ou're probably wondering what the deal is with the disjointed, retro feel of the website -- not to mention the not-at-all-intrusive dancing macaroni gifs (my art piece, titled macarena and cheese, obviously). It's pretty simple: I think there's something wonderfully weird about the early web. We've replaced a web that was home to many interesting and playful sites with a web that is host to a plethora of publications that all look, act and feel the same without really questioning why. That's why I chose to make something different. Something interesting. In times of dwindling advertising revenue and reduced web traffic, it's important that publications offer a distinct, valuable experience to their readers. One of the ways you can do this is through great (or in my case, simply weird) design.
The web has a vast array of fascinating tools. You can create video games, interactive videos, complex social networks, and intricate marketplaces. Across the spectrum, digital publications mostly underuse these assets -- and it's a crying shame.
hen we talk about social media, the vast majority of the time we talk about its “social” aspect. That’s because it’s what’s new; the way we communicate and share has changed enormously, whereas the “media” side of the story has remained stagnant – photo, video, audio and text have all been around for decades. As a result, media isn’t thought of as being exciting; the hashtag and the hyperlink have the admiration of the marketer while the actual content itself is treated almost as an afterthought. I’m arguing that in social media, the “media” is more valuable than the “social”.
What we communicate has generally proven to be more valued than how we communicate. When a baby speaks his or her first words, we remember what words they were, not the pitch and tone in which they were spoken. In social media, what we’re communicating is text, photos, videos and audio. So who’s best at taking photographs? I think most would say a photographer. What about text? It seems a writer would be the obvious answer. My point is, artists are the best kind of people to create media, and if social media’s content aspect is its most important, therefore artists should be the best social media creators. The above appears to be lost on most brands, most of whom treat social media as an afterthought, or worse, designate social media execution to their interns. There is little respect or understanding of media’s importance.
In the 1940’s, NBC reigned supreme in the radio space. They had an extensive national network and were partly owned by RCA, the main technological innovator in the industry. They had the best technology, and they had good programming. And then there was CBS, who had played second fiddle to NBC throughout the radio explosion. CBS wanted to change the dynamic in their favour, and so in 1948 orchestrated the infamous NBC talent raid, poaching several top acts. The most popular of these radio personalities was a man named Jack Benny, and his comedy program was one of the most-listened shows in North America. CBS figured that despite having inferior technology, they could beat NBC if they had the content that people wanted to listen to. In essence, they believed what was aired was more important than how it was aired.
They were right.
The next few years marked a dramatic shift in listenership towards CBS, culminating in NBC falling to second place in ratings. This didn’t happen because they invested in marketing or superior technology, it happened because CBS had a dude named Jack Benny. We’ve talked earlier in the class about how strategy, not technology, is the primary driver of digital maturity, but we didn’t really talk about what that strategy would look like. Recruiting creative talent proved to be a very effective strategy for CBS, and I think the same could be true today for a great number of brands on social media.
It’s time for brands to treat social media as the grown up it has become. Many companies have opted to have a separate “social media” marketing department in addition to its creative and execution teams. This may have made sense when social media was an entirely new beast, but now it strikes me as being inefficient. The magazine and the billboard may have been replaced by the snapchat and the tweet as the vehicles of communication, but the nature of the content being expressed is more or less the same. Sure, there are differences, but the skill set required behind a well-crafted billboard and a beautiful instagram picture is the same: creative talent. An old school Don Draper will beat a so-called “social media expert” every time.
Companies have to incorporate social media as part of its broader marketing strategy in a serious and meaningful way. There are a bunch of ways of doing this, but they all revolve around executing on the creative process. One could hire professional photographers to shoot Instagram campaigns, or take on writers for captioning and tweeting. One might even bring in a film crew to film for certain channels; a good Snapchat “story” is just that – a narrative, and conceivably a good team could draw up storyboards, hire actors, directors and writers and shoot really poignant tales that would certainly transcend what most brands do with Snapchat currently.
You can’t have a great social media presence without having great media, and you can’t have great media without artists. While number crunching and data-driven strategies are valuable tools, brands will win over audiences on social media not by analyzing them to death, but by creating great content that people want to see.