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Here’s What We Learned at Social Media Week London

On October 31st, our Director of Social Media hopped on a plane to London to attend the coveted event. Bypassing the House of Commons (barely) and Brexit marches (just about), Zoe picked up her #SMWLDN pass and took her seat. With two days of talks and workshops lined up, here’s what she learned and took away from the conference.

Arriving the night before, I eagerly took out the agenda for the conference – highlighter in hand – and began marking. After 20 minutes, I realised I had picked almost every talk, workshop and networking break on the list. Time to revise my plan.

This was my first time attending Social Media Week and given the calibre of speakers I knew it was going to something pretty memorable. The overall theme for the conference was ‘Stories: With Great Influence Comes Great Responsibility’ and over the course of the two days, we were treated to inspiring, educational and though-provoking talks from an incredible range of industry professionals.

Key topics that made their way into almost every talk focused on the value of good content, social self-care and responsibility and connecting with your audience.

The idea of Storytelling came up on multiple occasions over the two days and one thing that became quite evident was the need to dazzle online audiences with content that is educational, inspiring and engaging. If an audience can connect, they are more likely to get involved. Nadine Heggie, the Vice President & Brand Partnerships lead at Nat Geo said, we are “a community of bold explorers with an insatiable curiosity.” A community. A collective. A force to be reckoned with and a force that seeks out genuine conversations and connections.

Thinking Forward

The way in which brands address and work with audiences is at a turning point. We’re slowly moving into an age where brands are giving more of a voice to audiences. Mobbie Nazir from We Are Social, treated us to a preview of their infamous digital trend report, shedding light on a couple of trends in particular.

1. Added Value: More than ever, people are placing more value on digital content and creators. Recognition is key and online communities are really fighting for online ownership. In a digital age where communities are stronger than ever, you don’t want to be the brand who doesn’t credit!

2. Social Self-Care: Let’s face it, we are 100% living in an always-on world and people are really starting to think about rebalancing their digital lives. Online communities are seeking out optimism, engaging in more wholesome content and opting out of unhealthy social habits.

We are at a critical point and how we tell stories online is the main objective for big brands. The role of influencers has also changed. Collaborations are no longer a must and brands are having to work harder to build authentic relationships with influential people who actually care about their brand and its story.

How to Be Human – What We Really Mean by Connection

It’s harder than ever for brands to build meaningful connections on social. They need to be fluid and have a certain degree of emotion to resonate with the outside world. We’re at a point where brands need to think about people first. It’s time to put the people back into the story.

I love a good quote and they were being fired from both stages non-stop, but one in particular stood out for me: “Don’t just think about the content you create, think about the content it will inspire. The people who will create their own and move your message further.” Will Hodge, Executive Strategy Director – Karmarama

Why Vertical is the Future of Storytelling

The big talk of the conference that pulled in the biggest crowd and most definitely spoke to everyone who works in social media was that of vertical video. DON DON DOONNNN! It’s clear to say that brands are scared to make the jump from landscape to portrait, but the time has come to build for behaviour.

82% of people hold their phones vertically when consuming content so moving to vertical is a no-brainer, right? We live in an age where it’s becoming easier and easier to shoot vertically and brands like Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and EA Sports have already taken that leap of faith. Go on, do it. DO IT!

The State of Social in 2020

“When you run out of money, you have to get creative.” This was one of the opening statements from Steven Barlett, CEO of Social Chain. Having dropped out of college to start his first business, his story to success is pretty impressive – and ballsy! He described the current social media landscape as one that is black box vs glass box. It’s all about transparency and if your company or brand is stuck in a ‘black box mentality’ it’s no longer effective.

When it comes to winners in the marketing sector, brands who are brave enough to attach themselves to something real and relevant are coming out on top. One example that came in in Barlett’s talk (and three or four others) was Nike’s 2018 Just Do It campaign with Colin Kaepernick. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Naturally the ad sent social media ablaze with reactions from the right and the left. The left side sees a brand supporting Kaepernick’s kneeling campaign, yay! The right sees a brand caving to politically correct pressure, boo! Whatever way you look at it, this was a campaign with a story and one that Nike wasn’t afraid to tell.

Within the past year, social media apps have come under extreme scrutiny, leading us from a tipping point to an inflection point. As marketers we have a responsibility to ensure the stories we tell are the vehicle for change.

The world of digital and social media defines how we connect and communicate, how we experience the world and tell stories. Stories are an incredible force and they can influence how we see the world. With great influence comes great responsibility.