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How to Use Social Media for Your Brand - Social Media Week New York Takeaways


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All digital marketers worth their salt are well aware that …

All digital marketers worth their salt are well aware that
content is important to any effective digital strategy
today, but making that content emotionally engaging
and shareable for your target audience was one of the main
topics discussed at Social Media Week in New
York 2014.

We've put together some takeaways from key panels including insight from industry leaders such as Buzzfeed, Upworthy and a number of international entertainment brands.

Published in: Social Media

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  • 1. How to use social media for your brand Social Media Week – New York takeaways February 2014
  • 2. Executive Summary All digital marketers worth their salt are well aware that content is important to any effective digital strategy today, but making that content emotionally engaging and shareable for your target audience, whether you’re a big brand or a small business, was one of the main topics discussed by almost all of the some 200 panels and keynotes that made up Social Media Week in New York this year. Screenburn was thrilled to attend the conference as part of ‘Digital Mission 2014’, organised by digital marketer community Chinwag and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). As well as having the opportunity to meet some of the top marketers at companies such as Bloomberg and BBDO at specially arranged events, the Screenburn team attended the main conference where some of social media’s leading brands and platforms were in attendance to discuss current industry trends and what’s next in this incredibly fast moving world.
  • 3. The Content Marketing Revolution Creating engaging, shareable content was one of the major themes at social media week. James Gross, co-founder of digital agency Percolate, gave a great overview on how social and mobile has changed the way we all think about content marketing. The talk set the tone for a morning of discussion put together by Percolate. James took a look at what he called “the web phase” of digital, when marketers focused on banners and microsites that were driven by planned and very structured campaigns. This was a time when LinkedIn was really just about resumes and CVs, Google was ‘just’ a search engine and Facebook was thought by some to be overvalued at $11 billion. Although this seemed huge at the time, with many thinking it would be the “next MySpace”, it’s now valued at $163 billion. Something significant has clearly happened in the meantime. James noted that the rise in mobile has created “sustained communication” where “we never go dark”. Mobile has almost “simplified marketing”. Most people are now just on two platforms, iOS and Android – Flash and banners have been removed from the equation as irrelevant and the pace of media has increased. In many ways, campaigns are now constantly ongoing. “You pull the screen [to refresh] to find context.” This thirst for content and context at a relentless rate has helped to fuel social as a key driver of the online conversation. Significantly, many signs show that page rank can be effected by a brand’s performance on social. James surmised that social was an important factor in the evolving face of digital marketing, but mobile “was the catalyst”. What’s most mind-boggling is that only around 40% of people around the world are connected to the internet. It’s incredible to think what will happen when the other 60% are connected too. Percolate’s James Gross
  • 4. Navigating Internet Subcultures Everyone from big brands to unsigned artists are looking for where their audience is online. Hosted by Kelly Anne Meyers and Saeid Edward from agency Code and Theory, this talk focused on some of the unwritten rules that apply to internet subcultures where the most passionate conversations are taking place between fans. Tapping into subcultures online enables brands to create more meaningful connections with consumers, but it’s important to develop a strong identity that talks to people. “Brands can’t speak like robots anymore”, noted Kelly, brands need to be “more like the baker down the street.” Relationships should therefore be cultivated to encourage loyalty. Kelly showed some examples with makeup brand Maybelline and how it’s leveraged platforms such as Tumblr and We Heart It to talk to the teen demographic. In effect, these platforms can serve a huge focus groups. Marketers can use data build behaviour insights such as looking at the ‘mood words’ people are using and see what times people are talking about the brand. Looking at data such as this, it’s possible to identify sub cultures online. Looking at an online fast food campaign for example, you can begin to see the differences in demographic between a ‘healthy group’, a junk food group’ and a ‘lifestyle’ group, which identifies through the brand. Thinking about these different audiences therefore becomes important. To talk to these groups more directly, brands need to get away from the corporate voice and become a “digital artisan”, referring to the earlier ‘baker down the street’ analogy. Therefore it’s important to understand the unwritten rules of these subcultures, which are in place to preserve the purity of the conversation for people. Some sub-Reddits for example literally have posting guidelines on the sort of content people should include and the format they should post a joke or some music, for example. Saeid noted that understanding these “due diligence” guidelines is important before brands “go in” and rule one is that it is vital to be authentic and respect the community – don’t go in and pretend to not be an advertiser if that’s ultimately why you’re on the platform. Kelly Anne Meyers and Saeid Edward from Code and Theory Added value is an effective way to engage with an online sub-culture, such as providing a tool that resolves a consumer’s everyday problem. For example, Kelly showed how makeup brand Essie replicated the colour wall seen in-store on their website to improve user experience instead of using the usual drop down menu you might see on a website. As a result, content on-site has an average of 70 organic pins through Pinterest. “[It’s about] understanding where your consumers are and what they’re passionate about.”
  • 5. Keynote from Jonah Paretti, founder and CEO of Buzzfeed Buzzfeed’s Jonah Paretti gave a fascinating insight into how the platform had evolved to become the mammoth success that it is online. As a grad student in MIT, Jonah has ordered some custom Nike sneakers with ‘sweatshop’ emblazoned on the side. This triggered a chain reaction of emails with Nike, who considered this ‘inappropriate slang’. Jonah forwarded this to friends and interest quickly picked up. Putting things firmly into context; “Social in 2001 was an email forward” said Jonah. Perhaps ironically, Jonah felt that reaching too many people can actually hurt your brand, like when a page is over-optimised for SEO and doesn’t answer someone’s search query. Therefore quality, and something people can identify with, is better than quantity. The Buzzfeed team is learning as it goes on what works. Although quizzes have become a pretty big deal recently, Jonah revealed the team has been working on quizzes for six years and that “there have been a lot of failures along the way…the actual default is failure” Taking this lesson, the team has learned that “most content often doesn’t work” however the great thing about social is “your best work is seen by the most people”. He added the team had been keen to “maximise learning and not maximise traffic.” It’s this more analytical approach that has clearly led to the passionate following for Buzzfeed online. After you find something that works, “it’s natural to do something derivative version of that” But it’s important to re-think and improve on each iteration. “Even the way we do lists now is different”. Even the structure of each team has been to play to the strengths of the particular content they’re focusing on. The structure depends on the editor, who leads the team. Some teams don’t even focus on data in the same way that one might think. “Political reporters focus on scoops – you can’t optimise for a scoop”. Instead of looking at data, the team closely monitors online conversations which can help to decide on how to present the story. “Traffic is a by-product of a good scoop”. Jonah Paretti, founder and CEO of Buzzfeed In contrast, entertainment, or the ‘Buzz team’ looks at a lot of data. It’s still best to rely on “confident, smart people” who won’t be blindly led by the data though. For example, if the headline could be perceived to be deceptive. It’s always best to ask “If I was a reader, would I be happy with this headline?” Buzzfeed is maturing. When it began, there was a perception was it was ‘full of cute kittens’, but as people have become more engaged, Buzzfeed has been able to move up the market. The site is now looking to put together a team of Pulitzer Prize winning authors for long-form investigative pieces. Facebook’s algorithm changes is always a big topic for content creators and brands. We don’t want to optimise for Facebook, but optimise for people” explained Jonah “We don’t play up to the Facebook algorithm quirks.” Looking to the future, it’s clear that video is going to play a big role a Buzzfeed, although he noted that entertainment content tends to work better for video online over ‘hard news’. Buzzfeed is looking to do with video what it has done with articles and a team in LA is already making a “television studio for the mobile age, something consumers will love”.
  • 6. Fuelling Social Fandom at MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central Social media heads from MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central took to the stage to discuss how social was being leveraged to increase fan engagement. There’s no roadmap to building an online fan base, so the discussion centred on some individual experiences. Tom Fishman from MTV noted that “fandom is word being used a lot, it's not the same thing as fans. Fandom is higher level of passion”, citing some of the online communities surrounding shows such as Teen Wolf and Sherlock. The panel agreed that social was about the long-term relationship with fans. Comedy Central’s Dan Steele said they look to “surprise and delight people”. He noted that his team listened to fans but also put out pieces of a puzzle and let them express themselves. Similarly, it’s useful to look at what works on particular platforms and then provide more of this. The panel discussed when was best to engage with online communities in the first instance. Tom Chirico from VH1 said they had noted fans wanted to learn how to do TLC’s iconic ‘creep’ dance, so the team did a Vine creep tutorial. He said they ask “what are people doing out there anyways and how do we take it step further. That's when we jump in.” Tom Fishman noted it’s important to treat the people who jump in first as special in the fandom community. For example, a girl started rapping recaps of episodes for teen wolf and now works as content creator for MTV. Discussions turned to the role of talent in social media. Don Steele noted that comedians love social media, “Dane Cook used MySpace back in the day to win a day of programming.” “Talent is everything” noted VH1’s Tom Chirico. Having a conversation between talent and fans can mean is important and people want to feel part of shows and have their voice heard, but that is was also important to advise talent when not to engage in a Twitter war. Don Steele from Comedy Central, Tom Chirico from VH1, moderator Natan Edelsburg and Tom Fishman from MTV
  • 7. “For people who still care” – Upworthy’s founder on the secrets to success Upworthy was started for “people who haven’t completely given up on the world” according to founder and CEO Eli Pariser. Speaking to a huge audience at Social Media Week in New York, Eli took a look back at the history of the still remarkably young content aggregator. “The most important social topics aren’t doing that well which is strange as we live in the information age but it isn’t reaching the broad audience.” He noted that important topics aren’t shared because they’re often packaged up in dry ways. “People publish it as an ‘information vegetable’ – you have to consume it but it doesn’t have to look tasty”. Whereas pre-internet, a reader would have to scan important topics when flipping through a newspaper to get to the more niche section they were interested in, hard news now has to “swim in the same pool as Kim Kardashian.” The team set themselves a rule from the beginning. “We would never post anything that we didn’t think spoke on a wider issue….Instead of doing dry stuff, we’ll try to make it emotional.” Significantly, this goes against some of the fundamental ‘rules’ of online content, whereby the team wouldn’t focus on what was trending but on what was interesting. This also meant that quality is a lot more important than quality to Buzzfeed. In December 2013, Yahoo published 130,000 articles in a month. Upworthy published 246. “Instead of hustling to get stuff on the web, we tell curators to publish something they really like.” Eli addressed this issue of Upworthy headlines, which some have criticised as being little more than click bait. “There’s no question that we love good headlines. They drop someone into a piece of content but don’t make it go viral.” If a headline is good but the content is weak, there’s a strong initial spike but any chance of sharing peters out. “The lesson is if you want to get large numbers of people to tune in you have to get them something they’re excited to get out with their friends.” Touching on the dangers of misinterpreting data, Eli noted it was important not to draw broad conclusions, such as no one begin interested in a serious topic like foreign affairs just because no one read your article on Afghanisan. “The key thing to Upworthy’s Eli Pariser remember here is the result of 50 years of psychological study – people have a struggle between the self.” People aspire to be well-read but fight with the other part of themselves that just wants candy now, or content that perhaps isn’t quite so highbrow. “The key has been to bring together aspirational and behavioural signals. Behavioural is what people do and the other is what they say they want.” The team works to collect both signals and treats both selves equally. “You have to feed both.” Eli feels vindicated through Upworthy’s success. Looking back at 2013, it’s clear that people have engaged with important topics. “People really do care about the important stuff…people have looked at class and equality issues.” Unworthy has achieved this with “No celb stories or quizzes on which Downton Abby star you are.”
  • 8. Buzzfeed on how content is king, but distribution is queen Digital marketers these days are well aware that ‘content is king’ but, says Buzzfeed’s Jonathan Perelman, “distribution is queen, she wears the pants.” The joint interview, which also included Mohan Renganathan, Group Director at Starcom MediaVest Group, looked to identify how brands could better leverage social by being both practical and emotional. Jonathan noted that GE’s tumbr resonates with consumers in a way that’s advantageous to the brand. They might sell jet engines, but the brand looks to share meaningful and fun scientific insights with their online audience. “Ultimately it’s about value business results” said Mohan; “what value it’s driving to the brand”. He explained that it can be useful to look at online conversations to see what consumers are interested in, but it’s also sometimes best when “rolling up your sleeves…and getting a brand involved in a content story”. He noted that it is always important to “tell the story that’s authentic” – and not just to slap a logo before a commercial break. Jonathan agreed that authenticity was fundamental to success. “Everything from breaking political news and breaking animal memes. It’s all supposed to be shared”, with social media as the basis. “We create content for someone to engage with – for it to speak to them. Hoping that they will share it…Hopefully this will speak to their circles.” Jonathan said he had a moment of realisation when an undergrad student told him they didn’t buy traditional newspapers anymore, but instead told him ‘If the news is important enough it will find me.’ “Undergrads today are born with the internet” Jonathan explained, “if something is important enough they are on these platforms and they will hear about it.” He noted that the Buzzfeed team was always going to experiment and see what works best for distribution, with the team beginning to look seriously at video content too. When addressing Buzzfeed’s penchant for ‘lists’ as a way to engage a casual audience, Jonathan responded with a smile. “First of all, lists work. The Ten Commandments were a list…search results are in list form…I think it’s going to continue. But there is obviously an evolution to that.” Jonathan Perelman (left) and Mohan Renganathan (right) interview each other at Social Media Week
  • 9. What the academics say – Unruly expose the science of sharing Unruly’s co-founder Sarah Wood gave a particularly scholarly twist to proceedings, revealing some of the research findings from academics who are “working to crack the code on social video sharing.” The social marketing company works with many academics who have gone on to publish work on the phenomena, such as Karen Nelson-Field whose book ‘Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing’ had shed some light on these insights. For example, videos that elicit a strong emotional response are twice as likely to be shared. Sarah cited the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ ad, which spoke to anyone who had ever felt unhappy about their body. The ad has received 4.2 million shares and 124 million views. She did note that although positive videos are more likely to be shared, it was important for marketers to “think beyond babies and cats”, as although it can feel like the internet is “made out of cats”, there are equally many cat and baby videos that are not readily shared. “What matters is the emotional connection…stories of personal triumph…they do impact sharing”. Although it’s tempting to let your imagination run away with you – you should always “be true to your brand”. There’s a social sweet spot between shareable content, relevance to the audience, and how integral it is to the brand. Many marketers can feel uneasy about putting the brand front and centre in a carefully constructed social content marketing campaign, but Sarah noted that “There is no correlation between shareability and level of brand. You don’t need to be shy about the brand.” Instead, you can even make sure the brand is essential to the plot. “Think of it as a movie and your brand is the protagonist.” Similarly, there is no correlation between video length and success on social media. “If you have a compelling narrative, you can take the time to tell the story.” As a final takeaway, Sarah also felt that a paid element was fundamentally important to a good social media campaign. “Don’t over invest in content and under invest in distribution…a video seen by few cannot be shared by many.” Sarah Wood, co-founder of Unruly
  • 10. @screenburnmedia