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How brands can engage consumers online

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It was clear quite early on that 2020 would become the year when socials took the centre stage. With most of the world in lockdowns or respecting social distancing rules, there were few outlets for entertainment and creativity outside of our beloved screens and social media.

Such a vast shift in consumer behaviours towards social media represented a unique opportunity for brands to engage with millions of target consumers from a safe distance. We've seen the rise of new TikTok trends, hashtags and creative campaigns, all trying to capture consumer interest and have them feel involved in the creative output online. 

Clearly pulling off a successful user-generated campaign is more complicated than it sounds. Not knowing much about that, we reached out to Dave Morrissey, Director of Partnerships EMEA at VidMob, to understand what brands can do to engage consumers online – and why creativity is so important in that process.

Credits for the amazing header image above go to Grey and Febreze, winners of an Annual 2020 Silver Award for their Most Undisruptive Radio Ads!

Dismantling disruptive ads: How brands can capture consumer creativity

*Social media and online video platforms are lifelines for locked down consumers, delivering entertainment, escapism and a much needed connection with the outside world. The current #ShantyTok trend encapsulates this, with TikTok users finding authentic connections across cultures and time in the melodic musings of traditional fishermen out at sea.

With 70% of UK consumers using social networks and 66% using video sharing services, these platforms also offer an environment where brands can connect with engaged audiences through video ads and content. But disrupting the user experience with unrefined, recycled advertising, that pushes a sales message, simply won’t cut it on social platforms. These users respond best to stripped down, native-style video creative that feels relevant, authentic and meaningful. Ideally creative makes the user an integral part of the campaign, ultimately telling a consumer-led story. As #ShantyTok shows, sometimes unexpected content can capture consumers’ attention in unpredictable ways and brands should be ready to respond creatively to the current mood of users.

Rising to the creativity challenge

Making video content engaging, immersive and even interactive can be facilitated by the various tools available on social platforms to inspire creative expression, from filters to live streams. Brands making use of Instagram Stories, for instance, can create their own augmented reality (AR) filters to superimpose virtual effects on real world surroundings using a smartphone camera. AR filters can be functional, allowing consumers to virtually try out everything from sunglasses and running shoes to cosmetics, or take a more whimsical approach like Gucci Beauty’s filter, which turns user faces into Renaissance or Baroque portraits.

Another way to involve social media users in branded campaigns is through hashtag challenges. Great examples include the #Gymshark66 challenge, created by sportswear brand Gymshark to inspire customers to set and achieve a personal fitness goal, and share at least two related social media posts per week along the way; this engaging approach accrued more than 280 million views in 2020. Converse also saw success with its #CreateAtHome challenge, which tasked its audience with designing their own Converse trainers to flex creative prowess and stand a chance of being turned into real-life footwear. 

Hashtag challenges are a fantastic way to involve users in campaigns as long as they feel relevant and genuine for the brand, and this need for sincerity extends to all social video content. Social media users respond well to content related to social justice, environmental issues and good causes, especially at this time of global upheaval, but content must always be authentically aligned to the brand and its purpose. Creating meaningful brand stories with emotional resonance and a connection to real life events is a recipe for success with social video.

Tailoring the experience by platform

Another secret to triumphing with social video is adapting creative to the platform on which it appears. This may sound like hard work, but one-size-fits-all creative is never a winning strategy and advances in technology are now making it far simpler for brands to tailor their video content.

Of course there are practical considerations when modifying creative for individual platforms. For example, video ads on Facebook need to be frontloaded to make an impact in the first three seconds and prevent the user scrolling past. They also need to maintain effectiveness with sound-off viewing, which often requires on-screen text. TikTok video content, on the other hand, is more likely to be watched to completion so brands can afford a longer story arc, and most videos are viewed with the sound on, enabling more inventive use of audio.

But there is also an emotional element to tailoring content for each environment, with users motivated differently by each platform. Humour, for instance is the primary motivator for visiting video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, while the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are used chiefly for social contact and to keep up with friends.

Similarly, we have seen that full-screen social video experiences like those provided by TikTok are fertile ground for more intense, raw and emotional communication, so it should be no surprise that multiple, powerful emotions displayed early in an ad lead to increased view through rates and up to three times more conversions than those not tapping into this platform's native tone.

Measuring performance for creative success

With so many variables and platforms to consider, producing social video creative may seem like a mystifying minefield. And that is why brands need creative intelligence, to help them understand what is working and what is not.  

Creative accounts for 70% of success in brand campaigns, but it is rarely measured and optimised, especially in a world where creative and media teams operate as entirely separate units. What’s more, measuring creative performance used to be a slow process, with insight received too late to make updates and optimise campaigns.

But all that is changing, with actionable performance data now available as soon as video creative launches on social channels. Using AI-based technologies such as computer vision and machine learning, brands can precisely determine which creative elements generate attention and which cause viewers to lose interest and stop watching.

Social video is the ideal way to connect with consumers, especially at a time when physical isolation is increasing engagement with online video content. By involving the user in the creative process to generate authentic brand stories, adapting creative for different platforms in both a practical and emotional sense, and measuring creative performance to allow optimisation against meaningful metrics, brands can dismantle disruption and seamlessly harness the growing desire among users to be part of the creative process.


Dave Morrissey is the Director of Partnerships EMEA at VidMob. Header image: Grey
 

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