Social-First Productions: Next Gen Storytelling

No longer second screens for ad-break scrolling, social media channels are becoming entertainment destinations in themselves. Whether its traditional publishers adapting content to social media mechanics, or web 3.0 disruptors building native narratives and distribution models from the ground up - social productions are shaping up into a territory ripe with opportunity.

1. Cross-Category Partnerships

Having adapted to the media habits of hyper-connected consumers, brands are developing cross-category entertainment co-ops. One key pillar Western brands have explored, drawing upon existing APAC consumer affinity, is mascots. According to Campaign Asia, brand mascots and characters can increase emotional connection with customers by up to 41%.

Entertainment tech company Invisible Universe has built a value proposition around developing social-first AR companion characters for high-profile celebrities. Serena Williams’ animated doll Qai Qai has just published their first book. D’Amelio sisters’ childhood toys and, now, virtual influencers, Squeaky & Roy, star in an ongoing series spanning TikTok, Instagram, and Triller.

Social-First Productions: Next Gen Storytelling

Serena Williams & Qai Qai

2. Social Firsts Take Off

Unsurprisingly, new-gen social media apps like Snapchat and TikTok have been the first to leverage the value of creator-led immersive storytelling with a feed-first sensibility.

Clubhouse debuted original programming in early 2021 with its Creator First Program, funding 50 pilots from creators across the network. The originals include ‘A Little Soapy’, a semi-improvised daily comedic soap, and ‘Radio Play’, an immersive radio drama.

Created especially for TikTok, ‘Scattered’ is a queer Australian series of 38 one-minute episodes, following its crew of Gen Z leads on the day they had planned to scatter their late friend’s ashes.

Social-First Productions: Next Gen Storytelling

TikTok's ‘Scattered’

With more than 400M people watching shows on Snapchat in 2020, including over 90% of U.S. Gen Z’s, Snap Originals now boasts productions from ‘the world’s greatest storytellers with interactive experiences you can step into and share’. YA drama ‘Breakwater’ is set in the world of climate refugees, and ‘Off Thee Leash’ follows Megan Thee Stallion, her celebrity friends, and their pets.

Social-First Productions: Next Gen Storytelling

Snap's 'Breakwater'

3. TV Turns to Social

Traditional media outlets are working to prioritise digital growth and capture younger audiences by adapting existing programming to social media mechanics or creating original content with networks and creators.

Channel 4’s ‘You Do You’ is a real-time reality series exclusively for and in partnership with Instagram. The ten-minute episodes follow the lives of a group of creatives based in Manchester.

Social-First Productions: Next Gen Storytelling

Channel 4's 'You Do You'

4. Watch Party

Research reveals that the social value of minimalistic shared experiences, like those we enjoy on social media, may be driven primarily by our desire to connect with others rather than the experience itself. After prolonged isolation, group participation models that enhance consumers’ sense of provenance will be crucial to successful entertainment, and traditional media networks are taking note.

For the Tokyo Olympic Games, NBC Olympics released daily Snapchat shows including ‘Chasing Gold’, which follows Team USA athletes as they prepare to compete.

Warner Media-owned HBO Max is now offering a selection of original episodes on HBO Max Mini. The experience is powered by Snap Minis, the network’s hub for co-viewing and shared experiences.

Social-First Productions: Next Gen Storytelling

HBO Max 'Snap Minis'

In 2022, ViacomCBS and Twitter reached a multi-year global agreement for watch parties covering all original series on Paramount+. For the March premiere of ‘Halo’, weekly After Show Watch Party instalments allowed fans to get together and dive deeper with behind-the-scenes highlights, celebrity guests, and fan segments.

What does this mean for brands?

  • Elevate consumer experience by introducing storytelling elements like plot and characters to brand communications. Partner with your audience’s favourite creators to create original content.

  • Test audiences’ appetite by serialising existing content. Consider using low-resource mediums like Instagram Stories and release evergreen content like how-to guides in weekly instalments.

  • Position your brand at the core of pop culture conversation by joining key audience mindshare moments like a hit TV show or an album release. Make it interactive with native features like Watch Parties.

  • Prepare your content calendar and your audience for upcoming storytelling-rich features, i.e. Instagram Creator Subscriptions.