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Restrict creativity in social – and unleash your audience

Restrict creativity in social – and unleash your audience

By Felix Morgan, Innovation team member at Billington Cartmell

According to a recent report from Statista, Vine is the fastest growing app of 2013 by nearly three times over its nearest rival (Flickr), with a massive 403% growth reported throughout the year. And the video-sharing platform’s huge success is despite its having very little to differentiate it from its competitors.

Vine lets people upload less video than Instagram, it has fewer editing options than MixBit and it doesn’t let you upload pre-recorded videos like YouTube. So at face value, its impressive growth seems puzzling – why would a video platform succeed despite all these obvious limitations? What a lot of people have failed to realise is that Vine has not succeeded in spite of these limitations; it has succeeded because of them.

There has been no platform in recent times that has bred creativity as well as Vine. A wealth of new celebrities have been spawned from obscurity in a matter of months, with people such as Brittany Furlan, KingBach and Jerome Jarre finding a global audience overnight. From quick cuts and stop motion through to smack cams and how-tos, users are finding creative ways to get around the limitations and push the platform’s creative potential.

To see a similar success story, you can turn to Twitter. When Twitter launched, Facebook was already huge and it had almost all of the functionality that Twitter had and more. However, Twitter had one key differentiator – limitations. It only lets you send 140 characters at a time which spawned some incredibly creative projects. For example, Tim Burton’s Stainboy, which crowdsourced a full narrative through tweets from the public. Or Ben & Jerry Ice Cream’s brilliant Fair Tweets campaign, which invited people to donate their spare characters to charity. Both of these examples were born through Twitter’s creative restrictions and would not have come into existence on a completely open platform.

This is by no means a new phenomenon; we’ve seen the same approach – limitation empowering people’s imagination – deliberately employed for thousands of years. Haiku, the Japanese poetry form, was built around the principle of ‘kiru’, which is essentially the omission of something to create a gap in the imagery. For centuries, Haiku writers have been focusing on reduction rather than addition in order to enhance their creativity – and it’s this exact same principle we’re seeing now in these emerging social media channels.

Brands are constantly looking for things to add to their campaigns. When creating a social platform or a competition, brands continuously try to find ways to enable their users to do more, view more and create more. When you look at success stories such as Vine, however, it makes you wonder whether this is the complete wrong approach. Restriction provides users with a focus and removes any ‘choice paralysis’ that can hamper their creation.

Moving into 2014, brands will benefit further from placing more focus on reduction rather than addition. In turn, they will see their audiences explore new creative avenues, push their functionality to its limits and create some remarkable output that they could never have anticipated.

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