The brand challenge: Be human, but stay true to who you are
We checked in with Nathan McDonald of We Are Social today at SXSW Interactive. Nathan knows what it's like to work on varying budgets. He entertained us with a few stories about going from working in the independent film industry, (obviously low budget) to recreating an Olympic triathlon for an advertiser. Low budget or high budget, we know that every campaign needs a social strategy. According to Nathan, it's connecting to that emotional instinct we have to share that makes a social campaign strong.
How can you mitigate the increasing fragmentation of social media?
Being on every platform out there for the sake of it is not a strategy. You need to have a reason to be on each tool and to be clear about the community you're talking to or the community you want to create. It's also important to be goal-oriented with the business and communication objective you're trying to achieve by being on that platform. For example, if brands have a lot of content to push, being on Pinterest or Instagram is great if you can behave as a publisher. Without cool visual content it would be a challenge to succeed on those platforms.
Are people becoming more receptive to your agency being social media based?
The wider marketing community is less skeptical now. When we started the agency four years ago some people thought that social might be a fad. Now people can’t ignore the scale of the opportunity and want to turn to specialists to help.
What was the impetus to making your agency laser-focused on social?
My background is in digital marketing. I’d been working for different sized agencies and clients were starting to see that social was the future, but the business model wasn’t set up to promote that.
Digital agencies were pumping out big websites or large amounts of display advertising. That has its role, but we found that the businesses we were involved in weren’t set up to engage in that social conversation in real-time. We didn’t think anyone was approaching social media the way it should be approached. Building a business from scratch with the right people and the right attitude was our approach, rather than try to adapt a legacy agency business model that is PR focused or digitally-focused or advertising-focused. We wanted to take the best and most relevant elements from those models, and set them up in a way that was designed to deliver in social media.
Is it important to partner with a publisher or should brands be taking on content creation challenge themselves?
The lines are blurring. Media companies are becoming products and vice versa. Publishers that have a strong relationship with their audience are primed to have that community’s trust over a long period of time. They are well-placed to create content that engages them in the long term. Brands also have that opportunity but need to be careful to remain relevant to their message without shouting about themselves. It’s a careful balance for brands. They have to tread a fine line and make sure they are adding value to the conversation, creating a programme of content that involves and engages with the community. Publishers have permission to cover a wider range of topics and to be more adventurous in their tactics.
Staying true to positioning while remaining human is the challenge for brands. It requires breaking out of those corporate guidelines a bit. Brands have to behave in a conversational way while being true to who they are for their community.
Keywords: interview, sxsw 2012