David Shadpour, Social Native: Why brands should focus on authentic content creation

David Shadpour, Social Native: Why brands should focus on authentic content creation
Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.

Social Native’s founder and CEO urges brands around the world to build an army of creators, and embrace user generated content.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Social Native, what’s the company all about?

The name itself, Social Native, has some depth to it. In the early print days, you’d hire a big agency, they would do a photo shoot and they’d print it for you and put it in a magazine. 

Then television came out and you had to do sight and sound. You hire a big agency and they do a big television production, and go on TV. But, for the most part, all that was very high production value. And, in time, the eyeballs started moving away from TV to social media. And social media was not of high production value. Speaking of editorial content, newspapers were high production value and had good advertorial content. 

Television had high production value content on there, but social media was all user generated content (UGC). It was just shot with very low production value. And so the idea of Social Native is making native content for the social generation – these individuals that are more accustomed to consuming UGC.

Simple case in point, to give you perspective, as a kid I used to sneak off in the mornings to watch cartoons on TV. My kids now sneak to watch YouTube watching other kids playing with toys. It’s just a different generation.

I’ve heard the company be described as the Uber of content. Why would someone describe it as that?

The reason is now, going back on this concept of Social Native and the idea, the way that we went about solving the problem was not the traditional agency model. With traditional agency models, you would hire a bunch of people in house, and make a production studio that, let’s say, made user generated-style content with iPhones or whatever. But that’s not what we did. 

We took an approach like Uber or Airbnb. We took an approach of building a marketplace. So we don’t actually make any content at Social Native. We don’t own cameras, we don’t have video cameras or editing tools. We use a marketplace. On one side, we have millions of creators who are talented at making TikTok videos and Twitter pictures or YouTube videos, whatever it may be. And on the other side, we have hundreds of the biggest brands in the world that are looking to source that type of social data.

What has the company been up to recently?

As a function of the success that we saw with making content from Social Native creators, we leaned into a secondary source of content, which is customer content. So that means you have customers who are going out and making content for you organically. There’s got to be a way to access that content and get the rights so that brands can use it. 

Case in point, you and I have a shirt that we really like and we go on social media. I go “I really love this shirt” and I tag the brand, or whatever it is – that’s quite valuable. So we are now in the business of sourcing customer content and our customers to use it in addition to hiring freelancers, like influencers and creators, to go out and make content.

I heard that you made a couple of acquisitions earlier this year. How will they affect what you’re able to offer your customers?

Absolutely. We have two acquisitions under our belt and hopefully many more to come. The first acquisition we did was with a company called Olapic, and Olapic is what empowered us to get access to customer content. It also empowered us to put our widget on a list of different large e-commerce sites to be able to showcase the gallery of great content. So, in addition to making content for ads, we now have a source of great content that lives on product pages. 

When you go to buy this shirt, you would see user generated content sourced by Social Native in a carousel under the white backdrop product. The acquisition was more of an asset we added to our library to increase the number of creators and influencers in our marketplace.

Social Native has become a TikTok marketing partner. What’s the thinking behind that partnership?

TikTok is a great example of a platform that is taking full advantage of sight and sound. They were founded in video, and also a good example of a platform that is taking full advantage of vertical video full screen experience. 

And you don’t need me to tell you that it’s been adopted by the next generation by leaps and bounds. The amount of content being consumed on their platform is more than the content being consumed on Netflix. So, in terms of eye opening experience, because we’re in the business of making Social Native content, and a lot of brands are looking for different ways to make content for TikTok, it led us to become a TikTok partner. And a lot of the value proposition when it comes to our firm is our ability to make great TikTok videos through our marketplace. And, just to clarify, we don’t make any TikTok videos. Our platform empowers you to activate different people in our marketplace to make TikTok videos.

In order to sell to the future consumer, brands need to learn how to talk to the future consumer. How can they do that?

It’s a fair point. When the future consumer is watching more TikTok videos than they are production television, what does that tell you? So if you go out and you start making production-quality content, you try to speak to them on that platform, because that’s where they are. 

If it’s not native to the platform in any way. It’ll come off as inauthentic and very likely not resonate. So, ultimately, as a brand, all you’re really doing is evolving how you communicate as a function of how the next generation is communicating with one another. That’s really all it is. And so when you evolve your brand, because the world around us is evolving, sometimes that includes evolving more than just the content distribution strategy. It includes changing the content you make in the first place.

In what way do you think the creator economy is disrupting traditional branded content advertising?

I would look at every single creator as their own production agency. Yesterday was x number – I don’t know the number – of traditional agencies out there that took up multibillion dollar spend globally. That’s now been democratised to millions of people that are capable of making great quality videos without an entire production team behind them. So that’s how they disrupt it.

To what extent do you think that the creator economy is the future of brand engagement?

I would argue that creators are the future publishers. So we grew up in a world where publications were truly noteworthy. Television channels were extremely noteworthy, and there were only so many of them. But creators have quickly become that new source of authority, for better or for worse. It’s the future, and I encourage all brands to build an army of creators to serve as recommenders or validators of their new products and businesses. 

Do you think data is the critical ingredient that feeds artificial intelligence and, ultimately, drives results?

When you use an agency, what is their credit? Their credit is generally winning some Cannes-type of award – an award that they’ve won for making great creative. But, ultimately, the brand’s primary goal is to drive sales or drive some form of value for their business. 

And, at this given time, there isn’t necessarily a very direct correlation to the creative and sales a lot of time. If you speak to brands, they’re playing roulette. They throw out some creativity and it sticks or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, they find another agency, they hire another one. A lot of brands go for burn and churn. 

So the idea of bringing data into the narrative is when you activate a large volume of people in the creative economy to make content for you, you have a very cost effective way of making large volumes, which didn’t exist before. Now you can feed that content into ads. And a very effective way of buying ads today is online versus TV and print. And you can track and monitor what value is showing for your brand. So, in a matter of moments, you can turn on and off creative as a function of how it’s delivering for you. I bring that out because the future of the creative business is really creative performance. 

Can we learn what qualitative attributes of creative are driving value for your brand? So, in theory, let’s say I wanted to sell you a shirt. I have to run an ad. What ad resonates with you at this given time? I don’t know. It’s kind of a blanket statement that I will just find out for everyone. But it’s very likely that the ad that resonates with you might be different than that that resonates with me. 

And so the ability to make lots of content and use data to serve this ad to this group or serve this ad to that group, will really help brands get maximum value, and that’s referred to as personalisation. So as we evolve creative performance and data, in time, we will be able to truly personalise that.

What plans does the company have for the coming year?

What I can tell you is, generally speaking, if you surround yourself with good people and you really keep a positive mindset, you can manifest a beautiful future. And I really live by that. And I believe that for this organisation as well. So a lot of my job is bringing some of the best people together, and positive attitudes to build and manifest the future. 

What is the future of this product in this category? It is very likely, like many other gig economies, that the economy will continue to grow. And, ultimately, in time, with these industries there will be some form of consolidation, because there’s a lot of players in the space. And, ultimately, they’ll be owned by some of the giants. That’s my theory. 

So, in time, some of the bigger tech companies that are now noticing that the creator economy has a very large opportunity, will start consolidating and buying companies in the space to own more market share.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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