I was trawling the web this morning as I usually do, looking for the latest news in tech and advertising, and I came across Engadget’spreview of Apple’s pre-release version of OS X Mountain Lion. One of the key updates that Apple is bringing to the next version of their desktop OS is integration of social sharing tools throughout the operating system.We’ve covered the shift to real-time social in the past, particularly in our GWI.5 Trends report, but it is striking to see how Apple is working to further integrate real-time sharing throughout all of its devices. Firstly, we saw heavy Twitter integration into iOS 5 and now a complete suite of sharing tools integrated into the upcoming version of OS X.

The integration of sharing tools is not only limited to Apple devices. Google as well has now integrated content sharing tools into Android to the extent that pictures taken from an Android device can be uploaded automatically into a Google+ “holding folder” and just a click away from being published at a later date. This functionality was also added for Google+ iOS users as long as the Google+ app is running in the background.

The key takeaway for all of us from this, however, is to understand what users are most likely to share and spread amongst their friends. GWI data has proved that, in most markets, heavy social media users are more likely to be sharing and curating content rather than creating their own, and providing them with branded content that is valuable for them to share is certain to make an impact on our own marketing. Moreover, the improvement in smartphone cameras and data connection speeds also mean that sharing real-time visual content is becoming more pervasive, and we can see this from the spectacular rise of photo sharing and social platforms such as Pinterest. The sharing of visual content will only become more prevalent in the future.

Create powerful visual content

The best way that brands and companies can take advantage of the rise of content sharing is to create striking visual content of their products or even images that capture the essence of what they want their brand to represent. For me, this is becoming the new “command message advertising”. If we can create powerful visual brand messages that consumers will share, then we, in effect, can still maintain the message and feelings that people associate with our brand. And it is transmitted not through owned media but rather, through earned media!

These forms of visual content can be anything from powerful images, helpful videos, or even events. One of my favourite brand events of late that created quite a substantial social buzz was one staged by Tropicana in Trafalgar Square. It was part of their “Brighter Mornings” campaign and sought to brighten a grey London morning is a giant “sun” in Trafalgar Square. The event received a great deal of earned media coverage through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and undoubtedly drove substantial numbers of people to Tropicana’s owned properties.

As we move forward with the evolution of the social business, creating strong, emotional visual content will be critical to driving earned media from now on. Furthermore, sharing content within businesses themselves is a tremendous opportunity to unlock knowledge and information that may be hidden away in particular business silos. It is critical that we allow our employees access to share all types of content within an organisation, especially if it represents a point of view that would have been expressed through content created by the organization itself. Why create it when you can share it?

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