Another Taylor Swift Post

…but seriously, could there BE any more TSwift posts right now? Is this what breaking the internet looks like? Is there really nothing else going on in the world?

I’m just asking. It’s not going to stop me from writing.

Instagram came to the forefront of the conversation yesterday with allegations the company had provided Taylor Swift with a ‘secret weapon’ to help her mass delete comments from her incredibly popular account.

Twitter faced similar criticism after users noticed that #KimExposedTaylorParty was no longer trending despite continued traction. Twitter declined to comment on specifics with a generic statement that the algorithm for trending topics was not that simple.

A personality like Taylor Swift is of course valuable to social platforms where fans go to connect with their favourite celebrities. But outside of the business interest that naturally plays a role, what is the responsibility of social platforms to provide a safe environment for the people who frequent them? When does providing that safety become censorship? Does freedom of speech cover every snake post on Taylor’s Instagram or should trolls be blocked?

More questions than answers on this one so I’m turning it over to you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Sharing the Spotlight

I’m a control freak. Always have been, probably always will be. Why? If only I knew.

However, over the years I’ve learned to give up a certain amount of control. Not only does this make me a better team player – after all who wants to work with a control freak? I certainly don’t, it dramatically interferes with my own control – but it really and truly makes the final result of what I’m working on better as well. I can promise you this is what I believe because if it wasn’t I would do my best to maintain full control.

Giving up control is hard – trust me, I get it. For brands it can be especially difficult. Professionally created logos, carefully crafted key messages, coordinated colour schemes, approved legal phrases…building and maintaining a brand is a lot of work and sometimes it works. People love brands. Brands at their best can inspire loyalty, emotion and devotion.

The problem is that no one loves a brand because of what the colour scheme or the key messages say about the brand, they develop a personal connection because of what they believe the brand says about them or how it makes them feel.

Letting go of control and instead taking the time to view a brand through the eyes of the people who buy/use/interact with it can be an eye opening experience (it can also be a great way to improve user experience – looking at you, web developers).

Letting go allows brand to harness the power of true connection and develop something meaningful. Case in point, the first ever completely user generated advertisement from Ikea Canada:

Should every brand gather UGC instead of creating advertisements? Not necessarily. This is just one option for leveraging user generated content and in my mind it’s even more about the approach than what the content is used for. Simply taking the time to take the spotlight off of your brand and turn it on the people that keep you in business is a great first step.

Need more inspiration? Hubspot has some great examples of UGC campaigns that really worked.

The Intimacy of Now

Snapchat’s update introducing Memories is the latest move towards taking the platform to true mass appeal, giving Facebook and Twitter another reason to watch out, and yet another step away from what made the platform unique and addictive in the first place.

This is not to say it’s not a good move. Evan Spiegel undoubtedly has business objectives to meet and expectations to exceed with each change made to the platform. An app that was largely considered to be only used for sexting (the new update includes a nod to this past with ‘My Eyes Only‘) is now a major player in the social sphere and has extended far beyond the original teen audience.

What seems to have been missed is that sexting isn’t the only type of intimacy in social sharing. As various other platforms ‘grew up’ and replaced grainy college party pictures or overly filtered sunsets with high resolution, staged and photoshopped images showing shiny, perfect moments, Snapchat seemed to be standing its ground. In the moment pictures using goofy filters could not be touched up giving a freedom to users that came from the fact that they would disappear shortly afterwards. There is an intimacy of being invited into a less than perfect moment, whether it be from a friend or a behind the scenes glimpse of a favourite celebrity, because we’re accustomed to seeing a carefully selected final product.

This update takes Snapchat into the world of #TBTs, ‘model’ shots and memes and will likely greatly increase its attraction to brands and advertisers as a result. Users will adjust quickly and the audience will continue to increase. But it will no longer be the platform that got its first fans hooked.

 

 

Is Good Good Enough?

I love new and shiny specifically when it comes to ways to create great content. This year alone the possibilities of 360 video, VR and chat bots are thrilling and worth exploring. With one caveat: New tactics should only be employed when they makes strategic sense for the brand. This doesn’t mean that I would ever advocate keeping your head in the sand and ignoring the latest and greatest without seriously considering new options.  Not every tactic that exists today makes sense for every brand or story and that won’t change tomorrow or the day after.

New tactics should only be employed when they makes strategic sense for the brand

When reviewing content performance it’s natural to want to make things better and I’ve found a common way to want to achieve ‘better’ is through new. Think it through. Then think it through again. Would something new really and truly improve the content that is being created? Will it allow you to tell your story more effectively? If you have a passionate audience actively engaging with the content that you’re creating, remember that a change to it will affect them. Will they think it’s better simply because they haven’t seen it before?
If the answers to these questions are yes, I say go for it. Change is good. If the answer is maybe or no then it deserves more thought. Change for the sake of change alone is not.

What do YOU want?

A client recently asked me to help her defend the change in her brand’s content strategy to internal stakeholders. As I wrote an overview based on questions I thought they may want to know the answers to, I realized I was the wrong person to ask.

Why did we need to make changes? Because in today’s digital world, things change day by day or, perhaps more accurately, minute by minute and brands that don’t make an effort to keep up, will get left behind. Why am I the wrong person to ask? Because I’m immersed in the world of communications. Tiny changes in social platforms are grounds for in depth conversations and change – the pace and the type – are par for the course. It makes as much sense to me as a foreign language does to its native speaker. So much sense that it can be difficult to communicate just how much sense to someone who has never encountered the language before. And make no mistake, even though digital media has taken steps towards world domination, many peoples’ level of experience make them as comfortable with the online world as I am with French after elementary education (read: not at all).

Not everyone has or should need the same understanding of digital media. There are countless other concerns in the business world that need to be taken care of – managing sales, balancing budgets, reducing overhead costs, among many, many others. So instead of telling you how you should think about this, I’ll ask you – what do YOU want from your content?

I’d be willing to bet if you really and truly answered that question you wouldn’t give me a number of posts you hope to see on your website/Facebook/Twitter on a daily or weekly basis. If you could be guaranteed one thing it would be something meaningful – a spike in your in-store traffic, more credit card applications, newsletter sign ups, whatever is relevant to your business goals. And there’s no reason you shouldn’t have it. The industry needs to collectively walk away from creating social and digital content to check off a box on some marketing list because it’s so much more than that. When we create communications strategies, we’re building a bridge to reach your consumer and bring them to you. Not because of the number of times we posted but because we were able to create something that resonated with a specific audience, that meant something to them.

The next time you’re frustrated because you’re confident Twitter was more important than Snapchat yesterday and it’s impossible to keep up, remember that it’s what you’re communicating, the story that you want the world to know about your brand that matters. Then find someone you trust to handle the rest.

ICYMI Language Evolves

I recently read that slang stands for short language. Mind blown. It may not be true – and I have absolutely no reason to believe that it is – but I’ve always enjoyed conspiracy theories.

Slang is a funny thing. Some people embrace it, many accept it while some despise it. But why? We accept trends in clothing, hair styles, technology, even baby names but refuse to acknowledge that language is just as likely to change along with the people who are using it. The words used to define make sense of the world we live in are far more closely linked to our reality and ourselves than a shaved head or a pair of jeans.

And yet people push back on the changing nature of language. Teens are considered lazy when they abbreviate and merge words and incomprehensible when they write in acronyms. Perhaps it’s because people don’t like what they don’t know or worse, don’t understand.

A year or two ago I wrote for a brand whose primary target was 13-17, an increasingly tricky target for any brand because they have essentially grown up in a world that didn’t exist when brand managers and marketers were that age. We had recently had a launch and as part of the follow up communications, our team had included ICYMI. Surprisingly (to me at least) the brand team refused to include it because they didn’t know what it meant and assumed no one else would either. One of the recurring points we made with this brand team is the important of speaking to your audience in the language they speak but, despite providing examples of how common the expression was, they were uncomfortable including the reference.

I remembered this story last week when a similar road block popped up for another brand, this time with younger and typically savvy brand managers. Their fear was that using phrases that some people may not understand they would alienate part of …the Canadian population? the world? With a primary demographic target of urban 18-34 year olds they wouldn’t have been alienating their target audience.

Does everyone need to adopt the latest slang as part of their everyday vocabulary? No more than any other trend. But the next time someone rejects it altogether, Shakespearean English is an excellent indicator of how language evolves along with us.

Characters Count

The ability to tell stories, to craft something extraordinary and meaningful from the limits of a 26 letter alphabet is an incredible power, if you think about it. Being in the story telling business, I think about it quite a bit, about the power of letters creating words creating stories creating laughter and joy, tears and heartbreak.

My world revolves around stories from the one I create in my head about the person next to me on the subway in the morning, to the one I tell my boyfriend at the end of the day about the meeting about the meeting I had at work to the ones I help others to tell about their brands, service or business.

And yet the trend today is to limit stories, words even characters to as few as possible. Blame the business of today’s world, the rise of Twitter or the average 8 second attention span of humans but storytellers are under increasing pressure to compress information, to limit detail and to get the point across as quickly as possible.

Why?

Efficiency in writing is something to be admired. Anyone on their 76th email of the day would likely value the succinctness of a journalist over the detail of a novelist…in a work environment and likely in others. We don’t read webpages, we scan, as any  web designer knows. Companies takes that knowledge and charge advertisers based on it. We read headlines, not the paragraph below them: 8 Ways to Lose Weight, 6 Reasons to Update Your LinkedIn Profile, 10 Sex Positions To Try Today.

Is that the best we can do?  There are benefits to being on trend in communications as with anything else. Yet not every story can or should be restricted to fit within the attention span a goldfish. Just as we ask more of ourselves as storytellers to develop meaningful and engaging, we can expect more of our audience. When all is said and done, leaving aside the fancy ways of packaging the message, we are just humans speaking to other humans.

Now I’ll leave it to you to decide if this would have been better stated in 140 characters or less.