When creating social content, be careful not to plan with reward-first thinking. Don’t plan to make a “viral video.” Plan, instead, to “tell an engaging story.” Plan to “inspire a new audience.” Plan to “make people think twice.” These are attainable, plan-forward goals. And quite often the brain fuel that is the catalyst for deeply engaging content.
In the world of YouTube videos hitting view numbers in the billions, a new dance craze video popping up every week, and the feigned ease of “going viral,” it’s tempting to do something crazy online. Throw your social budget into a helicopter, strap on a branded parachute, and base-jump off your biggest competition’s HQ. Or, actually, don’t. Unless that’s who you are. But I’ll bet that if you’re not an energy drink or parachute manufacturer, it’s probably a bad idea. Budget can be a tricky thing, especially in the social world. There’s opportunity to spend in a million different directions — video, virtual reality, live-feed, 360-video, Periscope, Snapchat filters, mobile gaming, and the capabilities are changing every day.
Not sure where to begin? A great place to start is with concepting. Dare to spend a responsible portion of your budget on thinking time. Get your best people working together to think about what the brand has to say, and then how it can say it. The message is most important, and then the medium can follow. Always be open to branching out in terms of technology and capabilities, but being open also includes understanding and accepting that more traditional methods (static posts, external links to your award-winning blog, or short videos) may be most appropriate at times.
Louis Sullivan’s famous design principle “form follows function” is applicable to marketing and creative strategy alike. First, we must decide a thing’s function and purpose — What can this thing accomplish? What are its parameters for success? What do we know to be successful/faulty and what can we implement/omit to make it most effective? These questions may help form a blueprint for what form social content should take. Contemplating first the message (or function) will allow for a more effective and systemic choice regarding the medium (form). Blindly diving into a project and committing to media like “video” or “infographic” without a strategic choice behind the message often results in a lifeless final product. Think Fabergé egg — beautiful, but hollow.
Flashiness and sensationalism have their roles in content. Innovative technology is a great avenue for brands to rely on for creating engaging content, as are funny, shocking, or awe-inspiring visuals. However, be sure to embrace these avenues with a strategic and brand-first mentality. Sensationalism gets recognized, but sincerity gets remembered. Even if it hasn’t sent you viral yet, remember who you are. And tell that story to anyone who will listen.