Category Archives: Social

Platform/content fit – The biggest mistake brands are making with social video and how to overcome it…

Since the dawn of the TV era, the way we tell brand stories through video has improved considerably. The content and quality has improved, and the best brands and agencies have become masters at creating emotional, surprising narratives, often using a similar sped up version of Joseph Campbell’s famous ‘Hero’s Journey’ structure that most great movies are based on.

Traditionally, we’ve told stories built for a passive environment, meaning people have to watch the ad all the way through. In television advertising, the big reveal almost always happens towards the end, after a big lead in and before some brand message. Given a 15-30-45 second ad slot, that was the best way to gather as much attention as possible.

But there’s a problem.

Shoehorned

We’ve become so accustomed to the TV way of telling stories through video, we’ve tried to shoehorn it into social too. How many times have you seen a TV advert placed in skippable pre-roll, or directly uploaded to Facebook?

To do this is to proactively harm the effectiveness of your video campaign. Video ad units tend to be set in the mobile newsfeed or another opt-in environment, whereby the user must choose to not skip, or to not flip past the video in their feed. Most of the time, sound is off too, creating another challenge to the way we’ve always done things.

Thus, the way we structure our video content has to fundamentally change to fit the reality of platform viewing.

To create truly integrated campaigns, we can’t keep trying to force the square peg of a TV ad into the round hole of a social feed, pre-roll or story.

‘3 second audition’

BBDO NY has done some brilliant work in this space, and the below graph describes the difference between the passive and active story arc.

One of the biggest challenges in an autoplay, soundless newsfeed that’s filled with other interesting things is to ‘win the 3 second audition‘. As BBDO references above, if people aren’t necessarily going to watch your full video then what you put in those first few seconds is more crucial than ever.

Unlike in ‘passive’ environments like forced 30 second pre-roll or TV, our creative needs to present a the idea and grab an audience in the opening few seconds. That’s a big shift in thinking and requires a change in the way we shoot and particularly edit branded content.

Optimising

At a recent IAB Connect event, Facebook’s Olly Sewell discussed the importance of optimising and chopping video content for the mobile feed outlining the increase in recall and effectiveness if that’s the case.

This is something Facebook has been preaching for a while, and it’s something we must be aware of no matter what social or digital video we’re planning.

Here’s an example from social news brand ‘The Dodo’. Sure, it’s not a consumer brand per se, but it’s a perfect showcase of understanding the way people consume video in the feed and optimising for that.


If this was a TV or YouTube video, it would start at the start and leave the big reveal until three quarters in. But because it’s Facebook video, if the reveal is too hidden, the user is gone by the time the climax comes. So through a simple editing technique, The Dodo starts the video in the middle, and then literally re-winds to give the full story.

Here’s another example from Wrigley’s gum. The first clip below is a TV spot told in the traditional way.


The second is a shorter social optimised video clip that flips the story arc around to optimise for the way we consume video in feed.


Adapting for the platform significantly increases creative effectiveness, so be mindful of platform/content fit and don’t just lazily adhere to the old ways of telling stories in the passive TV environment. At the moment that’s the biggest mistake brands are making with social video.

Instagram and the value of a business premortem…

In the modern business world, positivity reigns supreme. If you’re not positive to the point of delirious and motivated to build a utopian future, the common wisdom is you’re doing it wrong.

But there’s power in the opposite too. In fact, there’s a major benefit to visualising scenarios in which things go wrong. It might sound strange and counterproductive, but in direct response to overly optimistic, naive thinking, many business leaders are encouraging their employees to think negatively.

In a brilliant Fast Company magazine piece on Instagram’s growth this month, there’s one really illuminating paragraph. Insta launched more features in December last (live streaming, stories, advertising options) than it ever has before. All of them were successful. But according to CEO Kevin Systrom, the reason behind this wasn’t ‘the power of positivity’, rather something very different.

“Every recent change the company has wrought sprang from the team asking itself ‘what would we do if Instagram as we knew it suddenly stopped mattering?’. What kind of decisions would we make? This unlocked a torrent of creativity. It allowed us to be more risk seeking than we would have been in the past. Ironically, it would almost be risker not to do something like this”

The technique that Systrom describes actually has a name coined by psychologist Gary Klein – the premortem. In a premortem, a project manager must envision what could go wrong—what will go wrong—in advance, before starting. Why? Far too many ambitious undertakings fail for preventable reasons. Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish. A premorten insulates the company by preparing it for the worst. It opens people’s minds and allows the threat of adversity to stir creativity.

In a postmorten, we reflect around what happened in death. But having a ‘worst case scenario’ plan alleviates the need for a postmortem in most cases, since the company becomes more robust and antifragile to threats. It’s about preparing for disruption and working this into your plans. In earthquake threatened areas like Japan, engineers build slack into buildings to insulate from tremors. A premortem is the business equivalent. We can anticipate, pre-empt and then mitigate possible future problems.

The premortem goes back to the Stoics, who had an even better name for it: premeditatio malorum (premeditation of evils). The concept may seem pessimistic, but actually it’s just pragmatic, realistic and smart preparation.

As the old quote goes:

“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation.”

Think of it as pre-emptive hindsight, a decision insurance policy to protect your future self.

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Further Reading:

Simple ways to prevent failure
The overthinkers guide to launching your next project
A simple technique to save any project from failure
Performing a premortem
The stoic art of negative visualisation

 

When it comes to social media less is more…

We have a tendency as modern marketers to focus on volume. The presumption is that the more creative executions, more videos, more blogposts, more adverts we create, the better our results will be.

But more is not always better, particularly when it comes to social.

As much as we’d like it to be, our budget isn’t unlimited. Our job is to spend limited resources wisely, to understand our constraints and find ways to overcome them.

Previously, when organic reach was still achievable for all, it made sense for a brand to post 2-3 times daily. But that has changed. Most brands reach 1% of their Facebook fanbase, and with algorithmically driven feeds becoming part of Instagram and Twitter too, the organic approach is dying. Social is now categorically pay to play.

Thus, often little point putting a huge amount of effort into creating and manicuring a social post unless you’re paying to put it in front of people.

The problem used to be that we didn’t have enough social assets to push out. But now, a marketer’s main issue, whether they realise it or not, is often having too many assets and not enough media budget to get them placed in front of the right people.

The emphasis should be on creating less posts (thereby reducing production costs and time to create) but better optimising the things you do create, and ensuring that everything has at least some paid budget behind it. Brands no longer needs a constant stream of organic posts. Production budget should be more wisely spent in service of a bigger creative idea.

It’s easy to constantly create more without really understanding why you’re doing that. A more restrained approach is needed.

It sounds like a bit of a paradox given the need for brands to be ‘always on’, but otherwise you’re spreading your budget thin while also shouting into the black hole of the newsfeed.

Put the emphasis on doing less, but doing it better.