The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s two-week Digital NewFronts, the annual platform for digital companies to promote their offerings, kicked off earlier this week in New York City. The big trend at this year’s presentations is the repeated assertion –biased or not— that the Internet is a better distribution platform than TV for advertisers. And while there’s some data to support this, the statement in itself is symbolic of the faulty way we’re looking at media and influence today.
Brands, nonprofits, marketers, advertisers—we have to stop focusing on how our content gets there. In fact, we have to stop being so concerned with our content.
We have to pivot from where audiences are getting information to who they’re getting it from.
Focus on People Instead of Platforms
With increasing noise in our media landscape, it’s the platform-agnostic, individual voices and influencers who manage to rise above the fray that are having the most impact– making it more important to get in with those voices than to get on any specific platform.
This strategy shift is part of the impetus behind our launch of Creators for Good—a program that unites the leading (and competing) MCNs and brings the biggest YouTube creators in the country together to get passionate about the Ad Council’s social issues.
Over the course of the next year, we’ll be working with creators like the Fine Bros who’ve built up a YouTube subscriber list of more than 12 million, or Justine Ezarik who under the name iJustine has amassed 2.2 million followers on YouTube, 1.78 million on Twitter, and just under a million on Facebook and Instagram, or Grace Helbig who has 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube, an audio-video podcast, her own E! TV show, and is a NYT best-selling author. Each of our 10-15 creators, including The Fine Bros, Grace and iJustine, will be adopting a social cause—anything from Autism Awareness to Texting and Driving Prevention, integrating that messaging into their channels and even potentially filming a PSA.
Entire companies have sprung up simply to manage this new generation of talent—which is why we’re excited to count so many of them, Fullscreen, AwesomenessTV, Collective Digital Studios, DEFY Media, Maker Studios and Stylehaul as our Creators for Good partners.
Focus on Conversations Instead of Content
As brands, we have to stop looking at the outcome of influencer collaborations as traditional content instead of conversation, even when the end result is a photo, vine or video. It’s really grassroots marketing at its heart.
The distinction between the two matters when you consider that a conversation can be imperfect and casual, conversation is ongoing and doesn’t end with a single output, conversation factors in and reacts to the other party, requiring fluidity and flexibility, and –most importantly—conversation requires a relationship.
Let’s pretend you’ve noticed buzz about your product or cause on a Reddit forum. So you post your content and info there. It’s not a bad idea, but it gets no traction—why? Because there’s no pre-existing relationship. Because it’s from a brand and not from a person. Because relationships are built over time, with trust, and genuine interactions and anything forced or disingenuous will set off an alarm bell for today’s brand-savvy consumers.
The reason Creators for Good has a YouTube slant is the same reason YouTube has been the buzzed about platform at this year’s New Fronts, at SXSW, and in almost every office on Madison Avenue. It’s because of the investment they’ve been making to empower their individual creators. YouTube thrives because of the very personal, very authentic connections between creators and their audience.
Focus on Trust Instead of Tethers
What’s the worst part of any corporate offsite? The trust fall. There’s nothing more terrifying than getting up high, turning your back to a bunch of strangers, and toppling over, trusting them to literally have your back. But there’s a reason why an exercise that teaches us the importance of letting go is still a staple.
Because to make something great, you have to take off the handcuffs and empower people to work on your behalf.
And this couldn’t be more true than when working with an influencer. They’ve been able to amass the followings they have for a reason. Their voice is their product and you’re working with them because of its proven success. The more you can stay out of the way and allow them to repurpose, rework, or rethink your messaging for their world, the more you’ll be able to take full advantage of their reach and power.
So, in summation, repeat after me: Content isn’t King. Distribution isn’t queen. Find the voice that resonates with your audience. Do whatever it takes to make that voice passionate about your cause.
And then….trust fall.