5 things we learned at Social Media Week NYC 2018

By   |   May 9th, 2018   |   Reading time: 9 minutes Brands, Digital Journalism

social media week, social media analytics

Social Media Week New York was held recently. We went along and picked out the best insights from the sessions we attended.

We recently attended Social Media Week NYC, and had our fill of great talks and panels. We attended on the Thursday of the event and attended the following talks:

  • Creativity + Data: How to Develop Personalized Experiences that Capture Both
  • Brand Purpose 2.0: When Doing Good Drives the Bottom Line
  • The New Era of Digital Content: How Brands & Publishers are Keeping Up with Audiences
  • The Data Whisperers: Tips for Turning Data Insights into Action
  • The World Beyond Social

Below you’ll find a summary of some of the things we learned, broken out into a convenient list because, well, who doesn’t love a good list?


1. Data can be a key part of the creative process

The first talk of the day came from Edelman’s EVP Group Planning Director, Alberto Brea.

The focus of the presentation was how we can use both creativity and data in a complementary fashion to create the result we want to see, with a particular view to earned media.

“We have this idea that creativity is for brand marketers,” said Brea. “Data is for performance marketers. Creativity for the top of funnel, data for lower in the funnel. The middle of that kind of journey is a little bit obscure.”

It is Brea’s belief that you have to use data to increase value in a way that is relevant to the consumer. Edelman has succeeded in doing this, as Brea described through a recent campaign:

Data creativity to make life safer

Hövding makes airbag helmets for cyclists and the brand wanted to build awareness about cycling safety in London. There has been an increasing number of accidents in the British capital, and it was an important issue around the London Mayoral elections in 2016.

There were three objectives for the campaign:

  1. Hövding wanted to increase miles of bike lanes
  2. Hövding wanted to create a strategy to encourage people to bike to work
  3. Having analyzed that most of the accidents were happening because of trucks, the brand wanted to reduce trucks at rush hour and increase visibility

To help achieve these goals, Edelman redefined the function of the bike bell to make London safer for cyclists. They partnered with Flic, used for any smart device, to create a new smart bell to press every time they felt scared or frustrated. In the campaign’s own words:

Hundreds of cycling influencers got a smart Flic button to be able to register their specific frustration hot spots in the London traffic. Each use of the smart bell was noted on an interactive heat map of London. Simultaneously an automated email was sent to the Mayor of London to motivate him to act.

This was known as the ‘Give a beep’ initiative.

From an earned media perspective this generated 100 million earned impressions, and Sadiq Khan, the incoming Mayor of London pledged to increase bike lanes.

“It shows the power of earned media, it puts it at the center of culture. This took people who are motivated, used data, used creativity, and let people see the message,” Brea said.


2. Brands are seeing success on multiple levels from taking a stand on social issues that are important to their audience


This insight came from the panel on doing good driving the bottom line, which featured:

  • Bobby Jones (CMO at Peace First)
  • Joe Dawson (Director of Global Cultural Marketing & Social Impact, Sonos)
  • Jeremie Moritz (Digital Director of Absolut Elyx, Pernod Ricard)
  • and was moderated by Trace Cohen (CEO of 214)

The talk opened with what Cohen described as three types of purpose-driven business models, as laid out below.

  1. Purpose impact approach: directly aligned with brand purpose, like Patagonia
  2. Purpose inside out: Toms, Warby Parker are examples. These are brands that have really baked purpose into their business model
  3. Purpose allied model: Empowering your audience through content and branding

Cohen then noted that “brands that stand for something have growth rates of 2.5x that of other brands” before opening the discussion to the panel.

So, how brands can get involved in causes that they care about without disrupting the work of actual grassroots organizations?

Dawson spoke of the round tables they had held to promote the voices of the grassroots activists with whom they work:

“Allies are key to what we do. We held a number of listening round tables in a space we thought might be interesting to us so we could be added into these efforts. Inspiring to not only hear from them but deepen these relationships, offer them a platform to connect with one another.

We continue to work with a lot of these. Grassroots organization are the most overlooked organizations and we want to help make sure what they do is being heard and talked about. We’re a global company, but we try to be really be connected in our local communities, so we continue to host local round tables too to really identify how we can continue to deepen those relationships.”

Beyond simply listening, companies that want to make a difference in the world do have the capacity to do that too.

Jones spoke of Adidas’ partnership with Parley to create a shoe made completely out of recycled plastic. The first run of 1,000 shoes sold out in less than 24 hours and the second run of one million was on track to sell out too.

Moritz, meanwhile spoke of some of the initiatives that his own company, Absolut, is taking, in fighting to have bars get rid of plastic straws and use recyclable and recycled menus. The company also partnered with Water for People so that every time a bottle of Absolut Elyx is sold a week’s worth of water is provided for people most in need of it.

The discussion closed with a collective appreciation for companies that take a stand, and the panelists sharing the conclusion that it’s so easy to bake in a socially conscious aim into a business model from the start that there’s really no reason why every new company shouldn’t be doing it.


3. There is a world beyond public social sharing


Since this was Social Media Week, it’s unsurprising that much of the focus was on, well, social media. There was, however one talk that went beyond this a little, and that came from Travis Mantaque, the CEO of Emogi.

What started out as a video sharing company quickly changed course when they realized people were more interested in the emoji reactions to the videos than the videos themselves.

This led to the realization that there’s a whole conversation going on away from where we can see it, on what we call ‘dark social’, mostly messaging apps, but other forms of private communication as well. Worldwide, Montaque stated that 70 percent of conversations are happening away from social, though that does drop to 60 percent in North America.

This talk was principally about how emoji fits into that conversation, and how we can capture the mood of any conversation’s participants by which emoji they are using.

What makes emoji and gif content successful was also discussed, with the four key characteristics being that it needed to be:

  1. fresh
  2. culturally aware
  3. contextual
  4. ideally in some form of motion.


4. Data is great, but you have to know what you’re doing


The final three points here all came from the combined final talks presented by the UK Department of International Trade.

Simply, a lot of people want to have data, and then end up having no idea what to do with it.

This was a point raised principally by Didrik Svendsen, the Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder at Tailify, during a discussion around misconceptions around data.

While others noted talked about the prevalence of buzzwords, and the cross-functionality of the data, Svendsen noted that the key misconception for him is that everyone knows what they’re doing. 

He went on to say that in 90 percent of the meetings he goes into clients and customers are desperate to have data of one form or another, but then when they have it they don’t know what to do with it, or even what they might do with it.

The data can then end up wasted, and so managing expectations and showing the potential upside to the data from a very early stage in the process is a key factor.


5. Personalization is coming, but there’s a limit on what we should be doing


The discussion then moved to personalization of content, which is a theme that is becoming ever more prevalent on the radar of the public.

According to Svendsen, “ There’s so much you can do. You can create a world of products and advertising that’s 10x better than what we’re doing now. It’s important to get brands to understand this.”

There was, however, some trepidation about just how much personalization is a good thing, with the cocktail bar test being floated by Andy Pocock, the SVP Corporate Development at Flashtalking.

The basic idea behind this is that you wouldn’t want someone coming up to you at a party and knowing everything about you before you’ve introduced yourself, and the same should go for the way data is used to market to us.

Nelson Elliott, Head of Biddable Media at Croud had his own take on data usage and personalization, saying “Right now most of what data is being used for is very low funnel. A search term, a recent purchase etc. We need to know what people are going to be interested in before they even know it, up the funnel a bit.”

All this talk about data led on to some discussion of GDPR, which all of the panelists were excited about and said was a positive step forward for the way customers and businesses interact in the future.

So there we have it, a very successful and informative Social Media Week 2018!

We’re holding our own conference, WhipSmart 2.0, on June 14th at the Bowery Hotel in New York City. Check out the details and buy tickets here.


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