Casey Neistat’s Advice for Reinventing Communities: Do What You Can’t and Embrace the Long-Term

When it comes to creativity, Casey Neistat has one piece of advice for today’s growing community of content creators: Do what you can’t.

At #SMWNYC, the world famous social media pioneer sat down with Grey’s Worldwide Chief Innovation Officer, Dan Bennett, for a candid conversation about the evolution of creativity and how social media has led us to the notion that good creative is synonymous with good results, which sometimes involves going against the naysayers.

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Here’s what we learned about the meaning of creativity in a digitally-driven world, and why creators should strive to balance reach and numbers in the near-term with building sustainable relationships in the long-term.

Embracing the Long-Term in Unchartered Territory

“The truth is I don’t understand and have never attempted to understand the short term,” explained Neistat. When it comes to branding, selling stories and ideas, it can’t just be about a product or service, he says. Neistat added to this point by explaining that the brands who spend more time talking about what they represent than what they do on their actual products or services tend to have more success.

This is primarily because “the long-term marries the idea of creativity in much more dynamic and honest ways,” said Neitstat, who described that this approach leads to more compelling and sustainable work that fuels engagement.

Consumer behavior has changed, necessitating a shift in the way brands create and connect with audiences. It entails constantly seeking out new ways to grab attention and an understanding that the very term “creator” has radically expanded with the evolution of new technologies and platforms.

Today’s consumers have more choices than ever before, Neistat underscored. “Anyone who was born after the year 2000 and was raised with a device in their pocket can shoot a super high-definition video that they can edit and can distribute to the entire world—and that’s not hyperbole,” he said.

Creativity vs. Metrics

Balancing reach metrics with long-term strategic creativity is a foundational dilemma, and Neistat warns that getting too marred in the short-term will sacrifice the quality of your content and the long-term relationships that content aims to build. This is primarily because from the onset, “products are not what consumers subscribe to. They subscribe to an idea.”

He added to this explaining, “one thing we’re doing wrong is focusing on the metrics instead of the creativity. “We need to leverage creative individuals who haven’t necessarily found their reach yet..” This observation serves as the foundation for his company, 368 founded just under a year ago. At its core, 368’s mission is to offer a bridge between a budding creator community and marketing industry by helping them climb the ladder of success “escalator-style.”

In reflecting on his own metrics — Neistat boasts 11.2 million subscribers on YouTube alone—he admitted, “My 11 million subscribers tell you nothing about who I am or what I stand for.” As dismissive as it may sound, there’s a lot to be said in letting good work speak for itself, he added.

Do What You Can’t

These four words uttered in one of Neitstat’s videos shared during the session titled, “DO WHAT YOU CAN’T,” encapsulates everything he’s done since his move to New York in an effort to marry his passions for filmmaking and storytelling.

“When you don’t have a map to tell you how to get there, you have to find your own way,” Neistat said. This, he says, is the beauty of today’s storytelling. All you need is a phone, an internet connection, and an authentic story you want to share with the world. This is how today’s creators are establishing a unique brand for themselves and defining their own ethos of the work that they do—by defining their own path despite not knowing whether it is “the correct path.”

Enter the single biggest marketing opportunity today: harnessing the consumer voice. Neistat referred to a 2016 Reuters study that found that when surveyed, 75 percent of American kids aged 7 to 14 want to be YouTubers when they grow up.

Trusting the Process

The opportunities for organic relationships between brands and creators exist; however, per Neitstat, the primary focus of creators is how they nurture the relationships they have with their audience regardless of the size. For this reason, successful collaborations require vulnerability and a willingness to take on projects through the lens of a bigger, more holistic process that prioritizes creative influence first and numbers second.

Pointing to a Samsung partnership as an example, Niestat explained that while the company didn’t see a rough cut of the commercial, had no input on the finished product and gave no feedback, the collaboration worked because his idea ultimately aligned with the ethos of the brand.

“The process is what yields the work; its never the ideation,” Neistat concluded.

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