‘The Incredibles’ is one of my favourite films. You could even tell watching it how much fun the film-makers were having. The combination of a cracking story and the smart style of animation used makes me think of a weird tautology: mid-century digital. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour this weekend. The reason I mention it in the context of YouTube and business social media is because it appeals to everyone. It’s the classic example of a movie parents love as much as their children.
I remember when Google+ was launched, well into the all-encompassing supremacy of Facebook, and wondering why on earth Google was bothering. It felt like such a huge, rather pointless exercise; the creation of an internet white elephant. Why does the world need a duplicate social network when so many people were embedded elsewhere? I’m still not sure there’s a good answer to that question, but to their credit, Google have pursued the endeavor with their significant corporate heft behind it, with Head of Social David Besbris saying recently, ‘we’re in social – like we’re in everything at Google – for the long haul.’ With this continued effort, a number of interesting results have played out.
At turns compulsive, engrossing and impossible to ignore (or is that just me?), Instagram is arguably the best truly social media in the world today. Instagram has taken photo sharing, the element of Facebook people love best, and built a distinctive, instantly-recognisable suite of tools to improve image quality, then make them public. In so doing, Instagram has created a genuine community around ‘where you are’ and ‘what you’re doing’.
On the face of it, Instagram is the simplest offering imaginable: posting photos of friends or views isn’t exactly revolutionary. However what makes it successful is its informal, ‘soft’ yet persistent influence. A number of apparently simple features combine potently: the gradual growth in users’ followers; the number of likes they receive from a huge global audience; the way that hashtags create an immediate subsection of the app across topics and interests, and the different tones and themes of sophisticated users’ feeds.
For me, Pinterest is different. Different from the frenetic pace of other social media where amid a constant bombardment of opinion, invective and news, a business who wants to showcase new products or visual work can find their voice rather lost. By contrast, opening up a Pinterest page for a new project is rather like shutting a door on a crazy world and steadily building a story about something fresh and emerging. It’s particularly useful for building inspiration, as well as showcasing gorgeous photography of your work, or working process.
… let’s first talk about inspiration.
Collating visual stimuli for my graphic design work has been a mainstay of a consistently familiar creative process which begun at art school. For many years this would be done by raking through design books and magazines, tearing, cutting, copying and building ‘mood boards’ on huge sheets of foamboard. Particularly useful for corporate identity projects, these messy heaps of cut up paper would gradually be pulled together into coherent themes which would in turn inspire something totally fresh. The good news (for trees everywhere) is that the entire process can now happen online, without scissors and spraymount, harvesting the seemingly inexhaustible visual resources of the web.
… secondly, showcasing your work, in depth, from every angle.
In the photography of your work, whether a standalone product or creative project such as a new piece of artwork, a vibrant poster for your business or a story about a new activity you’re undertaking, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll produce just one image. More likely it’s going to be many, almost certainly built over time. By contrast, other social media increasingly favours the single image: most Facebook posts these days on a smartphone dicate this. However Pinterest suggests a different, more comprehensive process, potentially looking at your work, explaining its purpose, use, or a range of iterations. Essentially it allows you to curate a complete visual story from beginning to end.
This week I was meeting with a new client who is commissioning an update to their logo. These are the sorts of projects I approach with kid gloves and a library-manner (all gentle footsteps and under-breath whispering) because I know they can go very well… or they can be a surprise.
And in today’s business world a ‘surprise’ never, ever implies it’s good one.
In fact, the dictionary needs to be altered to include a phenomena I have termed ‘corporate surprise’ which means: ‘that’s not what I was expecting… and chances are, my boss won’t like it’. In short: disaster.
In the past I’ve likened a corporate identity proposal to a plastic surgeon’s work – you’re paying for it, but when you wake up, you’ve no idea what the end result will actually look like. “It’s not what I expected” is a favourite line when people see a logo… but how could it possibly be?
But I’m taking a stand and want to argue for the notion of the unexpected – and to say that we can even add the word ‘welcome’ in front of the surprise. I believe it’s possible for clients to be excited by a project which is on-brief, but left-field.
Running an SME is a busy life. People to manage, income streams to watch, clients to keep happy, new business to secure. And yet at the same time you keep on reading about how you need to spend time you don’t have on Twitter – are they mad?
Last month I started a series with the same sentiment – discussing how small businesses who aren’t on Facebook can make use of it as a marketing and public relations tool. An awful lot of people who don’t use Twitter tend to be similarly dismissive, a common sentiment heard being, “isn’t it all people gossiping, stoking revolutions in far-flung lands or getting instant news updates?”
Actually, it turns out, the use of Twitter that makes the news is almost beside the point. The key to success is knowing the impression your business needs to be making, and who you want to reach, because chances are, they’re on the platform, waiting for you.