Social Storytelling: How Thrillist, A+E Network, and WeWork Look at IGTV and Social Media for Brands

Updated: Nov 28, 2018

[Image via TechCrunch]

Is IGTV even a thing yet? I mean, some content creators use it, but we’ve yet to see big brands really jump on board, believing the hype. Even Kim Kardashian’s engagement rate for her initial IGTV post was surprisingly low, given her massive following and online platform.

And yet, many of the top IG content creators are using IGTV to grow their influencer brand with success. Is it simply a transferring of existing video content, or does this new sub-platform require a completely different content strategy?

Wibbitz’s Storyteller Circle Series for Marketers

In the world of social media marketing, Instagram has had such explosive growth in recent years, and communities of users continue to diversify. In fact, many marketers are still adapting to new data metrics, and new methods of serving ads to niche user segments.

To gain clarity on how brand marketers are using the platform to their advantage, we attended a panel discussion last night at the Park Place WeWork in downtown Manhattan. Hosted by Wibbitz, we joined the Storyteller Circle series, this time with the focus of, “Building Your Brand through Instagram and Storytelling.” (You can learn more about the Wibbitz series of events here.)

What’s the best time to post on Instagram? According to the votes of 3 out of 4 panelists during the rapid quick fire session, 7–11p.m. How many times should a brand or influencer post per day? According to our panelists, it depends, but typically multiple times per day. What about image versus video in terms of what people engage with more? According to WeWork’s head of social Tim Fullerton, images are best for a regular in-feed Instagram post, but videos are much more engaging for stories.

On New and Different Platforms, Including IGTV

R.I.P. Snapchat — our brand marketers agreed that Snapchat isn’t a high priority for their audience engagements, partially due to the redesign disaster that epically failed users and investors alike in 2018, but also because the “barrier to entry is now higher” for users on Snapchat, according to panelist Vin Nucatola, Senior Content Creator for Thrillist, and also because Snapchat is now an app “for teenagers who want to have a private chat versus building a public community.”

What’s the future of IGTV for branded content? For WeWork’s concern over engagement rates, Fullerton notes that pictures with the staff always perform better than pictures of just the work spaces alone, and that as a brand they are still waiting to see where IGTV will lead them. “We’re not sure where it will go, but our live streams have been very successful.”

Jackie Gebel, founder of No Leftovers, states that “IGTV is more like Youtube in terms of format, but you can curate your story videos with the Highlights function, which kind of conflicts with the IGTV function at times.”

On Getting High Engagement Rates

For A+E Networks, engagement strategy hits close to home for a television network constantly striving for high Nielsen audience ratings. “Any feed should be beautiful and engaging, and for stories, we like to have a gamification element to get the viewer to want to ‘scratch an itch’,” says A+E’s Creative Director of Social Media Shawn Hollenbach.

“We don’t have a lot of IGTV engagement just yet. Youtube content performs very well on IGTV, but the conversion size just sucks.” He also notes that live streams perform very well, and specifically references a time when John Stamos took over the A+E account to live stream during a premiere event. Hollenbach suggests that engagement is best when the talent is holding the camera directly, vertically, as if they were taking a selfie.

From the perspective of Thrillist, Nucatola suggests gathering all the content needed upfront, and then to resize it to fit various platforms all at once. How you distribute that content depends on the length of engagement time, whether it’s a static photo, a 10 second video, or a 1 minute video. “Always use the shorter posts to leave a cliffhanger to serve as a teaser for the longer form videos.” He notes that the team at Group Nine Media is able to get very granular audience segments for paid ad targeting, like “women who are planning bachelorette parties,” for example.

What About the Data and Reporting?

“Engagement is the number one goal,” states Hollenbach. For most brands, engagement is measured on Instagram as the likes and comments, divided by the number of followers. 1–2% is average, and anything above that is great.

“Each post is measured by our analytics team that gives us weekly reports on which content is performing the best and which is the worst.” Hollenbach shares that it’s difficult to manage a big team at times, with A+E Networkshaving over 20+ accounts for various shows at any one time. He laughs, stating that using the business account metrics, he copies the data on the performance of each and every post, and puts it into a spreadsheet to try to decipher exactly why a post is successful or not. “It’s a lot.”

For the social team at WeWork, the data reporting is helped along by a platform called Dash Hudson, which helps measure social media R.O.I. “It gives us analytics on the stories, average reach, average impressions, and we can see the exit point of story viewer. Additionally, we can see what larger influential accounts are driving traffic to ours,” says Fullerton.

Gebel of No Leftovers says she appreciates Instagram’s business analytics reporting itself. “A lot of my content looks exactly the same over a period of two years, but analytics says it performs really well every time.”

“We’ve been building our audience for 10 years,” shares Nucatola. “That requires us to respect the tastes of that original audience. Measuring engagement allows us to make sure we do that.” According to him, Thrillistwants each post to resonate with an emotion. “Brands approach us because they want our voice and our creative viewpoint. For a recent Hilton campaign, we measured completion rate and video click through rate. Every frame has to be perfect.”

What’s the Content Strategy?

Each of the panelist notes that, because of the rapid pace of social media, culture change, and news, it’s important to not plan content too far in advance.

Fullerton shares that WeWork had its most successful social boost from a content that was created out of leftover event pins. “We tested a giveaway where a viewer had to tag three friends, and then we put some money behind it and promoted it as an ad campaign. It gained us 5,000 followers in a few days which remains the top performing post for the last year.”

“What do I want this post to create?” rhetorically asks Nucatola. “Nostalgia, and a little bit of disagreement.” He points to a Thrillist example where they could post a picture of a plate of ribs with the caption, “The best damn ribs in the country right now,” to create just enough dissonance among commenters.

“Finally, we need to have posts that attempt to smash conventional wisdom, like putting tacos on top of a pizza. A little shock value.”

Hollenbach says to “let data be your creative director,” and that the strategy at A+E Networks for their slew of show accounts is to post like they are fans of the show themselves. “Post like your friends would post,” in order to be more relatable.

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