Everything you need to know about "The Next Big Thing"

The exponential growth of technology has major impacts on businesses, brands, and consumer behaviors. Brands that ignore or fail to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation are setting themselves on a linear path of doom. So says StoryTech’s Lori H. Schwartz, who keeps a close eye on the latest trends in consumer behavior and tech so that she can advise media companies and brands on the next big thing.

At the recent Spredfast Summit, Schwartz led a power hour of insights on the next big thing that is connecting brands and media with their audience: social storytelling. Joined by Viacom’s Sarah Iooss and PepsiCo’s Mike Scafidi, Schwartz made a compelling case for creating content that is social, engaging, and that works with the behavior of your audience.

Keep reading for big takeaways on how social is evolving storytelling and examples of how it is working at two of the world’s largest brand and media companies.

Compelling formats are serving fan and sponsor needs.

Brands and media are telling stories that span both space and time in a structure called parallel storytelling.  A narrative is built over time and across multiple platforms and social channels to create a rich fan experience and unique brand integrations. 

Schwartz pointed to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a multiplatform adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as an expert example of parallel storytelling. By leaving holes in the schedule and budget, producers were able to shoot additional scenes to deliver content that fans requested. Series creators were also able to partner with ModCloth and Samsung, to feature and monetize products within the storyline that aligned with the very targeted audience of millennial young women.

Consumers and viewers are co-creators of your story.

Whether it is requesting “bonus” content (and expecting you to deliver) as in the Lizzie Bennet diaries, or sharing their commentary on your big moments, consumers expect a place in your story. If you are a community manager, you’ll surely appreciate Schwartz’ claim that fans today are smart and sassy and they will make fun of your brand even if they love it. Don’t hide from it—listen, embrace, and play with it. After all, if you don’t tell your brand story, they will.

But it’s not just about reacting to the whims and ruminations of your fans. Schwartz pointed to Ingress, a massive multiplayer game that overlays augmented reality on top of Google Maps. Literally millions of people are leaving their house to play and participate in this online role playing game. Her challenge to you: how can you get your audience up and out to participate and engage in your brand’s story?

"Why I bow down to social storytelling and its power"

Viacom’s Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Client Strategy, Ad Sales, Sarah Iooss told a tale of two VMAs and how the MTV social team captured showstopping moments from Beyoncé. Following the announcement of her pregnancy during the 2011 VMAs, MTV shared a gif of Jay-Z’s reaction to the big news. It was a television moment that could have been lost but the story took on a new form, evolved, and lasted. In 2014, when Beyoncé was being recognized with the Video Vanguard Award, the MTV social team controlled the narrative again, focusing the lens of the story on Blue Ivy, Bey and Jay’s daughter, and redirecting away from less positive rumors and storylines about their marital strife.

From these and other examples, Iooss shared three key takeaways about social storytelling:

1) Social is a programming platform. Social is a discrete property to program, tell stories, and develop voice and cadence. It’s not just an outlet to post tune-in CTAs.

2) You need to build an authentic relationship. Social is a place to exchange value to and from fans. MTV is constantly getting inspiration and dialog from fans. They give value back by elevating voices within the social community—from putting social content on screens to finding talent within the community.

3) You need to be a cultural catalyst. To stay relevant, it is important to constantly evolve and reinvent yourself. Study your audience. Start with a story. Let it morph, depending on the platform where you are telling it. MTV isn’t just curating for a channel. They are curating for a generation.

The power (and value) of owned media.

PepsiCo’s Director of Digital Marketing Operations, Mike Scafidi shared how the brand transformed Pepsi.com into Pepsi Pulse, a global hub of owned and earned media, side by side. Before becoming brand publishers, Pepsi.com was essentially a promotional portal with punctuated traffic around campaigns.  By investing in owned media and incorporating social at the core of the experience, the brand was able to create a destination that shared the unique Pepsi voice, implementing the same content, vision, and branding internationally. The result has been a swell of consistent traffic and engagement. Better yet, the brand has had to spend less to distribute their message—other publishers started to pick up their great content.

In his own words, Scafidi summed up the value of this social and editorial approach,"Pepsi.com is a lens into the platforms that already exist. We want to be where consumers are. Pepsi.com just allows us to create some focus around that.”

He also shared a formula for measuring the value of owned media that is novel for its simplicity:


The moral of the story?

Roles are changing across publishers, content creators, brands, media, and technology platforms. The brands and media companies that are investing in social storytelling are winning big. 

cdoman@spredfast.com's picture

Courtney Doman

Courtney is the Content Marketing Manager at Spredfast. She focuses on sharing smart social ideas and insights to transform the way companies connect with consumers. Courtney is a passionate football fan (supporting Arsenal and the USMNT), curious traveller, and ambitious home cook.