If there's one thing that we should have learned in this era of
social media, it's that people are being drawn to content not
through publishers and pages, but through people and feeds. The
best content is not what surfaces most often through search
results, but what travels most often between people. When we look
at the success of content these days, there is often an inverse
relationship between how good it is vs. how much we had to pay for
people to actually see it.
What if instead of optimizing branded content to hit every
marketing bullet point on a brief, we optimized it to maximize the
amount it got shared? The former yields TV commercials; the latter,
something completely different.
As digital agencies, we are supposed to be leading our clients
to make decisions that are more reflective of the ways that media
consumption is evolving. We are supposed to have an intimate
knowledge of the ways that consumers use technology to connect to
brands, entertainment and on another. We are supposed to be on top
of the latest trends. We are supposed to deliver a return on
We can do all this by taking another look at our creative
The traditional creative process generally includes briefs,
brainstorms, boardrooms and 70 rounds of revisions. While this
process can lead to rich brand experiences, it does not deliver
consistent content that is immediately relevant at a given moment
That matters because we no longer ask ourselves, "Which website
should I visit now?" Content finds us through our densely connected
social networks. We explore content because it is relevant to us
topically, personally and culturally. And nothing is more relevant
to a consumer than right now.
Historically, "the news" has been the most timely and relevant
mechanism for that kind of content. But even "the news" has had to
adapt to evolving consumer habits. Successful cable news networks
are more about entertaining and telling people what they want to
hear rather than what they need to know. Blogs reward their
employees for the number of page views they generate, not the
number of Pulitzer prizes they win.
Lessons and rewards
While that may sound a bit depressing, there are lessons we can
learn from it as agencies.
The access we have to real-time intelligence and data is
unprecedented. It must be put to use in fueling a new creative
process, one that favors sharing over classic digital metrics like
clicks and visits and one that rewards consistency over stunts and
capitalizes on conversation, rather than thinking it can be the
center of it. If we expect to be at all relevant to the modern
consumer, the microsites and display advertising we've been
producing for years should (at least) be complemented by content
created by an editorial process.
Think of it as a creative newsroom that produces social content.
It should turn out content optimized for sharing and deliver on a
brand's brief over time -- not the entire brief each time. Short,
visual, "social quality" content that people can immediately react
to, and are proud to share.
And in today's connected media environment, engagement can lead
to reach. Media spending gets to amplify the content that gets
shared most often to achieve exponential results.
The process of arriving at the best social content looks more
like "Newsroom" than "The Pitch." Creative and social staffers
merge the zeitgeist with the brand ethos all day, every day.
Creative latches onto trends immediately, before they expire. If
something culturally important happens, you need to be able to
build a concept, execute it and publish it without delay. That
means implementing a frictionless process with quick client
approvals, then tracking that content like a hawk and understanding
when to pull the trigger on boosting which piece of content as it
Building your channels
Try as we might, our brands' social-media presences are
generally not communities but rather distribution and engagement
channels. Over the last few years, for better or worse, you have
probably spent money building the size of these channels. Now we've
got a responsibility to put them to work. The development of
creative assets for these channels is something that should be
taken seriously, even though the content itself may be lightweight.
We know that the content that works best in these channels is
highly visual, very timely, culturally allusive and not
overproduced. This is content that becomes authentic when it's
shared not because we say it is .
This isn't just a Facebook thing. It isn't just a Twitter thing.
It's about building real-time content that is feed-worthy. There
will be hits and misses, but if you're consistently publishing, the
hits will be bigger and more frequent.
But the only way to create this content with regularity and
efficiency is to add a new component to the agency model.
We live in an era where everything can be disrupted. It is
foolish to think that our own agency business models aren't
susceptible to that . If you're not busy getting better at creating
content that people will share, you're putting your brands'
relevance at stake.