As a social-first agency, we’re constantly thinking about where social media is headed. That’s why it was great to attend Social Media Week New York, where we had the opportunity to hear from fellow marketers on the cutting edge of the industry. Here are our top six takeaways.
1. Dig into social media data to uncover insights about your audience.
As Edelman’s Alberto Brea reminded us, in order to deliver meaningful experiences, marketers must start with data and then create content from it. But what if market insights are wrong? In his aptly named session “You Think You Know, But You Have No Idea,” Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C, advocated for throwing conventional wisdom about demographic data aside.
Focus groups are outdated tactics for marketers needing to create meaningful experiences; people will say that they think and feel one way, but their behavior might tell a different story. “Behavior doesn’t lie, and conventional wisdom is almost always wrong,” said Goldman. “Digging into what people interact with on social media tells you more about your audience.” For example, Nicorette found that people who engage with Santa Claus on social media are 355% more likely to engage with the brand too. The result: a “Get Off the Naughty List” campaign.
2. Create authentic human experiences with influencers.
“Social media is in the hands of each individual user to blaze their own trail,” said influencer Patrick Janelle. “There’s no precedent for anything we are doing. We are building stronger, more intimate relationships all the time.” In his conversation with Martha Stewart and the co-founders of Socialfly, Janelle made the case for why brands should partner with micro-influencers: they’re trailblazing content creators who’ve built authentic relationships with their audiences.
As influencer marketing becomes more saturated, authenticity is everything. And according to Whitney McChane, Vice President and Director of Research at Carmichael Lynch, it starts with recognizing the humanity on both sides of the equation. “Think partner, not promoter,” said McChane. This means setting guardrails rather than guidelines. “Their brand is just as important as yours and their audience has an expectation of authenticity,” she reminded us.
3. Embrace video to drive meaningful engagement.
Facebook Live isn’t just “taking out your camera and getting social media gold.” In his session, Jason Hsiao, Chief Video Officer at Animoto, shared the keys to creating successful video content, including: live broadcasts should be treated like regularly-produced videos, as most views will come later; and think natively—each platform should have its own video content.
In the wake of the recent Facebook News Feed changes, some brands have weathered the storm by leaning into video. The Dodo, for instance, has embraced Facebook Watch to create meaningful and engaging, episodic content that satisfies the algorithm’s requirements. But over on YouTube, the brand is seeing longer completion rates than other channels due to the channel’s “sofa mentality” and its users’ healthy appetite for longer-form content.
4. Connecting with Generation Z requires authenticity.
Consumers belonging to Generation Z are often referred to as “digital natives.” Indeed, this is the most connected, phone-addicted generation yet. According to Kate Lewis, SVP of Digital at Hearst Magazine, YouTube makes up over 40% of Gen Z’s viewing habits, beating out Netflix and traditional TV. Why? Because YouTube aligns with this generation’s content preferences: fast, user-generated content, that feels “real.” Advertisers wanting to reach younger audiences should use platforms like Snapchat and YouTube to create “high-polished amateur” content.
5. Having a social purpose is good for business.
“Brands can no longer be bystanders regarding today’s issues,” said Laura Kline, EVP and New York Social Impact Lead at Weber Shandwick. But before taking a stand, you have to first uncover your purpose—not just haphazardly search for a cause to get behind.
According to 214 CEO Trace Cohen, brands that are purposeful are showing growth rates of about 2.5 times greater than others. Examples of purposeful brands include Sonos—whose impact campaign supports the next generation of artists through free creativity, including causes like net neutrality—and Pernod Ricard, which is built with a truly sustainable production model.
6. If you want to create breakthrough content, you have to provide value.
The key to creating breakthrough content is knowing the value you provide your audience and understanding why they would share what you publish. “They share to feel cool, in the know, smart, because it triggered an emotion, makes them feel part of something bigger,” said Yuval Rechter, Head of Digital at First Media. And when the story is good and provides enough value, branding doesn’t matter—people will share the content anyway. (Just look at #LikeAGirl from Always.) “Don’t be trigger happy,” Rechter also warned. “If you have even a feeling that it’s not going to work on social—it’s not going to work, 100% of the time. Trust your gut.”