Filling the creativity gap in social media

The Littlest Hobo is a Canadian television series - but does it also describe social media?Although nearly a month ago now, I still find myself having flashbacks to a panel that I was asked to speak on during Social Media Week entitled, “Who owns Social – Marketing, PR or Advertising?”

See all coverage of Social Media Week London on Brand Republic

Is social media so amorphous a concept that it has become the equivalent of The Littlest Hobo, wining at the doors of every media, pr and ad agency just begging us to give it a home?

The way that different types of agencies approach social media is a thought I’d been mulling over for quite a while and I guess it’s a thought that in some ways tells the story of my recent history.  I joined Havas media two years ago as their UK head of Social media working across their PR, Media and Creative agencies.  However at the beginning of 2012 I decided to work with ais, the Havas Media creative agency full time.

Why?  Well I think we as an industry have focused so much on ‘managing the conversation’ that we have forgotten what starts the conversations in the first place.

This quote from Kevin Allocca (YouTube’s trends manager) I think really points out the problem: “In a world where over two days of video get uploaded every minute, only that which is truly unique and unexpected can stand out in the way that [viral videos] have.”

We have a HELL of a job ahead of us as social media marketers.  We’ve spent the last few years encouraging brands to be part of the conversation but because we are all talking at once we are now back to noise.  Many brands try and cut through the noise through bribery (competitions) or easy proxies for engagement (hello every brand that has created a character on Facebook).

How do we get around this? Simple.  Combine Social Media with Creativity. Encourage your audience to take participatory action – whether it be liking it, sharing it, writing about it, playing it. You need that ‘creative hook’ to spark that interest, that participation – something that a broadcaster or a ‘one-way’ ad medium cannot deliver.

It is the job of agencies to create material for brands that can compete with the vast array of other content out there and get the attention of target audiences. But the real power of Social media marketing is to create content that is so compelling that the targets will want to share it amongst their peers, straight away. Creativity in Social media is therefore as much about inspiring individuals as it is about being creative itself.

So, whilst I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest that creative agencies are the rightful proud parents of social, I do think social media needs to work harder than ever to cut through the noise.  Great creative is perhaps the only way we can do this.

Neil Kleiner, head of social Media, ais London

  • Claire Dunford

    Deciding where social media fits is such a tricky one. As social media experts we have to cross so many different skill sets – it’s not just PR, marketing and advertising… what about SEO? Design? not to mention elements of Customer Service and even Tech Support!

    But to me, no matter what umbrella social comms falls under, it just needs to be done correctly and respected for the influence it can have. And you’re right Neil, now the conversation is happening, it’s time for brands to stand up and be heard. Even if that means shouting over the noise.

  • mark palmer

    The answer to this is nobody owns it – and certainly not an agency. The client has the best argument for owning social media. After all – it is their brand and its an ongoing conversation – not just posting soming that virals or gets retweeted or shared. Brands made need help or assistance – but at the end of the day they relationship with a brand and its audience must be owned by the brand. After all – if an agency cocks up it isn’t good enough to blame the agency. It is the clients fault. By all means share the credit when it goes well – but that means agencies accepting they help and don’t own.

  • Ketan Raval

    Its all about engagement with audience via social media .. meaningful social engagement in social media will outclass all other customer services or marketing services …..

  • Neil Kleiner

    Thanks for the comments.

    Mark, I agree that clients have as much skin in the game as agencies. Research I conducted with ISBA last year showed that 50% of the top advertisers in the UK now had a social media resource in-house and that the main function their social agencies were needed for was creative and strategy.

    Services such as community and reputation management are of course still vitally important but this is the area that our clients should really own themselves.

  • Joe Broadway

    Might be being a bit controversial here or maybe just teetering on the edge of facetiousness, but doesn’t the consumer own social media? And I don’t mean consumer in terms of those that brands are trying to attract – or manage the expectations of, rather those that are using the media to socialise.

    To use the ocean as a metaphor: It’s a big place and it’s full of fish, but vast tracts of it are actually empty – fish congregate in areas where there is something of use to them, somewhere where they feel safe or their needs are met: a coral reef, a sandbank, or even a piece of discarded rope. Don’t shout at us, give us something attractive or useful, or preferably both. And don’t be upset, or surprised when we leave, the ocean’s a big place, but there are plenty more fish in the sea.