Shocase, the professional social network for marketers, arrived on the scene just over a year ago. Buoyed by financial backing and a mission to be the best place to showcase great creativity, the network has grown to over 90,000 members in 129 countries.
At launch, some of the biggest names in advertising came on board, with the likes of Lee Clow, Jimmy Smith, Susan Hoffman, Chuck McBride and Jason Harris — with more superstar names gracing the platform every day.
When it first launched, the question of “why do we need this? I already have too many social networks to deal with” came up (Disclaimer: I was in that camp, initially). In the first year, however, Shocase founder Ron Young noticed there was a social gap in the marketing community — one that demanded a cohesive destination for all — that was being filled.
“We have advertising, public relations, design of all kinds, packaging, digital marketing, sales,” Young noted. “We wanted this to be for all of marketing — and it’s exciting and encouraging to see all of these disciplines coming together in one place.”
In some ways, it was a gap that people didn’t realize needed filling with the raft of portfolio tools and networking sites in existence. But where Shocase excelled from the jump was the quality of people on the platform and laser focus on the work and portfolios. It wasn’t just about the big names and legends of advertising and marketing, Young noted.
Additionally, the aggregation of the “best of the best” in marketing has given Shocase an inside track to becoming a preferred destination for the marketing world. At present, it is a dense mix of creative, thought leadership (Shocase has 130+ industry thought leaders on their roster) and sharing of portfolios and interesting marketing articles. It’s not just about showing the work, it’s about, as Young put it, “showcasing the world’s creativity.” Though it has seen strong growth (based on company data, Shocase’s pages per session has been strong in its first year and is closing in on Github and LinkedIn), Young acknowledged that the platform is still getting its sea-legs and is only about 30 per cent “feature-complete.”
Young continued: “I do believe the Shocase wants to, and will, get better. We have a product roadmap, that shows 11 features, and we’ve only introduced the first three and a half of that 11. I know where we're going — and where we're going is to be an everyday app, and it's very exciting.”
The road to becoming an everyday app and platform
Becoming an “everyday” is the promised land for any app or platform, and there are clearly some ideas that both Young and prominent users feel can lift them to that level.
Rebecca Armstrong, managing director of North, in Portland, Ore, feels that it initially comes down to behavior and quality.
“A year into it, it’s getting a very solid list of high-quality people on board,” said Armstrong. “I think that maintaining its high design and presentation standards are critical and it really comes down to people getting into the Shocase habit and conditioning themselves to thinking, ‘I have some good work to share, it has to go on Shocase.'”
Rob Palmer, chief marketing and creative officer of FUHU agrees that quality is key, but that expanding the notion of “celebrating the world’s creativity” should have a much wider berth and definition by adding others who wouldn’t necessarily be considered “creative.”
“Earlier in my career, we used to do this thing where, before I would hire an account person, I wanted them to bring me their portfolio of pieces — of projects that they worked on,” said Palmer. “I would say ‘Hey, you were part of that? Good for you, you helped make that happen.’ I think if account people start posting work that they did as well, I think it could become a little creative buzz-house and everybody would be rallying around the same thing. I think that's how it would become more of a daily visit, an inspirational, ‘what's going on out there’ type thing no matter where it came from. And then you've got more than just creatives looking at it.”
Armstrong added, “Account people won’t change the quality necessarily, as long as they’re sharing the work in strong way.”
For all of the “warm fuzzies” that sharing and collaborating brings, Palmer believes that adding a dose of productive criticism may be an important addition to the mix.
“I think it’s great that we’re celebrating the work, but I do think that it would be perfectly acceptable to be critical as well,” noted Palmer. “Criticism, done right, in our business, can be a powerful thing — a positive — and I think there is room for that as the platform evolves.”
Serving both stars and youth
Palmer also indicated that there was even more room for younger pros in the industry to get involved, without fear or intimidation, but with one small caveat.
“If you’re a junior and a top creative is on the front page, you might be afraid to put something out there,” said Palmer. “But if the work is really good, you have a great opportunity to get in front of one of the more important people in the business.”
Young echoes the sentiment, and adds that the interaction is certainly a two-way street.
“I think every young person wants to become the seasoned genius that you see,” said Young. “We've attracted more than our share of rock stars. That's good but that doesn't mean that the young people cannot be inspired, actually make contact with them, look at the other people that they work with — and interact with them — and take case studies and morph them for their own use. Young people don't necessarily just want to see young people's work, they want to see experienced and younger people's work and glean inspiration from everywhere.”
Debra Carney, Shocase senior director of marketing, sees an even more important aspect of new up-and-comers working with and engaging in the platform.
“When you’re in college, or art or advertising school, you may not know that much about networking,” said Carney. “Every job, you meet people, and you learn. Those are the people you could be working with five years from now, so it’s important to understand how important it is to network well. This is both a social network, and a professional network, built specifically for that, to advance careers. If I can help them and teach them the tool, and how to do that, it's so powerful to see them.”
And the proof of its value is already evident at this early stage, some time after Carney spoke in front of a group of students at an art university.
“In New York, recently, I saw this girl who approached me, very excited. She said ‘oh my gosh! I did everything you said. I've been reaching out to people on the network, and been talking to them. Now, I'm showing my book around, going around to agencies — and I'm so happy.’ Just hearing one person that you helped, and that what you shared resonated with them, reminds me of why I am doing this in the first place.”
What’s next — year two?
The next steps and evolution of Shocase remain a bit of a mystery, though a new recruiting feature will prove to be prominent. Moreover, creating more bespoke content and experiences appear to be a hallmark moving forward.
Rich Silverstein, co-chairman, creative director and one of the founders of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, recently graced the network’s feed in an interesting video, hosted by Young, that gave a peek behind the curtain on how San Francisco and the Bay Area ended up getting the most recent Super Bowl. Podcasts, hosted by Carney, are also beginning to emerge. Shocase is also beginning to spread the gospel in person, with a recent salon in San Francisco, featuring high-level marketing pros, proving quite popular.
Young also hinted at increased investment to further the mission. “We’re still tiny, but we now have investors from some very highly-placed people at major companies who see the real value in it, not just for themselves, but for everyone in the industry.”
Carney, who feels tailor-made as Shocase’s marketing leader due to all of her past experiences coming together, has learned a great deal in Shocase’s maiden year — and sees year two coming down to some very simple ideas.
“I would love to see more and more people get on the platform from all disciplines from all over the world, quite simply,” said Carney. “And, of course, we’d be very happy building out even more revenue.”