David Shadpour, Social Native: Why brands should focus on creating authentic content
The founder and CEO of Social Native urges brands around the world to build an army of creators and embrace user-generated content.
For those unfamiliar with Social Native, what is the company?
The name itself, social native, to a certain depth. In the early days of printing, you would hire a big agency, they would do a photo shoot and they would print it for you and put it in a magazine.
Then television appeared and sight and hearing had to be done. You hire a big agency and they do a big TV production, and get on TV. But, for the most part, it was all very high production value. And, over time, the eyeballs began to shift away from TV to social media. And social media was not of much production value. Speaking of editorial content, newspapers had high production value and had good advertising content.
TV had high production value content there, but social media was all user-generated content (UGC). It was just shot with a very low production value. And so the idea of Social Native is to create native content for the social generation – those individuals who are more accustomed to consuming UGC.
A simple example, to give you perspective, when I was a kid I used to sneak out in the morning to watch cartoons on TV. My kids now sneak out to watch YouTube watching other kids play with toys. It’s just a different generation.
I heard the company was described as the Uber of content. Why would anyone describe it like that?
The reason is now, going back to this concept of Social Native and the idea, the way we solved the problem was not the traditional agency model. With traditional agency models, you would hire a bunch of people in-house and set up a production studio that would, say, create user-generated style content with iPhones or whatever. But that’s not what we did.
We took an approach like Uber or Airbnb. We have taken a market-building approach. So we don’t create any content at Social Native. We don’t own cameras, we don’t have video cameras or editing tools. We use a marketplace. On the one hand, we have millions of creators who are talented in creating TikTok videos and Twitter images or YouTube videos, whatever they are. And on the other side, we have hundreds of the biggest brands in the world looking to source this kind of social data.
What has the company been up to lately?
Based on the success we’ve had with creating content from native social creators, we looked at a secondary source of content, which is customer content. So that means you have customers going out and creating content for you organically. There needs to be a way to access that content and get the rights for brands to use it.
For example, you and I have a shirt that we really like and we go on social media. I say “I really like this shirt” and identify the brand, or whatever – it’s very valuable. So now we’re in the client content research business and our clients are using that in addition to hiring freelancers, like influencers and creators, to go out and create content.
I heard you made some acquisitions earlier this year. How will they affect what you are able to offer your customers?
Absolutely. We have two acquisitions under our belt and hopefully many more to come. The first acquisition we made was with a company called Olapic, and Olapic is what gave us access to customer content. It also allowed us to put our widget on a list of different big e-commerce sites to be able to showcase the gallery of quality content. So, in addition to creating content for ads, we now have a source of quality content that lives on product pages.
When you go to purchase this shirt, you will see User Generated Content from Social Native in a carousel below the white background product. The acquisition of Influence.co was more of an asset that we added to our library to increase the number of creators and influencers in our market.
Social Native has become a marketing partner of TikTok. What is the thinking behind this partnership?
TikTok is a great example of a platform that takes full advantage of sight and sound. They were founded in video, and also a good example of a platform that takes full advantage of the full-screen experience of vertical video.
And you don’t need me to tell you that it’s been embraced by the next generation by leaps and bounds. The amount of content consumed on their platform is greater than the content consumed on Netflix. So in terms of the telling experience, because we’re in the Social Native content creation business, and a lot of brands are looking for different ways to create content for TikTok, that led us to become a TikTok partner. And a big part of the value proposition when it comes to our business is our ability to create great TikTok videos through our marketplace. And, just to clarify, we don’t do any TikTok videos. Our platform allows you to enable different people in our marketplace to create TikTok videos.
To sell to the future consumer, brands must learn to speak to the future consumer. How can they do that?
That’s a fair point. When the future consumer watches more TikTok videos than production TV, what does that tell you? So if you go out and start creating production-quality content, you try to talk to them on that platform, because that’s where they are.
If it is not native to the platform in any way. It will sound inauthentic and probably won’t resonate. So ultimately, as a brand, all you’re really doing is evolving the way you communicate based on how the next generation communicates with each other. That’s really all it is. And so, when you evolve your brand, because the world around us evolves, it sometimes involves evolving more than just the content distribution strategy. This includes modifying the content you create in the first place.
How do you think the creator economy is disrupting traditional branded content advertising?
I would consider each creator as their own production agency. Yesterday, there were x number – I don’t know the number – of traditional agencies that spent several billion dollars in the world. It has now been democratized for millions of people who are able to make great quality videos without an entire production team behind them. This is how they disturb him.
To what extent do you think the creator economy is the future of brand engagement?
I would say that the creators are the future publishers. So we grew up in a world where the publications were truly remarkable. The TV channels were extremely outstanding, and there were only a limited number of them. But the creators quickly became this new source of authority, for better or for worse. This is the future, and I encourage all brands to build an army of creators to serve as recommenders or validators of their new products and ventures.
Do you think data is the essential ingredient that powers artificial intelligence and ultimately drives results?
When you use an agency, what is their credit? Their merit is usually to win Cannes-type awards – an award they won for showing great creativity. But, at the end of the day, the main purpose of the brand is to drive sales or create some form of value for its business.
And, at this precise moment, there is not necessarily a very direct correlation between creation and sales. If you talk to brands, they play roulette. They throw in a bit of creativity and it either sticks or it doesn’t. If not, they find another agency, they hire another. Many brands opt for burn and churn.
So the idea of bringing data into the story is that when you activate a lot of people in the creative economy to create content for you, you have a very cost-effective way to create high volumes, which which did not exist before. You can now embed this content in ads. And a very effective way to buy ads today is online versus TV and print. And you can track and monitor the value displayed for your brand. So, in a matter of moments, you can turn the creative on and off depending on how it’s offered to you. I bring this up because the future of the creative enterprise is truly creative performance.
Can we find out which qualitative creative attributes drive value for your brand? So, in theory, let’s say I wanted to sell you a shirt. I have to advertise. What announcement resonates with you at this precise moment? I do not know. It’s kind of a general statement that I’m going to find out for everyone. But it’s very likely that the ad that resonates with you will be different from the ad that resonates with me.
And so the ability to create a lot of content and use data to serve that ad to that group or serve that ad to that group, will really help brands get maximum value, and that’s called customization. So as we scale performance and creative data, we’ll be able to really customize that.
What are the company’s plans for the coming year?
What I can tell you is that, generally speaking, if you surround yourself with the right people and really keep a positive mindset, you can manifest a bright future. And I really live by it. And I believe for this organization as well. So a big part of my job is to bring together some of the best people and embrace 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, over time, with these industries, there will be some form of consolidation, because there are a lot of players in the space. And, ultimately, they will belong to some of the giants. This is my theory.
So over time, some of the biggest tech companies who are now noticing that the creator economy has a very big opportunity, will start consolidating and buying companies in the space to get more market share.
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