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A review of Social Media Week London 2016

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Here, three JJ social media specialists talk about their key takeaways from the week’s events and explain where they think the future of social media marketing is heading.

Social Media Week London

Key Takeaway 1 – Test and learn from new social media features

It became very apparent during Social Media Week that even for big brands, when a new social platform or a new feature on a social platform is introduced it’s all about trial and error to see what works best for them.

Users spend more than 21 minutes on Instagram each day. Either Instagram is being very modest here or I’m addicted to Instagram, as I know I spend more time on the app than that and feel that it’s the social channel I always look at first, ahead of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

Social media used to be all about text, it then moved from text to photo and now it’s moving more towards video and in the last six months Instagram has seen a 150% increase in video uploads. Instagram put its success down “to being able to adapt and evolve along with its community” and its message with its “new feature”, Instagram Stories, was that users wanted to share content without being too spammy, explaining that Stories unfolded another layer of storytelling.

Facebook Live and Periscope are also proving to be incredible tools for news publishers. The likes of CNN and Sky News are seeing the applications revolutionise the way they’re able to deliver news to their audience, who can now actually direct the broadcast. As Rachel Rodriguez, social media producer at CNN put it, “the best legacy news organisations adapt” – and realising that this new social feature works for them and their audience is a part of that.

There are many challenges that we’ve had to overcome with new social media and its features, most notably internal sign off. The BBH Social in 2020 discussion talked about how, especially with disposable content such as Snapchat, it’s often difficult to communicate its worthiness. The way this is overcome is through a lot of A/B testing to compare the results of different campaigns, creative and copy to see which is most effective for the specific channel.

In a separate talk, BuzzFeed argued the merits of live video and how it needs to be simple, original and engaging. The panel for this talk included someone from the BBC, the Economist and Facebook Live. I found it really interesting to hear about how live video on social was important for the BBC. Although for years they’ve been live broadcasting with TV and radio, social is unique as it has a Q&A element – they can focus on what the audience want to see and truly engage and interact with their audience, which is refreshing. The immediate feedback loop means that they can adapt their content on the go to keep the audience engaged.

It was apparent that, for the BBC, live videos from the aftermath of events were most popular. And, of course, for the likes of the BBC these types of video are expected. However, what does this mean for brands? Live video seemed like the natural next step for the brands in this panel discussion but there aren’t that many examples of successful branded live videos. As we move into 2017, I think more brands will explore live video and we’ll get more of a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Key Takeaway 2 – Invest in clever content that works harder

With an SEO and content writing background, you can imagine the number of times I’ve read, heard and been forced to digest the phrase ‘content is king’. It’s been done to death and for that reason it takes a lot for us to really listen to anyone trying to hammer home the overused expression.

But Social Media Week did it for me.

I was lucky enough to watch several lectures throughout the course of Social Media Week, but the message that seemed to really come through was the power of data to inform content and to inform the repurposing and sharing of that content to deliver real value to both the marketer and the target audience.

Whether intended or not, I found the message of clever content and cleverly shared content come through in many of the lectures. From using CrowdTangle to ensure you’re posting something that is relevant and of interest to your readers to The Economist and its strategy of posting everything, regardless of whether or not it’s social media-friendly, there were surprisingly differing views.

The Economist’s social media approach of posting all of its print articles, regardless of whether or not they were deemed social media-friendly, and then making them fit social media was an approach that I was particularly surprised by. In this day and age, where we’re taught the increasing importance of channel and audience relevance, this seemed like an outdated strategy in many ways. However, their approach towards video on social media really seemed to embrace the medium and use the platform to take key learnings to improve reach and engagement.

LinkedIn’s Jason Miller provided perhaps the most enlightening talk on the subject with the aptly named ‘How to achieve face-melting content marketing ROI’ lecture event. Introducing what he coined ‘big rock content’ that’s informed by the strategy of producing content that LinkedIn knows there is a need for, they then repurpose that content to extend its life and reach. By launching content like you would a product, his team achieves high reach and engagement and extends this by pushing out the same content to different audiences but tailoring it for those specific audiences through speaking in line with their goals.

As the author of, Miller likened each of his points to rock music and bands, which enabled him to really grip his audience by speaking in terms that relate and communicate his points effectively. In one example, he likened The Clash and their mission statement of aligning their values with the values of their audience to what content marketing should be doing to achieve ROI.

The big rock content in question, the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, stands as a fantastic case study for content marketing and illustrates perfectly how by investing in clever content marketing that works harder for you and your goals, you can achieve the holy grail that is proven marketing ROI.

Key Takeaway 3 – There are many ways to achieve success

(as long as you’re clear on the objectives)

It’s easy to see that there are many differences between social channels – but it’s also true for how you use them. As long as you’re focused on business objectives, there are many different ways to achieve success. Here are a few different ways companies showed they could be successful.

We know that social media is an important channel because of the large audience we are able to communicate with. While the content and strategy is important, getting the attention of your target audience in busy newsfeeds is increasingly difficult and it doesn’t just depend on the quality of the content posted. Vayner Media adopts a Day Trading of Attention approach, where they not only look at where their target audience is on a day to day basis, but also where there is space from others fighting for their attention. They apply a value to where they think they will be able to engage with an audience and build the content to fit the vacancy.

What should be posted?

BBH demonstrated how you can interpret the big idea to work seamlessly on social channels and support campaigns running across multiple channels. They showed the level of creativity and quality that can be produced with the right planning, skills and time.

Turkish Airlines took a different approach and showed how they leveraged user generated content (UGC) to support their sponsorship of the Euros in France earlier this year. Rather than focusing on making a perfectly crafted, strategic campaign, they leveraged the masses of content that people were already making and sharing – picking and choosing the posts that fitted their message and brand (all with appropriate licensed agreements).

But you don’t have to have a strategy that sits at either of these extremes. Poke spoke about how they worked with influencers to create the Wembley Cup for EE. In this campaign, nothing was shared on the EE brand accounts, it was all through Spencer FC’s channels, and he was the star of the campaign. What Poke did was set the framework for great content but let it happen unscripted. The framework created a narrative and built the story but was loose enough to embrace the real way most people use social media. See more about it here.

So who should do the posting?

Now it’s not just about the content, who should share it? There is no social media manager or ‘war room’ looking after National Geographic’s Instagram account. They have empowered their staff, allowing their network of photographers to run the account. The assets are in the hands of the creators and these 100 photographers self-regulate and time the content. You could say that they have created a community of contributors to talk to the community of their readers.

And finally…

And if doesn’t work for you, you could leave it to the machines… Mullenlowe Profero demonstrated how chatbots can be used to communicate with your audience, having conversations on a one-on-one basis. While the technology is still in its infancy, brands are starting to take advantage of the opportunities that chatbots offer. Over the coming months and years, there will be winners and losers using this tech, so take care! If you’re interested reading more about chatbots, have a look at our comments on the Stoptober campaign.

If you have any questions about social marketing, please get in touch.