It may seem like it’s been around forever, but social advertising is changing. Facebook ads have gone from static images to videos with high production values, computer animation, real actors and more, all in an incredibly short space of time. The reason why is obvious: with Gen Z, the world’s first 'digital natives' now entering the workforce, a single Instagram post could win your brand more new business than a two-month billboard campaign on Old Street.
But how can agencies, brands and artists looking to sell their wares on social media stand out in a landscape that’s already populated by a proliferation of updates, tweets, photos, emails, event invites, Whats App messages, news stories, and more, all vying for the user’s attention?
Standard protocols, procedures and outputs are yet to be defined. But for Ben Le Tourneau and Scott Freeman, director duo and owners at The Operators Creative, the answer is to be found in the emerging trend of "Premium Social" – high-end, high-quality, high-volume images and video, developed for social media on a budget, but aspiring to the production values and approaches of a typical television advertisement.
Here’s how agencies and brands can balance quality with quantity to achieve successful results.
1. Think with motion – static imagery won't cut it
It’s said that the average smartphone user today scrolls some 178 metres every 24 hours – that’s 65km of thumb scraping every year. So, if you’re looking to stand out, a static image thrown together in Photoshop isn’t going to cut it (and isn’t even preferred by some social platform algorithms). Think about how you can animate your imagery in an eye-catching way, or give a sense of depth to the visuals. We’re fast on mobile, so you need to get the message across quickly.
Make it fun or playful, get people to stop, disrupt their flow, and take notice even if it’s for one second. See The Operators Creative video for Samsung below.
Social is the best platform to get experimental, so don’t be afraid: disrupt, engage, and most of all, make people’s lives better, even if it’s for just a few seconds.
2. Work with what you have
Social media ads require high quality and high quantity. They also require quick turnaround, with timelines closer to three weeks than three months. So, upon receiving a new brief, think about the project from all angles.
No budget to close the streets and get permits? Film with GoPros and make that the aesthetic. Need to do a zoom shot but don’t have the specialist tech? 3D camera mapping can achieve the same look.
The approach doesn’t matter – what matters is that the story is told well and that the content is engaging.
3. Shoot with multiple social channels in mind
Your idea will rarely sit in one place. Clients want content on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter…and then a YouTube piece, then something for Pinterest. The requests will come, so be prepared and build a process that allows for easy manipulation of end results for different channels. When framing a product or capturing a performer, consider the shot carefully: what do you need to do to ensure the shot can be easily manipulated or reworked into different formats later down the line? If you do this, when that eleventh hour request comes in to add Snapchat to the mix, you won’t need to reshoot.
Social content is all about ideas, ideas, ideas. But the most successful ideas are not those that are shoehorned into multiple deliveries, but created from step one with multiple channels in mind.
4. Be resourceful – integrate your approach
High quality alongside high volume is not an equation that tends to work out well for creatives. But there are steps you can take. Think about what approaches can you use to get the biggest bang for your buck without sacrificing quality. For instance, if you plan a stills and video shoot simultaneously, you don’t need to hire a separate photographer/director and get hit with extra costs.
Procurement gets good value, the client gets high-quality content on a shorter turnaround, and the social team gets a BTS video on top of the initial online content they needed.
Think about working with integrated individuals that can straddle multiple roles, or know how to manage equipment rental, studio spaces, and overall production approach. There is no need for multiple set ups if you can manage a streamlined crew.
5. Always think mobile first, but keep an open mind
Mobile has surpassed desktop. Sixty-eight percent of Facebook users access the site via mobile. Twitter: 96 percent. Instagram: 98 percent. Snapchat: 100 percent. The message is clear: make sure your content is fully mobile optimised, as most will interact with it on a smaller device, out at the shops or waiting for a train.
Should you focus any energy at all on desktop? Well, if you follow the previous tips then designing mobile-first is not necessarily mutually exclusive with designing for desktop. If you work out how to have your cake and eat it, you’ll be in good stead for the year ahead.