Social Media Success: Creation or Participation? Creative or Effective?

Okay, so you are planning your social media activities. What does a successful outcome look like? Is it important that you create something or inspire participation? Is it important that you are creative or effective?

Yes, creation and participation, creative and effective, often go hand and hand. But this is not always the case and when setting successful objectives for social media activities, metrics should be defined around quantifiable variables of participation and effectives.

This past week, Forrester released a study that concluded that social media content creation is waning. Forrester Research Consumer Insights Analyst Jacqueline Anderson stated that “a lack of growth in social creation translates into a lack of fresh ideas, content, and perspectives … The traits required to create social content are unique, and at this moment, the consumer market interested in these behaviors has plateaued.”

(Note: social content that is created … it can be any form of media – articles/blogs, video, audio, pictures, carousel slide show, events, broadcasts … don’t be limited by the definition of “content”.)

Also this week, I attended a panel session at the OMMA Global New York Conference titled, “Social Distribution Channels Part of the Creative Strategy.” The problem statement for the panel was that few if any campaigns that appear in social media are as memorable as any number of those seen in print or on TV. (Maybe the one recent exception was the Old Spice man, because it went viral.) There were some interesting comments made – the best one coming from the audience. The discussion was centered on “creative campaigns” and someone in the audience questioned whether the objective is “creativeness” or “effectiveness.” Ding, Ding, Ding – JACKPOT! There is too much confusion around creativeness/effectiveness. I would much rather have a noncreative campaign that was highly effective than the reverse. Additional comments were made (from the panel) that the Old Spice campaign was one similar to others that had been pitched to many companies recently, but Proctor & Gamble were the ones that had the chutzpah to implement it.

So back to the Forrester Study and Creation versus Participation … a number of things come to mind:

1) I think there are still a number of fresh ideas out there but the barrier for creation are corporate risk aversive nature and individuals not knowing how to go about rising above all the noise.
2) Borrowing a line from @johnhutson, “Content is NOT king. Conversation around content is king.” It is the participation that should be sought.
3) I work for a content company, Hachette Filipacchi Media. ( We DO provide great creative content! As the social media lead there, I would never tell our brands (Elle, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, etc.) how to create content. But I do recommend ways to provoke conversation and participation around their content. This is a new objective for media companies as an engaged audience is more likely to be loyal and advocates.
4) Often, creation does not need to come from the brand. Remember, participation is what we seek. Therefore, UGC (user generated content) is an excellent campaign to get your audience participating, engaged, and more loyal to your brand. Instead of “creation” maybe a more effective campaign is sourcing a crowd to provide UGC and get involved. Think of the sharing and viral possibilities.
5) Social media can not be thought of as a campaign. Yes there are campaign elements – limited time messages and programs. But social media should be a continuous symphony composed with numerous movements. You need to be continuously engaged with your audience and seek their participation to be effective.

So start by planning for participation and effectiveness. The creation and creative will come out, but should not be the initial objective.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

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