (don’t know what that means but love saying it).
- Drill-downs – so you’re not tied to the one, linear path
- Branching – so you can let users fork into different paths and storylines
- Navigation – via on-screen arrows or the keyboard arrow keys or links
- Interactivity – with buttons or sliders or things to play with
- Other embeds – like whole slideshares or any other i-Framey thing
- Forms – with data capture behind them (or push it right to your Marketo or whatever)
Already, you can start thinking beyond the slavishly linear formats and consider the potential of non-linear experiences. On top of that, you get massive gains on accessibility and SEO – with every page scrape-able, so friendly to search spiders.
Each slide also has its own URL, so you can send people links to an inner page.
And it’s device agnostic, so gives a good experience on mobiles and tablets too (there’s room for improvement on this but it beats serving a desktop web page to iPhones and Androids).
Finally, it’s embeddable! (Which is how we dropped in the examples below). That’s great because people who love your Strings—and they will—can easily drop the whole experience into their own blog.
Creative production things
Since it’s based on a framework, Strings have a lot of re-usability. The more we make, the more components and modules and code snippets and bells and whistles we put into our library.
So we can deliver big user experiences without re-inventing the wheel every time. And get richer stories to market faster.
Compared to PDFs, Strings can be easily updated too. So if you see that everyone is dropping off at Slide 11, you can hop in and change it. Already we’re seeing some surprising things that we could never see in our eBooks or Slideshares (the latter calls it a ‘view’ when you load the page – even if the reader got to slide 2 and buggered off).
Considering what a rich content format they can be, Strings are pretty lightweight (if you don’t throw in too much HD video) so page load times are snazzy. Google likes that.
We’ve always loved Slideshare and YouTube and other third-party content-sharing sites. But they really don’t give you much on the data and analytics front. Even worse, the data you do get from them tends to live in silos, disconnected from your web analytics.
With Strings, you get really granular analytics that you can plumb right into your existing analytics package (Google Analytics, Adobe… whatever you like), including things like:
- Pages viewed
- Time on each page
- Time in the whole String
- Exit pages
- Videos viewed
- Links clicked
- Scrolls scrolled
- Buttons pushed
- Drill-downs followed
- Branches taken
- Form fields filled
Pretty much anything you can measure you can capture and send to your chosen analytics package. That means you can create detailed reports not only about String consumption but also about where each experience fits in the wider customer journeys. (Neil loves that).
I can’t think of a content format with the potential for such granular analytics. And we’re already seeing the benefits.
Here are some Strings used in B2B content marketing programs
Usually, when we try something new, we have to produce one for ourselves before we can recommend it to clients. (We never could have sold in ‘rants’ if we hadn’t done the Crap slideshare first. Now it’s a core content format for Velocity.).
But with Strings, Jodie presented it to our wonderful clients at Sprint and they wanted one right away, sight unseen. So here’s our first ever String, the Agile Business Manifesto:
Click on the title slide, then use your keyboard’s arrow keys to navigate this (we’re working on getting clicks & swipes to work in embeds as well as they do on the page or smartphone or tablet):
Okay, the embedded experience isn’t 100% of the on-page, full-screen experience but give us a few weeks…
Here’s a recent one to launch Hubspot conversations, a very cool, conversational marketing tool integrated with their CRM and platform.
Fast on the heels of that was a piece for Moravia, the high-tech localisation and language translation company. It’s called The Content Localisation Crisis.
Finally, we got around to making a String for Velocity. Harry wrote it. Dan designed it. Nick coded it, with help from Chris and Dave. And Rudy brought it home.
I confess: I love this piece. It was a really hard brief – tell a story while demonstrating the key String features – and I think they nailed it. But you be the judge (use your arrow keys again):
Whenever we do a new content format, it takes a few goes before we really learn what it’s good at. In this case, I think the learning is happening pretty fast. We still need to master drill-downs and branching stories – things no other content format does very well – but for the core experience, we’re starting to feel at home.
Onward and upward – but also sidewards –with new content formats
Clearly, a Velocity String isn’t a complete re-invention of the web experience or an entirely new content format. Instead, it combines a lot of well-known elements into something new.
But what I love is that Strings address real content marketing problems – in the way we tell stories, create content and measure impact – in a simple, efficient, elegant way.
We’ll be posting more about our experiences with Strings, so watch this space. And there are some more digital-native content formats in the pipeline. Turns out, instead of satisfying our itch for new ways to tell stories, playing with Strings has just made us hungrier.
Here are links to two more recent Strings. Happy clicking: