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Flip that phone around: the future of social is vertical

By Claire Delplancq | Digital account director

Porter Novelli


The Drum Network article

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February 25, 2022 | 6 min read

TikTok’s vertical videos have revolutionized the game, ‘inspiring’ almost identical formats across almost every social media platform. It’s a major opportunity for marketers, argues Porter Novelli’s digital account director Claire Delplancq: with the same aspect ratio across platforms, a single piece of creative can go further than before. But if social’s remaking itself in TikTok’s image, what does that mean for marketers and brands?

Porter Novelli on how and why brands should embrace using TikTok.

Porter Novelli on how and why brands should embrace using TikTok

You know something’s shifting in the social media landscape when Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, says that it’s ‘no longer a photo-sharing app’ and acknowledges that TikTok is ahead when it comes to entertainment and videos.

Like many people during the first lockdown, I joined TikTok out of boredom. It was an overwhelming multisensorial experience at first: the music was blasting, and people were dancing all over my screen. I didn’t feel like I belonged and immediately closed the app, swearing to never open it again... Fast forward to a couple of months later, the digital specialist in me couldn’t help but wonder why more and more people of all ages were obsessed with it. So I re-joined and, after 20 minutes of scrolling, just like that my obsession with vertical videos began.

With some of the main social media platforms shifting to vertical video-first, how can companies optimize the transition to joining them?

Embrace the opportunity to expand across multiple platforms

The 9:16 aspect ratio isn’t new. Its popularity grew with the launch of Snapchat in 2011, and in 2016 Instagram launched Stories. Fast forward to 2020 and the boom of TikTok, when Instagram launched Reels and YouTube launched its Shorts feature a few months later.

The format is identical across those platforms, so there’s an incredible opportunity for companies to expand the reach of their content and messages if they’re willing to dedicate efforts to developing creative authentic vertical videos. As it happens, reuse and recycle are also applicable to digital content.

Move away from perfection

After almost two years spent in sweatpants working from home, the perfectly curated content some brands are sharing is becoming less and less relatable. Our lives are messy and imperfect, and content trends reflect that. On TikTok, people are candid about life struggles, from mental health to relationships and everything in between. On Instagram, the ‘photo dump’ trend is sending us back to the early days of the platform when we only used it to show what we had for lunch and share pictures of our cats.

This gives brands the chance to demonstrate how their products can realistically fit into people’s lives and prove to a customer with two children under two, or one with a recent ADHD diagnosis, that they can help them improve their daily routine. Making it realistic, raw and accessible is an excellent way to get the attention and engagement of millennials and gen Z.

Prioritize authentic partnership

We’ve discussed the power of authentic partnership before. I couldn’t write an article about vertical videos without mentioning everyone’s favorite train aficionado, Francis Bourgeois. He perfectly illustrates the importance of authentic partnerships in social media influencer marketing. Francis recently became the face of Gucci and The North Face.

One may wonder how a trainspotter goes from cheering the honk of a Class 43 HST to modeling for a luxury brand. The reality is most people are now looking for comfort and function when shopping for clothes and accessories, so showing someone doing what they love most in a Gucci outfit makes a brand considered out of reach by most seem accessible, relatable and down with the kids.

Younger audiences have grown with the internet and are not as trusting as we once were when it comes to celebrity product endorsements. Getting a couple of Love Island contestants to post about a health supplement they’re probably not even using won’t cut it any more. People crave wholesomeness, passion, relatability and talent, especially when it comes to influencer partnerships.

Deliver impact with content, not ads

‘Don’t make ads. Make TikTok videos.’ is the first thing you see on TikTok For Business’s landing page. For companies, it means shifting away from perfectly directed and edited videos to increase engagement and conversions. Producing a vertical version of a TV or YouTube ad won’t get you as much attention as embracing the platform’s trends.

A recent French Red Cross (La Croix Rouge) TikTok campaign highlights the impact a trend-driven initiative can have on a targeted audience and an entire country. In France, the government is aiming to train 80% of the population in first aid. In order to support this objective and train younger people, the French Red Cross created the #PLSChallenge. They worked with four influencers who created TikTok dances using CPR moves, reaching a combined 7 million followers. France’s population is around 67 million, so that’s more than 10% of the country reached.

So, is TikTok the right platform for every brand? Maybe not.

Should your next paid campaign be on Snapchat? Only if that’s where your target audience is.

Should you aim to be more authentic, transparent and relatable, and embrace the imperfection and messiness of social media to build trust with your customers and create an engaged community? Absolutely.

Marketing Social Media Marketing Instagram

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Porter Novelli

Porter Novelli is the strategic communications company built on purpose to do business better. The way we bring this to life in EMEA is by closing the say-do gap - to create deeply authentic influence and advocacy campaigns. Our key capability areas are; brand growth, corporate counsel, employee engagement and purpose & impact.

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