In a World of Pay-to-Play, (Creative) Content Is Still King

As social media algorithms evolve to give priority to paid content over organic, great creative delivered by the right talent, and strategically targeted to the right audience, will win the day.

The topic was addressed by the Brand Innovators panel “Navigating Social Media in the Age of Pay-to-Play,” hosted by WHOSAY VP, Creative Jenna Sereni on Thursday, April 25 during Social Media Week in New York.

“We always start with a great idea,” Sereni said as she opened the panel. She added that finding the right talent to deliver on that idea is also paramount. “Whether it’s Alec Baldwin, a micro-influencer, fashion blogger or Marnie the Dog, these are just different lenses that can potentially bring that idea to life.

“If it really is a great idea, then it can be activated in many different formats, and by many different people. But a great talent can’t make a bad idea good,” she warned.  

The WHOSAY VP Creative was joined by Taisa Veras, Director of Social Media, NYC & Company and Paul Gelb, Head of Programmatic & Social, Bayer.

The panel dove right into the issue at hand as Sereni asked, when is the right time to put paid media behind content?

Veras said that Facebook is the main channel for the NYC & Company’s “funnel approach.” She said that the social network allows them to get the “inspiration, research, investigation, validation and conversion” they are looking for as their customers engage with their content.

For instance, a partnership with Facebook allowed NYC & Company to reach consumers who had expressed intent to travel, but hadn’t chosen a destination yet, which then helped them target upcoming New York visitors with paid content that may be useful for their upcoming trip. This new feature is called trip consideration and NYC & Company was whitelisted as one of the first destinations to use it.

Gelb explained that Bayer looks at two main areas—paid and organic—when it comes to their marketing. The focus is to build a competitive advantage by getting more out of their paid media dollars while also optimizing their organic content for maximum performance.

“It’s about pumping the gas on both pedals,” Bayer’s Head of Programmatic & Social said, adding that, though his company has been a “conservative” marketer so far, they’ve been expanding beyond Facebook and into Pinterest and Twitter over the course of the last couple years.  

Sereni added that “Ultimately, creativity plays a big role.” The WHOSAY VP Creative then asked the panelists how do they use creativity to “stop their customers’ thumbs.”

The NYC & Company Director of Social added that an in-house content team allows them to ideate, create, execute and—in turn—achieve desired results.

Gelb mentioned influencers as a critical part of the equation. “We don’t have the same assets that New York City has,” the Bayer Head of Programmatic joked, adding that understanding their targets and being on top of the trending searching topics—such as seasonal allergies—was also critical.

“But isn’t creativity challenged by regulations when it comes to marketing over the counter medications?” Sereni asked.

On the contrary, responded Gelb. “Constraints are actually a big driver of creativity.”

Veras added that NYC & Company is increasingly working with influencers. “We want to make sure that the influencer portrays NYC in the best way,” she said, citing their work with Taylor Swift (who was their Global Welcome Ambassador from 2014-2015) as well as with Beautiful Destinations as some of the influencer partnerships they’ve done so far.

Another topic was the value of chatbots. “We were one of the first destinations to create a Facebook messenger chatbot and it has been great,” said Veras, explaining that the AI technology afforded an additional distribution channel for their content. “Chatbots very much added value in our discussions with publishers, versus a central part of the partnership. We are looking to test and learn,” Gelb added.

Header image credit: Diego PH