Key Learnings from the One-Week-Long-Social-Media-Industry Extravaganza

Social Media Week (SMW), held in two locations in Midtown Manhattan, New York, from February 22 – 26, was a one-week-long social industry mashup of esteemed speakers, eager attendees, superb organization, and kick-ass opening and closing parties. The 4C crew, including Nick O’Connor, Senior Account Manager, Grace LeDuc, Social Media Specialist, and me collectively made appearances and engaged at SMW sessions and events. We have learned that Video continues to be the hottest ad content format, Snapchat is about to go big, Virtual Reality is right here, right now, and people are leaning into messaging apps.

Here are five lessons we’ve learned at the conference (out of a vast variety!):

1. The cute (Snapchat) ghost will be inescapably invading our media lives…and it will help us discover the audiences we haven’t been able to capture elsewhere!

  • Snapchat, with 4 billion videos being viewed every day and 1 billion stories being shared, is a unique network, and, per Aaron Wolfe, the Social Media Community Manager at American Airlines, it represents “a way to grow a different type of consumer and to tell a story in a fun and engaging way.”
  • On Snapchat, like other social networks, the user comes first. Snapchat’s audience is young, passionate, entrepreneurial, and gladly shares what it likes or dislikes.
  • While over 70% of Snapchat users are women and more than 71% of Snapchat users are under 25 years old, the 35 and older segment grew by 84% in 2015.
  • Content-wise, Snappers love takeovers, access to exclusive content, and something live or in-the-moment.

2. Brands and publishers are using messenger apps to connect with their customers in new and intimate ways. Recent social media trends reveal that people are shifting from sharing personal stories and updates on social media networks at large (via a status update) to sending these to a select group of friends via a private message. As reported by BI Intelligence and Block Party messaging apps have been growing quickly and brands should start catching on with the trend.
Image 2 - Messenger App Stats
What are the key learnings about the messaging apps from the Social Media Week?

  • 2016 will be huge for Facebook Messenger. The app’s API is open for building apps and thus optimizing user experience. Some brands have already started connecting with their fans via Messenger through bots that give out pre-produced responses.
    Image 3 - Miss Piggy
  • Miss Piggy, who held “Office Hours” via Messenger, had great success with this new cool tactic! However, even though the communication process via Messenger is one-to-one, how authentic are the messenger bots? Brands might need to come up with something more authentic! Regardless, big things are expected for Messenger this year.
  • WeChat and Line, the top messaging apps in Asia, are ahead of other messaging apps, enabling a user to do anything and everything within WeChat – from booking a vacation or a doctor’s appointment to checking on traffic.

3. We are living through the golden era of communication and sit at the intersection of communication and technology – what technology should we build to go forward?

According to the Head of Marketing for North America at Facebook, Michelle Klein, we’re moving towards a sensory experience of information and towards using applications that do not distract us from our activities. For example, a smart watch sends a tick signal when your fitness goal for a day is achieved.Klein lists four things that the best technology should strive to achieve:

  • Enable us to do things we are already doing, but make them easier, better, and faster: we do all the same things we did in 1980’s or 1990’s, but thanks to technology we do them quicker and more efficiently.
  • Help us connect through storytelling: we are the only species that need stories to connect, and we want to connect anytime, anywhere.
  • Create communication channels that are more immediate, expressive, and immersive: we expect a response immediately and we can identify images as quickly as 13 milliseconds.
  • Adapt and change continually: change is the only constant, and it’s how you adapt to it will make businesses survive or fail.

In addition to outlining this great guidance for technology, Michelle showed the updated version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how it’s structured in the context of FOBO, or Fear Of Being Offline.
Image 4 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

4. Virtual Reality is right here, right now.

When Facebook acquired Oculus, Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his Facebook post, “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people. Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones.”

  • The man was right. We no longer need to dream of virtual reality or watch sci-fi movies to see it. Virtual reality is here: over the past 1.5 years, 1.5 million hours of VR mobile video have been consumed, which is equivalent to 171 VR-video-watching years! Also, 25 million Google Cardboard apps were downloaded within the same timeframe.
  • The content for VR apps is purely unique and requires a lot of thought and improvement, it should not be half-assed. There’s a first time for everything, and a person’s first time with Virtual Reality better be good.

5. While the era of on-demand TV is here, live events still dominate linear TV and social.

For many people opening Netflix and searching for a show is easier compared to turning on television and navigating a cable guide. We naturally gravitate towards activities and procedures that are the easiest for us. Netflix and other on-demand TV apps, don’t offer much by way of advertising (yet), nor do they bring people together and drive social conversation as do live moments.

  • Speaking of social conversation, there is a ton of interaction that takes place on the second screen during the shows. The reactions, responses, and content that people share on social media help TV producers react to people’s preferences faster than ever before:
  • HBO spoke how they created the campaign #RoastJoffrey to promote the show and encourage fans to share their thoughts via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram after learning about how much viewers hated Game of Thrones’ King Joffrey from social insights.

Today, traditional TV is still the best place to reach mass audiences with an emotional message for brands. And TV ads have a huge impact on social media as we at 4C have seen with our recent research for Turner.

BONUS: Giphy is GIFifying our lives.

  • Adam Leibsohn, COO of Giphy, said, “I am not very compelling as a human being, but I thought if I can flirt in gifs…I can really get something done there.”
  • Giphy is helping creative film/photography/design people, as well as common humans with non-creative jobs, unleash creative juices and use their talents in new unordinary ways. Also, Twitter just released a new Gif feature. Marketers should be thinking about how to incorporate these fun formats into their messages.
    Image 5 - Giphy

All in all, SMW was a fantastic event that helped me and the rest of the 4C Crew learn about some of the top media trends from some interesting players in social media, network, and stay current. A good word must also be dropped about the opening and closing parties – both elegant, posh events in amazing locations!

We look forward to making our return to Social Media Week, New York, in 2017. Stay tuned for updates from the other events we’re attending throughout the year.

Image 6 - Photo with the founder of SMW

From left to right: Grace LeDuc, 4C Social Media Specialist, Toby Daniels, Social Media Week CEO, Founder and Executive Director, and Lesya Pishchevskaya, 4C Director of Account Management, East Coast.


Thank you to Nick O’Connor and Grace LeDuc who have also contributed to the story.