Whereas social media would once have made up just a single element of a marketing campaign, these days it is often the whole campaign itself. Social has morphed into everyone’s job, not just that of digital innovators and experts.
Last week the 8th annual Social Media Week London brought together some of these experts, plus leading brands, entrepreneurs and influencers to discuss all things social – from the most important trends and conversations, to professional insights and best practices. We picked out some of the most important themes to emerge from the week.
Keep the focus on the consumer
Demonstrating that traditional marketing values still have a place in the digital landscape, brands seemed at pains to reinforce the importance of the audience remaining the number one priority. The BBC relayed their mantra that ‘audiences are at the heart of what we do’ and revealed that they tailor their live content as it streams, based on audience reactions. National Geographic told us to ‘lean into your purpose to get closer to the consumer’, and the brand manager of KFC spoke about how social creates fragmented audiences, and that it has become a brand’s responsibility to actively seek them out and connect.
The growth of micro-influencers reflects this. Influencer marketing continues to be an important tool that enables brands to connect with their audiences. A system that has been widely accepted, it has also been legitimised to a certain extent by regulations that its proponents are now legally obliged to follow. Consumers are more clued up than ever about brand/influencer relationships and can generally spot a blatant bit of selling, particularly if it is out of kilter with normal content. Speakers from Adidas relayed the importance, therefore, of cultivating genuine relationships with your influencers, and described a successful brand/influencer relationship as being mutually beneficial, with the brand helping the influencer reach their goals, as well as vice versa. According to many, micro-influencers are the way forward. Categorised as having 10k-50k followers, they get up to five times more engagement than larger scale influencers, and are more cost effective.
The growth in demand for a real-time experience
Described as one of the key benefits of social, this was also highlighted as one of the main requirements of consumers. Adidas talked about the value of Snapchat geofilters in being able to provide this kind of experience, providing the example of a geofilter created for their original store, which is seen by an average of 100k people each month. Buzzfeed identified the demand for real-time experiences as one of the reasons behind the popularity of live video streaming, and used Facebook’s platform, which currently has the biggest audience, as an example. It offers unique reactions that allow the audience to feedback whilst viewing the stream, creating real-time commentary and an immediate experience.
Being flexible, adaptive and experimental
Speakers from National Geographic, an industry leading brand with over 59 million followers, emphasised the importance of remaining flexible and adaptive, counting it as one of the keys to their success. New platforms are being launched continually, and mainstream platforms are bringing out new features all the time. Live video features by Tumblr, Alively and Twitch are examples of new features we’ll all be using soon. Speakers from Pepsi brought attention to the fact that metrics across different platforms have different meanings, and stressed the importance that users educate themselves on the exact meaning of each and what we can learn from them.
Don’t be afraid to fail
This is tied to the previous point, as being experimental comes with the risk of getting something wrong, or running an ineffective campaign. However, speakers from leading brands did not shy away from this possibility, and actively encouraged experimentation. As well as Buzzfeed highlighting the potential pitfalls of attempting live video steaming, speakers from Adidas advocated setting up, testing and learning from geofilters before publishing to your audience at large. It was generally acknowledged that as digital trends move quickly, mistakes are bound to happen. The important point, however, was not to let this stop you using these platforms altogether. KFC reinforced this point by proclaiming that marketing budgets should be invested in the unknown, as well as the known, and that consistently positive results indicate that nothing has been learnt along the way.
As always with social media, much of the focus was on predicting the next big trend, staying ahead of the curve, and remaining relevant. Predictions on future trends were a staple in pretty much every talk, confirming the importance to brands of retaining their status as early adopters.
Live video was at the forefront of these predictions. Many acknowledged that even though it has been around for some time now, it has continued to grow this year, and trajectories indicate that the presence of live video streaming in particular will only continue to do so. In Buzzfeed’s talk on the power of live video, speakers from the BBC, The Economist and Facebook discussed what makes a successful stream, ruminating that the allowance for immediate reactions from both publisher and audience is the reason that views for live video are three times longer and attract up to ten times as many comments than that of a regular video.
On the other end of the spectrum, predictions for what trends and platforms are currently in decline were also discussed widely. Twitter was highlighted as a platform that may not go the distance in the current social media landscape, with Snapchat replacing it as a mainstream platform used prolifically by marketers. The decline of organic marketing was also predicted for further fall as paid marketing options become more widespread, diverse and available.