Interview: Why Audience and Social Media Development Are Crucial To Brand Building
Before taking the stage at PSFK's CXI 2018 conference, co-founder and CEO of Everybody At Once Kenyatta Cheese discusses how his agency builds brand audiences by treating engagement as a relationship rather than a transaction
In today’s world of social media and niche audiences, building a brand is not a one-sided endeavor; rather, it’s a dynamic process, a conversation that takes place between a brand and its audience. Consumers aren’t just buyers: They’re complete lifestyles, into which businesses have to fit what they’re selling.
For these reason, understanding how brands connect with their audiences is more crucial than ever to growing a business. Everybody At Once (EA1) is an agency that understands this, specializing in audience development and social media strategy for brand building. Ahead of his upcoming speech onstage at PSFK’s CXI 2018 conference on May 18, EA1 co-founder and CEO Kenyatta Cheese spoke to PSFK founder and editor-in-chief about how his company uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative expertise to help its clients grow some of the largest, most engaged fan communities on the Internet, redefining industry standards along the way.
Piers: How has the landscape of your work to help brands connect with audiences changed over the past few years?
Kenyatta: Things that seemed novel a couple of years ago have become givens. Fan culture powers the biggest entertainment brands. Moms wield memes. Every brand, from CPG to finance has a repository of on-brand, usable gifs. Bad actors have turned clickbait into ideological IEDs. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become so embedded in our day to day experience that they are no longer escapes from the physical world. They have become our de facto private-public social infrastructure even if their benefits aren’t evenly distributed. The funny thing is that none of this is new—it’s just an intensification of what was going on in 2015.
If anything, it’s turned a lot of the things that felt more ephemeral into solids. Fan culture is more visible. Treating engagement as a relationship instead of a number makes sense now. Solids have been good. A client can see solids. They can put resources behind a solid. The cultural relevance will always be in the ephemeral, though.
How has your firm adapted to these changes?
For the most part, this change has brought the opportunity to move both up and down the product chain. We were already working with partners who were willing to look past the single transaction and build sustained relationships with fans. Now, we’re becoming more involved in every aspect of the campaign and the product—audience development is no longer the last mile, relegated to an afterthought. Now it’s seen as a major driver of customer satisfaction. If we can re-cast the fan, the user, the customer as a stakeholder, we can change the relationship and better meet expectations.
Now we deliver insights into the entire chain, from assessing the social equity of a project before it is greenlit to making recommendations on set if it’s a content project. We’re advising DPs on shots that’ll make the best gifs and helping writers’ rooms monitor fan conversation for context. If it’s product, we’re helping teams develop methods for managing user feedback at scale. We’re developing the content and targeting for paid spends so that the excitement a person has encountering an asset is followed up with a experience once they come over to social or digital or out to one of our events. We’re talking with sales about which brands pop up most often among our audiences, so that they know who to talk to about partnerships. We’re also spending more time doing organizational change—going from a content-centric orientation to one that’s more audience or customer-centric is no small feat. Fortunately, a lot of it requires new skills, but not necessarily new people.
What will you share at the upcoming conference this May?
People tend to mistake media for social media like they’re mistaking egg for eggplant—they use the same words but one is content and the other is conversation. Just correcting this one misunderstanding with clients could open up whole new opportunities for the PSFK community. So I want to talk about what it means to reorient and connect brands with the networks and culture that they inspire. And while I’m not exactly sure what this story will look like, I’m pretty sure it will involve cats.