What does it mean to engage socially in 2013 (and beyond)? This was the question startup savants, tech tycoons, big and little-screen buffs, Facebook fans, agency aces and even a dancing doyen -- attempted to answer at Talk NYC’s recent "Engage" digital storytelling conference. Held at the Standard, the brief affair did little to shake the foundations of how we think of interaction -- but in a weird way, that was probably one of the most telling insights: The more things change, the more they stay the same (just differently). Here's our take on how.
Content is still king (but m'lord, it better be quick)!
Any message you put out there has to be good. Just because it's under 140 characters doesn't mean it's a throwaway (#digitalisevergreen). But like any popular personality, the best social media players aren't just smart, they're also quick on their feet. Oreo built a commanding presence with clever visual puns of current events and their iconic cookie, and had fans eating up (and sharing) their delicious lights-out Super Bowl send-up post, minutes after the Superdome went dark.
A picture is worth 1,000 followers
most engaging content -- in any medium -- is visual, and it has long been posited that posts with imagery generate far more interest than those without. We’ve seen Twitter react to this
realization over time, incrementally allowing users to embed more content in their tweets. One UK studio has gone so far as to prompt fans to write long-form science-fan-fiction based on a single
image on their blog. A caption contest -- if the captions were 3,000 words long.
Build it and they will come? Notsofast
As much as people like to be different, doing things the same way is easier (and quicker). The social media bigwigs (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) are so ingrained in the Internet’s ecosystem and consumers' habits that it’s increasingly risky for brands to develop their own social platforms. Some brands are even forgoing creating their own Web sites altogether, instead using Facebook to take advantage of a billion built-in users, an ever-evolving platform and Zuckerberg’s healthy R&D budget. Of course, those with a unique platform are the ones who shape the way people interact.
Here we are again
After years of hiding behind monitors, digital interactions are increasingly finding themselves back in the real world, which impacts behavior. JetBlue once asked customers to describe their flying experience from within pod-shaped booths in airports. The project was titled Sincerely, as customers were wont to describe their experiences honestly while in the physical presence of the brand.
People are funny
Social media pushes every brand to speak, listen, and respond in more human ways than ever before. But the brands that adapt to these new channels most naturally and memorably aren’t just speaking to us as people -- they are making us laugh, too. From Virgin’s April Fool’s Day blog post about glass-bottomed airplanes to Pepsi’s gif-filled BuzzFeed adverts to Old Spice’s clever Facebook banners --heck, even Intel has some funny tweets -- consumers welcome brands with wit into the conversation.
Lost in translation? Not emotions
Global brands would do well to approach communication viscerally, as emotions know no geographic boundaries. Cirque du Soleil develops their performances around an emotion -- completely devoid of words -- to provide a universally accessible experience. With dozens of world tours under their belt, their raw, emotive power has mesmerized audiences of all stripes, and saved them a nice chunk of change on interpreters.
The grass is always greener
In today's ultra-connected, device-filled world, people are constantly looking for something else to play with. Some brands keep their fingers on the pulse by taking full advantage of real-time multichannel confluence -- building complementary content packages that range from big and immersive to small and impulsive. (See: Comedy Central broadcasting comedian’s jokes line by line on Twitter and clip by clip on Facebook to complement the prime-time TV special.) Still, it was none too surprising that some panelists who have to keep up with this feral pace wish they could just close their eyes and listen to an LP instead.
It's cool to be popular, but do they like-like you?
How many followers do you have? Do they really care about you, or are they just using you for your coupons? Although some analytics tools claim to understand how social media status translates into ROI, the practice is still primitive. Paid ads generate more clicks than engaging stories (gasp!) but are those ad-clickers your real brand champions, or just social opportunists? It may be too early to call. What's safe to say is that it's better than ever to be well-connected.