I hear frantic whispers in the industry.
“Did you know that the average person’s attention span is less than that of a goldfish now?” – heard at a social media snack bar.
“How can our archaic image format continue in this ocean of content governed by the infinite scroll?” – heard at a gathering of old-timey social media managers.
Okay, so I may be paraphrasing, but it’s true. The statistics indicate that we’re faced with a super-user who categorises and critiques content at a glance. With the rise of apps like Tinder where the decision to swipe takes less than a second, it looks like things may only get tougher for us unless we’re able to up the ante with more than standard branded content curated in the same old way.
The most successful social media platforms don’t just feed content to its users but give users the power to create their own. The trouble for us as brands hustling for some social capital is that we’re faced with a much more discerning audience, that knows what they’d like to consume (with regard to subject and quality) and how they’d like to consume it (from a format and channel perspective).
We know that Content Is King (is this an old adage already?), but users want to experience content in new ways that are more immersive, more memorable. What we’re left with is the content creation equivalent of bending over backwards to grab people’s attention. On social media, the act of said acrobatics is through content innovation. On the plus side, we’ve stopped chasing reach and impressions, and we’re now running after the engagement.
So what should you set your sights on and why?
If you’re a brand or content creator without tonnes of cash to throw at an innovative format, it’s time to move towards seamless content (although this really does apply across the board). A user can spot branded content from a mile away, and on social media, your content becomes white noise in the user’s search for content they’d actually like to consume. So cut down on the image copy, but more importantly, place yourself in the user’s shoes and ask yourself whether you would have given two hoots about what you have just created? #DeathToTheStockPhotoLookingStockPhoto.
Doesn’t seem like much, does it? All it takes is one look at what brands like GE and Primark are doing to take advantage of this new feature to understand how great it is for creating more interactive content experiences for your audience, on a platform that can sometimes feel very passive on the engagement front.
Not nearly as daunting as it may sound, creating 360-degree image content is becoming easier by the day, with affordable 360-degree video following closely behind it. At the moment, consumers are enchanted by the novelty of this content innovation, but as Facebook places more power in the hands of its users as content creators, we’ll see more immersive content like 360-degree images and videos form part of the everyday (if we haven’t already).
Before you dive headfirst into a relationship with someone, you’d like to take a browse through their character, their pros and cons, their quirks and vices, no? Users are happy to spend the majority of their time online scrolling through their social media news feeds and timelines but also consuming ‘magazine/editorial’ style content on sites like Buzzfeed, with an added uptake in the consumption of content formats like panoramic video & GIFS. Consumers are looking for that ‘harmless’ interaction before making their choice too, and Facebook Canvas allows your brand to make that memorable, interactive first impression. Some of the best I’ve seen locally include Checkers, Ted Baker and the VW Up!.
I enjoy talking up innovative content formats and executions, because as content creators, finding new mediums to use in our creative executions is an exciting and fast paced place to be. But mediums, channels and platforms change and users seem to be more averse to branded content, which is why creative collaboration is where we should all be navigating to such as Absolut’s collaboration with Khuli Chana. The content that builds brand love is the content that’s conceptualised and created with the user in mind and curated to be a part of the user’s life online, not as an interruption of it.
In an evolving industry, where the best practices are fluid and entirely dependent on digital behaviours, being agile and ready for what’s next goes without saying. Just remember that while cool ways of showcasing your brand may come and go, relevant, valuable, and quality content will always stay on top. Start with the basics, work your way up, and don’t be afraid to test the waters with your audience, great engagement does not always come from the tried and tired.
Atiyya Karodia is social media manager, NATIVE VML
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