By adaptive - June 6th, 2012

[A]ccording to IABC UK, more creative content is the most effective way to get customers tointeract and participate within the social media environment. But how to define what creativity means, in ...

According to IABC UK, more creative content is the most effective way to get customers tointeract and participate within the social media environment. But how to define what creativity means, in developing content that engages with your audience on a deeper level?

No-one can argue against the view that social media has altered forever the way that businesses and brands communicate with customers, suppliers, and employees. And, it’s worth noting, vice versa. It is also widely accepted that an active social media presence is essential for most businesses. The question is, does this simply mean setting up a consistent Twitter feed, a scrupulously updated Facebook page, and a blog with posts a couple of times a week?

Paul Crabtree, Director of Velo MarketingNothing could be further from the truth. The essential element to bear in mind about social media is that it is social, and as Paul Crabtree, Director of Velo Marketingsays, “It is about interacting and engaging with your audiences where they have chosen to engage… Social media is a conversation and needs to be treated respectfully.”

Everyone will be heard

There is, of course, a fundamental difference between social-media conversations and, say, chats between friends over dinner or in the pub. One vital difference is that everyone can – and will – be heard. Spoken conversations can be dominated by one person with a loud voice and powerful personality. But in a Facebook page, blog, online forum or other social media platform, anyone who can type has a (relatively) equal voice.

Every successful business needs to know what its customers and potential customers are thinking. Specifically, as a business, you want to know what the market – individual consumers – think about you and your products or services. And because social media platforms give people a voice, they provide an opportunity for real people – your customers – to interact with you and say what they really think.

Chris Jefford, strategy director at Hometown LondonChris Jefford, strategy director at Hometown London agrees that interaction lies at the core of a successful social media presence, but argues that the main question is whether the brand provides value for the people who come across it in a social space: “The value may be perceived value in creativity or entertainment, or a free voucher or coupon, or an interaction with a brand representative or a good and unexpected level of service. But online, the reality is that there is a hell of a lot for people to do, so you had better reward them properly for the time they spend with you.”

Always ask “What are you trying to do with social media”

Velo Marketing’s Paul Crabtree makes the point that for some companies, specific social channels can be more suitable for certain audiences. He cites the example of Lloyds of London, who operate Facebook pages to attract graduates into the finance industry, but rely on channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter when communicating with those already working in the industry. He explains that “Our most important steer when working with clients is ‘what are they trying to do with social media?’, as once you've decided that …your content strategy becomes much clearer.”

It’s clear, therefore, that objective-driven interaction is an important first principle for a successful social media programme: but isn’t creativity just as important? Quoting jazz musician Charles Mingus, who said “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity”, Chris Jefford of Hometown London reckons that “At the heart of every idea is generally a very simple insight, and that is the most important thing in creating ideas. If anything, the more 'complex' an idea, the less likely it is to resonate online.”

He cites Intel’s Museum of Me as “a great piece of social content - both brilliantly produced, and rooted in behavioural insight. Another project which showcases the potential for a simple idea to resonate throughout social media is Can You Draw The Internet for which Hometown London’s creative directors were responsible.”

Take a self-critical approach

It’s clear from these and other examples that creating really compelling content that encourages interaction starts with identifying what the audience wants, and delivering just that. Does it provide value, is it relevant, is it something they will want to read or watch in the social context. Paul Crabtree explains that Velo Marketing takes a very self-critical approach to social content: “Without doubt, the key criterion is ‘Think twice, post once’. We have a maxim in our business, that if your 'Spidey sense' tingles and you are not sure whether the post actually works, don't use it.”

He also emphasises the dual importance of relevance and value: “It’s all about what is right for your audience. Some of the best examples of social media tap into its underlying benefits - it's very timely, very easy to share, and above all, it’s something people do for fun. A simple video by Wand Agency, featuring Jedward does this beautifully.”

It’s also vitally important to fit social media campaigns within an overall marketing and brand-building strategy. A Facebook page, blog, Twitter feed, forum and so on should work seamlessly with a website, online publications, e-zines and offline communications such as exhibitions, conferences and presentation material.

Paul Crabtree gives as an example the London Symphony Orchestra’s balanced approach: “They do a particularly effective job at making sure their events percolate through all the social media channels to get as much visibility and awareness as possible. Working closely with them on their banner marketing campaigns, we've seen at first-hand what this use of social media can do in amplifying the impact of an event and promotion, increasing voice, reach and impact, all while fitting into an overall campaign strategy.”

So, relevance, value and a respect for the audience are key elements in ensuring effective social-media interaction - and these are perhaps more important than creativity for its own sake. As Chris Jefford notes, “Examples of social media badly used abound - but mostly they revolve around the brand assuming that people give enough of a damn about them to spend their precious time Tweeting, Mashing Up, or Tagging on their behalf…” And as with practically everything else in the social media environment, making false assumptions is a recipe for disaster.

To find out more about how large companies are generating content for better marketing response, check out our flagship conference, The Corporate Social Media Summit. Featuring over 30 senior marketing and social media executives from companies like Dell, Citi, Mercedes, KLM, McDonald’s and many more, this is the learning and networking opportunity of 2012 for those working in social media for big brands. Find out more

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