Your brand needs a Creative Strategist

You need more social thinking than ever.

Toy Story / Disney Pixar

It’s funny—I never actually held the title “social media manager.”

There was social media specialist, social media strategist, senior strategist (they intentionally removed “social“), strategy director, and my personal favorite: director of creative strategy. It’s the truest use of my skills, and probably the hardest title to define in marketing organizations. It’s also vitally important for social media success in 2023.

Let’s talk about why the current social media landscape’s begging you to hire a creative strategist.

What is a Creative Strategist?

My no cheating, off-the-top-of-my-head description: creative strategists specialize in forming both campaign and tactical social ideas based on specific platform and/or audience insights. It’s a little social strategist, a little creative director, a little analytics, all blended to create overarching social concepts.

I was a Senior Creative Strategist at Twitch last year—easily one of the most fun jobs I’ve held. I roamed the internet and dug up my position’s job listing. Let’s take a look at the primary bullets:

  • As a Senior Creative Strategist, you will work on large-scale, high profile advertising campaigns, strategic partnerships and Joint Business Plans for Twitch’s most important clients.

  • The Senior Creative Strategist will concept and pitch inspiring branded content campaigns that translate client’s goals into compelling content and experiences.

  • You will uncover cultural insights on Twitch, the gaming community and Gen-Z audience, and develop strategic brand narratives with them.

  • You will work with new and existing clients to translate marketing goals into creative campaigns that use the best of Twitch’s platform, products and talent.

  • You will partner with clients to attend pitches, brainstorms and collaborative work sessions which promote the Twitch platform.

Basically, I’d receive 2ish requests for proposals (RFPs) from brands each week, then pitch back creative concept bringing the brand’s ask to life through Twitch-specific features and streamers. Take Monster Energy’s partnership with Apex Legends, for instance; I pitched a concept I called Energy Streaks, a combination of Twitch’s Challenge-stream format + chat-spammed flock-to-unlock to get squads playing together (I’d link you, but Twitch is livestreamed, so uh.. it’s gone!)

That’s a lot of jargon, but it’s also kinda the point—they’re platform-specific insights. Things an outside creative team probably couldn’t generate without a Twitch insider.

Why do you need a Creative Strategist?

You’ve probably noticed Twitter now has a For You newsfeed? Yes, it’s their take on TikTok’s For You Page. And you’ve seen Instagram’s Reels feed. That means three of the major social networks now have primary feeds operating off interest-graphs—feeds that are less about who you follow, more about what content their respective algorithms think you’ll enjoy.

This is the second coming of organic content. Those who understand the platforms, understand their intended audience, and understand how to make compelling content have the best chance at engagement and virality we’ve seen in years.

Sure, you could hire a social strategist to brief traditional creatives, but I’ve never found it as effective as content led by creative strategists. The mechanicals of great content are too intertwined with creative ideas to fully separate both sides of the brain. It’s about as anti-agency of a perspective as I could offer, but I’ve seen so many multi-million dollar campaigns go out that reallyyy only succeeded on social thanks to huge paid media budgets. Hire someone who can do both.

Creative Strategist vs. Social Media Manager vs. Social Strategist?

Listen, we all know social titles have always been ambiguous. The big thing I want you to take away here: you need a socially-minded brain who doesn’t have social media administrative responsibilities.

The traditional social media manager role heavily emphasizes that management word. They’re catch-all positions, usually requiring posting, project management, production, analytics, internal politics, and oh yeah, strategy and creative. If you want to make truly great social media, you’ve gotta allow someone on your team whose primary responsibility is to think about content, not the other bells & whistles.

I like the title Creative Strategist because it implies both campaign-level and tactical-level thinking. I won’t lose sleep if you call them content strategists or even social strategists, though—just make sure they get to think more than do.

So where do I find a creative strategist?

I’d love for you to look within first. Look at your current social media manager or social pros. Are they best suited for the mechanical side of social, or have they shown strong aptitude in strategy and/or creative? If it’s the latter, give them the shot at taking on creative strategy full-time (since you’re probably already tasking them with it). Offload their project management responsibilities to more junior talent.

If you don’t think you’ve got that person in-house, consider candidates with current titles like:

  • social media strategists

  • content strategists

  • copywriters with a social/digital focus

  • content creators

  • social media managers

You’ll get all sorts of uniquely-experienced candidates coming in. Something I admired about how my old boss formed the Twitch creative strategy team—we all had very different expertise. Some of us were social brains, others were traditional advertising creatives, a few wrote videos for Youtubers, but all were great at the job, bringing an original POV.

Social Cues

Twitter extending long-form tweets to 10k characters: The current 4k tweets are ugly, but I’m a big believer in long-form on Twitter. If Elon and both engineers he’s got left can make longer tweets more readable with formatting options and inline media, they’ll be a game changer.

Introducing TikTok Series: basically, TikTok creators can now make paywalled content up to 20 minutes in length. I tend to think adding paywalled content to free content platforms never works, but I’ll support anything that supports creators.

Interview with YouTube’s new head of gaming: Twitch’s biggest rival is getting bigger, hitting 120 billion hours of gaming watch time last year. Read about some of their plans to continue growing in the category.

Where else to find me online

LinkedIn: I write daily about career development! How to get promoted, how to find jobs, that sorta stuff. Currently running a program where I’m giving away free 30 min coaching calls every day—follow me there, I’m announcing April sign-ups soon.

Twitter: Lotsa shorter thoughts on social media strategy there + analysis threads on brands and creators. Multiple posts per day because it’s Twitter.

Instagram: My IG’s just my personal life—a lotta basketball, music recommendations, some personal essays. If you wanna get to know me outside of marketing, come follow me there, send me your favorite song.