Talking Content: Interview with Buffer's Ash Read
- by Jason Clowes
Since the beginning, social media has played a continuous role in how people and companies interact with each other. It has become a powerful method for brands and companies to reach a target market. Ash Read – content crafter, editor, and social media guru at Buffer – is gearing up to speak at this year’s Savage Marketing event, so Savage Intel reached out to Ash Read to learn more about how brands and companies can leverage social media in 2017.
S: To kick things off, what got you involved with social media and content creation as a profession?
AR: As an 18-year old straight out of college, a friend and I began to work on our first startup project together –- a marketplace to connect amateur sports teams with local businesses for sponsorship. After around a year on that project we both moved on, but it got me into the startup community and along the way, I began blogging about our experiences and I never really stopped.
Without creating content, I wouldn't be where I am today. I'd even say that most of the opportunities that have come my way during my career have been a direct result of the content I've created.
S: Why is it that a lot of legacy brands are slow to adopt or just bad at utilizing social media as a marketing tool?
AR: I think a lot of this comes down to understanding. The term social media, to me, feels a little dated. When you say "social media" I don't think it conveys the power these platforms have as marketing channels and I feel social media also brings along thoughts of how channels like Facebook and Twitter were five-or-so years ago where distribution was largely free if you had great content. Now, things are different, many social platforms are pay-to-play if you want to effectively reach your audience. And that's a good thing, but I'm unsure if all brands realize that potential.
Social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are top destinations for brands to reach their audience. There's never been a better way to connect with people and sell products. However, I think it's hard for those who've only just dipped their toes or been slow to adopt to connect the dots between content and sales.
S: How can you determine ROI on content creation and convince senior management of the importance of content?
AR: ROI has always been a problem for content teams, but many platforms are getting better at measuring important metrics such as referrals and signs up directly from content. I feel the main problem here isn't so much the mechanisms of how we track ROI, but more so how it's communicated. A CEO may see your social strategy in action, but without clear communication on how it directly affects the bottom line or your overall company ambitions, it can be hard to put the pieces together. We wrote about this recently on the Buffer blog. My hunch is that, for many, there's a gap between where your social and content strategy connects to your overall company goals. If your company is looking to reach new market segments in 2017, then 100% social and content will help that, but without connecting the dots between strategy and results, it's hard to show real value to senior management.
S: Live video is becoming a common theme for different social media platforms, how do you see this changing the way brands interact with their audience?
AR: Live video is hard to do well and I think that's the main challenge for brands. If you watch any live TV show, it's very produced –- there are lower thirds giving added context to what's on screen, pre-filmed clips and segments, multiple presenters, etc. There's a lot going on. Then, when you turn to Facebook, most live videos are a face talking to a camera –- and that's super hard to make work.
I think live content has the potential to almost bring social media almost full-circle and help brands to get back to the authenticity that made social content great, 3, 4, 5 years ago when social media was often raw and unedited. Nothing has the power to build connect like a 1:1 interaction and live video can create that feeling at scale amongst an audience. I feel 2017 will see a lot of experimentation with live to figure out how best to use this new, emerging style of content.
S: VR and AR have been on the verge of changing marketing for such a long time, do you think 2017 will finally be the year we finally see them becoming mainstream?
AR: In some ways, VR and AR haves already become mainstream –- certainly amongst the younger demographics who have widely adopted technologies like Snapchat lenses and Pokemon Go, anyway. In 2017, I think we could see this trend work its way into the slightly older 18-24 and 25-34-year-old demographics, too. I don't think we'll see a mass adoption of VR technology and headsets anytime soon, but the phone will be the gateway to VR and AR for the masses.
S: In your experience, what is the best balance behind video, image, and text based content?
AR: I don't think there is a perfect balance. The types and frequencies you need to create and share each type of content will vary from business to business. It all depends on what your audience responds to best to and the only way to find out is to experiment and figure out what works best exclusively for your business rather than relying on a set of industry recommendations or best practices.
S: With billions of Social Media users, how do you effectively market to different generations on social media?
TR: Targeting. Social media is by far the best advertising and marketing platform we've ever had and I feel this way because if the immense power it gives us to reach the exact audience we're aiming for with a piece of highly-targeted and relevant content natively on any device.
When it comes to marketing to different generations, it's all about attention and reaching your consumer with a message that speaks to them. A Facebook video ad targeting an 18-24-year-old and trying to sell car insurance, for example, will be vastly different to one aimed at a 40-year-old. You can no longer create a blanket, one-size fits all content. You have to speak to different generations where they're most comfortable. Going back to the car insurance example, you could reach 18-24-year-olds through a Snapchat lense that's fun and shareable. Whereas someone in their 40's may well be more receptive to a piece of sponsored content on a well-respected blog or news site.
It's all about reaching the right people at the right time with the right content.