Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Social Media Week in New York City. The event is pretty much what it sounds like: a week of events discussing the evolving role of social media and social networking in a variety of industries. Social Media Week (affectionately known as #SMW12 on Twitter), is actually in its third year, and took place simultaneously in 12 cities in nine countries around the world. Overall, more than 35,000 attendees participated in the keynotes, seminars, panel discussions and workshops that constituted the February 13-17 event.
While the travel-centric events were few and far between, I still ended up attending at least three events every day, focusing primarily on the topics of advertising/marketing and business/innovation. My favorites of the week included a panel discussion with executives from General Electric, American Express, Mastercard and Nokia, who spoke frankly about their social media strategies and their company-wide perspectives on this emerging component of their business. A huge takeaway from this discussion was the difference between strategic social media campaigns and the platforms on which they have taken an admittedly “R&D” approach. I appreciated this vocabulary – which validates my own range of investment in various channels – and it also served as a refreshing reminder that even these industry giants are still figuring things out. As advertising mogul John Winsor reminded the audience during his keynote address, “Eighty percent of what happens online today didn’t exist five years ago.” It’s no wonder we’re all struggling to stay relevant in this ever-changing media landscape, especially as the rate of change has evolved from months and weeks of planning to a much more reactionary and hopefully predictive approach.
On a whole, the focus of #SMW12 began with BIG DATA, which naturally flowed to the conversation of turning analytics into insights, which turned the audience to the concept of strategy, and ended with the ever-imminent question: Where is the ROI!?!? While each presenter had a different phrase or motto regarding this question, every response echoed the same attitude: If you’re focused entirely on ROI, you simply don’t understand this new conversation. This was by no means to say that there is no return on investment, nor that there should be no expectation of your time and money spent. Instead, it’s imperative to acknowledge that the rules of engagement have changed, and your blinders cannot be set solely on financial return. Yes, sales was the most talked about goal of the attendees sitting to my left and my right, but the concepts of brand awareness, customer engagement and brand advocacy became top of mind by Friday afternoon. As one panelist suggested:
“Ten years ago, ‘digital’ rocked our world, changing the relationship of people to technology. Today, ‘social’ is changing the relationship of people to people using technology. Very soon, it won’t be a question of ‘social media,’ it will just be ‘media,’ as this is how we are all going to live our lives.”
Another big takeaway was again from John Winsor, who outlined his strategy for implementing social in your business. First, you must make your brand a vehicle for your fan’s creativity. Secondly, take the opportunity to co-create with your fans/followers/customers. Third: make curation king. *Note the importance of curating or synthesizing your own message with your fans. Ultimately, you need to reserve your right to control the conversation in an artful way. Finally, become a social business. According to Winsor, collaboration is the ultimate business model, bringing together your team, your company, your culture and your customer to create innovation. I love his goal of using creativity to solve a business problem, not using social mediums to just show up. Many presenters stressed the importance of being “media agnostic,” and I thoroughly agree with this attitude of addressing the social media world in the same way that marketers used to choose between a radio or print ad campaign; it’s an exciting set of channels to use – with unquestionable potential – but not every opportunity is the right one for your company, or more importantly, for your customers.
Like any good strategist, I’m not going to show my hand too freely. There were easily a hundred different nuggets of inspiration that I brought home to Atlas Travel, but you’ll have to stay tuned for how they manifest in and and around our company. Needless to say, I’m excited.
For more information on Social Media Week – and to view select Livestream recordings of the events – click here.