Innovation Through Strong Creative & Content Is Key

In the early days of social media, you couldn’t even upload a photo to Twitter (gasp). Innovation then was linked to platform updates. Every day it seemed like there was a new feature, new rollout and new way to tell your story with the rise of “visual platforms”.

It’s 2019 and we’re no longer experiencing a rise of “visual platforms”.  The internet and social media became visual playground long ago and it’s here to stay.  As a result, innovation on a day-to-day basis is less about platform updates and more about to push the envelope through creative, content and unique executions.

In the early days of social, people were obsessed with platform updates. How can we be the first to do x? How can we know the latest updates right away? How can we experiment with the latest and greatest?

It’s time to take that same mentality and apply it to content. If you aren’t obsessed with how you can bring your brand to life in innovative ways then you’ll get lost in the noise. Innovation through strong creative and content is key.

The teams, leagues and brands that stand out on social are the ones that obsess over how they can tell their story in unique and different ways. So much of what we do today is driven by creative. How can your brand offer something different than everybody else?

There are no hard fast rules when it comes to pushing the limits of creative and content, but a few things to keep in mind:

Start with a content strategy (aka know your why).

Too often in social we throw things at the wall. We test and we try, without understanding the why. This fly-by approach means that teams are creating content that doesn’t necessarily move the needle on the business objectives.

The only work that really matters is work that has the larger picture in mind. The best way to ensure that everything the team is creating has a purpose is to put your plan to paper. Take the time to define what a content strategy looks like and how it maps back to the larger goals.

When you put your plan to paper it gives the the team purpose, permission to focus to what is important and defines a box for creative to play in. More on creating a content strategy here.

Quality > output.

Output for the sake of output is one of the worst things about digital today. It’s caused a seam of sameness and an incredible amount of noise.

Marketing has never been measured by the volume of content though. It’s measured by the quality and effectiveness of the work, and it’s time everyone that works in social media reminds themselves of that.  

Digital leaders today need to give their teams permission to focus less on volume and more on quality. The daily churn of content becomes a toxic cycle that is hard to break. It’s a cycle where teams become burnt out, content becomes stale and consumers start to turn out.

Good content doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a process and it takes time. Say no to content for the sake of content and yes to content that elevates your brand, engages fan and moves the needle on business objectives.

Encourage experimentation.

Sometimes teams get so caught up in chasing likes that they become scared to try something new. Highlights work, so highlights are what is shared all day long.

When we become obsessed with vanity metrics and have no larger vision, then it’s easy to fall into a state of complacency and sameness. We find that “one thing” that works and we keep doing it over and over again.

This sort of routine might work for a little while, but in this fast-changing world of the internet, things will eventually become stale.  

The reality is we don’t know what truly works well unless we try. And, it’s our job in this industry to push new ways of thinking, storytelling and creating.

Leaders must foster an environment where experimentation is encouraged in order to stay ahead of the curve and keep things fresh. Experimentation shouldn’t just be allowed, but celebrated.

Success is multifaceted.

Too often social teams look at success in a one dimensional way. Just because highlights are the best performing piece of content does not mean that’s the only type of content that should be shared. Don’t let engagement metrics pigeon-hold the team to sharing the same thing over and over and over again.

When teams have a clear and defined content strategy, then measuring success should map back to that. Success is not just about engagement alone. Success is also defined by how well the team tells the brand’s story, the content franchises that are brought to life, how the story is executed, etc.  

Social channels are multi-dimensional for teams and leagues allowing them to tell their complete story, engage with fans and drive revenue. And because of that, how we define success should be multifaceted too.

Think like a programmer.

Too often social teams suffer from the fear of missing out. There’s a sense that we have to cover everything, all the time.

Batting practice and pregame warm ups are a good example of this. Before every game, across every league, you are guaranteed to see the same exact pregame pictures and video over and over and over again. It becomes a tired story very quickly.

When teams get in the mindset of covering, we start doing and dumping without understanding why. Think about Instagram on game days. So many posts upwards of 20 times and garner less than a 2% engagement rate. That’s a serious flag that we need to give thought to content volume and distribution. A less than 2 percent engagement rate should show a serious need to pivot (and no, don’t blame it on the algorithm).

Instead of “covering” everything, think about how to “program” everything. Look at the totality of the season and curate a plan that shows every moment, every angle, every storyline over time. The *over time* is key here.

Teams don’t have to dump everything on fans all at once. Consider what has already been covered and offer up something different. With a plan and the focus on curating smartly, the story can unfold in a natural and organic fashion over time– without being intrusive to fans’ feeds.

Obsess over execution & variety.

Execution is where good ideas go to die, so don’t spend all your time obsessing over ideas and forget to emphasize the need to execute right.  How teams produce and package their content has become as critical as the content idea itself.

Creative execution is what separates the best from the rest. When teams focus on the details of the creative execution they are more likely to create something that captures attention, fits the platform and is the best reflection of the brand.

Obsessing over execution does not mean that production value has to be high or overproduced. It simply means that you’ve taken the time to make sure the idea comes to life right.

In addition, there are so many ways to bring a story to life. Whether teams turn stills into moving image, leverage illustrations or tap into a strong video edit it should be a priority for have variety in creative executions. Obsess over all those ways you can bring your story to life and execute right. It matters.

Okay, so are you to push the envelopes of your creative and content? Here’s a wide range of content lately that will provide some inspiration:

Ohio State & Braves– Package Your Assets
I’m a big believer in finding ways to package your assets together. Instead of flooding your feed with a million photos and videos from a practice, game or moment, executions like the below allows teams to leverage multiple assets to piece together a story in an engaging way:

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E I G H T in a row. #ChopOn

A post shared by Atlanta Braves (@braves) on

Oklahoma & Mariners– Simple Edit Brings The Fire
When I talk about obsessing over creative execution, it does not mean that everything has to be overdone and complicated. Below are a few examples of simple and clean edits that still bring the fire, whether they offer unique access and perspective or evoke emotion:

Brooklyn Nets – Subtle Motion
Subtle motion helps to capture the eye and pull people in without making them wait for information to unfold (like a long-drawn-out animation can do). Don’t have motion be a nuance. Use motion to pull people in while still making it easy and quick for them to get the information they want and need.

Purdue Basketball – Humanizing Through Stills

Purdue Basketball launched a content series that shares the meaning behind student-athletes’ tattoos. The series is a great example of how to showcase a more human side of players. The best part is they leveraged stills, not video, which could be an easy route to execute if face time is limited with players.

Miami Heat – Split Screen to Engage
Highlights are everywhere these days, so it’s important for teams to think through how they can leverage highlights in different ways. The below from Miami is a great example of a clean split-screen execution used to engage fans:

Other Unique Edits & Creative Executions That Have Stood Out Recently

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“No way.” 🤭

A post shared by Sacramento Kings (@sacramentokings) on

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The Case for Cooperstown. #LegaCCy

A post shared by New York Yankees (@yankees) on

In today’s overcrowded landscape, how we push creative and content to new places is key. Invest in a strong vision around content and empower teams to work their magic.

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1 comment.

  1. Jess, as a new subscriber, but a longtime fan, of your insights, I love the point you make about having a content strategy and not posting content for the sake of content. I find too often that sports teams just post content of practices purely just to post something that day. As someone who watches this unfold, those are the posts that I never remember. I never refer someone to an account because of that tweet or post. It’s always the content that really has to do with the brand and sticks to the identity of the account. Even those that are getting out of their element but stay within the brand are posts I remember. Having this be Quality > output really helps with the overall goal of the accounts: to give fans access that they want.

    Keep up the great posts. I always look forward to reading everything on twitter, and now this blog.

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