LONDON: In the quest to break through online clutter, brands need to challenge the capabilities and restrictions of social media formats in order to surprise consumers with something new, an AKQA planner has said.

Speaking at the IAB’s Social Media Evolution conference in London this August, Aviory Gaw, Associate Planning Director at AKQA, charted the development of social media for brands and suggested what must be done to keep social fresh.

Social has come a long way from its early incarnations, built around communities and brands’ effort to acquire followers, likes and shares.

Such quantifiable metrics seemed to make sense at the time but it rapidly became apparent that their significance was overstated. “We didn’t know what the value of a like was, and we needed to find out what it really meant for us,” said Gaw.

The truth of social in 2017 is that there are rules accompanying the big media spend, and yet platforms shift and change constantly. What’s more, social must sit within the brand’s entire media mix as a seamless articulation of the story it is trying to sell across touchpoints.

But Gaw believes that the best brands can be seamless and disruptive. Indeed, marketers should challenge “the tool you’re given”. (For more read WARC’s exclusive report: How the best social campaigns break platforms.)

Those producing exemplary work are, she said, “the people who see the format, see it as a guideline, and then challenge themselves to see how they can break the format, and use the format in a completely different way”.

For instance, Denny’s, the US diner brand used Twitter’s photo zoom feature – introduced this March – to play a joke on followers.

Elsewhere, an unknown luxury brand, Evaus, convinced influencers that a cheap shampoo – Unilever brand Suave – could still deliver results.

The true value of social as a mature medium, Gaw concluded, is its impact on the way businesses are now born and built. In the example of beauty brand, Glossier, a blog beloved of its followers became a product company serving an established need, a company “literally built out of the voice of the community,” Gaw said.

Data sourced from WARC