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?”

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