Remember the days when all marketers had to worry about were a handful of print ads, some commercial spots and maybe a billboard? Neither do many of today's marketers. Even with the addition of email and web pages circa the early 1990s, the creative development process adapted to these channels fairly easily.

Today's marketing landscape has morphed into something inconceivable when compared to the previous decade's standards. A landscape covered with so many different channels and platforms that it's difficult enough figuring what's what, let alone deciding how to develop content for it.

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In the few short years that social media has taken off, it has had a dizzying effect on creative heads trying to keep up with ever increasing demands to pump out content. Between Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare there are hundreds of options in the social media empire. Just when you've formatted content for Instagram, a campaign strategist switches to Pinterest. New platforms spring up every few weeks leaving marketers clambering to figure out how to develop content for it, what campaign it ties into and how quickly it's needed.

More and more, advertising campaigns are made up of a combination of traditional media and social platforms. One of the most frequent questions asked by today's marketers is how to make the two work together from a development end.

Operationally speaking, the majority of organizations work within a conventional marketing framework. In fact, a good number of companies have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in enterprise management solutions designed specifically to support traditional (non-social) media channels. Creating and managing social content using these systems and processes can be counterproductive, if not impossible.

While traditional channels can demand a quick turnaround, social media is like public relations with an overactive thyroid. It's fast. It's current. It's nonstop. Creative teams do not have time to go through multiple rounds of content and legal approvals. Fulfillment time can't be part of the equation. Yet, many of these effort-zapping mechanisms are built into their rules of engagement.

Another challenge is scaling the distribution of social content in order to accurately measure fiscal results. This makes it tough for marketers to determine ROI and identify a precise creative strategy. In an idealistic world, creative activities would take place in their own "arty" environment, free of corporate policy and rules. In reality, circumstance and budget tend to dictate the type of content, the volume of content and the resources available to create the content. One byproduct of this reality is the added effort required to catalogue content in a way that can keep up with the demands of social media and be consumed at a moment's notice. Another is formatting that same content several different ways to in order to be utilized by a specific social medium--all within a single cycle or campaign.

While there is no comprehensive management solution for integrating traditional and social media development today, there are some ways to help bridge the gap.

  • Understand the current strategy in order to anticipate creative needs.
  • Leverage existing content. Reuse and repurpose previously successful content so you don't need to start from scratch each time.
  • Communicate and share information across creative departments. Going through the content request and development cycle is time consuming on any scale. If you need text to go with your Pinterest photo, isn't it easier to see if a copywriter has a usable tag line already in their library?
  • Have a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system and strong practices in place. Effectively catalogue approved content for quick retrieval and reuse.
  • Know your social media platforms. Understand your practical and logistical limitations. Figure out where keywords should be placed for search engine optimization. Ask questions like: Will the creative translate via this format?

From a creative perspective, traditional and social media can (and often do) exist on their own. It's also understood that using one to support the other can generate more value. Social Media--still in its infancy--will continue to grow, evolve and embed itself into our way of life. Print ads, brochures, flyers and billboards still hold a place at the main table of advertising & marketing, but as digitization continues to expand we will someday live in a world where all channels are virtual. Until such a time, creative heads and marketers alike are still figuring out the best way to churn out all forms of media...together.