Episode Transcript — Leveraging UGC for Higher Brand Engagement w/ David Shadpour of Social Native
00:01 Announcer: You're listening to The Spend $10K a Day podcast. Brought to you by the performance marketing experts at MuteSix. This is your source for cutting edge insight into the world of online advertising. From the team with more Facebook case studies than any other agency on the planet. Here are your hosts, Steve Weiss and Stewart Anderson.
00:26 Stewart Anderson: Welcome back to The Spend $10k a day podcast. I'm Stewart Anderson, here from MuteSix. Steve will be returning for an upcoming episode. Today, it is our distinct pleasure to have David Shadpour, the CEO and Co-Founder of Social Native, here and joining us in the show. David, thank you for joining us.
00:43 David Shadpour: Thanks for having me.
00:44 SA: So, David, we've been really excited to talk to you. Social Native's doing some really cool things in branded content. Talk to me a little bit about a high level overview of what Social Native is, what it does, give us the elevator pitch on Social Native.
01:01 DS: Sure. To prep this and give you guys some context, I would think of Social Native like many other businesses that have created gig economies. So you look at companies like Uber, look at companies like Airbnb, there's an opportunity for all of us to create a world where average consumers are empowered to give you a ride, to house you in their homes or whatever may be by us, and the Social Native mission is to empower average consumers like you and me, to create high quality and high performing branded content. So that means taking what used to be Don Draper, a photoshoot, lighting, cameraman, models, photoshop, and compress all that into an iPhone in your back pocket.
01:48 SA: Sounds great. It's like the democratization of marketing content. [chuckle]
01:53 DS: 100%, it completely is, and I think the beauty of democratizing different ecosystems, in our case, being branded content, is the byproduct. It's not just faster and cheaper, but it's actually better. It's performing better for brands, so when brands are taking those assets and reusing them, it's engaging people on a one-to-one level, which is the whole purpose of advertising in the first place. You wanna get out there and touch people and speak to them and relate to them, so that ability to activate your customers themselves, to create content that's gonna resonate has become this whole new world of opportunity for brands.
02:29 SA: Yeah, it's something we see a lot on the ad side. When we're constructing campaigns and testing out how that works, occasionally, you're gonna have something that's like a super polish video that might appeal to people, but a lot of time would really, I think drive results, especially more cost effective results, is things like user-generated content, stuff that looks to borrow kind of your company's name, something that looks socially native, something that looks native to a social feed. That stuff really, really resonates because it allows people to learn about a product without making them feel like they're being sold to. So, I definitely fully understand kind of what you guys are doing. I'd be interested in... I mean, the first question I have is, how do you see most brands that use your platform use the content that they're getting from these consumers? Is it more for organic social content? Are they putting this out on traditional platforms? Are they reusing it in advertisements? How are most of the brands using your content?
03:26 DS: So, when we first started out, the concept was to reuse these assets across social channels that would be paid and owned, and the logic was very simple. Why do you go to social channels in the first place? You go there to see content made by your friends and family, that content is not high production content, it's user generated content made on someone's phone. And so brands wanted to ride that wave and we empowered them to do that, and that was the beginning where it was, "Hey, I need creative to go on my assets on a daily basis. I want creative to be different on Facebook and Instagram and all that kinda stuff." And that was the beginning, but it's taken a life of its own well beyond anything I would have initially anticipated. So what happened was brands, this is the real story, a top five automotive company puts an asset made by Social Native on their Instagram feed, someone at the company sees that creative and says, "Hey, that's really good creative. We should put that in our print ad."
04:27 DS: And before we knew it, Social Native content was living in a two-page print out in the Wall Street Journal. Now, we're starting to see our creative living on billboards, and I think some of the things that have me most excited, one of our clients, Polaroid, is actually using the creative on the packaging itself. So, you walk into a Mac store and you look at Polaroid devices, which is somewhat ironic, because Polaroids used to create content and the content living on that packaging was made by average consumers like you and me via Social Native.
04:56 SA: Wow, that's pretty impressive. It's gotta be surreal kind of going and walking into an Apple store and seeing some package on a huge company's product and something that you created put it there. It's very cool. So, I think tying it back to digital where MuteSix focuses a lot, what kind of brands, you just mentioned automotive, you mentioned Polaroid, what types of brands are really seeing a lot of success using this kinda content? Is it larger brands, is it smaller brands? Are you... Is this something that kind of ties the market together? Is it something that companies at every stage of the market can utilize well?
05:39 DS: Yes, there's no discrimination in terms of company size by us, vertical specific, CPG, retail, fashion, beauty, auto, these happen to be categories that are very successful, namely, because they're very visual. So it's a lot easier to go out there and create images, short form video, stop motion around consumer packaged goods, which most folks have a Coca-Cola in their fridge or a Chiquita banana on their counter. And so, that's really been the vast majority of what we do. But can you collaborate with the B2B companies like Intel and other folks in that genre? For sure, Intel's an example of one of our existing clients, but for the most part, it really has a lot to do with what are those things that are sitting in the back pocket of average consumers that they already love, and that advocacy is what we're empowering. So, think of this way, you are wearing a pair of shoes right now. Let's say they're Nikes. There's no reason why Nike wouldn't want to activate you to create some great content for them. And if that creative is actually going to perform better in their Facebook ad, than the creative they're spending a lot of money to create in-house or wherever, it almost becomes a no brainer.
06:56 SA: Yeah, no, it makes sense. And to get an idea of, again, usage. I'm sure you've probably worked with some of your... Especially larger advertisers with bigger budgets, to get an idea of how this content fits into their overall budget. Have you had any insight at all into how much real estate within that budget, this sort of content is getting? Is it 10%, 20%, or is this something that these brands are mostly keeping pretty guarded.
07:26 DS: There's definitely an evolution, and every brand is different. So some brands are more innovative and are trying to find new ways to create and spread the word. Others are still antiquated in the way they think of these things. I would try to compare this to the early YouTube days. When YouTube first came out, it was almost a joke. It was like, I'm not going to put my brand on a kid parodying the National Anthem on YouTube, like you can't put pre-roll before that type of thing. But now YouTube has become this line item that even during Super Bowl people are fighting to get on the homepage of.
08:01 DS: So, the same logic and history is happening here. Where in the beginning this concept of going out and getting your consumers to create content that you could one day reuse them, in your website or in an ad or wherever seemed too foreign, and folks are slowly adopting and now it's almost becoming a line item for them all. I will tell you, the general tone of what I hear in the market is a vast majority of the budget's going to that flagship content, for that TV spot, right, and that's the way they've been doing it for a long time and they are slowly buying more, more into this concept of user generated content, and the proof is in the Super Bowl.
08:39 DS: So, you've got this big Super Bowl spot coming out. Kraft has a pretty large campaign, where they're getting their customers to go out and create content and then using that to fuel the Super Bowl spot. We're gonna see more and more of that as time goes on. Where there's gonna be conversions almost of these big tangible assets that historically have been the big bread and butter, to bringing UGC into that genre. When, and how, and how much, and how long is still yet to be determined.
09:06 SA: Yeah, it makes sense to me. It fits into... You know, for our campaigns we deal with a lot of clients that have existing brand awareness. Some, who are brand new and even some whose products are really brand new to the market. People don't even know that that stuff is available out there. And where UGC has fit in most successfully for us is a lot of that mid-funnel content. Things like testimonials, things like people unbox or something, or demonstrating how something works. Especially, when it's not just a professionally done, when it's, as you said, somebody who is being activated, somebody who is an existing customer creating that content. The mid-funnel content is really where we're seeing most success with that. People, maybe they saw an ad previously that first got them attracted or interested and then we're hitting them with these ads that are showing that, "Hey! This is what somebody who uses it feels about the product or this is how somebody is using the product."
10:00 SA: Gives them kind of an image of like, "Oh okay, this is how I could see myself feeling about it or using it." For a larger brand that has brand awareness, you've mentioned Kraft, we talked about Coca-Cola earlier. We talked about big automotive. These are all companies that have brand awareness and what they need from a branding standpoint is almost the equivalent of this mid-funnel content. It's just the reminder that, "Hey, this is a cool brand that everybody knows, it's extremely successful. Maybe you should go the next time you're at the supermarket consider getting some Kraft Mac & Cheese, or buying a six pack of Coca-Cola, or the next time you're in the market for a car, buying a Dodge, or a Nissan, or what have you."
10:35 SA: So, we see... From what we're seeing on our side with Facebook ad campaigns, performance Facebook ad campaigns, what you're saying makes total sense and it's really interesting to hear about how this is translating on the big brands side. Because these are the companies that are really... A lot of the younger, newer companies that are digitally native especially. They're coming of age during a time when Facebook ads have been around for the entire lifetime of that business. So, now when we deal with these bigger brands who have gone through every iteration of the advertising landscape, the marketing landscape, they've had to adjust significantly based on the trends in the market and it's really interesting to see how they're adapting and how direct response advertising campaigns that we're running for small e-commerce brands that are growing and growing, growing are mere in tactics for some of these big brands that aren't even focused on DR, they're focused on brand and actually getting DR results out of them. Really, really interesting.
11:39 DS: And I'll throw another little idea at you which I always... For me personally and at Social Native, there's been a big emphasis on the bigger brands and mid-size brands. But I'll tell you a personal story with my wife who started a new business called wolfandcub.co, which is just this baby teething necklace company, and it was an idea she had, and she had the entrepreneurial spirit, but we unlocked Social Native to create content for this new business of hers. So every asset that she's ever created in her company's history is all UGC made by customers. She's never done a photoshoot, she's never hired an outside third party and she doesn't create any content in-house. It's all content made by customers. That's the new digital era, the new Facebook ad world, where from day one, you go to that website, you go to her Facebook page, you look at her ad campaigns. It all looks and feels like it was made by moms, which is a bit of her tagline, right, made by moms for moms. But it really is made by moms, not just the product and her, but even all the contents of that brand is made by fellow moms.
12:48 SA: That's really interesting, it's a very effective tactic for that market too. Really effective. So, what kind of content are they mostly producing, is it a lot of testimonial content, is it people just talking about the product in general? What content is she finding most effective?
13:05 DS: So, it's across the board for pretty much all the brands. Our platform is based on a credits model. So you'll come in and you'll buy a certain amount of credits and then you'll go out and create different types of assets, depending on your wants and needs. Those assets could be images, those images could be lifestyle or overlay or anything the brand desires, then there's the video section, which you can do testimonials, you can do stop motion, things like that and then you've got folks who, especially on the performance side on Facebook, who've really got into adding motion to images, so there you'd either have folks go out and create images and then add motion to it or you'd provide images and have our marketplace add motion to that, so it's across the gamut. We haven't done anything yet in editorial contents, so for now, it's highly visual.
13:55 SA: It's very cool, very cool. And what do you see is the... What are you guys looking to expand on currently in your platform? Are you looking to offer more features in terms of what sort of assets people can utilize in these videos, are you looking to expand into different types of content? Talk to me about where Social Native is going over the next six months, a year, or two years?
14:18 DS: Our focus is mainly around creating high performing content. So what that means is, you come into this engine what we refer to internally as our content engine, and you start creating assets. Let's say short form video. You feed that short form video directly into Facebook, or a Facebook partner, and Twitter, and many other platforms, where we can directly export all these assets that we've made for you into your Facebook ads manager. From there, as you or your partners are buying ads, Social Native is tracking the performance of those ads and in doing so, changing both who we invite to create content for the brand, and qualitative aspects of the creative.
15:02 DS: So, what that means is, let's say, we're trying to sell baby teething necklaces and we create 100 assets and your team is going out and buying Facebook ads across these assets, we'll start learning and understanding, "Oh, look at that, all the content that had two babies in it are performing better than the assets that have one." Where all the assets where the mom is wearing the necklace is performing better when she's not, that type of thing. And those are qualitative aspects of creative that today people aren't diving into and then actually changing creative almost in real time on the course of few hours and changing their ad buying model. So for us, we gave you 100, we studied the 20 best performers, we changed the creative brief, we made 100 new assets, we feed those new assets to your Facebook ad campaign and now we're monitoring the convergence from there. Does that make sense?
15:53 SA: Yeah. Absolutely. And it's great that you can actually measure for convergence as well, you can measure via ads, 'cause a lot of the stuff that I've seen when I talk to the content creators or influencer marketing platforms, things like that, things that are tangentially related to what you guys do but not the same thing, a lot of the time you're like, "Yeah, you can measure based on click-through rate," or some of the things that I just... They're useful metrics, but when you're doing performance marketing like we do, it's not what we're really looking at.
16:21 SA: We'd rather have a low click-through rate, high conversion rate, high return on ad spends. So it's good that you can actually track conversions. And I'm really interested to hear a little bit more about... What you were talking about qualitative measurement of creative, you mentioned the example of two babies versus one baby being better in these creative ads, is there the ability yet to auto optimize? How is that data framed? Or is it done by tagging specific videos in certain ways, is it something that the video... Does it self-analyze? Talk to me a little bit of how that works.
16:54 DS: Yeah, so there's a few data points. The first data point is, who created the assets? And how does that influence things? And we had found redundancies there, where for example, creative made by a certain demographic is performing better than creative made by others. So that in and of itself is really interesting. For example, creative made by moms may be performing better than creative made by dads. Maybe we should be inviting more moms to create content for the brand. And then on top of that, you start looking at the qualitative aspects of creative. That has everything to do with some of this new technologies, like image recognition technology. So for us, when we push our content through this image recognition technology, we are learning things like the simple things that we mentioned, whether it has two babies or a hand and a foot or whatever those things are, but also different aspects of lighting and colors and so on. And that changes the brief. So what happens is, when you find redundancies and conversions based on qualitative aspects, you wanna emphasize those aspect in the new brief. Now, I'll give you a real world example that can help shed some light on this.
18:02 DS: We have a massive direct response advertiser who spends about $50-$100 million a year on Facebook ads. We created about 100 assets for them that they ran Facebook ads against and we learned that the creative that had a hand in it was performing better than when there was the whole individual's body, or no body at all. So imagine, just a product shot, or someone holding the product, for whatever reason it was not converting as well as just a hand holding that product. And so, we changed our entire brief. We went out and we asked people to create content just holding the product in their hand, take a snap an image holding that product in their hand and then we got a little creative and said things like, "Well, let's have people wear nail polish and let's test and see how that does." And as a result, the brand earned a 22% increase in conversions. When you're spending $50 million a year on Facebook, and you can increase your conversions by that number, that is beyond massive.
19:00 SA: Yeah, that's a big number. [laughter]
19:04 DS: For us, it's like, "Oh, there is a science here of removing the subjectivity from creative and adding some science around performance."
19:13 SA: Yeah. That sort of result is massive. I can tell you, and this speaks to the value of what you guys do, there's a lot of factors, obviously, that go into driving high performance on Facebook, which is what we focus on here. Obviously, you need to have somebody who knows the platform, the mechanics of it. What buttons to push, what levers to pull at the right time. You need to know somebody who can write good ad copy. You need to know somebody who really understands pain points and needs, wants, desires. But really, I mean, when we people ask our leading campaign managers, or our CEO, or me, or whoever, what the biggest drivers of differing results are, in Facebook and Instagram ads, we always tell them, it's like, creative really, really does drive the difference.
20:01 SA: It's why we've invested so much in a creative team here. And what you're talking about the subtle differences between two different types of creative. Something you might look and say, "There's really no major difference to me." It really is a science. And you have to test it, and having these capabilities directly within your platform is really great. We've burned through a lot of time here, I don't wanna keep you for too long. David, I'd love to ask, just before I give you a chance to just pitch Social Native again, tell me if you had to give a couple of main takeaways for advertisers looking to really make good use of UGC content on Facebook, on Instagram, anywhere on social, what would those main takeaways be?
20:48 DS: Yeah, so the way to wrap your mind around creative today, or at least the way that I see folks doing it is they are taking a highly subjective approach. "I like this. I don't like that. This is on brand. That's off brand." And I get it. I'm with you. We work with some of the largest advertisers in the world, they have a lot of rules. I understand them. But the key time and time again to performance has always been giving people creative freedom and they will surprise you. They will blow you away. If we use Polaroid as an example, you can tell the audience base, "Create content of my product, and it has to be like this and you have to hold it like that and the lighting has to be like this." Or you can empower people and say, "Share, create content about why you love our products." And they will blow you away. We had a challenge here internally where we had an oil company that said they wanted women to create content around their product, changing the oil in their cars. And it was a friend of mine who works at this brand and I honestly thought it was a prank. I thought he was messing with me. But he wasn't. It was a real deal and we didn't have any ideas.
22:04 DS: You know, like the brainstorm on the brief. But the whole pitch on my end was, we're not the ones to come up with this idea, and neither are you, let's empower your customers to come up with their own ideas. And this one young lady created some content of her car, the hood was open, she was changing the oil. It was a great asset, but nothing wild, but the caption read, "I just paid my mechanic to take photos of me. Girl power." And it was phenomenal. It was absolutely phenomenal. The brand fell in love with it, and put a massive amount of media dollars behind it and it performed astronomically better than their internal benchmarks. The point there is that I know we have all these guidelines and rules that we built for our brand and they're important, but as soon as we create just even the tiniest amount of flexibility, we create an enormous world of creative that we can leverage in ways that we want. Where, you can't force spirality, you can't write a recipe for how you're gonna make your content do phenomenal, you just have to allow people to find that for you.
23:08 SA: I love that, yeah. It's a great takeaway, certainly something we agree with here at MuteSix. So now David, I wanna give you the chance in two parts to pitch Social Native. If you are a consumer looking to create some great content for brands that you love, what should you do to get involved on the Social Native platform?
23:29 DS: And so, I would encourage folks to go to the website socialnative.com, sign up as a creator. At this time there is a pretty large waiting list, so I would ask folks to be patient. On our end, like any good marketplace, supply and demand is challenging. There's always back and forths, where sometimes you have more supply and other times you have more demand. But I would get onboard and sign up and upload any assets that you've made in the past that indicate your abilities, 'cause at the end of the day we are looking for people who have a natural talent.
24:01 SA: That sounds great. And similarly, if I'm an advertiser and I'm looking to make great use of UGC content that's already out there waiting to be activated, who should I get in touch with at Social Native or where on your website should I go to work with your team right away?
24:15 DS: With advertisers, I would recommend you just email advertiser@socialnative, and you'll get introduced to the team. You can always email me directly, email@example.com, and for the advertising role, I would highly recommend that they take a moment to think about themselves as consumers. Take off the brand hat and ask yourself, what would you pay most attention to in your day-to-day life, when you're sitting there on Facebook? As a consumer flipping through photos from your buddy from high school and your ex-girlfriend and your grandma and there's all these UGC living on that channel, what do you really think is going to be the best experience on that platform? And that's really when people start opening their minds and their hearts to this concept and I can tell you that some of our best brand advertisers happen to also be creators in the marketplace, which is unreal. So imagine you get in front of a room of a hundred big brands and someone raises their hand and says, "You know what, I actually participated in the Brita initiative." or "Hey, I did the Barbie campaign with my kids and it was phenomenal." So that type of thing for me is very exciting, where we realize, the very same people that are in charge of advertising can very well be the same people that are going out there and creating content in this marketplace.
25:32 SA: I love that. I love that. David, thank you so much for coming on the show, David Shadpour, the CEO of Social Native, a company that MuteSix has a great collaborative relationship with. If you are at all interested, if you think you might be interested, please go to socialnative.com and check them out. David and his team have built something really, really fantastic and it's creating some great assets for us to use on the advertising side. This has been another episode of The Spend $10K a day Podcast. If you have any questions about anything related to Facebook ads, e-commerce, or something that we've discussed on the show, you can always email me or Steve. That's firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We will see you again soon for another great episode.