Last week, Social Media Week descended on New York City with panels focused on the theme, “Language and the Machine.” In a world where the President of the United States can affect brand sentiment and stock prices with a single tweet, the intricacies of how language is adapted to the internet are more relevant than ever. Panel hosts ranged from legacy print institutions like The Atlantic and Hearst, to TV networks like Comedy Central and digital darlings Brit + Co and GIPHY. While it seems obvious that each of these companies would approach language in social media differently, 3 trends coalesced throughout the week: the dominance of video, the need for high-quality content, and the value of intent when it comes to social media.
Video is taking over as the predominant form of communication and content consumption. Between Facebook Live, Periscope, and video-only Snap Ads, the infiltration of video into social media over the past year has been huge. People have demonstrated their willingness to consume video content in short, shareable, informative nuggets, and it’s becoming rapidly apparent that social media is where they want this consumption to take place. Bob Cohn, President of The Atlantic said it’s even true for a 160-year-old print publication that “people don’t want to watch video on publisher platforms, they want to watch on Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat,” and these preferences are driving their social strategy.
The second big trend of the week was that great content speaks for itself. With the ability for pretty much anyone to be a content creator, it has become increasingly important for brands to create high-quality content that demonstrates their expertise to consumers. This concept is what led Brit Morin to found Brit + Co, which specializes in branded content. During her panel, Morin encouraged marketers to use behavioral data to inform content so that they know that what they’re creating is going to appeal to the intended audience. “Great content eliminates the frame and becomes solely about the human experience,” says Morin. When consumers really connect with great content, they will remember the brand, not just which social platform brought them the content.
The greatest benefit of social media has been the ability for any person with internet access to communicate with any other connected-person with the click of a mouse or tap of a finger. Arguably, this is also the greatest risk. With seemingly unlimited examples of people and brands putting their metaphorical foot in their mouth on social media, the importance of taking time to consider the intention behind a tweet or a post before pressing send has become a popular conversation topic. David Harbour, star of Netflix’s hit Stranger Things summed this up by saying, “We are animals and the only thing that elevates us is that we can say what we mean and mean what we say.”
Great counsel for brands came from the social media team from The Daily Show who stressed that they always take the time to question whether a joke is worth making before they chime in on a social media conversation. Falling into the trap created by the immediacy of the internet is avoidable, and a constant focus on the intent behind language choices is an important thing to keep in mind for both brands and individuals.
It’s hard to predict what a year will hold for an entire industry, but considering that our 2016 SMW New York recap focused on the rise of Snapchat, whose IPO was issued just last week, we’re excited to see this year’s themes develop.