Updated: Mar 24
Sharing lessons learnt in six months (or so) of producing organic digital media content for media platforms, events companies, ed-tech startups, record labels, independent artists, and more.
Hi! I'm Brad Farrell, owner and Director of CAYA Creative Studios, and I've taken a long sabbatical from writing these blog posts, but now we're back!
We've had a busy six months at CAYA since launching our CAYA Creative Productions division in September 2021. Over this time we've had the immense privilege of working for a hugely varied lineup of clients, ranging significantly in budget, timeframe, project scale, and production style. We'll get more into what kind of productions we work on and how we do it in subsequent blog articles, but for now here are five key lessons that I've picked up over the last few months. This blog covers the attention economy, the critical importance of telling your story, quite how useless a clean, corporate social media really is, the value of really connecting with your audience on shared interests and values, and how important it is to show, rather than tell!
Telling the stories of musicians and how their livelihoods were impacted by COVID-19 in the pilot of our docuseries, 'Chasing Stages'.
1 - Welcome to the Attention Economy
Today's world is an attention economy - if you have people's attention, you can shape their habits, purchasing decisions, political perspective, and socio-cultural outlook. Keep reading to find out how to get - and keep - your audience's attention.
The supply of attention is through the roof - more than half of the world's population now uses social media, with access to the internet and screen time increasing daily. This all whilst access to electricity, radio, cable & satellite television, and mobile network coverage is still growing. What does this all mean? Fundamentally, more and more people spend more and more time on social media platforms, increasingly making their decisions based on what they see online; so if you're not using media to help people make decisions in your favour, you're missing out on the biggest opportunity of your career.
But what about the demand for attention? That's flying too - because every single one of those people on social media is not only a consumer, but also a producer. Every post, tweet, or TikTok is content, that is freely available and accessible to any other consumer/producer on the platform, and so not only do you have to compete with other businesses and brands, you have to compete with people's friends and family for their attention.
Ask yourself, if you had the choice between checking out an Instagram post from one of your friends, or taking the time to watch a video ad from a business that you're familiar with, what are you most likely to do? I have a follow-up question that I want you to think about seriously - take the same question, but replace "from a business that you're familiar with" with "from your own marketing strategy/team"... be honest! Which would you rather consume?
If you'd genuinely rather engage with your own brand's content over that of your friends or family, you've got it handled, so you can click off right now (or rather DM me, I want to learn from you!). If you'd rather watch paint dry than engage with your business content, then you need to keep reading!
2 - Story is everything
The greatest filmmakers, writers, storytellers, musicians, artists, and performers all understand this innately. Without a story worth telling, that is told well, your brand, social media strategy, and content will fail, regardless of how good the production is.
Human beings have told stories and furthered our social and cultural understanding of the world through storytelling from when we first developed communication skills, all the way up to the modern day. Your story, your journey, whether as an individual, a brand, or a team, is the one thing that can truly set you apart and gain you loyal customers in a world with more competition for attention than ever.
The best part? We live in a world that is more connected than ever before, with a wide variety of communication mediums, diversity of voices and stories,. You can now tell your/your brand's story to more people, in more ways, than ever!
The worst part? There's now more people doing almost exactly what you are doing, that might've been in the business longer than you, who might be better than you at what you do, and who can now build an audience/customer base and operate all over the world, The consumer's attention is the most valuable that it has ever been, with more competition over it than it has ever had. So how do you win that attention? Figure out your story, figure out how it relates to your customers, and then tell it to them in as many ways that they'll engage with as possible.
3 - Your clean, corporate social media just isn't it any more.
Remember, your audience is now the best educated, most cynical and exposed audience in human history, especially the younger age brackets who are the most influential in terms of driving contemporary culture and purchasing habits. We know what an ad looks like, and we know when we're being sold to - and when there's SO much free entertainment quite literally at our fingertips, there's absolutely no reason for us to engage with a post or profile that doesn't excite us right out the gate.
When I look at a clean, corporate social media page, with all the perfect, on-brand colours, professional graphic design, and staged high-production-value video content that looks like it's curated by someone with a strict brand guide and not a whole lot of creative freedom, it's frankly boring and I'm going to click away immediately.
On the other hand, when I come across a brand that shows off the people and personalities of the founder, team, or community that it's built around, all of a sudden my interest is piqued, and I want to know more. If they can then show me how their story relates to mine, I'm all in - this is a brand that understands my pain points and knows how to help me solve them - because they're people too!
Your personality, your team's unique characteristics, your relationships with one another and your relationships with your audience are the only things that can truly set you apart from your competition in the attention economy, because it's certainly not an aesthetic, clean Instagram feed or a responsive website (come on, everybody's got that!).
You have to give your prospective audience as many reasons as possible to invest their attention and engagement in you, and the best way to do that is to help them to understand who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. What's one great way to do that, you ask? Connect with them over two of the things that human beings hold most dear - our interests and our values.
4 - Remember, we're all people wanting to connect with other people over shared interests and values.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left human beings sorely lacking in the contact and social interactions that we need so desperately - people want to connect now more than ever!
This is a consumer base that is more diverse, more expressive, and more exposed to new ideas and interests than anyone in history, so if you can show them how their personal interests align with yours, you've got a audience member who now not only knows about your brand and what you do, but also who feels connected on some way to who you are. The rise of user-created digital media and algorithmic social media feeds means that there is now a niche and a market for every interest, sub-interest, specialty, and hobby, with potential reach all over the globe - basically, talk about what you love, and the audience will come!
This is also the most conscientious and value-driven customer-base of all time. Each generation understands the devastating impact of humankind's collective actions and inactions on the planet and other people better than any generation preceding them, and they understand the powerful effect of their purchasing power and where they choose to deploy it.
If you can't show how your company treats its people, the people in your supply/production line, and the environments and spaces that your company impacts on, you'll lose out on business to a company that can. Customers will even pay more for your products if you can show that you're value-driven and that those values align with your audience, take Patagonia as an example!
5 - Show, don't tell!
Notice how I haven't suggested that you tell anyone anything, in any of these? That's because I feel that there's a very important but slight difference. We all know the adage - "actions speak louder than words", and we all know how true that is, but how many of us execute on it when we're telling our brand story?
This links back to the third point, this is an audience that can spot a 'sell' from a mile away, and just doesn't care! Your audience is on these platforms for entertainment, insight, enjoyment or information, not to buy your product or service based on a repurposed TV ad, so why do you think they won't just immediately swipe past? You have to grab their attention, you have to tell your story (well), you have to relate to your audience, and you have to connect to their values!
What better way to do that than with organic digital media content that shows off your personality and field expertise, whilst showcasing your network and going in-depth on your offering and what sets you and your brand apart? Your honesty, realness and openness will bring more prospective customers to your door more affordably than any other method of outreach.
And the best part? You can make content that is centered around your personal interests, the conversations that you most want to have, with the people whose time and input you value the most, meaning that your content can have massive business development utility as well!
If you work with a team that is experienced in content production & collateralisation, you can produce a wide variety of mediums and formats from a single piece of primary organic content. This means that your expenditure is doing the work for you, on a variety of platforms, targeting different subsets of your audience, and following platform- and audience-specific best practices, ensuring that your content production is efficient, effective, and engaging.
If you're interested in really growing your brand and telling your brand's story as effectively and efficiently as possible, with one of the teams that are doing some of the most exciting and boundary-pushing work in the space, with some of the biggest independent media brands, creators, and companies in the South African market, get in touch with the team at CAYA Creative Productions to arrange a discovery call.
Yours in storytelling,