5 Things I Learned During Social Media Week

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Lists work.

That’s just one of the nuggets of information I absorbed (straight from the mouth of BuzzFeed’s VP of Agency Strategy and Industry Development, Jonathan Perelman @JPerelman) in mid-February when Meredith Chapman (@mediameredith) and I spent three chilly days at the Social Media Week conference in New York City.  

Being surrounded by digital professionals from tons of different industries only solidified my belief that digital content—and the way we engage with it as humans—will continue to change just about every aspect of society.  

 So in the interest of practicing what I preach, here is a succinct (I’ll try my best) recap of the five most important lessons I absorbed at #SMWNYC—in list form. 

1.) Things designed to be shared will have higher value.

For an example, look no further than BuzzFeed, which has built an entire brand around creating sharable content. In fact, you can access the ‘social lift’ metrics that BuzzFeed authors themselves see by typing in buzzfeed/dashboard/the rest of the URL for a particular story. Social lift…now there’s a metric you don’t hear everyday. Users share content they feel is relevant to their own self-identity and subsequently, the content reaches a larger audience. 

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2.) Social media can capitalize on and fuel ‘fandom.’

Reps from VH1, MTV and Comedy Central discussed the idea of fandom – a group of super fans whose behaviors and passion go beyond the norm. The fandom for any brand—including UD—is extremely engaged on social media. ‘Listening’ to this fandom provides incredible insight on what your audience wants and where they want to see it. 

3.) Social media distribution has changed the ‘content experience.’

We must understand what platforms our audience is using. We must ask ourselves, “What’s the medium of this content?” and we must take into account that social media has altered the way we interact with traditional media. People take pictures of ads on busses and subways only to share on their social media accounts. Watching the Oscars or the Super bowl with a ‘second screen’—a mobile device or laptop—is becoming increasingly common. 

4.) Real-time marketing is tricky

After witnessing the Holy Grail of real-time marketing thanks to Oreo, it seems that every brand is trying to get in on the action. But it turns out that it’s extremely difficult to have an authentic viral moment. Many brands tried to replicate Oreo’s success during this year’s Super bowl, but I personally felt that most attempts seemed forced and one dimensional. Audiences can see right through content that’s not organic and authentic. Real-time relevance can be achieved, but the key is picking the right moments. Contrary to popular belief, successful viral moments often result from integration into a larger strategic communication plan. It turns out Ellen’s celebrity selfie at the Academy Awards wasn’t completely spontaneous. 

5.) The captive audience no longer exists

With people consuming most of their news online, they have a myriad of platforms to choose from—as opposed to reading a limited number of stories in the newspaper delivered to their doorstop each morning. A panel of prominent investigative journalists argued that more choices leads to better content. Outlets must make sure they are delivering top-notch content to attract viewers and compel them to share it. The increasingly visual nature of the digital landscape has also forced outlets to incorporate design strategy into their content to engage viewers. For some of the best examples of an outlet leveraging visual elements as part of their distribution, look no further than the Wall Street Journal Facebook page.

What does all this mean for the account managers (or the ‘DJ’s that keep the party going,’ as one presenter suggested) at UD? It’s proof that digital content is a delicate balance between functional information and emotional information; between listening to your audience and engaging with your audience; between pre-planning and reacting to the conversation. There are no exact formulas or user manuals to guide today’s digital content creators. It’s part of what makes the field both challenging and exciting. 

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By Kelley Bregenzer (@KelleyBregenzer

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