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Co-creating on social media, by House of Comms’ Deepti Chadalavada

By Deepti Chadalavada, head of social at House of Comms.

When brands first decided to have a presence on social media, there was a simple formula to follow. Create content, manage comments, repeat. Sure, audiences had a voice, but that voice was only used to share feedback on their customer experience. That’s where it ended.

Blame it on TikTok, Gen Z, the ever-evolving role of social media in our lives, but we are now in an era where this voice is loud and clear. Audiences don’t just want to be heard; they want to be involved.

As a brand, it can be daunting to consider involving audiences and the idea of handing over control in this way. But those who lean in will realise that this is one of the best opportunities for greater brand loyalty, lower product development costs and overall improved trust and transparency. So, how do you start?

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Listen carefully

If you want to engage in a good conversation, you must be a good listener. Aside from the importance of your personal life, it’s the core of great social media. Being a good listener on social media means allowing conversations to play out, spotting nuggets of insight, and then having processes in place to track all of this so you can use it.

You need a solid community management process in place for this, including the right listening tools which will allow you to pick up on how audiences are talking about your brand outside of your owned pages.

Once you have this in place, think about how you report on community management. For many of our clients, we share weekly community management round-ups which cover highlights from manual community management and listening tools. The true value of these reports is in the insights they share, like a product being used in a unique way by a follower or an emotional story of how the brand has impacted someone’s life. These insights have inspired content pieces and been the spark for many big campaigns. It’s a simple process to implement, but it works.

Create opportunities

Creating social content comes naturally to the Gen Z and TikTok generation, so brands simply need give audiences a platform to do it. When you are planning social content, think about ways to involve audiences and the community. Develop challenges, create templates to encourage creativity, or even just ask for ideas for your next content series. It allows you to increase reach but maintain brand consistency. This is UGC content, with brand direction.

This kind of content helps your audiences move away from just passive consumption. One of my favourite simple examples is by an adaptable furniture brand in the US called Burrow. They shared a blank template of one of their sofas and asked people to use the functionalities of Instagram (GIFs, stickers, filters) to share what their dream sofa would look like. It brought out the imagination of audiences in a creative, engaging way.

Involve influencers

Co-creation isn’t limited only to your audience. Many brands use influencer partnerships in this region as part of their strategy, but the most authentic partnerships are collaborative. Brands provide the direction but encourage creative freedom with the tactics.

Some of our most successful influencer campaigns have been co-created with influencers in just this way. We get everyone in a room to brainstorm the best ways to bring a campaign to life, using the collaborative brain power of the brand, agency and influencer. Not only does it result in more authentic content, but also smoother relationships with influencers who feel involved as part of the creative process.

Provide a reward

Co-creation is a great way to discover ideas and build products that you already know will resonate with your customers. Brands like LEGO, BMW and Etihad Airlines have all successfully created initiatives where audiences have shared innovative ideas that resulted in improved products and experiences.

But no one wants to give away their ideas for free, so figure out what the incentive is. It could be a prize, exposure, or even just the value that people get from participating in an interactive, creative exercise.

By starting with these tactics, brands can bring audiences in and find themselves guiding their communities, not just managing them. Move past just serving them content in a brand-down way. The brands that embrace this will be the ones that thrive.