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INTERVIEW: Could “Small Data” be the key to Social Media, Victor Pineiro at Big Spaceship thinks so?

Roy Weiss­man of spoke with Vic­tor Pineiro from Big Space­ship on a wide range of impor­tant Social Media issues in the indus­try today.  Espe­cial­ly those involv­ing adver­tis­ing and how to gauge suc­cess for your social media out­reach endeavors.

Lis­ten in or read along as Roy Weiss­man talks with Vic­tor about why he believes that “Small Data” is crit­i­cal to social media.

You can lis­ten to the inter­view as well as read it below:

Roy:                       My name is Roy Weiss­man from, and we’re talk­ing with Vic­tor Pineiro, the Vice Pres­i­dent of Social Media at Big Space­ship. Vic­tor over­sees the agen­cy’s social media and con­tent team. Over the course of his tenure at Big Space­ship, he was the lead copy­writer and strate­gist for Skit­tles dur­ing its first three years on Face­book and Twit­ter. His clients have includ­ed Google, Cray­ola, Wrigley, Lucas Film, Sonos and Chobani.

Vic­tor was list­ed in Busi­ness Insid­er’s 30 most cre­ative peo­ple in social media, and he’s a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Ad Age, Digi­day, Fast Com­pa­ny and Mashable.

Wel­come, Victor.

Vic­tor:                   Thank you. Thanks for hav­ing me.

Roy:                       It’s a plea­sure. One thing I want to men­tion, could you tell us a lit­tle bit about Big Space­ship? How long you’ve been around, what you guys are up to, how many employees?

Vic­tor:                   Absolute­ly. Big Space­ship’s been around 15 years now. This is our 15th year, and we are here in Dum­bo, Brook­lyn. We’ve evolved a lot, of course, as you can imag­ine. Fif­teen years is a real­ly long time for any dig­i­tal agency. We real­ly start­ed off as more of a flash shop where we would cre­ate real­ly intense web­sites, usu­al­ly around enter­tain­ment and movies. Then after a few years of that, we real­ly evolved into the brand space, and we were doing a lot of strat­e­gy work as well as a lot of prod­uct cre­ation as well.

Then, for the last three or four years, we real­ly shift­ed where now we real­ly do equal parts social media strat­e­gy, dig­i­tal mar­ket com­mu­ni­ca­tions and a lot of prod­uct design as well.

Roy:                       Do web­sites mat­ter any­more with mobile so big?

Vic­tor:                   I find that web­sites do mat­ter quite a bit. I think it’s inter­est­ing. For all that social media can do, at the end of the day, often peo­ple like to be point­ed places and real­ly like to expe­ri­ence things a lit­tle bit more in depth, so I find almost like a hub-and-spoke mod­el, where social media points to a lot of places, but it still needs places to go and real­ly gor­geous, well-designed web­sites are one of them.

Roy:                       That’s fan­tas­tic. Now you focus on the social media area.

Vic­tor:                   Exact­ly, yes.

Roy:                       It’s always inter­est­ing because every­body talks about social media, and orig­i­nal­ly social media was about being the­o­ret­i­cal­ly social, like Face­book or Twit­ter. Now social media seems to include Snapchat and all kinds of ser­vices. What is social media these days?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. It’s so dif­fi­cult to real­ly describe it. Like you said, it real­ly start­ed where social was a big part of it, but now, I find that with the emer­gence of dark social, which is talk­ing about every­thing from one-on-one com­mu­ni­ca­tion such as Snapchat or things like WeChat and Kick and all those one-to-one mes­sag­ing ser­vices, that’s all under the umbrel­la of social, so a lot of social now is what they call “dark social,” which is any­thing but social. It’s almost like anti-social media.

I think that right now what social real­ly seems to mean is it’s what makes up the bulk of the Inter­net, and it’s the pri­ma­ry way that most mil­len­ni­als com­mu­ni­cate, whether it be on social broad­cast plat­forms like we’ve been used to for a few years, or one-on-one plat­forms or even mes­sag­ing platforms.

Roy:                       What would you say are the top two or three … obvi­ous­ly, Face­book is big, but … let’s include Face­book. If you were say­ing what are the two top or three plat­forms, if you had to put all your mon­ey in there, all your efforts, which three would they be today?

Vic­tor:                   Sure. I would say that in terms of cul­ture rel­e­vance and where peo­ple seem to be focus­ing a lot now and cul­tur­al­ly focus­ing, I would say we have the two major ones in that space are Insta­gram and SnapChat. Now, it’s a tricky ques­tion in terms of what I would focus on because while Insta­gram real­ly caters to brands and real­ly caters to agen­cies as well, Snapchat is very much around focus­ing on page, so it’s real­ly hard to have an organ­ic pres­ence on Snapchat, which means it takes a real­ly dif­fer­ent strat­e­gy, and Snapchat’s even … I speak to them from time to time, and they some­times real­ly talk about being con­sid­ered TV or tra­di­tion­al media. They’re appoint­ed based. You real­ly buy ads on them.

To me, in terms of cul­ture rel­e­vance, I’d pick Insta­gram and Snapchat, but in terms of what I would focus on, I would prob­a­bly focus on Insta­gram and Twitter.

Roy:                       It’s inter­est­ing. We think about Pin­ter­est, and Pin­ter­est is all about pic­tures and that does­n’t even come into the vocab­u­lary any­more. Every­body only talks about Insta­gram, because Insta­gram is so dif­fer­ent in peo­ple’s minds. Have peo­ple for­got about Pinterest?

Vic­tor:                   It’s inter­est­ing. I think peo­ple in very spe­cif­ic cat­e­gories focus quite a bit on Pin­ter­est. It does real­ly well when it comes to often more woman-tar­get­ed brands and also retail does quite well there, but you’re right. You hear far, far less of it in meet­ings and def­i­nite­ly, the focus has steered away from it in some sense, but they still have a very impor­tant role to play. I just find that with the brands that we work with at Big Space­ship, very rarely do any of our brands want to focus on that. I’m sure there are oth­er agen­cies that are very much more focused on Pin­ter­est where it real­ly means a lot more.

Roy:                       I’m going to ask just how you start­ed in with Insta­gram. Continue.

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. I think what Insta­gram did is a cou­ple of things. They real­ly went mobile first and were real­ly native to mobile ear­ly on, and because they had that advan­tage ear­ly on, they were able to gain a ton of momen­tum and a lot of cul­tur­al cachet, so by the time every­one else caught up, Insta­gram was out the gate, and they’d been acquired by Face­book and all of a sud­den, they were bal­loon­ing into this huge cul­tur­al jug­ger­naut. They real­ly have the upper hand now.

Roy:                       You said some­thing very sig­nif­i­cant here. You said, “Insta­gram was mobile first.” I just heard a sta­tis­tic a cou­ple weeks ago, and I think I have it cor­rect. It’s some­thing like 60% of the online access comes from mobile phones today.  Do you think the def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess for a brand or for a site is going to be mobile first?

Vic­tor:                   Absolute­ly. It has to be. We work a lot with Google, and Google very much every­thing … their man­date is to always be mobile first, and that’s some­thing that we see across a lot of our more for­ward-look­ing clients.

Suc­cess real­ly can be mea­sured mobile first, espe­cial­ly when it comes to social media. The way that most peo­ple on social media are expe­ri­enc­ing it is mobile first, and we’re see­ing that become more and more clear ever year as mobile adop­tion when it comes to social plat­forms is real­ly sky­rock­et­ing. Yeah, I do think that real­ly is the way that we’re going to be mea­sur­ing suc­cess from here on in for a while.

Roy:                       When you design a cam­paign for your brand, do you focus on mobile first, or is it all depend­ing on the objec­tives? How does that ele­ment of it play into your cam­paign strategy?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. Great ques­tion. What we real­ly try to focus on, more than any­thing, is we go behav­ior first. For any giv­en cam­paign, we try to look at, what are the behav­iors that that audi­ence or that seg­ment is real­ly … what behav­iors we see emerg­ing from that seg­ment or that audi­ence and then, how can we real­ly tai­lor what we’re doing, our strat­e­gy and our exe­cu­tion around that?

Often, mobile does play a huge role in that, because what we’re see­ing behav­ior wise is that these social net­works and these sites are being accessed on mobile, so yeah. We do have to think mobile first and think about it in that con­text and not real­ly rely on an old mod­el where we were real­ly look­ing desk­top first.

Roy:                       Yeah. I was in a meet­ing the oth­er day, and one of the guys said … it was a meet­ing with some stu­dents from a col­lege, under­grad­u­ates. He said, “Make sure you learn a lot today because in three years, you won’t know any­thing.” He was point­ing out that you need to learn how to learn. My father used to say, “Change is the only con­stant,” but I love that say­ing, and lis­ten­ing to you talk­ing about how you’re an agency, and the dis­cus­sion of the evo­lu­tion of your agency just demon­strates the val­ue of work­ing with some­one because the world keeps chang­ing even faster, and being able to keep ahead of it or at least with it is so critical.

Vic­tor:                   No, I think it’s so true, and it comes into play a lot when you’re hir­ing. Often what I’m look­ing for are just peo­ple who are real­ly good thinkers and strate­gists and very cre­ative at the core, and some­times I’ll bring peo­ple in who have no expe­ri­ence. I’m hir­ing a com­mu­ni­ty strate­gist here. I don’t always look for expe­ri­ence because … to your friend’s point exact­ly. A lot of the expe­ri­ence is so new, and it’s chang­ing so quick­ly that I’d rather have a sense that they have a real­ly good cre­ative and strate­gic base and then work from there rather than start device first or plat­form first.

I don’t ever look for Tum­blr experts or Twit­ter experts. I look for peo­ple who are real­ly smart and show that they’re always think­ing about this stuff.

Roy:                       I always like to sur­vey 18-to-22-year-olds. Some­times I teach class­es and things, and I’ll ask a ques­tion. I’ll say, “How many peo­ple use Face­book? How many peo­ple use Twit­ter? What are you using? What do you do?” Obvi­ous­ly, every­body texts, but when you get beyond that, you see a huge diver­gence in what peo­ple do. I’m won­der­ing today, with all the dif­fer­ent social media options, every­thing from Snapchat to Twit­ter, Face­book, what­ev­er, it’s a lot of work involved just to think one of them work.

Vic­tor: Right.

Roy:                       As you well know, because the essence of social media is a con­ver­sa­tion as opposed to just post­ing things.

Vic­tor: Yeah.

Roy:                       How do you make it work? There’s so much work involved. Is it cost effec­tive? Because you could spend a ton of mon­ey just doing all this work, and the results maybe not be sig­nif­i­cant. How do you approach that? How do you han­dle that?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. What we try to do more than any­thing is, it’s all about focus for us. We’ll try to fig­ure out, what is the most impor­tant chan­nel that we want to launch this brand on and we real­ly want to focus on? For exam­ple, we launched YouTube Gam­ing recent­ly, and that’s a brand that we spoke a lot to them about, about where we should launch. We real­ly focused it just on Twit­ter because we thought what we’d like to do in the way that we do with a lot of brands is focus on one social net­work. Real­ly get it right, and then start decid­ing where you want to invest your time and efforts because you have to get such a good sense of the audi­ence, where they are. Where they’re going to be and how they do that.

For oth­er brands we have here, we’re on so many dif­fer­ent plat­forms, and again, it’s about focus. What’s the over­all mes­sage you want to do? How does it trans­late to these dif­fer­ent chan­nels? Which ones are more opti­mized for con­ver­sa­tions ver­sus which ones are a lit­tle bit more opti­mized towards content?

For exam­ple, when we post some­thing maybe for Google Play or Google Maps, and when we post it to Twit­ter, it often results in a lot of con­ver­sa­tion. When we post it to Insta­gram, it real­ly results a lot more in engage­ment but not as much con­ver­sa­tion. It’s real­ly try­ing to fig­ure out what are we opti­miz­ing for what chan­nel, and how are we not get­ting aloft by focus­ing on so many dif­fer­ent things at once.

Roy:                       What kinds of met­rics do you use to mea­sure success?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. It’s quite dif­fer­ent for each one. We have a real­ly awe­some data prac­tice here. What we real­ly try to do is … we call it “Small data,” which is for every client and every project, we try to come up with just a cou­ple of very spe­cif­ic KPIs, spe­cif­ic num­bers and met­rics that are going to tell us what we think suc­cess means in that moment. It could be anything.

For exam­ple, often if it’s a cam­paign, maybe it’s about aware­ness, and it’s a very broad met­ric, for exam­ple. In that case, all we real­ly want is reach num­bers. Or every once in awhile, it’ll be around a spe­cif­ic … lead­ing some­where spe­cif­ic, and then it’ll be about click through.

Then for oth­er ones, it gets much more spe­cif­ic where we’re real­ly try­ing to shift the nee­dle a lit­tle bit when it comes to brand per­cep­tion or sen­ti­ment, and then those KPIs get real­ly spe­cif­ic, so it’s not just like around likes and favorites and retweets. It’s around much more spe­cif­ic things where we’re real­ly call­ing out the way that peo­ple are talk­ing about a brand or the things that peo­ple are say­ing about them. That’s when it gets real­ly interesting.

Roy:                       Is any­one opti­miz­ing for con­ver­sions yet?

Vic­tor:                   Yes. They are, actu­al­ly, and I’ve seen a lot of inter­est­ing progress being made where mea­sur­ing the way that links are mov­ing through the Inter­net. A lot of times, peo­ple can mea­sure what hap­pens between a tweet and a pur­chase on an e‑commerce web­site. I’m start­ing to see con­ver­sions become a fac­tor but so many times, social is used bet­ter for things like aware­ness and brand affin­i­ty and real­ly, like you were say­ing ear­li­er, around deep­en­ing the rela­tion­ship with a brand through con­ver­sa­tion and engage­ment and that.

I’ve seen that in cer­tain cam­paigns that we do. We do try for spe­cif­ic con­ver­sions, and we do have that as a KPI, but I think it’s still shift­ing, and there’s so much that social can do that it’s def­i­nite­ly not laser focused on that for a lot of brands we work with.

Roy:                       It sounds like when you’re talk­ing about opti­mize over con­ver­sions, you’re talk­ing about attri­bu­tion ele­ments ver­sus an actu­al con­ver­sion on a Twit­ter vis­it or on a Face­book vis­it. Is that correct?

Vic­tor:                   Exact­ly right. Exact­ly right.

Roy:                       Okay because I know that I believe YouTube and now Twit­ter, they’re all try­ing to intro­duce the abil­i­ty to pur­chase some­thing right through their plat­form. Is that hap­pen­ing yet? Are peo­ple get­ting sales that way?

Vic­tor:                   We’re just on the verge of see­ing … it’s just on the verge. I know you could just announce that real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing prod­uct place­ment capa­bil­i­ty, and Twit­ter’s been on it for a lit­tle while. I haven’t seen a lot on either of them yet. If it hap­pened, it was under my radar, but I’ve been watch­ing that space, because I’m real­ly curi­ous to see, does it work? How does it work?

Because hon­est­ly, what I’m see­ing more and more is that peo­ple don’t want to click on links on any of these web­sites, and they want to stay in that social net­work. It’s almost like they have anx­i­ety about leav­ing that plat­form, so they want to stay on it. I’m curi­ous when there’s new ele­ments intro­duced that ask you to click off of plat­forms, I feel like less and less peo­ple do it every day, and is it going to be suc­cess­ful at this point?

Roy:                       That’s why I guess what I’m won­der­ing, leads me to a ques­tion I prob­a­bly should have asked ear­li­er was, what per­cent­age of the social media effort that you do is involved in a con­ver­sa­tion ver­sus just a communication?

Vic­tor:                   Oh, that’s a great ques­tion. I would say, if you’re doing it right, that num­ber should be 80/20, I would say, or gen­er­al­ly, 80% is con­ver­sa­tion. I’m say­ing that in a vac­u­um, so it real­ly just depend on the brand and the goal.

Roy:                       Right.

Vic­tor:                   What I try to look for when I see a brand that seems to be per­form­ing real­ly well in social and real­ly seems to be thriv­ing, often what I’ll see is it’s geared a lot more towards con­ver­sa­tion, and then that broad­cast mes­sag­ing is a bit more lim­it­ed because even when it broad­casts, peo­ple are find­ing ways to have con­ver­sa­tion around that.

Roy:                       Right. That’s why … although so many brands just do a rudi­men­ta­ry social media effort. They just post tweets or they post Face­book posts, and it’s just a one-way, buy-a-trip-to-Los-Ange­les-on-Unit­ed or whatever.

Vic­tor: Right.

Roy:                       There’s no con­ver­sa­tion. It’s just an ad.

Vic­tor:                   Right. But look … Mm-hmm (affir­ma­tive).

Roy:                       Go ahead. Go ahead, what you …

Vic­tor:                   I was going to say, what’s inter­est­ing about that is, being on the oth­er side of it, too, is the hon­est truth is that I would say 90% of brands if not more, peo­ple just don’t want to have con­ver­sa­tions with them. It’s real­ly few and far between that those brands exist that the audi­ence actu­al­ly wants to have real qual­i­ty con­ver­sa­tions with them.

We’re see­ing it with a cou­ple of brand we have here, and it’s just night and day. They’re the brands that real­ly strug­gle and try to get peo­ple to talk to them and bend over back­wards for a con­ver­sa­tion, and then, there’s oth­er brands we work for where we post absolute­ly any­thing, and there’s 100 com­ments, and every­one’s dying to talk to us. It’s such a fas­ci­nat­ing thing.

You can’t real­ly blame some brands that do more broad­cast­ing. I imag­ine they’ve tried the con­ver­sa­tion­al route, and it’s been a struggle.

Roy:                       If a brand comes to you that you don’t think is a con­ver­sa­tion brand, would you say to them, “Let’s not waste your time?” Or would you say, “We can come up ways to cre­ate conversation.”

Vic­tor:                   Right, so the lat­ter. Then it’s a real cre­ative chal­lenge of, “What is there around this brand that we can real­ly cre­ate some up-end­ed con­ver­sa­tions around? Is that a pos­si­bil­i­ty, and it it’s not, are there ways that we should [inaudi­ble 00:16:45] the crowd or are there things we can do? Can we part­ner with some­body? Can we have a part­ner­ship where we cre­ate some inter­est­ing con­tent that’s con­ver­sa­tion wor­thy? Are there any routes we can take towards actu­al­ly mat­ter­ing enough so that our audi­ence does want to have con­ver­sa­tions around it?”

Roy:                       This is one of those meet­ings in your office on a Fri­day at 5:00 when they break out the beer, and you call the cre­atives in and say, “We’re now rep­re­sent­ing Ace Machine Tools, and they want to do a lot on social media,” and the room just stares at you and looks at you. You’re like, “Why don’t you have a beer and let’s talk.”

Vic­tor:                   Exact­ly. It’s either that, or we have it first thing in the morn­ing when every­body’s a lit­tle more awake. It could be caf­feine in the morn­ing or beer in the afternoon.

Roy:                       That must be the excite­ment of an agency, because you get these chal­lenges because if a brand can do it them­selves, they’re not hir­ing you. If they’re hir­ing you, it’s because they’ve run into issues they’re not solv­ing, and they need some­body with the exper­tise. That’s, I know, part of the excite­ment of work­ing at an agency.

Vic­tor:                   That’s exact­ly right. Yeah. Some of the peo­ple we hire, that’s anoth­er thing, too. We always look for peo­ple who real­ly get actu­al­ly excit­ed about that, and that’s the part that excites them are these real­ly crazy chal­lenges that seem real­ly dif­fi­cult or close to impossible.

Roy:                       Do you have a good sto­ry to tell us about some great work you’ve done for a client you could share with us?

Vic­tor:                   There was a real­ly fun one we did a few months ago that I thought would be neat to share, which is some­thing to do with Sam­sung Mobile. Maybe it was almost a year ago, this one, but I just find it interesting.

It was called “It Does­n’t Take a Genius,” and it was around the launch of a new phone they had, and the launch of the phone coin­cid­ed with the launch of Apple’s new iPhone, and because of that, they want­ed to find a way. “How do we real­ly com­mand some con­ver­sa­tion, not just around the launch of our phone but dur­ing iPhone’s big keynote? Is there a way for us to also be present in that con­ver­sa­tion somehow?”

That was real­ly inter­est­ing. It took a lot of think­ing and also a ton of dig­ging into social lis­ten­ing, and we were get­ting a sense of the audi­ence and the audi­ence over­lap. What we came up with was, we cre­at­ed a stu­dio pres­ence. We got all of our guys in a stu­dio, and we hired a few actors, and we had them dressed up like they were in what looked almost like an Apple genius bar study­ing, and what we did is dur­ing the keynote, we had all of our writ­ers and our pro­duc­ers in the stu­dio, and they were actu­al­ly cre­at­ing con­tent live that was in reac­tion to the actu­al Apple keynote as it was happening.

We went back and forth, back and forth, and that was the keynote where there was a big not pow­er out­age, but tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, and the stream froze for a while, and while it was hap­pen­ing, we quick­ly rat­tled off a few scripts, and we cre­at­ed some 30-sec­ond ads around that in these short videos and then post­ed those to YouTube almost imme­di­ate­ly after­ward. It was real­ly neat because it was hap­pen­ing so quick­ly, and it was on the heels of all this con­ver­sa­tion that was happening.

It was very much in the moment, but it looked … this was a great exam­ple of a time that we actu­al­ly were able to nail very com­mer­cial-qual­i­ty video as it was hap­pen­ing. It was real-time, com­mer­cial-qual­i­ty video hap­pen­ing dur­ing this big Apple keynote event. Because of that, it real­ly pro­pelled the con­tent, and I don’t know the [inaudi­ble 00:20:11] num­bers, but I know that it was at 15 mil­lion views just a few weeks after we launched, and it was get­ting a lot of [inaudi­ble 00:20:19] because peo­ple real­ly dug the time­li­ness of it. They loved that we were pok­ing some light-heart­ed jabs at Apple, and it was a lot of fun.

Roy:                       I remem­ber a mil­lion years ago, they did the Pepsi/Coke chal­lenge because Pep­si was so frus­trat­ed they could­n’t com­pete with Coke, so they went to malls, and they would pour one of each, and they’d ask peo­ple, “Which is which?” Inevitably, peo­ple would say, “This Pep­si.” They’d say, “That’s Coke.” They’d say, “No, it’s Pep­si.” It almost sounds like you took this and it was almost riffed off of that, will­ing to chal­lenge the mar­ket, this huge com­pa­ny that’s so well known and to go out and say, “We can show you what we can do,” and you took it on real time. That’s a huge challenge.

Vic­tor:                   It real­ly was. It was a huge chal­lenge but it was also a ton of fun, and that’s also a big risk in terms of … that could have very much fall­en flat, and I think we just got lucky that we had the right peo­ple in the right room and a lot of peo­ple who spent a lot of time with those brands and had a real­ly good sense of how that would work and how it would jibe with our audi­ence. Yeah.

Roy:                       That’s fan­tas­tic. This is real excit­ing. That takes on a real chal­lenge that you’re will­ing to do that in real time. That’s what social media is about, some­thing hap­pen­ing right that minute. Right in the moment of time peo­ple are expe­ri­enc­ing it, so to be able to do what you did showed that you par­tic­i­pat­ed in the true spir­it of social media. That’s exciting.

Can you think of any exam­ples whether they’re yours or some­one else’s of brands or what­ev­er that you think have done a fan­tas­tic job with social media?

Vic­tor:                   Oh, gosh, yes. Whoo, there’s so many. Let’s see.

Gosh. Yes. I’d rather not share … there’s the obvi­ous ones, the ones that always do real­ly well. There’s always Red Bull. Red Bul­l’s always doing real­ly well, and that’s because they’re a media com­pa­ny first before any­thing else.

Then there’s some of the small­er ones.

Roy:                       Is there any­body that you would say, “These peo­ple are not con­ver­sa­tion starters, but they’ve done such a cre­ative job, they’ve cre­at­ed a conversation?”

Vic­tor:                   Yes. You know who I think is good about that? When it comes to cre­at­ing con­ver­sa­tion, Dove actu­al­ly did such a good job with their Real Beau­ty. Bring­ing some­thing out that a lot of peo­ple are talk­ing about any­way, and it’s real­ly … they real­ly cre­at­ed a cam­paign that start­ed steer­ing a con­ver­sa­tion in an inter­est­ing way. Every time they come out with a new com­mer­cial, it’s this big social cam­paign they have around it, and they’re real­ly involv­ing the world in their con­ver­sa­tion. Because it’s such a big con­ver­sa­tion, it’s not just about Dove.

I think it’s not about Dove at all. Because it’s about the idea of real beau­ty, and that’s such a hot top­ic, it makes a lot of waves far out­side their audi­ence, and it real­ly has an enor­mous reach, and that’s because they’re real­ly smart about the con­ver­sa­tions they want to have with­in the idea of real beau­ty and what the con­cep­tion of beau­ty is today and real­ly going into fem­i­nism and everything.

Roy:                       That cam­paign’s been going for what, six or eight years, some­thing like that?

Vic­tor:                   Exact­ly, yeah. I real­ly feel that that cam­paign, because social has explod­ed and it becomes almost more rel­e­vant every year as the con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ues grow­ing and grow­ing with every new mini cam­paign with­in it.

Roy:                       A lot of peo­ple look at a cam­paign as a point in time or a peri­od of time. Dove’s cre­at­ed a whole busi­ness out of it. It’s very impres­sive, what they’ve done.

Vic­tor:                   Exactly.

Roy:                       Is there any­one else you could think of, maybe not as good as Dove, but some­body else you’d want to bring up that maybe was­n’t a con­ver­sa­tion start­ed that some­how fig­ured out how to use social media well?

Vic­tor:                   You know who’s an inter­est­ing one? We man­aged social for all of YouTube, so I always liked look­ing at the way that social plat­forms expressed them­selves on social media, and the one that I real­ly enjoy is Insta­gram. What I mean is, Insta­gram’s social pres­ence on Insta­gram. If you fol­low Insta­gram, that con­tent stream.

That one’s real­ly inter­est­ing because I talked to the head of con­tent, and they have this real­ly neat, enor­mous group of cura­tors who … what they do is they’re con­sis­tent­ly look­ing out into the world of Insta­gram cre­ators … and I’m talk­ing glob­al­ly, not just in New York. They’re very glob­al … and try­ing to find who are the Insta­gram cre­ators that are telling the most inter­est­ing sto­ries, and how do we high­light them in a way that piques our audi­ence curiosity?

If you fol­low Insta­gram on Insta­gram, every week, they have a cou­ple of high­lights and spot­lights of dif­fer­ent peo­ple around the world that are doing real­ly inter­est­ing things. For exam­ple, recent­ly, the one that real­ly got my atten­tion was some­body who does a lot of under­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy but real­ly, these epic under­wa­ter pho­tographs where they fol­low whales and things like that, but they’re very much on a shoe­string bud­get. It’s some­body who just does it as a hobby.

A while ago, they had a real­ly neat one of some­body who trav­els the world with their part­ner, and every pic­ture they take is of their part­ner lead­ing them some­where, so you see her hand reach­ing out to his, and they’re in some new, gor­geous place around the world. There’s so many of them.

Then they’re real­ly delv­ing a lot into art now where they’re find­ing real­ly inter­est­ing artists out­side of pho­tog­ra­phy who take pic­tures of their work, and then they’re delv­ing into the biogra­phies of these artists.

It’s a real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing take. A lot of peo­ple cel­e­brate Nation­al Geo­graph­ic for doing that on Insta­gram and, of course, Nation­al Geo­graph­ic does an incred­i­ble job, but Insta­gram them­selves does a real­ly good job, too. That’s real­ly inter­est­ing because the way that they’re real­ly focus­ing on grow­ing the plat­form that way is a pure­ly edi­to­r­i­al approach and real­ly just focus­ing on who are the users that are doing it right and how can we use them to inspire peo­ple to use Insta­gram bet­ter but also to fol­low the right people?

Roy:                       Again, this reminds me of if you go back … and you might want to do this just for the fun of it … go back and look at Kodak adver­tis­ing from, I don’t know, 40 years ago.

Vic­tor:                   Interesting.

Roy:                       Kodak was all about pro­mot­ing the val­ue of pic­tures and because, obvi­ous­ly, they want­ed to become the leader in pho­tog­ra­phy, so they were sell­ing peo­ple on … they always had pic­tures of fam­i­lies and dogs and all the good lit­tle things, and great, amaz­ing pic­tures. Years ago, in Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion, there used to be a huge pic­ture over the whole sta­tion where the Apple Store is now. There used to be a huge pic­ture up there that Kodak would put up there every month, this enor­mous picture.

It’s fun­ny, when you talk about Insta­gram pro­mot­ing life and excite­ment and the world through pic­tures, some­one should just do this study and go back. I’m a huge believ­er that, what do they say? Back to the Future, kind of thing.

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. Absolutely.

Roy:                       If you go back and you do the research, you’re going to find out Kodak’s ad cam­paign, I think if I researched this … I study adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing all the time. The sto­ries are amaz­ing. I’d research this, and the Kodak cam­paigns, what you’re talk­ing about sound very par­al­lel to what Insta­gram is doing.

Vic­tor:                   If it isn’t … back then, you could inspire with it, but now what you can do is actu­al­ly fol­low those peo­ple, and it’s almost like sub­scrib­ing to the mag­a­zine as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er back then, if they had one. Now you can fol­low them, and you con­sis­tent­ly are see­ing more and more of my Insta­gram feed is just fed by the cre­ators that Insta­gram is hir­ing for me.

Roy:                       Also, today, you have much more inti­ma­cy. I can pick some­one who I like, and I can fol­low that indi­vid­ual or peo­ple like Rupert Mur­doch post­ing on Twit­ter what­ev­er. I can fol­low these peo­ple per­son­al­ly. That’s dif­fer­ent, obvi­ous­ly. Social media is about that inti­ma­cy and that per­son­al­iza­tion, but it’s inter­est­ing when you talk about fol­low­ing it.

Now that you brought up Insta­gram, now I’m going to have to fol­low them because it sounds real­ly interesting.

Vic­tor:                   It’s fun.

Roy:                       I’m curi­ous to fol­low them.

Of all the new social media plat­forms, there’s so many. We’ve talked about Periscope. I love Periscope. I was show­ing my wife. “Look.” We’re sit­ting out hav­ing a drink at 8:00 or 9:00 at night down­town one day. I said, “Here. Let me show you what they’re doing in Spain,” and there we were, in some­one’s liv­ing room. I think it was in Spain or France, look­ing at Periscope, and she was like, “What is this?”

I’m like, “Those peo­ple are live right now.” Six hours lat­er. It’s 3:00 in the morn­ing in France, and these peo­ple are sit­ting in their … they prob­a­bly came back from a party.

With all these crazy new things going on, is there any one that you real­ly are intrigued about or would love to explore more or you see oppor­tu­ni­ty with?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. The one that I’m per­son­al­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by … and I think it was a lot cool­er to be fas­ci­nat­ed by it a year ago, but I’ve just been non-stop fas­ci­nat­ed by it for a while is “Vine,” because to me, what fas­ci­nates me about social net­works in gen­er­al is emer­gent behav­ior. The audi­ence or users who are using it use it in a way that’s so dif­fer­ent than any­one could have guessed.

Vine comes out, and every­body thinks, “Oh, my God. They final­ly cre­at­ed Insta­gram for video.” This is before Insta­gram had video. “This is the Insta­gram for video. Vine wins. Vine wines.” They’re think­ing every­body’s going to be out there pro­duc­ing videos all the time of any­thing in their life, but all of a sud­den, what hap­pens is Vine becomes a plat­form for just like a dozen maybe tops, 20, 30 peo­ple who all become celebri­ties and every­one just watch­es these 30 celebri­ties and nobody else. Every­one is just tuned in to 30 accounts on Vine.

Talk about a dif­fer­ent con­cep­tion from what they thought it was going to be two years ago. Now they’re chang­ing their entire strat­e­gy to account for that, and it’s real­ly just about these influ­en­tial celebri­ties. It’s not about any­body Vin­ing their lunch, they way that you would do on Insta­gram or Twit­ter, and that sort of stuff just fas­ci­nates me.

Roy:                       Isn’t it true, though, if you look at my whole back­ground being in media and tech­nol­o­gy. The pro­gram­ming, the videos on YouTube to get the most views are the most pro­fes­sion­al ones or the ones that have the stars?   Because do most peo­ple real­ly care, video of some­body tak­ing out the trash? Not real­ly, and they don’t know the peo­ple, and it’ not done very well. I think with Vine, what a lot of peo­ple think … peo­ple think a six-sec­ond video is easy.

Vic­tor: Right.

Roy:                       It’s prob­a­bly 10 times harder.

Vic­tor:                   Mm-hmm (affir­ma­tive). Absolute­ly. Right. Very difficult.

Roy:                       I can see why that might refo­cus on the top peo­ple there and every­thing. That’s pret­ty good. Are you guys going to try to do some­thing with Vine? Are you try­ing to do things with Vine?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. We dab­ble in that quite a bit. Yeah. We’ve dab­bled with Vine a few times. There’s a lot of fun you can do with it. I think often with Vine, so much of it has to be influ­encer based to real­ly get that reach that it lim­its it a lit­tle bit where it’s not enough to just … unless you’ve been grow­ing your Vine pres­ence for a long time, it’s not worth it to invest unless there’s an influ­encer strat­e­gy often.

Roy:                       Do you find any­thing excit­ing about Periscope? Are you uti­liz­ing that or is that just it’s own lit­tle thing?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. Periscope is inter­est­ing because I haven’t quite seen it yet, but I know we’re get­ting on the verge of Periscope just like Vine, just like Insta­gram before it, just like Twit­ter and just like YouTube before all of them, there are start­ing to become influ­encers on the space. I find it so fas­ci­nat­ing that a new social plat­form opens up, and all of a sud­den, just a few months lat­er, there’s already peo­ple emerg­ing to the top in terms of influ­ence. I love fol­low­ing that and get­ting a sense of it.

We have used Periscope for a cou­ple of our brands, and it can be quite use­ful, but we haven’t done like a Periscope cam­paign yet or any­thing like that. We’re still keep­ing tabs on how it’s growing.

Roy:                       That’s fan­tas­tic. Sounds like you guys do a lot of fun things there. You real­ly know every­thing about social media. Can you give us a sense what a typ­i­cal day might be like work­ing at Big Space­ship and what kind of peo­ple you think would thrive?

Vic­tor:                   Absolute­ly. Hon­est­ly, for any giv­en posi­tion here, there’s no typ­i­cal day. I’ll give you a fun exam­ple with YouTube, for exam­ple. YouTube is a plat­form that pumps out a ton of con­tent. Where­as some brands are post­ing once or twice a day, YouTube posts 20 times a day. We have a few peo­ple here who real­ly curate that con­tent, and they’re real­ly watch­ing up to 400 YouTube videos a day, try­ing to find which are the ones that make the most sense, which res­onate, which are the best with our audi­ence, and you have to check a lot of box­es there.

Once we’ve culled it down, we’re cre­at­ing con­tent around all those videos, and it’s real­ly inter­est­ing because of a few clients we have, and YouTube pri­ma­ry among them, we real­ly feel like we get this great sense of being on the front seat to cul­ture where we’re see­ing all of it. Any YouTube videos that are res­onat­ing, our YouTube team will send it out to oth­er teams to check it out, and through that, it’s a real­ly neat sys­tem we have.

Actu­al­ly, in terms of our typ­i­cal day, I’ll tell you, there are a few things that are typ­i­cal in a day.

First thing in the morn­ing, half an hour to an hour before every­one else gets here, we have some­body who comes in and cre­ates what’s called “Inter­net Brunch.” She scours the Inter­net. She has all these dif­fer­ent social sites she looks at. She has all these dif­fer­ent new sites she scours. She has a whole sys­tem, and she puts togeth­er this long newslet­ter called “Inter­net Brunch” that tells us every­thing that’s hap­pen­ing on the Inter­net over the last 6 to 12 hours.

When every­one gets in, every­one reads Inter­net Brunch. It hits their inbox some­where in the first hour that they’re here. Every­one reads it, and they get a sense of, “Oh, maybe these spe­cif­ic things might make sense for our brand to do today,” or “This will make sense for us to include in our conversations.”

Every­one gets in. A few things set­tle down, and then a cou­ple of hours into the day, each team has a dif­fer­ent scrum. Big Space­ship is very team ori­ent­ed and project ori­ent­ed where we don’t sep­a­rate peo­ple by dis­ci­pline. We’re all sep­a­rat­ed by project, so the YouTube team sits togeth­er. The Sam­sung team sits togeth­er and on and on.

Each team meets in the morn­ing, and it’s the entire team. It’s not just peo­ple who write the con­tent. It’s not just the peo­ple who are pro­duc­ing. It’s not just the strate­gists. We have the entire team meet, and we all take a look at what hap­pened the day before or the last cou­ple of days, so every sin­gle post. We take a look at it. We talk about why it did well or why it did­n’t per­form well. We hypoth­e­size around it, and we get a sense of that, and then we also get a sense of, “What are some oppor­tu­ni­ties that we can talk about today? Are there real-time oppor­tu­ni­ties that we can seize in the moment?” And that sort of thing.

From there, it starts to vary quite a bit, but in gen­er­al, I think the things that real­ly dif­fer­en­ti­ate Big Space­ship are that we are very, very deeply col­lab­o­ra­tive. Every­body is invit­ed to every brain­storm on a team, so it’s nev­er just … nobody here has the title “Cre­ative,” because every­body here needs to be cre­ative to be hired. When we’re in a brain­storm, a typ­i­cal brain­storm involves the entire group and often, what’s inter­est­ing is you start to get a sense where, for exam­ple, on the YouTube team, we have an ana­lyst, a data per­son, who comes up with so many of the best ideas, such a high per­cent­age of all the most inter­est­ing ideas.

On one of our Google Play teams, we have a pro­duc­er who’s just unbe­liev­ably cre­ative, always com­ing up with inter­est­ing ideas. Here, what’s inter­est­ing is the cre­ativ­i­ty is very spread through­out the agency, and we’re not very into hier­ar­chy, either, because we feel that to get the best ideas, we real­ly need every­body to have an equal voice and because, often, the peo­ple who under­stand the Inter­net the best are the youngest, we want … no mat­ter how long you’ve been in the agency world, we want every­one to be able to pipe up.

As much as pos­si­ble, we’re flat and we include every­one in the brain­storms, and because of that, we’re deeply col­lab­o­ra­tive and so, the teams are always col­lab­o­rat­ing. Our pro­duc­er does a lot of the writ­ing, and then our writer does a lot of the com­mu­ni­ty man­age­ment, and our com­mu­ni­ty man­ag­er does a lot of the pro­duc­tion, and it bleeds togeth­er on some of them, because we can be so collaborative.

To answer the final part of your ques­tion, in terms of who does what here, I would say the Num­ber One trait that peo­ple share who do well here is that they’re real­ly good at being com­plete­ly autonomous. We real­ly don’t like hold­ing hands a lot. We trust peo­ple that we hire. We spend a lot of time try­ing to find the right per­son to hire but then, when they’re in here, we love throw­ing them in and hav­ing them be part of the team from Day One, so peo­ple who are real self-starters do well here, and peo­ple who are not real­ly into that often strug­gle the first month here because they’re like, “Oh, my God. I did­n’t expect that you guys were just going to let me jump in and have all this respon­si­bil­i­ty,” and it’s like, “Yeah. That’s how we do things here.”

Roy:                       It sounds like it’s a chal­lenge, and it’s excit­ing, and it sounds like a place where some­one could learn a lot pret­ty quickly.

Vic­tor:                   Yeah. Yeah. We like to think so. It’s def­i­nite­ly a lot of fun, though. We got real­ly lucky in that we’ve been around long enough that we can be choosy about the clients that we pick, and we try to pick clients that are both real­ly, real­ly chal­leng­ing and also just real­ly, real­ly fun. The kind of YouTubes and Sam­sungs and Google Plays and Google Maps of the world. Brains that just are inter­est­ing and have real­ly inter­est­ing chal­lenges that are a joy to work with.

Roy:                       Now in terms of who you’re look­ing to hire, their spe­cif­ic roles or things you’re look­ing for primarily?

Vic­tor:                   Right now, there’s a lot of open­ings because we’ve brought on a cou­ple of real­ly inter­est­ing larg­er brands, and we’re just get­ting that role. We’re look­ing for a lot of com­mu­ni­ty strate­gists, which are, in oth­er agen­cies, they’re called Com­mu­ni­ty Managers.

Also always look­ing for good peo­ple in data ana­lyt­ics and that sort of stuff, but real­ly, across the board, I would say every­thing from strat­e­gy to ana­lyt­ics to pro­duc­tion right now because we’ve got a lot of real­ly inter­est­ing new busi­ness com­ing in. We’re prob­a­bly going to be look­ing for the whole gamut.

Roy:                       What kind of expe­ri­ence lev­el? Could it be some­body out of col­lege? You want some­body with three to five years? What kind of expe­ri­ence lev­el are you look­ing for?

Vic­tor:                   Yeah, just a wide range on that as well. It’s great to have peo­ple who have a lit­tle more expe­ri­ence in the game, espe­cial­ly with some posi­tions like Com­mu­ni­ty Strate­gists and ana­lysts. We’ll often take peo­ple who are just real­ly smart and capa­ble but don’t have a ton of expe­ri­ence. Yeah.

Roy:                       That sounds fan­tas­tic. Is there any­thing else you want to add or men­tion that I did­n’t ask about or you want­ed to bring up?

Vic­tor:                   No. I think it was a great con­ver­sa­tion. Yeah. Thanks for hav­ing me.

Roy:                       We’re going to thank you for tak­ing the time to spend some time with us on Media Jobs.

Vic­tor:                   Thanks so much. I’ll speak to you soon.


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