Ahead of Cannes Lions, Twitter and Contagious teamed up to analyze the nature of content that consumers engage with and want to share, for a report called The Participation Playbook.

The companies sifted through 1,856 Twitter-led campaigns from Cannes, submitted to the competition between 2014-2018. They then tapped the creators behind the most innovative work among the submissions for insights into how consumers identified with their work.

A closer look at these successful campaigns shed light on six key themes conducive to culturally resonant and creatively effective content.

“Our research shows that now the most forward-thinking brands treat Twitter as a Petri dish where ideas and messages are dropped in the hope of (ahem) creating culture,” the report’s introduction notes.

The first pillar marketers should consider: using Twitter as a resource for learning about their audience’s cares, interests, and opinions. Marketing plans for Twitter become ambitious when they understand that earned media can enhance their message and visibility. In 2017, for example, Burger King used Twitter users’ complaints about Wendy’s discontinuing its spicy chicken nuggets to promote its own spicy chicken nuggets.  

“In the same way that practitioners of the martial art throw their opponents by redirecting their momentum, marketers should look for cultural conversations that can be directed into their brand stories,” says Crystal Rix, chief strategy officer at BBDDO New York.

Creating campaigns that include intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivators and prove to audiences that they’re being heard marks the report’s second pillar. REI accomplished the aforementioned with its #OptOutside campaign, the closing of its stores on Black Friday with a call-to-action (CTA) for customers to explore the wilderness. The result: 1.4 million people using the hashtag with a record number of new member sign-ups at REI.

For fostering lasting relationships with customers, the third pillar suggests, brands should measure the success of campaigns beyond impressions and engagement. While still important, these metrics aren’t a one-size-fits-all to producing real-world outcomes for customers. Verizon exhibited an ability to connect with users on a deeper level when it tweeted to rivals’ customers written reports of what they missed, as a result of their network provider’s poor signaled streaming of college basketball.

While big ideas are seemingly the most effective way to spark a conversation about your brand, Twitter’s report encourages advertisers to also think small. This means crafting a message that appeals to a micro-community or niche as these audiences’ passion for the topic will generate momentum and, in turn, create a ripple effect.

The brands that Twitter spoke to with the strongest voice on Twitter agreed that “corporate tones or jargon leak” will undoubtedly spoil a message and conversation. The marketer’s solution: demonstrate self-awareness and self-deprecation on social.

Lastly, rather than simply providing entertainment in exchange for a prospect’s interest or business, brands need to offer a kind of service or utility. “If brands can create something that will represent people’s thoughts, or if brands can create something that speaks for the people, then people will be interested and share those things,” said Yasu Sasaki, executive creative director of Dentsu Tokyo.