Leveraging social media is part of the job description for most marketers. But in the ever-changing social landscape, content developers are constantly faced with the question of “What should my content look like?”
For the answer, all we have to do is listen to what we’re being told.
And coming in loud and clear was the recent introduction of Instagram Stories which sparked a flurry of online chatter about how the social network had ripped off Snapchat. Ouch. That was harsh. But there are definitely similarities. The new Instagram feature allows users to post customizable photo and video content that disappears after 24 hours. So it is pretty “Snapchatty.” But what the Internet is not talking about is how the addition of this feature affects our jobs and how we talk to consumers.
To us, it looks like Instagram’s Stories feature has solidified the direction in which branded content will be produced moving forward. As marketers, we need to take a cue from the platforms themselves and listen, analyze, and act when they tell us what their users are consuming. And Instagram Stories is telling us that consumers are responding to two types of content: the traditional type is polished, planned and precise; the new kind is raw, real, organic and not perfect (by design).
“Good creative” in advertising has always been slick and highly produced, with billions of dollars poured into researching and developing the perfect headline, the perfect image, and designing the perfect layout. This approach is found in social media content creation, too. Lots of brands create posts and ads that are shiny and perfect. (You can catch an example of this type of post here).
Enter Snapchat: the disruptive platform took the tradition of polished, staged content and flipped it on its head and then kicked it in the @#$&*+^. Marketers struggled to understand the content demands each platform required. We all knew that the content had to “speak” to the consumer in a language they recognized as authentic and relevant. Some brand managers are conflicted, not knowing if they should make the creative leap from Instagram-style content with a shiny, perfect finish to the rough and raw flair of Snapchat that catches real people in real moments.
Snapchat-style content poses logistical problems for brands, too. It’s not always easy being real. Social media marketers and PR professionals are now being forced to come out from behind the cameras and begin acting as the faces behind the company. And we’ve got other work to do. But everyone now recognizes that raw organic content is vital to success for our brands. So we suck it up and do it. (And it is fun, anyway).
But all of the challenges, logistical problems and fears that come with creating the type of content required to publish a great Instagram Story or Snapchat Story must be reckoned with. Instagram’s competitive introduction of Stories has left marketers no choice but to respond, taking what once was a marketer’s choice to make the jump to real-time content creation and positioning it as the future of social networking content.
(Hint: a simple concept makes it easier than you think. See below for an Instagram Story we developed for a client).
But, we don’t have to go crazy and completely abandon the glossy, beautiful content we’re used to. The reality is brands need both. You need the clean, curated imagery to tell your brand’s aspirational story and to inspire your audience. Simultaneously, you need the ‘real life’ moments that allow consumers to connect with your brand in an authentic way.
The future of the social media content creator’s role is to listen to the platforms, decode what the networks are demanding, and be scrappy enough to make adjustments to their creative strategies (until that shocking moment sometime in the future when it all changes again!)