Tag: Conference

Social Media Analytics in Uncertain Times: Maintaining Agility and Brand Affinity

An important goal of brands especially at this moment in time is staying consistently informed, in real-time, in order to adapt quickly to changes. In a special #SMWONE session dedicated to this topic, panelists from NetBase Quid, Walt Disney Television, Nutrisystem, ITC Limited, and Match Marketing explored why trend analysis and baseline metrics are crucial to being agile in uncertain times.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Always start with a question: what are you trying to find out?
  • Don’t overlook Reddit, blogs and other forums for information
  • Don’t be afraid to take a look at the messaging you have already out there

How sentiment analysis can boost efficiency

Regarding one of his clients Scotties Facial Tissues, SVP of Strategy at Match Marketing, George Conboy, stated, “There’s a lot of emotion around facial tissues right now. NetBase Quid’s insights allow us to explore the emotions of the business for our client and connect with audiences more meaningfully.” Before there was more concern around the functionality of such paper products like weight and given the recent state of the world, there’s been a huge shift away from things in weight in tissues to an emphasis on emotion allowing Match to change the direction of its marketing.

In a similar vein but for a separate client, OZO, Match has been able to connect more effectively with people who express interest in experimenting with plant-based meats as they resort to cooking and dining in more often and look for healthy alternatives while being stuck at home. “The adoption curve has accelerated. We can talk to people a little further along the path so it’s more triggering behaviors versus education where we would have been a couple of months ago.”

The role of social data in shaping broader strategies

Nutrisystem’s Social Customer Care Manager, Ryan Baker, described how the importance of social listening is key for the company to keep a finger on the pulse around how people are feeling and see what they are discussing and ensure their message is appropriate. This is key as the company not only competes in the weight loss category but the meal delivery space as well.

“Sentiment analysis is big for us. We’re tracking that across Nutrisystem and South Beach Diet, which we also own. We can compare this data monthly, quarterly even yearly to confirm certain findings.” ITC’s Nand Poddar also echoed the role sentiment analysis plays for his business “NetBase Quid’s social conversations allow us to measure the sentiment of social posts around consumer anxieties and help us better understand consumer emotions and trends.”

Walt Disney Television’s Libba Peromsik, on the other hand, shared that for Disney social listening can get you insights faster which can be integral in guiding strategy and tactics. For instance, using these insights to choose the new bachelor for the hit show. “With NetBase Quid’s social listening tools we have our own instantaneous focus group with quick answers to questions around our TV Shows,” she shared.

Identifying real-time marketing opportunities and planning ahead

Aside from sentiment analysis and staying ahead of the competition, social media data can play a pivotal role in maintaining flexibility in campaign timing — helping you pivot messages as needed to keep it personalized and authentic and inform critical business decisions in real-time.

“For my industry especially people post as they watch, so I can match social conversations minute by minute to what is happening on-air and pinpoint what is the driving most-desired or least-desired reactions and leverage that for future marketing efforts,” said Peromsik. In some cases, a decision needs to be made immediately and social is the best way to get that feedback. “There could be backlash about a casting announcement and something controversial about their past that came up or maybe they tweeted something and we can use social to understand the impact of the backlash and gauge whether it’s a small but vocal group driving the conversation or is it something bigger to address.”

For Baker, Conboy, and Poddar, social listening will be core to their strategies in learning more about what the lasting behavioral change will be post-COVID. “If there’s a negative impetus for change it tends to not be permanent,” said Conboy. For Baker and Poddar there’s a growing curiosity as to whether there will be a drop in grocery delivery and where the trend of eating in the home versus dining out will ultimately net out.

“Social listening has opened up to me the importance of areas such as Reddit. If you go down the rabbit hole enough you can find a lot of marketing opportunities there, added Baker.

As a few parting insights, Baker and Conboy shared, “Don’t be afraid to take a look at the messaging you have. You may be doing everything perfectly and appropriately.” Further, start with a question. What are you trying to find out? This may evolve as you go deeper but as a guidepost, this question is a solid place to start as you use social listening.

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How Data Science and Predictive Modeling Can Scale Your Influencer Efforts

In an industry where there are many points of friction for influencer marketers and algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning solutions seem to penetrate every sector and business category, how can businesses establish strategies to scale ROI? How can they scale the identification of their creator partners? How can they increase confidence in content?

During #SMWONE, CreatorIQ’s Head of Customer Success, Brooke Hennon joined by Bhavin Desai, VP of Product Strategy, addressed these questions breaking down how the platform is using advanced data science to create intuitive influencer marketing solutions. Through a holistic, outcomes-based recommendation engine, CreatorIQ is combining multiple data science models spanning influencer identification, content attribution prediction, and audience targeting.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Any person with a social presence can be an influencer
  • To scale the reach and frequency of your campaigns, lean on lookalike audience-powered media
  • To scale the reach and frequency of your campaigns, lean on lookalike audience-powered media

Finding the best creators for your campaigns

A common paint point amongst marketers if finding the right influencers to partner with. The vast majority put a significant amount of time against searching for more influencers that match the aspirational collaborations or already in-flight relationships and desire efficiency. According to Hennon and Desai, right now this process is an art form without guidance and data science is a key solution to helping it become less subjective and more efficient so desired results can be achieved.

“We’re leaving millions of data points across performance, creator approvals, brand affinity, and industry alignment to build a recommendation engine trained to identify the best creators for any campaign.” By constantly evaluating performance data, additional creators can be added on-demand to the engineer based on current high-performing creators. This system can also be leveraged by lookalike creators but specific to a certain demographic (e.g. I want 10 more influencers like this but based in London for this next campaign). Beyond location, gender and interests are other elements that can be used to help identify best fit creators. This can all be combined with the core campaign and brand goals to help identify the best fit creators for any campaign.

“As influencer marketing grows, it needs to scale to go to toe-to-toe with other marketing methods. We have to do it more efficiently,” said Hennon. This starts with finding and collaborating with the right influencers with strong performing content that aligns with your brand.

Increase content confidence with content attribute prediction

Once you’ve honed your identification strategy, the second step focuses on scaling content performance. When thinking of content direction to use to brief influencers, marketers often use little science and, again, rely on subjectivity much like when they set out to look for influencers at the onset of a campaign. To address this, CreatorIQ leverages several approaches to identify and drive the delivery of high-performing content.

“What resonates on TikTok is very different from what resonates on Facebook,” Desai claimed. To remove some of the guesswork, the company is leaning into visual insights to build data science models focused on the identification and recommendation of high-performing content. This is in partnership with some of the leading virtual recognition engines like Google Vision to analyze tens of millions of pieces of content. From this information, custom models are built that can correlate to specific visual and performance attributes detected within the content and provide recommendations around what has the highest likelihood to perform well. This is particularly informative when devising paid campaigns.

A key takeaway: content attribution prediction is not only useful in driving content confidence in the present but can be a useful mechanism to future-proofing briefs in additional campaigns. Frequently influencer marketers lack the bandwidth to build data-driven briefs and this is a solution that takes the headache out of this equation.

“Another key outcome of the visual insights model is the ability to leverage data from the content to not just recommendation campaign content but also deliver refined creator requirements to drive the creation of high-performing content,” explained Desai.

Scaling audience targeting and reach

Marketers want to maximize the reach of the influencers’ best performing content — beyond the fans and followers of partner influencers There are several variables to consider in the influencer space from content to people to different audiences and knowing which levers to pull is a recurring problem. How can there be a more elegant and effective way to amplify content?

CreatorIQ is addressing this question heads on with a model that leverages influencer data like demographics, organic and paid performance to drive the creation of lookalike audience seed segments that are used as inputs to social platform audience targeting

“We have seen significant improvements in conversion data when compared to standalone audience targeting available within the platforms directly, for example, Facebook’s Ads Manager,” Desai explained. What this boils down to is brands having the ability to take a subset of influencers correlated with high performance within a designated campaign and then identify additional lookalike influencers based on those performing well. These can be leveraged to create a “seed segment” that drives lookalike audience targeting. The immediate result to note: improvements on ad spend.

“Any person with a social presence can be an influencer,” said Hennon closing out the session. Build your army of brand ambassadors by recruiting employees or super fans of your product.

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How the Coronavirus is Changing the State of the U.S. Consumer

Real-time market insights platform Suzy conducted two studies between April 24th through the 29th on the state of the U.S. consumer during COVID-19. The first was conducted from the 24th to the 26th with a sample of 750 participants while the second was conducted from the 26th through the 29th with a sample of 1,000 participants. During #SMWONE, CEO Matt Britton broke down the key insights stemming from the research.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • The behaviors exhibited behind closed doors today, will become the new real-world habits of tomorrow
  • Brands that pivot to become helping” or “ingredient” brands are the ones most likely to succeed after the pandemic is behind us
  • DIY is a form of catharsis for consumers during these difficult times

The formation of long-term habits

According to a 2009 study by Phillipa Lally, it takes 66 days for a person to develop a habit. At this point of the pandemic, we’re well into this window of time where consumers are adopting everyday activities that will likely last long beyond the pandemic and disrupt how we speak to and connect with consumers.

This isn’t to say every single decision being made during quarantine has this impact, but there are several key areas where behaviors exhibited today will become the new-world habits of tomorrow. These encompass at-home cooking and self-care, remote learning and working from home, and this notion of having more time on our hands that are fundamentally impacting today’s businesses.

DIY as a form of catharsis

A major theme of the COVID-19 pandemic is consumers being left to their own devices and being forced to adopt new habits where they’re taking more activities into their own hands that they once outsourced to others. Leading in this space is cooking followed by chores, laundry, baking, self-care, home repair, pet care, and sewing. Seventy-five percent of consumers believe they are now more skilled in the kitchen and over 50 percent believe they will continue to cook more after the crisis. In the beauty sector, 54 percent report they’re conducting at-home self-care or beauty treatments to replace spas.

Britton believes the food and beverage industry is the industry that will be impacted most on a long-term basis in addition to travel and hospitality as a close second. In the next five to 10 years, however, we can expect them to return to a state of normalcy but the caveat is that the companies in these spaces will have to make substantial business decisions that involve reshaping their go-to-market strategies. More specifically, this will involve selling your brand as an “ingredient” or “helping” brand, acknowledging that now your product or service can solve the pain points of DIY. L’Oreal partnering with Eva Longorio for an ad shot from her house where she used a product to dye her own hair and Mattel Playroom’s campaign “Play is Never Cancelled” are prime examples.

Time is money

More than half, (54%) of Americans are worried about finances as a result of COVID-19, which comes as no surprise. With mounting layoffs occurring and unemployment rates that could reach up to 20 percent, consumers are finding ways to reframe their routines within the confines of evolving budgetary parameters to prioritize how and where they spend. And we’re even looking ahead to the forthcoming holiday season. Thirty-nine percent state they plan to spend less on gifts for the holidays in December 2020 than they did in 2019.

If Americans are spending less money, what are they doing? They’re re-evaluating how they’re spending more time. They have less money but they have more time and this will be spent cooking at home (60%), engaging in at-home fitness activity (39%), and educating themselves via outlets like YouTube.

“In a new world of ingredient brands, DIY, where consumers have more time – YouTube has to be a place where brands place because consumers are living there. Brands need to invest in the right amount of content to educate their consumers and give them the tips and tools they need to really engage and embrace in this new DIY lifestyle.”

Redefining what it means to be social

Whether you’re considering a middle school student navigating how to interact with teachers and peers over Zoom or a salesperson trying to sell a new service or tool and create an emotional connection with potential customers without face-to-face interaction, one thing is clear: the entire world has had to redefine what it means to be social and interact.

From Zoom happy hours to birthday parties and weddings, the recurring question becomes what part of this reality is good enough? Put differently, COVID-19 has awakened us to the idea that certain businesses can operate at optimal levels virtually. From this critical examination, we can arrive at innovative conclusions that challenge our previously held assumptions and that improve our livelihoods in ways we couldn’t previously have imagined.

Online learning, for instance, has grown in popularity where resources like Skillshare and Coursera are enabling people to take this time to learn more and prepare themselves in ways that will set them up for success post-COVID. Online fitness is another key area, where influencers and personal trainers are using their at-home studios to offer online training sessions that many find are more effective as training in-person.

Due to emerging platforms like TikTok, Squad and Houseparty, and existing apps including Instagram, the virtual experience economy is booming. Artists like DJ DNice amongst numerous influencers and celebrities are tapping into these outlets to drive a deeper point of connection and more loyal fandoms that will stick around following the pandemic in the absence of mass gatherings. In this vein, gaming is also experiencing widespread success with Fortnite, Twitch, and even Microsoft’s Minecraft offer that common point of connection that is harder to come by in the absence of enginga with someone in real life.

Old habits: from not to hot

Thanks to COVID-19, more traditional habits that once dominated culture are now seeing a revival and are being used in tandem with emerging technologies., Per Britton, to stay connected users are primarily relying on physical phone calls (57%) followed by Facebook (55%), Whatsapp (36%), Instagram (34%), Facetime (26%), Skype (21%), and Zoom (19%).

A major concern over the past few months is whether colleges and universities will return. “The notion of the four year college may still exist, but what consumers seek to learn coming out of the pandemic may fundamentally change,” Britton explained. When assessing the 20 skills most in demand today, they are very trade and skill-based including items such as cloud computing, SEO, UX design, and video production, all of which aren’t traditionally taught in a liberal arts environment.

The major takeaway: the technology companies are where the jobs are, where GDP is expanding and this is not likely to change. For this reason, it’s unlikely students not want to incur debt for a system that doesn’t prepare them to succeed in this capacity. This is supported by research findings that state since COVID people are more likely to pay for online education in the future (69%).

Education aside, engaging with neighbors is making a comeback, in addition to crosswords, puzzles, and old-school games like Nintendo Switch, Sony Playstations and XBoxes. Mobile has been king for years in media conversations but since the outbreak of COVID-19, 64 percent said computer laptops and tablets have been integral to their day-to-day lives.

“Anyone can come up with a campaign, but brands today really need to ask themselves how they’re going to make decisions that will impact the fabric and DNA of the business,” Britton shared in one of his final thoughts during Q&A.

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How to Prepare Your Brand for the Not So Distant Future: 2.22.22

Where will the world be on February 2, 2022? What can we expect the business landscape to look like? What brands will see success and which ones won’t? What will be important to consumers?

All of these are important questions that are top of mind for marketers and will continue to be in the months and years ahead. During #SMWONE Suzy CEO Matt Britton tapped into up to the minute research from his team to play the role of futurist and paint a broad picture of the world we will be living in on the other side of COVID-19.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Consumers want variety; not quantity when it comes to their purchases
  • Secondary and tertiary cities are on the path to become the new “hot spots”
  • People are ultimately more fascinating than brands and influencers will be behind the brands that take off

Living: the “accordion effect”

According to Britton, the global pandemic will result in an “accordion effect” in which people will gravitate away from the big cities like New York or San Francisco. Meanwhile, secondary and tertiary cities like Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Colorado, and Denton, Texas are on the path to become the new “hot spots.” “Suburban sprawl simply is not that appealing to the millennial generation,” he added.

What are the tangential effects of this transition? Appreciation is these lower-tiered markets and home prices in areas like New York or San Francisco leveling off. With this, we may see a trickle-down effect whereby there is a resurgence in automobile purchases. This potential increase in demand for consumers buying cars, however, could result in reduced demand in the long-term, for ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber preferred for their ubiquity.

Buying: consumers want variety

Consumers want variety; not quantity when it comes to apparel. One may assume this would open the window of opportunity for retailers but in a down market, this isn’t the case. Britton elaborated with several examples including J.Crew recently filing for bankruptcy and Gap claiming some of its stories will never reopen.

“These companies surely lean too heavily into a brick and mortar layout and did not pivot nearly fast enough to an e-commerce model,” Britton explained.

He pointed to Rent the Runway (RTR) and Ipsy, recently announcing it surpassed $5M in revenue, as prime examples of business models that will continue to be sustainable because the trends of consumers wearing garments less and less or wanting the convenience of beauty products sent to their home is not going to reverse.

Another important retail trend: companies will increasingly look to take over control of their own consumer experience. Nike, for instance, pulled its products off of Amazon this past November. This also holds for the CPG space. In a world of Amazon Prime, companies including Million Dollar Shave Clubface increased pressure to establish a more scalable e-commerce strategy.

“If I’m the CPGs, I’m trying to form a coalition where there are prime benefits where Costco, with traditional CPGs, can compete against Amazon, and maybe P&G one day will make the same decision that Nike made,” explained Britton.

The growing role of influencers

Surfacing headlines are posing the common question: could the coronavirus kill the influencer culture? Per Britton, “influencer culture is just begging and it is here to stay.”

Something Navy fashion blogger cracked a deal with Nordstrom and started to sell her own clothing. In this wavelength, he also mentioned Danielle Berstein who with her “We Wore What” blog is building a bigger audience through socially responsible posts across content and supporting small businesses with her efforts. IN turn, she’s seeing tremendous success via launching new products with numerous retailers.

“People are ultimately more fascinating than brands and influencers will be behind the brands that take off.”

Look no further than the TV space for prime examples of this idea, specifically the story of Oprah Winfrey’s rise to fame as she became a brand in her own right. The same trend will likely take form within the fashion space, per Britton. Influential people who have the right audiences and are built from the ground up will be able to create sustainable, digitally-native businesses that evolve into the new Gaps and the new Nordstroms of the future.

Brands as “ingredient” or “helping” brands

Years ago Home Depot coined the tagline “You can do it. We can help.” As consumers realize they can no longer rely on the services that they once did in a pre-crisis environment, they are now resorting to their own devices. 43 percent of dog owners, for instance, claim they will switch to DIY grooming.

Mattel Playroom, as another example, is using this time to encourage families and children to come up with their own toys in its “Play is Never Cancelled” — this concept of taking what you bought from us and make it bigger and better. Finally, Eva Longoria shocked the Internet when she took to dying her own hair in a L’Oreal ad she filmed herself from her house.

Whether these new habits actually take hold post-COVID, there is a powerful meaning behind brands taking an uncertain time and empowering consumers by giving them the raw ingredients to push forward — a role Britton referred to as “helping brands.”

This is also the case for the food and beverage industry as food preparation has come back into the home. Seventy-five percent of consumers believe they’re more skilled in the kitchen now and over 50 percent believe they will continue to cook more after the crisis. “This will create a substantial shift where these companies who have relied on their packaging and merchandise for years now have to reinvent themselves in a world where their products will be bought digitally, and more consumers are cooking at home on a regular basis,” said Britton.

Entertainment: redefining fun

In the absence of live events, platforms like TikTok and Houseparty are allowing the ability for brands and influencers to collaborate in meaningful and compelling ways. Houseparty specifically saw 17.2M total downloads in March with users carrying out virtual dinner parties, celebrating birthdays, and playing trivia and Pictionary to pass the time at home.

Gaming is also taking off with users engaging with one another on Animal Crossing esports and newcomer apps like Squad. In terms of music, platforms Fortnite and Instagram have become central and taken over the role of “concert venue.” Travis Scott did an entire performance in the form of an avatar on the Fortnite platform that drew in over 12M concurrent viewers. DJs too are using this moment of time to redefine their personal brands, DJ DNice rising to the top for his daily quarantine sets performed on Instagram that draw celebrities like Jennifer Lopez to the crowd.

Work and travel: a slow return

Britton believes travel will come back in full force much like the hospitality space, but it won’t be immediate. As companies struggle with budget cuts and want to avoid the liability of returning to work at the office too quickly, many are taking it upon themselves to postpone major events and issue work from home mandates into 2021.

Similarly to dining out, however, there is an inherent desire to travel and it will return. What is likely to be more apparent in the near future is people opting to travel by car when they’re not as ready to jump on a plane right away. Enter the C2C models of businesses like Airbnb who, despite recently laying off thousands of employees, have a likelihood of finding success for cash strapped homeowners looking for more income and individuals who want quick getaways that are safer than returning to air travel.

Regarding the future of the workplace, businesses are taking serious consideration that not every person across every department needs to be working from the office in order to collaborate and giving employees flexibility as to where they live can boost morale. In short, Britton believes companies will reevaluate their spaces.


While many workers thrive from home, students are struggling to prosper in a remote learning environment, according to Britton.

For younger generations, school is a place for building friendships, escaping from the house, learning responsibility, and seeing their friends and building core communication and interpersonal skills. 54 percent of parents with students engaged in a remote learning situation due to COVID-19 say it’s a daily struggle to support career and parenting during the day per recent findings from Suzy.

When assessing the 20 skills most in demand today, they are very trade and skill-based including items such as cloud computing, SEO, UX design, and video production, all of which aren’t traditionally taught in a liberal arts environment. The major takeaway: the technology companies are where the jobs are, where GDP is expanding and this is not likely to change. For this reason, it’s unlikely students not want to incur debt for a system that doesn’t prepare them to succeed in this capacity. “There are so many skills in demand that aren’t skills where you’re a jack of all trade or a master of none. I expect us to see a reverberation of demand for skills-based learning and skills-based schools versus generalist schools,” said Britton.

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Humanity, Trust and Communication: The Keys to Balancing Creativity and Data

Collaboration between data and creative experts requires early and clear communication. For marketers, this entails exploring beyond the traditional industry disconnect between data and creative. A sound strategy is often the bridge between the two disciplines, but early data integration future proofs a creative success for brands.

During #SMWONE Grey‘s Justine Armour, Beth Rolfs, and Kenny Gold were joined by Twitter’s Tom Chirico to explore the challenges and proven solutions to a successful partnership of the two disciplines for insight-driven creative and why this balance, now more than ever, is integral in driving meaningful engagement.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Bigger doesn’t always equal better
  • Balanced communication and trust lead to work that impacts culture
  • Data needs humanity now more than ever

Insights are Breadcrumbs of Human Behavior

“An insight is built from observable human truth — and it uncovers the why,” shared Rolfs. This “why” can carry many different meanings depending on the context — but it’s a why that offers audiences that information that makes them have the special realization moments of “I feel that deep down,” or “why didn’t I think of it that way?”

Chirco, in agreement, offered an example of where insights truly served as the breadcrumbs of behavior when Twitter partnered with Disney to launch the new Frozen II trailer resulting in a live event that streamed for 24 hours where people could watch at any point and tweet along with fellow Frozen fans as well as the cast and creative directors behind the film. “In this instance, data gave us these really interesting nuggets of behavior and layering these on conversations and in real-talk, with parents, we realized we were onto something.”

The underlying power of data partnering with creativity is being able to break category norms, connect with new audiences, and gain a foundational knowledge that translates into a powerful cultural dialogue. This applied in this case study and also applies when you’re building creativity off of purchasing behavior explained Gold pointing to Grey’’s work with Gillette in the “We Believe” campaign.

Debunking the Rivalry

All of the panelists agreed that the conjured up image of a magic versus logic battlefield simply wasn’t accurate and there are no winners. Both Gold and Rolfs reiterated that the work is stronger when done in collaboration and there is a recognition that they are chasing the same dream. “As a data person, there’s a tendency for me to get too in the numbers. Creatives have taught me to focus on the audience you’re presenting to on a deeper level.”

Chirco described his merged team that merges both data and creative functions into one line of reporting in a “hand-in-hand” Batman and Robin fashion. “In real-time, we’re tweaking their ideation and research fluidly in early rounds and there is an implicit trust between both groups in this process.”

Echoing the notion of fluidity, Gold added, “Creating amazing campaigns is like a symphony…Every movement in every song is different…Our ability to understand when to move together and give the space to breathe is when we make the best music.”

Humanized Data Brings the Spark

What makes data interesting? When it humanizes the story. This doesn’t always necessitate using the data that has the most volume. “Bigger isn’t always better. The data that has the most volume is often the most obvious and therefore not the most useful,” explained Rolfs. Rather, the smaller data points and conversations on the surface are more impactful.

“Data helps you understand that social media is nuanced and the creativity you build needs to be nuanced to land better once it’s out in the world and reach people in the right way,” added Gold. In short, data allows you to pick the right channel at the right moments. With this said, there needs to be balanced communication and implicit trust between the creative and data parties in order to navigate this journey.

Chirco offered the analogy of data as putty, serving as the mold that forms the creative instincts. Alone, it simply won’t come up with the idea but serves as the critical foundation that gives shape to the campaign and keeps it whole. Armour added to this reiterating data’s role as inspiration, the spark, as opposed to a mandate. When this happens, the work feels too scientific and lacks room for the spontaneity that will allow the message to cut through the clutter.

The Evolution of Data and Creativity: Post-COVID

When reflecting on the current state of marketing and what a post-COVID world would look like in respect to balancing data and creativity, the group was unanimous that more than ever data needs to be grounded in humanity.

“Data needs to have that counterbalance of humanity and creativity to help it fit the times we’re dealing with. If we just go out there with the gut emotional feeling you’re going to get what you’re seeing is a lot of montages.”

Rolfs agreed underscoring marketers should look to the fringes for more meaningful information and put the challenge on unearthing consumer behaviors “Behavior is our richest territory. Right now culture feels a bit muted, but so many interesting new behaviors evolving outside of everyone just staying home and connecting with our family. It’s bigger than the obvious message and immediate data.”

A key takeaway from these points: As we look ahead, it’s incumbent on marketers, especially creatives, to think outside of the box to use data to create not re-create.

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How to Build a Multi-Layered Influencer Strategy with Empathy

Over the last few months, millions of influencers have openly shared their experiences related to COVID-19 — good and bad. Marketers must also take this moment to reflect and find ways to bring empathy as they look to meet each of their partners where they are by asking questions and leverage digital platforms to communicate in more timely and authentic ways. During #SMWONE CreatorIQ’s Director of Partnerships, Jenny Risch was joined by Jennifer Powell, CEO and Founder of JP Inc. and influencer guest, Mary Lawless Lee, to explore this topic in depth and hear their expert insights as to what’s working or not and why.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Being creative can be as simple as resetting at the ground level
  • Don’t overlook the power of the gentle touch of outreach
  • Influencers are as cognizant of their voice in the market right now as you are as a brand

Choosing a partner

Different influencers are likely to be impacted by this crisis in different ways — Rish stressed — so take this time to truly get to know the various types of influencers and how their goals may be shifting. For instance, mega and macro-influencers make a majority of their income from being an influencer. With this in mind, coming to them with an upfront agreement mapping our several months or more of work is essential to create a trusted long-term relationship. Looking at a micro-influencer, on the other hand, that likely treats this work as a side hustle, would more likely be interested in hearing about discounts, product exchanges, and other promotions to maintain work with brands.

A few basics practices Rish offered to incorporate into your approach:

  • Do reach out with empathy. Ask both existing and prospective partners how they’re doing even if you don’t have the budget to work with them at the moment.
  • Do be open-minded when it comes to your brief — your influencers may have fresh ideas that translate into big opportunities
  • Don’t assume business is usual just because they haven’t posted any pandemic-related content
  • Don’t engage with a partner before understanding their personal and family’s well being.

“Now more than ever influencers are as cognizant of their voice in the market right now as you are as a brand,” said Rish. As a marketer you have the unique opportunity to shape briefs and creative strategies now with your partners based on the experiences influencers are having and the new things they’re trying out from a content standpoint that may resonate and that they can organically bring to life for you.

Establishing trust amidst uncertainty

“The beauty of working with an influencer is that they are their audience’s friend — and that relationship is special and has a lot of trust. As brands reach out and re-engage during this time, trusting that influencer and their leadership to deliver the best message and leaning into what that influencer advises is important,” shared Lee on the topic of what establishing trust looks like today and how to set the right tone for a partnership out of the gate. Powell chimed in adding that constantly having a finger on the pulse of readers has been key for major players like Lee and Danielle Berstein. Specifically, this practice of social listening translates into a key data resource and helps inform constructive feedback when discussing with brands what types of content works and what doesn’t.

This isn’t to say brands shouldn’t be involved in these conversations and the gentle touch of outreach shouldn’t be overlooked especially now. “It’s so important for the brand to get to know the talent whether that turns into a compensated relationship off the bat or just to meet and to hopefully partner down the road…for me that’s always been an important part of what I do especially when considering a mega or macro influencer like Mary.”

Pointing to her own story of transitioning her brick and mortar business online, Lee added that it’s a two-way street. “The name of the game right now is supporting one another and meeting each other in the middle. We reached out to every brand we’ve ever worked with and asked how they could be supported through messaging and content as a whole. Many came back to us with gifting and we were able to take that and support them through stories via stories and posts.”

Resetting at the ground level to fuel creativity

Eighty-five percent of Lee’s readers have been with her for six years or more. Powell articulated that these stats are a direct result of her impact as a brand partner and a healthy community. “Her blog was always a passion project — never a job. From having a baby to opening the store and building a house it’s been an opportunity to bring brands along her life journey and share her experiences at different stages of her life.” This is equally if not more relevant in the context of COVID-19.

“We didn’t realize how many moms we had following us so lately we’re doing a lot more cooking, baby, and fitness content and it brings a smile to my face. I’m excited to take deeper dives into these topics because I genuinely love doing these things,” added Lee.

While not to downplay the crisis, both agreed there’s a silver lining and for Powell and Lee this means using the situation productively to experiment and go back to the beginning of why influencer marketing works and its role in the industry. They plan to continue leveraging new platforms and content approaches across Instagram Lives, TikTok, and LinkedIn to navigate the outcomes of the pandemic today and in the year ahead.

“Have a layered strategy with the inclusion of all of these different levels of influencers,” Powell shared in a final thought.

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The post How to Build a Multi-Layered Influencer Strategy with Empathy appeared first on Social Media Week.


Unpacking the Three Key Drivers of Live Content: FOMO, Technology and Community

Live video has surpassed the novelty phase and is now more than ever shaping how brands interact with their audiences. By tapping into Live, they can engage views in instantaneous, immersive, and authentic ways that other formats simply cannot, especially during an age of social distancing. And marketers are taking note of the trend and scaling in a variety of different ways to get a piece of the action via tools like Instagram Live, LinkedIn Live, Facebook Live, and newcomers including TikTok and Twitch.

During #SMWONE, Social Chain’s Oliver Yonchev explored the evolution of live-streaming and why it should be core to every brand’s approach. “Art may seem dramatic but I believe there are many nuances and many important principles to going live and a lot of things brands should consider,” he shared in his opening remarks.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • FOMO is powerful and can be used in any Live activation
  • Going ‘Live’ and being ‘Live’ are not the same thing
  • Anticipation is the bedfellow of fear

The key drivers of live viewing

“We are a generation of “now” where everything is ‘on-demand’, stated Yonchev. In this world, choice is underpinned by the desire to have the ability to pre-program our lives exactly how we want them and we want algorithms to serve us these things in alignment with how we want them. Enter the meteoric rise of juggernauts such as Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple, and Amazon Prime.

This is supported by stats showing that amongst the top five categories of content typically live-streamed are TV series or episodic content (45%), sports (31%), tutorials or how-to videos (30%), gaming (29%), and videos from friends and family (28%). With this, three core principles naturally evolve when taking a deeper look at these trends regarding what drives live viewing:

  • Fear of missing out (“FOMO”)
  • Technology
  • Community

“Fear, like all emotions, generally drives action. It goes back to the basics of neuroscience,” Yonchev reiterated breaking down the fundamental parts of the brain: the limbic system, the primitive brain, and the neocortex. To reiterate how fear can drive strange or atypical behaviors, he pointed to the story of how Social Chain devised a fake soccer play, Rex Secco, in an effort to make a point around how the agency could make anything the most talked about topic online in a short amount of time. The result? Over 120 million impressions including people falsely claiming they had heard of Secco before.

Regarding the use of technology and all of its variants and fostering community, Yonchev underscored that people simply don’t watch live on social media in the same way they do on traditional Live formats. Further, people have and will continue to be driven by scarcity. “In a time where we are connected like no other time in history, feeling ‘connected’ is at an all time low.”

The big takeaways: Fear of missing out is as powerful as ever and a sentiment you can apply in any Live activation. When approaching Live as a brand, change your story when the room changes and, most importantly, put humanity at the center of your engagement plans.

Formatting rules

With the principles of going Live spelled out, Yonchev then dove into the formats marketers should emphasize as they build their approaches. Going back to an earlier point he stressed, we live in an on-demand culture, so a Live format needs to acknowledge this by allowing people to leave and rejoin a Live and still know what is going on. In a word, this can be achieved with simplicity. Not underestimating the power of anticipation is also critical to success. Ultimately, the fear in FOMO can translate into anticipation which, ultimately, can boost retention. In short, fear is not always negative despite the connotation often attached to the phrase. Finally, leverage the power of virality by creating content that begs for participation whether this is through sharing, commenting, liking or otherwise.

Effective mechanics

Combined with the drivers of Live audiences and formatting best practices, there are several effective mechanics to bear in mind as you craft your Live strategy. These are grounded by three themes of interactivity, anticipation, which Yonchev described as “the bedfellow of fear,” and experience.

Quizzes and games are particularly helpful when trying to showcase products in a way that does not just bombard audiences with details but invites them to participate and learn more about the brand and make more informed decisions. Social Chain partnered with Boohoo for a live quiz show where a new question would be produced every minute for the total of an hour with winners being selected at random. From the viral loop caused by the incoming comments to the anticipation of the next winner announcement, this was a perfect storm for a successful live and the results supported this: Social Chain reached 4.6 billion people and drew 791k total engagements.

“One of the most effective forms of marketing is experience,” said Yonchev. However, experience can be costly and hard to scale but live streaming allows us to overcome these barriers. In another example, Social Chain partnered with Superdry in a digital treasure hunt where when people commented “Treat” and once a certain volume was reached, more clues would be revealed. “What this really did for the brand was take an experiential activity and bring it a whole host of people who couldn’t be there to experience and introduce to them into that part and relationship.” Social Chain has taken this to other levels from controlling live events through the music and pyrotechnics to using World Puppy day to create a “Puppy Catwalk” and launching live-stream shopping for Facebook videos.

“Download Twitch. Go live on LinkedIn. Play on Houseparty,” Yonchev urged as the session concluded.

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Why Trust and Authenticity are Integral to the Future of Visual Language

In an age of social distancing it’s no secret our feeds and screens have regained new prominence. These are the windows to the world now more than ever and in turn, it is our responsibility as marketers to empower social and digital channels with visual content that is authentic in line with the IRL life that we are closed off to during this pandemic.

During #SMWONE, Grey Digital Strategy Director Asad Shaykh and Unsplash CEO and Co-Founder Mikael Cho came together to explore this topic in-depth — particularly how Unsplash is empowering its community from more realistic depictions of our WFH life to supporting the UN through a visual Public Service Announcement system. They also discussed the future of visual language and how businesses and influencers can arm the world’s storytellers with an image of what is real, at a time when accurate representation is needed most.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • The more people can create the more progress we’ll see
  • Authenticity is key to remain on social
  • Trust and humanity are core to adapting to a growing immersive reality

Giving the UN the Unsplash Effect

A few weeks ago, the United Nations issued a global callout to creatives to submit their best visuals ideas to support the fight against COVID-19. After 17,000 submissions came in, the issue became finding somewhere to get them seen everywhere, quickly.

Unsplash jumped at the opportunity and mobilized by launching a UN account on the platform with the mission of getting the visuals posted there seen by 1 billion people in the span of 30 days. To achieve this, the company set aside featured placements on the company homepage and across relevant searches. All the UN visuals on Unsplash will also be open for use across its 1,820 API partners including Medium, Buzzfeed, Google Slides, Squarespace, Figma, Notion, and Adobe.

“Time and again, we’ve seen that if we can get great visuals in front of creators, they will push the impact of those visuals further than we ever could have imagined,” shared Cho in the official announcement shared on his personal Twitter account. “Our and the UN’s aim is to make sure these visuals are seen by as many people as possible.” In short, Unsplash used its platform and distribution power to become a visual Public Service Announcement system for the UN.

Usefulness: the Key to Authenticity and Trust

Beyond PowerPoints and business plans, images are increasingly being used to tell stories in today’s world when we either fortunately or unfortunately, are dependent on the screen to understand human stories during this global pandemic. When asked how Unsplash’s business has adapted and how the company is looking to maintain trust and authenticity with its visuals — Cho explained that it boils down to usefulness. Specifically, once an image circulates, it takes on its own life and meaning. As people collect images, they take on a representation grounded in human inspiration and interpretation. Currently, there are over 10M user-generated collections on Unsplash.

“Unsplash is not a social network. It’s a place for people to get visuals they can use and find the fundamental building blocks to tell a story on a platform where they already have an audience,” Cho reiterated. For the past few weeks, this has boiled down to truly listening to its community and paying attention to the shifts in the types of content they reflected in the top 20 searches they needed most during these times. Generally speaking, the platform saw a 2,000 percent (2M to 45M) uptick in DIY-centered content. The result was a new, human-curated library — one that played into Unsplash’s lateral and democratic approach to a free market with borderless creativity.

“When people create, they’re trying to make things happen. And the more they can make things happen, that’s how we make progress,” noted Cho. Put differently, Unsplash is not restricted to any geographic region and a large reason why authenticity and diversity ring true and loud through its visuals is due in large part that naturally people will fill gaps when certain content is lacking. Innate trust is bred therefore, as people are able to tell their own visual story through their own perspectives and experiences.

The future of visual branding and the role of visual language

Brands are all around us and having this acknowledged in a visual makes this notion feel more genuine. “As a brand, you may know what your brand goal is — and our job is to say here are the visuals that represent that goal and we’re going to let people create what that looks like.” In turn, you not only help people reach full potential essentially through these integrations but you create an authentic incentive to spread the message far and wide.

The world is becoming increasingly immersive and digital, but the priority should not be to withhold visuals — rather find organic ways to participate and empower audiences in fundamentally positive ways. Cho pointed to TikTok as a platform he finds leading in this space that is focused on rawness over professional quality. This applies to Unsplash as well where people are shooting either with the best camera they have or in other instances their mobile device. The big takeaway: keep humanity at the core of this evolving immersive reality. Doing otherwise is counterproductive and will only detract from a shift to digital experiences being viewed as authentic and welcomed versus content that is distracting and disruptive and that we want to skip or scroll over.

“Authenticity is key to remain on social if you just want to resonate with one person or 100 people if we try to really understand ‘I know how that looks’ or ‘I know I feel like that’ we’ll have done our job as social media custodians,” Shakyh offered as a closing comment.

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Navigating COVID-19 Dissonance: Shaping Disruptions into Creative Fuel

COVID-19 has presented its fair share of challenges to the global economy on a micro level and the individual’s day-to-day life on a micro-level. The pandemic will unarguably have far-reaching consequences beyond the spread of the disease but many industry leaders are seeking to find the silver lining.

During #SMWONE, Lucy Walker, an award-winning filmmaker and curator of TEDxVenice Beach, and Grey West‘s Alex Morrison and Rodrigo Jatene, and Tiffany Shlain Emmy-nominated filmmaker, speaker, and Webby Awards Founder came together to as they explore how dissonance in our daily experience is leading to an evolution of creativity, invention, and new ways of approaching the world.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Disruptive change can lead to creative discovery
  • Options are not your friends
  • One of the most advantageous qualities of being human is adaptability

Constraints can release rather than inhibit creativity

When sharing each of their personal experiences with encountering constraints, the panel unanimously agreed that more often than not constraints can be liberating versus a disrupting hindrance.

Shlain for instance, took a trip down memory lane to share the story of how the Webbys became known for its five-word acceptance speech and how the idea was conceived. In terms of her filmmaking, she describes having constraints for short films as “liberating.” “I love the challenge of taking a very complicated subject and having to distill it down into a finite amount of time.”

Walker chimed in through a similar lens of her documentary work, “Options are not your friend. The essence of creativity is constraint and getting creative with what you have is what it’s all about.”

In the advertising world, the constraint lies chiefly in the creative brief, Jatene described. “The brief is the ultimate constraint. It puts boundaries on a topic and forces you to channel your creativity in one way and not any other,” he said. “We need to be limited to become limitless.” Put differently, the absence of constraints can be an inhibitor to creativity.

Bending, breaking, and blending

During the conversation, Walker referenced David Eagleman, world-renowned neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author, and his view that novel experiences are all about laying down your memory. He further dives into this topic in his book, The Runaway Species, co-authored with music composer Anthony Brandt, which explores the brain’s behavior behind human creativity — specifically, a framework driven by the concepts of “bending,” “breaking” and “blending.”

“In the documentary space we are all making ball gowns for the Met Gala out of two bits of garbage, but I choose this. It’s astonishing how you can bring together jigsaw pieces together that shouldn’t fit,” said Walker. Jatene, in his own experience, is known to bend the rules of the advertising brief to explore the various angles within the confines of this very limiting space.

Shlain described her own process with cloud filmmaking and a new project she’s working on — a call and response video about the pandemic where people are asked to record and submit their responses to questions about what they’re most fearful of, the best act of creativity or kindness they’ve seen, and what’s the best to come. She described that the hardest part of this process is the creative blending required in the editing to accurately depict the humanity, fear, hope, and kindness we’re experiencing. “One week I thought I was making one film but then the next week the vibe will be totally different.”

“The classic test of creativity is that idea of how many things you can do with a brick and it really feels like that right now. Your first ideas are probably pretty obvious, but the closer you look and the more you’re paying attention the more you’ll make more exciting discoveries.” At first, there was the novelty of it all but to really cut through the clutter and be creative you have to now, figuratively speaking, use your brick to take a whole, break it apart and assemble something new out of the fragments.

Lean into your passions in order to adapt

“Before the pandemic, we were far away from what mattered in our society and our own lives,” explained Shlain, and what has enabled us to recognize this is having an extended period of time to reset and take a beat to go back to what matters most. She personally has been baking homemade bread with her children while Walker has taken up fermenting making her own natto and yogurt. For the group, these simple passionate activities can pave the path to breakthroughs, “To unlock a door you may need to become a yogurt maker. The history of breakthroughs is littered with people who had weird hobbies that led to great scientific discoveries,” Walker stated.

For Jatene he’s enjoyed designing which was his first love and running which until now he hasn’t had time for. He’s also enjoyed taking up homeschooling with his children and helping apply his creativity to his work to inspire them, put a different lens on what they’re learning, and have schoolwork be fun.

The big takeaway: even in times of stillness or isolation we can find ways to be creative, and starting can be as simple as physically putting down our phones so we have the ability to dedicate the time to what truly makes us inspired and happy and that we’re genuinely feeling.

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Knowledge and Gratitude: How Simple, Healthy Habits Can Boost Your Financial Well-Being

From founding the Huffington Post and writing 15 books to being named one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes and ranked among Time Magazine‘s 100 most influential people, Arianna Huffington’s career has no shortage of accomplishments. Most recently, she founded Thrive Global four years ago and this past January led her team in the launch of Thriving Wallet, a new partnership between Thrive and Discover in an effort to redefine the discussion around financial health and help people reframe their relationship with money by building simple, healthy habits.

During #SMWONE, Huffington joined Discover’s Julie Loeger, and Grey’s John Patroulis to dig deeper into the endeavor and why now more than ever it’s important to focus on financial well-being alongside physical, mental and emotional health.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Knowledge is power
  • Gratitude is an amazing antidote to stress
  • Building mental resilience is key to a prosperous post-pandemic world

The stress and burnout epidemic

The global pandemic has revealed fundamental weaknesses in our society, and according to Huffington, one of the biggest is a world where we’re breathlessly and always on and fail to understand the important truth that financial well-being directly impacts our mental and physical health.

This is not a new concept, rather one that has proliferated for years including an increase in chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, mental health problems including depression and anxiety, and stress and burnout, which the World Health Organization identified as a workplace crisis just last spring. In a time of profound loss, the mental crisis we already face is exacerbated with two-thirds of Americans on average claiming they’ve felt anxious, depressed, lonely or helpless in recent weeks and over half reporting pandemic-induced stress is negatively impacting their sleep, diet, alcohol use, and chronic conditions.

The impact of Thrive Wallet

Ninety-percent of individuals claim financial considerations have an impact on their stress levels. Further, 25 percent wish they could have a fresh start with regards to their finances, even as they claim they’re uncertain where to begin. Enter the solution conceived in Vegas by Loeger and Huffington in Las Vegas a year and a half ago: Thriving Wallet.

Through video, editorial content, and social content consumers can use Thrive Wallet to seek expert advice, hear inspirational personal stories, and gain data-driven insights around building healthier financial habits through Thrive’s signature “Microsteps” and Discover’s tools, resources, and products. Whether understanding the basis of your credit score, your overall financial foundation or gaining tips for building credit or saving for your next experience, Thriving Wallet’s primary goal is to jump-start positive behavior change and reduce stress through simple microsteps.


“There is no better way to get customer loyalty than to add value to their lives,” said Huffington.”Knowledge is power, and it is really important people recognize the connection between general stress and our spending.” The best way to do this? Take the daunting element out of financial advice and allow consumers to build habits that will help them flex this muscle through meaningful content, distributed in a way that’s useful, leveraging a consumer need and that puts actions on the table people can take advantage of in a big way.

For example, setting aside $10 per week to save for something that’s meaningful to you — this small step helps practice mindful, value-driven spending. Scheduling a regular catch-up with a friend is another. For many, a huge obstacle is getting their money worries out of the shadows. Finally, do a simple audit. If you have any loans, log the balance in a tracker to create a sense of ownership over the situation.

Coping with stress

In addressing best practices for coping with stress, Huffington reiterated the theme of awareness as a form of power.

In her first tip, she underscored the necessity for rest. “Sleep is foundational and yet sleep is very hard to come by right now.” During such uncertain times, it can be hard to feel relaxed at night. To help in this regard, she offered the suggestion of powering down your phone and charging it away from your bed to avoid the temptation to scroll at all hours of the night. She also highlighted the benefit of expressing gratitude on a regular basis. “Even in the work circumstances, there is always something you are grateful for — gratitude is an amazing antidote to stress.”

As simple as it may sound, breathing is yet another core stress reliever. “I love reading about Navy seals — when they’re dealing with stressful circumstances they use box breathing, an exercise where you breathe in for four counts, pause for the count of four, and exhale for four counts.”

The big takeaway: to prepare for a post-pandemic world, taking control of our stress is essential to building mental resilience. This resilience will enable us to bring our best, most focused, most productive selves to the forefront of the challenges of a world vastly different from the one we once knew.

As final words of advice, Loeger shared, “continuously leverage curiosity — seek to understand, but don’t stop there; push it to action,” while Huffington encouraged everyone “not just to survive, but thrive.”

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How Warfare Tactics Can Help Personalize Your Virtual Recruitment Efforts

The U.S. Army has been recruiting for a long time with its legacy systems, but today they acknowledge that this is a new world and strategies must shift. Their traditional approaches include walking in the mall, cold calls, billboards but they are now focused on two-way conversations and listening more, using social media to do so. It’s important to make sure that their recruits are given the information that’s right for them, and as they are now 100% virtual they are finding that they’re better at targeting conversations than ever before.

During #SMWONE last week, the U.S Army Recruiting Command’s marketing team — including Shauna Clark and Xeriqua Garfinkel — and an enterprise consultant at Digimind joined forces to outline the strategies they’re using to recruit and how you can apply it to your brand.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Preparation and not forcing your agenda will foster authenticity and deeper understanding of your audience
  • Social listening is key to blending messages and creating loyalty
  • The battlefield is always changing so it’s important to adapt.

Understanding what is key to your audience

With Digimind,the global leader in AI-Powered social listening platforms and market intelligence software, they understand the pivot that needs to take place. With everything revolving around COVID-19, it’s important that their team turns out dashboard solutions, outreach programs, and ways to best connect to COVD-19 information from a customer perspective.

Digimind’s platform has given the U.S Army the ability to slice and dice the information out there and help them recruit. In terms of specific adjustments as a result of COVID-19, there’s best practices now put in place around COVID-19 needs, and a new product that is a dashboard-solution only. The team is being reactive to help clients connect to this new normal in any way possible, as Tony Calega of Digimind explained.

How the U.S Army is using data and applying it to their overall strategy and tactics

Shauna says they use The Art of War by Sun Tzu to explain the reasoning behind why they are successful, using the strategies outlined in that book in their day to day work.

  • A wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy: embrace your fan’s content. Recruiters can create their own content so their voice can be heard and allow their virtual community to engage
  • Let the object be victory, not lengthy campaigns: build your strategy with intention. Know where you want to go first so that you are managing your time well, and you have a measurable deliverable and the benchmarks in place to get you there.
  • Know the enemy and know thyself: understand your target market by using resources to understand what triggers a users response and use a social listening tool to dig down to a user’s sentiment.
  • The first to the battlefield is fresh, the second will be harried and exhausted: it’s important to be prepared first. Readiness and understanding the market is important so you can pivot without having to play too much catch-up.
  • Impose your will on the enemy and do not let you enemy’s will be imposed on you: Have a concrete plan and use a platform that you’re already familiar with.
  • Water shapes its course according to nature’s ground as does a soldier working out his victory in relation to the foe he faces: adapt your tactics to your platform. Don’t force your agenda and have a two-way conversation and don’t treat every social media account the same.
  • Gongs and drums banners and flags are a means to focus on a particular point: conversations are easier to listen to when their intention is focused on a single point.
  • The enemy may not be coming but be ready if he does: social listening plays a key role in understanding your target audience, and the influencers of your target audience.
  • Rapidity is the essence of war: stay current and respond to trends or market changes. It’s important to adapt without losing your strategy.

Adapt, adapt, adapt

The most important tip? The battlefield always changes and it’s important to adapt. It’s also important to use social media as a listening tool to inform your strategies and know where to go next.

The large takeaway: these strategies are applicable to any business and any market that is trying to navigate how they should approach social media. more specifically, how they should approach social listening and a general process for gathering and gaining different insights. Themes of rapidity, flexibility, having intention in your strategy, being prepared are all prescient, relevant, and timely considering where we are today but can undoubtedly be melded to fit the future.

“As long as we are agile and can stay focused on what our overall strategy will be, that’s where we see our success,” Garfinkel said.

Beyond agility, Clark articulated the power of social listening. “Our target market is a very small group. We go after a certain age group, some college, no college, you name it — and we use social media and social listening to blend our message and create loyalty not only in our market and also in influencers. It’s really about understanding what works best and who is there, who is present, and how they’re responding and using that information to inform decisions on where you go next.”

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How Neuroscience Can Improve Social Media Efforts and Build Fandoms

In a world of digital chaos, cultivating fandom is a method strong brands have used to grow their reach through pure love. There’s a neurological support network that humans identify with, and fandom is at the core of its connectivity.

During #SMWONE, Fanocracy‘s David Meerman Scott and Talkwalker‘s Todd Grossman discussed our collective hunger for relationships and the fandom that fosters it. Increasingly tech tired and bot weary, people long for human connection. Nothing brings people together closer than mutual enjoyment.

David is an author best known for The New Rules of Marketing and PR, a perennial seller for over a decade, as well as other bestsellers including Fanocracy, Real-Time Marketing & PR and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.

Todd is CEO Americas at Talkwalker, a conversation intelligence company. Talkwalker delivers social insights that help brands build growth. Their breakthrough AI technology was developed exclusively in-house to offer the best and most flexible video, image, text, and speech analytics across any media type.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Fandom drives buying decisions
  • Neurologically speaking, people feel safest in a tribe of likeminded individuals
  • Building a fandom is the practice of created shared emotions

Fandom is shared emotions

Fandom is essentially the shared emotional experience and “everyone has the opportunity to build a fanbase,” said Meerman Scott Take Haggerty Insurance for example—they insure classic cars, with the owners being a fairly passionate group. Haggerty has cultivated its customer base into fans by creating a proprietary social network and through its Youtube channel, currently with more than 500,000 subscribers. “Haggerty Insurance has one of the biggest fandoms,” because “they’ve created a human experience from the mundane.”

Fandom drives buying decisions, and when people find their tribe they create a positive bond between the emotional experience of the tribe and the company providing those connections.

Let the fans take over

When you create an experience for your customers, through video, marketing, or IRL efforts, it pays to let go. “Once you put it out there it no longer belongs to you,” says David. Some brands embrace a curative method, which means forcing a strict set of terms to subscribe to. Think of Adobe’s prescriptive language reminding us that ‘Photoshop is not a verb, it’s a product name.’ Other brands prefer a transformative method, which means allowing the fans to do as they please with your product, by making videos and memes, embracing it as their own. Think of the Roomba videos of product owner’s pets riding around the house.

Give more than you have to

One way to promote fandom is to give generously and without expectations. Creating a roadblock (like requiring registration before downloading assets) breeds an adversarial environment. When things are given freely it promotes a feeling of reciprocity that can be very rewarding. Look no further than the Hubspot method of giving away all of their educational materials and simultaneously building a huge fanbase.

Take the Grateful Dead approach to recordings of their live shows: when other bands prohibited it, they welcomed it. In turn, they’ve created a fandom that’s still going strong decades later.

Passion is infectious and creates community

Brands that literally and figuratively exist as the sticker on someone’s laptop have staying power that is driven by that community. It isn’t impossible to foster that real human connection virtually, it just takes a few tweaks. David’s hack for making personal experiences from afar? Tighten the crop on your video. Seeing someone’s face close up created the feeling of actually being in close proximity and mimics the emotional experiences of being together in real life.

From a content or messaging standpoint, now more than ever it is crucial to rehumanize your language when reaching out to your audience. Meerman Scott has done a full-blown deep dive into what he calls the Gobbledygook of corporate PR language. In a study of each press release sent out during a 12-month period, he identified innovative, unique, and world-class as the most often repeated words. “If you have to announce that you are any of those things, are you really?” he asked.

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How Consumer Faith and Social Media Saved Lives: The Story of the #DistanceDance Campaign

If you think TikTok dances are just another form of social media posturing, think again.

During #SMWONE the companies behind the viral #DistanceDance campaign shared the story behind the success and the major learning lessons from the experience. Primarily, how consumer faith in brands and social media have the powerful ability, and responsibility, to directly make a positive impact. The fundraising campaign, which launched late March, is still turning heads all over the world due to the incredible social media following of TikToker Charli D’Amelio who took to the platform with an important mission: save lives by encouraging people to adhere to government and health official regulations to stay home.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Brand propose is not marketing
  • The days of slapping #spon on content is over
  • Don’t negate the power of implicit trust and intuition

The 96-Hour Hustle

The campaign started with a string of phone calls on a Friday night, the first from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to Procter & Gamble CEO David Taylor with a problem: the state’s younger demographics weren’t practicing social distancing. DeWine was eager to see how the CPG giant could help spread the word about the importance of staying at home to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Taylor then called P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, who reached out to Debby Reiner, president of global brands at longtime agency partner Grey and the ideas began. Within 24 hours after that, the Grey team, including Gold, came up with the #DistanceDance concept and partnered with TikTok to get D’Amelio signed on. The following morning P&G called Grey with the formal pitch and that rest was Internet history.

Within four days, by the following Tuesday evening, Grey and Tiktok had tapped D’Amelio to create the video. To date, the video has earned the top title of most-watched video on the platform and the most viewed challenge. The challenge has attracted 15 billion views while the video itself has garnered over 191 million views and over 2 billion impressions. As far as original videos are concerned, more than 4 million have been made by celebrities such as Jason Derulo, Ne-Yo, Migos, Ashley Tisdale, and many more.

Picking a platform and influencer

Kenny Gold, Director of Social Media at Grey explained that when Pritchard reached out for help, they needed to navigate to fundamental obstacles. First, find a platform with inventory that could deliver the message in a new way that was right for this audience. And second was time, because every day mattered and Grey and P&G knew time was of the essence. Partnering with TikTok and Charli helped us solve both.

Barbara Jones, Founder and CEO, Outshine Talent, articulated this notion of a true collaboration by explaining, “Charlie and her family really understood the importance of this message from the beginning. They walked the walk and they knew this was important. Because she has such an impact on her fans and her audience…she really had the mentality of having fun and had confidence could spread positivity and do good with this. She was all in.”

TikTok‘s Lauren Birnbaum added, “This was the first branded PSA activation that TikTok funded from a media perspective. We felt so strongly about the cause and that our platform could take this message to the masses with a huge impact.”

The confluence of reach, speed agility

When asked about the nuances of how they worked together and how success would be measured, Gold, Jones, and Birnbaum were unanimous in that it was agility and having trust behind their shared goal of spreading this important message. TikTok delivered the ease of production and serving as the largest megaphone.

“We needed it to be a place of extreme reach and we needed it to be a place that would be breakthrough in the truest sense of the term. If it was anywhere else, we wouldn’t have cut through as deeply. It was the right medium, right time, and the right level of production. Then we asked, who has the voice of Gen Z in her mouth? That’s Charlie. It was truly lightning in a bottle.”

Jones added, “I think for TikTok specifically too, it is a benefit to the platform to not overthink the creative; not to dot the I’s and cross T’s that you may think you have to do for others. The beauty with TikTok is its natural ease. Sometimes when you have big brands and agencies and long lead time it can hurt you.

“At TikTok we say we love to run and in this case, we were sprinting as fast as we could,” echoed Birnbaum.

With the notion of one team, one dream when asked about how success was measured the group collectively shared that reach and awareness were most critical as their overarching goal was to get a specific and unifying message out to the intended audience.

Influencer marketing and brand purpose dos and don’ts

If you’re going to entrust your brand and its purpose in the voice of someone else and into the community of someone else you have to work together, explained Gold, “it has to be a true, co-creation partnership. The days of slapping #spon on a piece content is over.”

There is a difference between social good marketing and brand purpose, Jones echoed. “Brands and agencies need to get ahead of the curve, actually talk to their creators versus go out to them as sheer amplifiers, pull some little focus groups together, and start crowdsourcing about what really works.”

Birnbaum added that from a branding perspective in more cases than not it’s more efficient and cost-effective to let go of the reins and lean on the creator to convey the message as natively as possible. “Instead of a huge video shoot you can give that credit and autonomy to the talent,” she shared.

On the topic of brand purpose, the group underscored themes of loyalty, genuity, and making mission the boss.

Gold shared, “Brand purpose is only as good as its ability to permeate through times like this. Brand purpose is not marketing. Marketing is the opportunity to live your DNA in a way that resonates with your audience.” P&G is a prime example of a brand on the front lines standing by its mission to get essential products into the hands of those who need it.

Brands need to put the cause above them now more than ever Birnbaum added. You take P&G in this case, their branding and logos were almost absent.”

The group closed summarizing their brand ethos of the campaign in one word. The outcome: “Inspiring, teamwork, blooming, and helpful.”

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Here’s Why Influencers Can Be Considered Part of Your Brand’s Tactical Marketing Team

Influencer marketing captures an opportunity to move outside of pure product push and into communications from a fresh perspective speaking from outside of your brand voice.

During #SMWONE, Takumi‘s Derek Wiggins and m/SIX‘s Keri Drengler shared a vested interest in establishing brand reach through influential means, and joined forces to discuss what companies have to gain—and what to watch out for—in this new-ish arm of marketing. With the right approach, influencer marketing can be used to create, share, attribute, and amplify the right message.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Influencers can be considered part of a company’s tactical marketing team
  • Micro-influencers offer a more bespoke approach to audience messaging
  • Platform use is dependent on customer use and visibility

Drengler is the Managing Director of Digital m/SIX, a media planning and buying agency that specializes in driving commercial and audience growth in today’s data and tech-led media landscape. Wiggins is the US Country Head for Takumi, as well as a public speaker. He is the leading force to driving revenue and developing the Takumi offering to ensure the business remains the market-leading influencer company.

“Influencers are a critical part of the marketing mix,” explained Drengler to kick off the conversation. They meet your audience on their level and where they operate. Picking which creators are a fit for your brand and will help you deliver an authentic message is an entirely different story. Fortunately, she and Wiggins had some advice to share including how to navigate the balance of creativity versus control – that isn’t at the expense of the influencer’s audience.

Choosing the right influencer

In order to amplify your message effectively, you need to project it from the right loudspeaker. Where does your audience consume the majority of their media? Exploring audience platform use can lead you to the right type of influencer. A major medical retailer may not fain much traction with the TikTok crowd. Authenticity counts, a brand is wise to gain an understanding of its positioning and live that message through all of its outlets, even social media influencers. Influencers can be a direct line to your ideal customer and when their position is matched equally a clean partnership is established.

Protecting your brand

Allowing your communication to go through an influencer, essentially a vendor now, does come with its fair share of bumps. Once the posts are out and live, there is no way to contain its audience reach or reaction. The idea of brand safety, mitigating off-topic or harmful conversations, is something to discuss before engaging in the partnership. Influencers know their audience and have a strong, authentic connection, but often aren’t professional marketers. Working with a partner like m/SIX alleviates a bit of the pressure surrounding the hand-off from your digital experts to a handle on Instagram.

“Brands should market when things are good and have to market when things are bad,” relays Keri. Unique circumstances require creative solutions, and influencer marketing is just that. Pairing your brand with the exact people whom you wish to serve is a no-brainer, it’s just a matter of finding the right person.

Test and learn

Before brands embark on a multi-channel approach, go back to basics. What’s the end goal? “Your team doing the cool new dance challenge might align with brand affinity, but not so much with a goal of increased sales,” Keri reminds us. Asking the fundamental question of ‘How can we pair what we do with our customers’ needs will always create a strong campaign.

Reviewing the engagement rates for a specific content type goes far in planning and finetuning a brand’s next steps.

Authentic engagement, regardless of platform, will win every time. Ad Derek reminds us, “influencer marketing is an opportunity to add a tactical member of your marketing team. One who is tuned in to your ideal audience and presents a familiar face in a place they are visiting on the regular.

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Capturing the “Older Cousin” Effect of Influencer Marketing with Outloud Group

Long before we had influencer marketing, we had older siblings and cousins who showed us what we wanted to do, be, and try. They were the original influencers. For Outloud Group’s Bradley Hoos, it was his cousins in particular. We followed them, he says, because they had our trust. And today, successful influencers are the ones who have gained similar trust from their followers.

Trust isn’t the only thing that makes influencers powerful. The other reason that reputable brands partner with these individuals is because they can tell a story. They can tell a story in a compelling and relatable way, particularly as consumers are increasingly wary of being “sold to.” The key to a successful influencer relationship, then, is allowing them the space and the autonomy to tell that story in the way they do best.

During #SMWONE, Hoos elaborated on this subject outlining the major barriers to influencer marketing and best practices for success, ways to better understand and scale your organization’s influencer efforts, and his predictions for the future of influencer measurement and what you can do to prepare.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Influencers don’t need our scripts or guidance on brand voice
  • We all need to be able to do more when it comes to measurement
  • Consider influencer marketing as “the Magic Johnson” of your marketing mix

Static = Safe, Live = Legendary

If we select influencers for their ability to tell an engaging story, Hoos says, then we should allow them to do so in a format that captures that quality. Static posts on Instagram, which were at one time the standard for influencer content, have given way to video content. While this has raised the heart rates of more than a few brands who see the potential loss of control that video could offer, Hoos argues that it’s worth the risk. “We screen for good partnership prospects […] and really get to know them,” and believes that any brand working with an influencer should do the same. After all, their followers have made them valuable to us because of their trust; shouldn’t we offer the same?

Hoos thinks that video-on-demand (such as that in an Instagram video post) is one way of doing this, but there’s considerably more power in letting influencers take their talents to live or streaming video. Case in point: the burgeoning world of esports. No longer a “niche” interest, it’s the place to be for males in Generation Z as well as younger millennials. For reference: the League of Legends final streams garnered more viewers than the NBA Finals, finals of the World Series, or the Stanley Cup Finals. “If you are a brand trying to reach a Gen Z male, this is how and the time is now,” he affirmed.

Full-Funnel Growth for Grubhub

Joining the session via pre-recorded video was Grubhub’s Director of Content Marketing Mandy Cudahy. The challenge for her team as they incorporated influencer marketing into their strategy was finding ways to let them engage prospects all through the funnel. By allowing their chosen influencers to authentically share their “Why Grubhub?” story through the content they shared on Twitch live streams, they reached the lowest cost per click and lowest cost per acquisition the company had ever seen.

Hoos was happy to share this as affirmation for the idea that influencers don’t need our scripts or guidance on brand voice. They’re considerably more powerful as brand advocates, able to use their authentic voices – the voices that their followers know and appreciate about them – to sing the praises of your product or service.

The Meaning – and Magic of Measurement

“It’s 2020 and we all need to be able to do more when it comes to measurement,” Hoos says of the impact that influencer marketing can have on company bottom lines. While he acknowledges that it can be harder to do than more straightforward forms of marketing, he also isn’t naïve about the reach that it can have. Referring to “atrributable” and “unattributable” purchases, he cites a study The Outloud Group conducted that revealed for every attributable purchase driven by an affiliate link or from an influencer post, there were between three and four that were deemed “unattributable,” but actually could be traced back to the influencer’s…well, influence.

For this reason, he sees influencer marketing as “the Magic Johnson” of your marketing mix. Not only is it powerful in its own right, but it makes everyone around it – email marketing, paid social, blog, TV spots, etc. – stronger. And if you have Magic Johnson on your team, why wouldn’t you start him?

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Tips for Staying Brand-Safe During a Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic, tons of influencers and brands are trying to “influence for good.” In last week’s #SMWONE session, CreatorIQ’s COO, Tim Sovay was joined by Lena Renzina who manages talent partnerships at Ad Council to discuss how to reevaluate brand safety policies during this unprecedented time and how content creators can mindfully manage their channels and influence.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Influencers are leading impact-oriented campaigns
  • Creators have a responsibility with the platforms they have to share positivity and keep people informed
  • The key to brand safety is vetting and testing

Overall, creators have been using their influence for good

“Creators today are delivering millions of posts to their audiences around their interest and involvement in COVID-19,” Sovay states. Specifically, the content and campaigns being pushed out during this time show that there’s a shift from “broader pandemic content to more cause and impact-oriented campaigns,” especially with topics that are centered around thanking heroes and staying at home, plus supporting small businesses. In fact, overall engagement on influencer has surpassed 4.6 billion, and Sovay says this is because of the efforts of influencers, brands, government agencies, and efforts from AdCouncil to rally around this important cause and get people to engage.

Mobilizing the industry for good

During this time, Renzina’s team at AdCouncil had to rally their clients to quickly respond to the crisis and push out messages around critical news. They focused on five issue areas: social distancing messages, hygiene such as washing hands, stay at home orders, mental health, and parenting. The team wanted to hit different markets yet still push out the “general messaging that the public needed to hear, in a quick time period” Renzina points out.

With their talent partners, Renzina really wanted to make sure that the influencers were using their voices for good around the issues that each influencer was most passionate about. Sharing critical and time-sensitive information needed to be fully vetted so that their platforms don’t seem outdated or fake, and should continue to be vetted on an ongoing basis.

The challenges to ‘create’ during this time

Now more than ever “creators have a responsibility with the platform they have, ” Renzina points out, and it’s important that they send out the right message. Her tips during the session included always finding the source before influencers post anything (so making sure the source is credible and they double-check the info) and gut-checking a post with a friend or team before sharing it widely. She also warns that influencers should not shy away from sharing resources at this time that might be helpful to their audience. While influencers are trying to strike a balance between staying positive yet away of what’s going on globally, it’s important to remember that good information should be shared so that it can possibly help others during this time.

How to stay brand-safe

Savoy notes that some areas brands can takeaway are:

  • While individual companies guidelines and risk tolerances are unique, brands and legal teams should think to adjust guidelines for COVID-19 content. This is an entirely new subject matter, so content needs to be revisited for both “subject and tone”.
  • As these are fast evolving topics, content that might be brand-safe today can be super risky tomorrow, so staying nimble and adaptable is key too
  • To respond to some of these challenges, Creator IQ can screen influencers for brand safety keywords so that brands remain careful in who they choose to partner up with

How future and current content creators can stay on top

Vetting talent is really important, according to Ranzina. With so much uncertainty, she shared her screening test “the good, the bad and the ugly” to vet influencers. The good means the creator is uplifting or brand-safe for a specific campaign or organization, the bad can be a red flag like posting something that might be tone-deaf in the past, and the ugly is a deal-breaker that you don’t want to align your brand with. So, it’s important for brands to really look at the content creators channels. Brand safety is especially key during these times.

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Consistency, Not Uniformity: Humanizing the Boeing Brand with Talkwalker

“Our posture needed to change because the world had changed.”

This was the take that Boeing’s Vice President for Global Channel & Content Marketing Georgina Goode took to heart when shifting the company’s communications with the onset of COVID-19. The airline industry has been among the hardest hit as billions of people remain grounded at home. But for Goode, the focus was less about the bottom line and more about the people and relationships impacted by this shift. In conversation with her longtime colleague, Talkwalker CEO for the Americas Todd Grossman, Goode elaborated on the “relevant, relatable, and human” stance that Boeing has maintained, even as a company often considered B2B by category.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Be consistent, not uniform with your messaging
  • Don’t be something you’re not
  • When adapting, especially during a time of crisis, be king to others and yourself

Forget How We “Should Show Up”

In truth, Goode bristles at the classification of B2B, instead preferring to focus on what groups need, not how the brand should show up in their digital communications. “Let’s not try to be something that we’re not,” she shared as her guiding philosophy on crafting communications that can meet the moment we’re in. “When you hone in on needs and expectations, that’s how you stay relevant.”

Highlights of how Boeing has met those needs and expectations include honoring VE Day earlier in the months by sharing archival footage of Boeing aircraft from the 1940s, sharing interactive footage of the 777X aircraft ahead of its introduction to the fleet in 2021, and even creating virtual field trips for those in need of a digital escape for the little ones at home. “For a company that’s 104 years old, we don’t struggle for content,” she shared. And that wide breadth of content has afforded flexibility in how they show up in this moment.

“Consistent, Not Uniform,” and More Guiding Principles

When asked how to manage the many stakeholders that Boeing has as a brand, Goode shared six guiding principles that were helping teams all over the world weather this storm with a sense of stability that other areas of life simply aren’t providing. A key one: “consistent, not uniform.” Using common data processes, technology, and tools are ensuring that no matter whether communications are aimed inward toward other parts of the company, or externally to shareholders and stakeholders, that the message is coming from a common place.

“We have diverse audiences and diverse needs, but we set teams up around stakeholder groups and adapt based on what they need or expect.” This includes how social is used to communicate to Boeing employees; recognizing that the needs of a team in South Carolina or Chicago might differ sharply from those in Arlington in Washington State. And while that messaging is in some ways the same, Goode sees it as “a single narrative, deployed differently based on what people need and how people need to hear it.”

Be Kind. Including To Yourself

Given how technical the nature of Boeing’s work is, it might be surprising to hear the level of humanity Goode is committed to bringing to her work. When asked about how her teams are adapting to these fast-evolving and often stressful circumstances, she shared a list of axioms she found online, including the crucial “this team’s success will not be judged the same way it was when things were normal.” Even as the team evolves its work to meet the current moment, it is not lost on Goode the toll that such evolution might be having on her team members.

“Relationships are at the core of how we build content,” she shared, extending that idea not just to the content being created, but also to the people creating that content. She’s committed to connectivity with her team, and to the idea that those check-ins are about more than just business. The kindness that she’s committed to infusing into her work, is a kindness that she extends to her team – and asked the session attendees to extend to themselves. “We’re more connected now than ever before, but it can still feel lonely,” she admitted as she encouraged viewers to mix in a few memes with their still-important (but not the most important) memos that are flying around our inboxes at record speed.

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Using Data to Make the Most of Social Media Conversations in an Uncertain Time

“What is my role? is the one question that every brand should ask before they make their next social movement.”

Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing at Hootsuite, is passionate about connection. Henk heads Hootsuite’s global marketing strategy, with the goal of driving brand awareness and market leadership. He is fairly fresh to the role, and he brings 20 years of experience storytelling for some of the most reputable brands around the world, crafting compelling stories that change behavior. Brand awareness and leadership part and parcel to a brand’s integrity, and there are plenty of examples of the method perfected.

During #SMWONE, he discussed how we might reimagine the use of social media in an uncertain world.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • By year’s end, half of the world will be online
  • Two-thirds of consumers identify as ‘beleif-driven’
  • Social media isn’t just using a megaphone, it’s 1-on-1 conversations

For individuals, a smaller circle often means economic survival. It’s tightknit efforts with like-minded family and friends all combining their work to contribute toward a greater good. For business, an ever-widening circle of customers means economic survival. So how can these two groups coexist in a natural, unforced, and symbiotic way? Social media.

It’s an overused saying, but it is still the truth: We’re more connected now than ever. By the end of 2020, we’ll find half of the entire world on social media—this is more than just a moment, this is the new normal.

As brands seek to join the social media conversation, they must remain true to their audience and true to themselves by asking What is my role? Like State Farm, are they a good neighbor? Or are they more like Gym Shark and a daily coach? Perhaps a cheeky friend to grab a beer with, like Burger King? Before all else, establishing a brand’s role in the conversation keeps it flowing smoothly. If you want to enter the larger conversation, you must do it authentically.

Getting involved in the bigger conversations

The real talk is happening on social media, in public forums and in DMs. Having a voice in that conversation powerful for a brand. It’s a matter of being aware that the conversation is happening, realizing what matters to customers, and staying in the moment. A fine-tuned brand identity will create the blueprint for exactly how and when to comment on any given situation—if at all.

Creating experiences to remember

Maya Angelou said it best: people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Social media engagement is an opportunity to create a memory of a shared experience that will resonate. There’s a growing sentiment that consumers want to hear from people just like them. A modern brand might add in communication from fellow buyers or even employees. One on one private chats lend to the overall emotional experience of being connected, and “emotion impacts loyalty more than anything else,” Henk adds.

Going deeper with data

Henk advises against being “like the awful guy at the party who only talks about himself” as a brand. Social media is a tool for connection that goes both ways. The best communicators are good listeners. Advanced analytics, like those offered by Hootsuite, make brands smarter and faster than their competition who isn’t listening. Through social listening, you can ask the important questions: How well is this brand loved? What are competitors talking about? Is our customer happy? This emotional data deepen efforts to foster authentic and valuable communications.

Henk mentions Bimbo as an example of a successful social listening stand out. In the U.S, Bimbo launched a special edition of its Gansito in a red velvet flavor. Bimbo had never considered doing something similar in Mexico, as the much-loved cake had not changed its original recipe since its creation in 1957. Word had got out in Mexico that the U.S had a special edition of the Gansito and the Mexican consumers were furious that the product wasn’t available locally. ‘Gansito Red Velvet’ became a viral trending topic across the whole of Mexico.

Bimbo brought the limited edition product to Mexico and experienced immediate double-digit percentage sales increases. Listening is a powerful tool.

Beginning a conversation with open ears and a strong sense of brand creates an environment conducive to authentic dialogue. Analyzing communications develops messaging even further. Social media is a powerful tool for growth and research, but at its heart, it’s still a means for connection.

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These 4 Companies are Humanizing Business Content for the Mainstream

The Internet has democratized business just as it has nearly every other industry. The way people consume business news is changing thanks to disruptors like Morning Brew and an ever-growing pool of content creators like Bullish, which specifically focuses on the financial markets.

And what about traditional business education? Studies show that MBA admissions were already down across the board pre-COVID 19—and remote learning is primed to surge as people increasingly question the high price-tags of IRL higher ed. That’s a big advantage for online education startups like Section4, which is on the mission to democratize access to business strategy training.

During the #SMWONE panel “Business, But Make It Human,” creators from Morning Brew, Section4, and Bullish joined Public.com’s marketing lead Katie Perry for a candid conversation about how new media and education companies are translating business-speak for mainstream audiences. Public is an investing app that puts a social layer on the stock market, allowing investors to easily share the “why” behind their trades and exchange ideas in the comments and in dedicated group chats.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Authenticity is the name of the game
  • New formats like video and audio increasingly helping
  • Humanize business content for the mainstream

Business goes mainstream

While traditional business outlets like the Wall Street Journal still play an important role in the way people learn about happenings in the financial markets, new players are playing an important role when it comes to analyzing this information for younger audiences who prefer to get their news from people who act like they do.

Kinsey Grant should know. She cut her teeth working as a traditional business news reporter before joining the Morning Brew as Business Editor and host of the Brew’s popular “Business Casual” podcast, which you can check out on Apple and Spotify.

“We are our core reader and listener. A lot of the people who are creating content for Morning Brew are the kinds of people we would target with that content,” Grant said. “I know my audience well because I am part of that audience.”

On the podcast, Grant sits down with executives and entrepreneurs—recent guests include Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington, and Chamath Palihapitiya—to give listeners an inside track into how today’s business leaders think.

Her interviews also tend to give listeners a rare glimpse into these leaders’ humanity. In a recent interview with Palihapitiya, she gets the VC to disclose his daily routine, which includes striving for 10,000 steps a day by pacing around his home during calls.

Brian Hanly, CEO and Founder of Bullish, says he started the media company after realizing that there was a gap in the market for people who are “curious” about the public markets. His company focuses on enlightening its audience through unique formats, like mini-documentaries and even a satirical series that links astrology to personal finance.

“We’re focusing a lot on video storytelling,” he said. For example, Bullish just launched a series called, Trendline, which tells the stories behind public companies in straightforward and conversational language.

Time to reimagine the MBA?

With universities wrapping the year early and the 2020 fall semester called into question, the debate around the rising costs of higher-ed has accelerated in recent weeks. Regarding advanced business degrees like MBAs in particular, Section4’s head of creative product Jerllin Cheng says that a myriad of factors play a role, but cost is the big one.

“The MBA is not dying,” she said. “There are very few people who get an MBA and think, ‘I got nothing out of that.’ But what you do hear people say is, ‘That cost so much money.’”

Section4 is an online education venture built around the insights of Scott Galloway, the outspoken entrepreneur and NYU professor who recently inked a deal with VICE for a new business show designed for millennials.

Cheng says that the primary format for Section4’s curriculum is video, and its focus is on training professionals with tools needed to solve business problems in the modern era. It’s not designed to replace the MBA, she said. Rather, it’s a tool for bringing this level of thinking to a wider audience.

“If you take our courses, it’s okay if you don’t know what EBITDA means,” she said. “We try to make sure there’s a safe community where it’s okay to ask. We don’t need you to know the terms. We’re really trying to teach you how to think and give you the tools to get to the insights yourself.”

When leaders tweet

It would be difficult to have a conversation about the humanization of business without broaching the topic of CEOs who now, thanks to social media, can share their thoughts with the world in real-time.

Some recent examples of this: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s heartfelt memo to employees regarding layoffs and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield’s illuminating tweet-storm about how COVID-19 was impacting his company. And then there’s Elon Musk, who has never been shy to showcase his personality and opinions on social media.

“What we’re seeing pan out is a true 21st-century leader. It’s not only about shareholder value and returns, but also employees,” Hanly said. “What is happening at a lot of companies is a lot of indecision, so I respect the directness of leaders like Elon.”

Grant added that consistency plays a role when it comes to whether a CEO humanizing themselves is seen as negative or positive. And for leaders navigating a crisis, there are few things more important than transparency and communication.

“Now, more than ever, the CEO as someone who is willing to be open about their own experiences is more valuable than ever,” she said.

The big takeaway: Whether you’re a brand marketing to a new generation of consumers, a media outlet informing and entertaining them, or an education platform training them, authenticity is the name of the game.

Want to start investing alongside friends and experts? Use this link to download Public’s free investing app and get started with a free slice of stock. Valid for U.S. residents 18+. See Public.com/disclosures.

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Live from Living Rooms, Live from Los Angeles: How iHeartMedia Pivoted to Virtual Events

Among the core values that iHeartMedia aims to address with their programming are connection, community, and experiences. So seeing a tweet from a virtual prom attendee, gushing over the fact that she got added to a new group chat at the end of the night, had to make their Los Angeles Digital Programming Director Michelle Lin feel good.

“[We’re trying to] make it so we don’t miss out in the community to celebrate,” Lin said, as she talked about the massive task of rethinking events and engagement in the wake of COVID-19. Alongside Netbase Quid’s Robyn Lindars, Lin shared with #SMWONE attendees what it’s looked like to reimagine the role of radio stations in the community, in a digital space.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Don’t go dark because you can’t figure out a way to connect.
  • Amplifying key information is key to forging online communities
  • Dats is important to adapting thoughtfully and responsibly

Data-Driven Adaptation

In Los Angeles, which recently extended its shelter-in-place orders to late summer, Lin has had to focus her team’s digital work to address four goals:

  • Providing news, entertainment, discussion and interaction daily;
  • Demonstrating sensitivity toward their audience and providing comfort;
  • Filling voids that have presented themselves in the wake of the pandemic; and
  • Creating consistent and sponsorable content that drives engagement.

These are tall orders to achieve, all while transitioning a team that was accustomed to in-person engagement and collaboration to working from home, but it was a challenge that Lin’s former life as a biologist equipped her for. “Whether it’s biology or entertainment, data is important.” Armed with the data that NetbaseQuid’s Brand Pulse provided, she was able to adapt thoughtfully.

From Chaos to Community Building

Lin cited a comparison of frequently used terms from iHeart LA’s target audience, and pointed out a clear shift from fear and chaos, to one of adaptation and community. The tone and scale of programming, she said, were heavily informed by how people were posting online. “This,” she said, referring to the lockdown and its impact on daily life, “is becoming normal in a way. This has become our life, until it’s not.” With that in mind, outreach went from amplifying key information to finding ways for listeners to gather online. Their guiding question: what is the need, and how can we fill it?

They filled it with virtual interviews to replace the frequent in-studio interviews that would take place under normal circumstances, created happy hours and game nights to meet listeners where they’re quickly learning to gather, and used existing talent to craft branded DJ mixes on Instagram a la DJ DNice. Manageable successes in these arenas paved the way for big wins in programming efforts to follow.

Live in Your Living Room: The Concert for America and Virtual Prom

On April 6th, FOX broadcast of iHeart Radio’s Living Room Concerts for America, one of the first efforts to create nationwide live programming – and has built up the confidence for countless other offerings from other networks. Lim’s team played a part in bringing this event to life, not only to replace the normally in-person iHeart Awards, but also as a heartfelt opportunity to generate giving to Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Fund. The success of this event drove them to seek opportunities for similar event programming on a local level.

The result? 102.7’s KIIS Virtual Prom, held under #KIISVirtualProm and featuring appearances from Dillon Francis, Joe Jonas, Lewis Capaldi, and host Ryan Seacrest. The metrics from this event were encouraging: over 2000 social posts, nearly 34,000 engagements, and 212 million potential impressions. The highly positive reception for the event is giving Lim and her team hope that later efforts, including a forthcoming event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pride, will yield an engaged and appreciative audience.

Both Lim and Lindars are encouraged by what has come from paying close attention to these insights. And both insist that these sorts of virtual events, while at times intimidating, are worth trying. “The worst thing would be to not do any kind of virtual event,” Lim shared. “Don’t go dark because you can’t figure out a way to connect. Just try.” As we learned in the session from the KIIS prom tweet showing a connection made in an otherwise lonely time, you never know who might gain something invaluable from your effort.

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Lessons in Focus, Free Space, and Fighter Planes with Falcon.io

You know that the people attending a session got what they needed when they refer to it as “the best support group” in the chat. And Falcon.io Senior Strategist Casper Vahlgren definitely understands why some support might be needed for those doing this work. “We have an enormous amount of data available to us, which can be exhausting and overwhelming.”

In “Using Benchmarking to Inform Your Social Strategy,” during #SMWONE Vahlgren paired his considerable knowledge with actionable advice and suggested exercises to lower the depth of the pool that many feel as though they’re drowning in.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Seek out the space where very few seem to be
  • Don’t overlook the learnings from unsuccessful campaigns
  • Focus on the markets where sales are outpaced by the size of the current audience

Positioning Where There’s Potential

For many who design social strategy, the prospect of determining how best to use budget can seem fraught. External parties always want to weigh in, and even when the decisions are left to us, it’s not always easy to figure out what to do. Vahlgren offered a metrics-based and thoughtful way to decide: benchmarking as a guide to what markets have potential, versus those which might be saturated or dead ends for your brand.

Vahlgren recommended looking at the three market states alongside each other and focusing energy and budget on markets where the potential audience and sales are outpaced by the size of the current audience. It is there that you have room to grow, he points out, and it is there where you should invest your time and money accordingly. This isn’t always going to yield the sprawling multi-channel campaigns that competitors may be putting up, but it will be the best and most efficient use of your time.

Working Within the White Space

There was a consistent theme of economy in Vahlgren’s talk; another example came when he answered the question of how to use benchmarking as a tool to stand out in your industry. His answer? Working within the whitespace. By that, he means plotting the results of your benchmarking data on an axis-based visual map. Do your competitors lean toward an achievable use of their product or service, or an aspirational one? Does their content come from a place of observation (we make your life easy), or of perspiration (we make it easy for you to work hard)? And crucially, what place on the map is free and clear?

To stand out, Vahlgren posited, you should seek out the space where very few seem to be and go there. Position your brand in a way that deviates from the more heavily trafficked places of the map. Differentiate your tone, your visual signatures, and your content themes. Once you’re authentically there, the customers who didn’t see themselves in your competitors’ approach, can see themselves in – and with – you.

Beward of Bias

Vahlgren cautioned the audience at the beginning that there would be some cursing, and delivered on that promise with his final exploratory question of the talk: “how do I not f*** this up?” His answer: beware of biases that you may bring to the data.

As an example, he shared charts of WWII fighter planes that returned to the airfields, shot up but ultimately still flyable. These planes were studied heavily to determine where to add additional armor to make them safer for future missions…until someone pointed out a neglected argument: shouldn’t we also think about the planes that didn’t make it back? The lesson: while we tend to focus our learning and future actions on the successes that benchmarking surface, there’s as much or more to be learned from the campaigns that don’t go well. But no matter where we choose to pull our lessons from, Vahlgren encourages asking why…a lot. “Once you’ve asked ‘why?’ five times, you’ve probably found the right answer. Keep asking why.”

While Vahlgren poses a number of questions in his session, this one may be the most important one for social media strategists to ask as they embark upon their benchmarking efforts. With a solid, unbiased, and well-informed “why?” in mind, chat boxes shared by these professionals will hopefully go from places with calls for support, to ones with stories of success.

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Here’s Where Influencers Belong in Your COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

In a pandemic that seems to suck the productivity and optimism out of the country, there are some individuals and some companies that are seeing creativity in ways that may be here to last. Two of those individuals — Harvey Schwartz, SVP Talent, ViacomCBS — and Miki Rai, a registered nurse with 1.2 million followers on Tik Tok sat down during #SMWONE to discuss how they’ve managed to navigate these difficult times.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Influencers offering a sense of positivity and normlacy are winning
  • Choosing trusted partners ise essential, especially for healthcare influencers
  • Be true to what you preach or don’t bother

Miki Rai didn’t follow the path of  your typical “influencer.”  She was born in Japan, moved to the U.S. when she was three years old and decided she wanted to choose a life-changing profession as a nurse when she was in high school. She was a natural, always had a love for posting videos, and when she was in nursing school she would post what she was learning. But who knew sharing a photo of her and a few friends in scrubs out front of a hospital at 6AM before their shift would go viral.

How does a nurse — or any non-celebrity — manage to build 1.2 million TikTok followers? Schwartz has an idea. “Influence has always been kind of a buy product of someone delivering and entertaining a useful connection to an audience whether it is a musician delivering an emotional performance, a yoga instructor teaching spirituality, a nurse tik-toking,” he said. During a pandemic that has serious global implications, the typical ways for building good content have to shift.

COVID-19 changes to the world

This has been an unprecedented time in history where no one is sure what the future holds, and days are blending together. Influencers are unknowingly finding organic opportunities to connect with their followers without a roadmap. On the other hand, followers are looking to influencers for a sense of positivity and normalcy.

Miki Rai couldn’t be a better example of this type of influencer. Rai’s reputation went from 0-100 on all of her social media platforms. By posting content that seemed so simple to her, her engagement levels went through the roof, and she’s so pivotal and useful to a growing list of followers on every channel during the pandemic. Even her handwashing videos are getting close to 15,000 likes on Instagram, all while it not being her main channel. Connecting her knowledge of nursing to social media during a crucial time, was the perfect recipe for her fame.

Choosing Trusted Brand Partners is Essential for Healthcare Influencers

Every content creator, ambassador, brand, and/or sponsor are all trying to figure out the right way to tell stories. Being a licensed professional, Rai is already held to a higher standard. Specifically, she cannot promote unhealthy habits because it would be a recipe for disaster for one’s health and essentially a double standard. In terms of content Rai believes, “when working with healthcare professionals it’s important that when choosing a brand/sponsorships to be careful of brands putting words in your mouth.” In other words, content creators need to stay true to their personal goals when agreeing to partnerships and be sure not to lose control of their own brand.

Practice what you preach

Being open and honest builds trust. Brands need to remember that if they are not true to what they preach, they are going to lose trust from their consumers. This works both ways for the influencer as well.

If the brand doesn’t match the influencer’s mission statement, influencers should not partner with brands. Influencers should not risk losing their credibility for just any brand/partnership opportunity. It is not worth losing your followers to distrust.

“When every content creator starts out, it is really important to outline what your mission is,” explains Rai. From the very beginning, before the coronavirus pandemic, her mission was to educate/inform. Post coronavirus, her goal is still the same. Harvey went on to ask if there would ever be a ‘fork in the road’, splitting two lanes one becoming a full-time influencer and the other continuing to be a telemedicine nurse. All in all, Rai explained that she would never give up nursing, this is her main priority no matter where social media takes her.

“Influence is an undercurrent and is deep-rooted in our culture, in the last 10 years it has been amplified by our social feeds,” said Harvey Schwartz.

The big takeaway: People want relatable exchanges so they can connect on a different level. Sometimes all they need is a light-hearted distraction that speaks the truth through entertaining content during these difficult times. While this pandemic reaches new places, it’s equally as important for credible influencers with significant audiences to make useful information go viral.

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How Social Listening Powers FOX’s Programming and Beyond

When you work for a global entertainment brand, there’s more to look out for than when a star says or does something bad. With that said, it definitely does come up from time to time.

“We do have to protect the brand if a star does something stupid,” admitted FOX’s Associate Director of Social Analytics David Sager. But, as he dove into during his #SMWONE session with Talkwalker’s Regional Manager for the West Coast Nate Bonsignore, his time spent monitoring social dives far deeper than that…and has a far greater impact on the brand overall.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Tweets, posts, and memes that you think are dominating the conversation, don’t always reflect reality
  • Don’t overlook the impact of “unstructured data”
  • Be open to experimenting and playing around when communities need it most

Protect: In Which FOX News Learns, “It’s Not All About You”

A telling lesson about our perception of social media emerged during the session, as Sager and Bonsignore conducted a poll: what was the most retweeted tweet of summer 2019, about? Given the opportunity to select between politics, music, and sports, the audience overwhelmingly chose politics. In actuality, the topic was music – the band, BTS. But it confirmed an assumption that many of us make: the frequency with which we see topics elevated in the media, doesn’t always reflect their actual prevalence in societal conversation.

This was a lesson that Sager shared with FOX’s news division, after concerns arose that Twitter was swimming in negative mentions about the network. The truth? The first mention of FOX News didn’t enter a list of most retweeted tweets until after entry 5000. “I had to stop scrolling,” Sager admitted. The lesson for marketers? Tweets, posts, and memes that you think are dominating the conversation, don’t always reflect reality. And more to the point, the degree of protecting you may think you need to do for your brand isn’t as high as you might think.

Measure: Monitoring the Massive Rise of The Masked Singer

One can only imagine the fun that comes from getting to track the chatter around, and success of, shows like LegoMasters and The Masked Singer. When it comes to the latter, Sager said, it can be fascinating to watch the aftermath of a celebrity reveal. “It’s always cool to measure how they make the reveal,” he shared, “and to watch what impact it has on the show.” This data has the potential to impact programming down the road; watching the data about how celebrities reveal their presence on the show, along with data about how fans make guesses and who else they’re fans of, could dictate who shows up on the show next—or even what shows enter development in the years to come.

In this conversation, the panelists also brought up a metric that is proving difficult to measure: the spread and impact of what Bonsignore called “unstructured data” like memes and other media not conveyed with text (think videos, podcasts, etc.). The Masked Singer yields a great deal of chatter online, but it has also given rise to a number of memes…which are difficult to measure with the same accuracy. “When something is memeable, the text [data] doesn’t always bear that out,” Sager noted.

Promote: Charting the Contributors, for FOX Sports and Beyond

Speaking of data that doesn’t always make it to the decision-making table, Sager also mentioned how he has widened the scope of where to look for impactful data. His team works with a social media ecosystem that charts the genesis of data from platforms like Reddit, Tumblr, 4chan, and Discord; through its amplification stage on a platform like Twitter; and finally its entry into mainstream consciousness on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Of Redditors in particular, Sager notes, “These are the really smart first wave people on the internet, and they’re self-segmented into communities.” What they’re identifying as popular early on—take 2017’s “dress” controversy or 2019’s “Yanny/Laurel” debate—eventually enters pop culture forcefully.

Sager’s used this ecosystem model in conjunction with FOX Sports as a way to identify talent that would succeed on the network, in one example of a framework that Bonsignore encourages organizations to use when grounding their decision making. The framework for FOX Sports included looking at prospective guests and their presence on Reddit and Twitter; both their audience reach (number of followers) and engagement (how people interacted with their content) were considered. “A healthy audience balances the two,” Sager pointed out, also noting that a good presence on Reddit could mean stronger numbers on Twitter (and, per the ecosystem, later on Facebook and Instagram) could help them find a guest that would resonate with audiences.

As Bonsignore mentioned as he opened the session, “the digital voice of the customer, the consumer, [and even] of trolls, [can] play out in organizations like FOX.” Sager highlighted a number of different ways in which the digital voice is more than just noise; to the contrary, when thoughtful and attentive social listening is taken seriously, it can reveal valuable data that highlights immediate steps to take to improve the work you do.

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Tapping into the Power of Collective Data During Times of Crisis

Want to know what your audience is talking about? Grab a seat and join the conversation. NetBase Quid turns chatter into usable data that drives successful communication strategies through social listening. Social listening reveals and pinpoints the discussions that resonate at the highest frequency within a target audience.

During #SMWONE, Kelsee Wilson, Account Manager, NetBase Quid, sat down with Brandon Billings, Vice President, Social Media & Content Strategy at MMGY and Laura Forester, Vice President, Strategy & Engagement, Chemistry to discuss how they utilize social media analytics to build consumer profiles, adjust communication priorities, and identify emerging trends that inspire winning campaign strategies.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Social listening is here to stay
  • Empathy goes a long way in disappointing situations
  • Social listening tools work best in conjunction with channel-specific metrics

Social listening is here to stay

Culling conversational data to inform decisions is a relatively new concept, but one that’s gaining speed in light of recent events. We’re online all day long—ingesting news and interacting with the brands we trust, connecting through our personal channels, and making public our thoughts on everything from purchases we’ve loved to frustrations we’ve encountered.

“People always want a real-world example of this new concept,” says Kelsee, who has been with NetBase for more than five years. Laura Forester VP of Strategy and Engagement at the full-service agency, Chemistry, is happy to provide one. “One of our clients, a Western PA utility company, was with us for just 50 days” when an unprecedented storm hit their service area. That, paired with more than two-weeks long Stay At Home order in place, created a situation that demanded a pivot in communication strategy.

Stepping away from their initial plans to build up the utility company as a thought-leader in the industry, they instead began to focus on a community-powered communications effort. For Laura, social listening revealed commonalities that exist when dealing with multiple crises. Framing the eventual repair of the services as a combined effort from the consumers’ point of view drove collective empathy and in turn, passively prompted community inclusion. Before long, people were sharing videos of the workers, posting words of encouragement, and contributing to the “we’re all in this together” vibe that the country has been thriving on.

Understanding what the customer wants, right now

Indeed, empathy goes a long way in disappointing situations. Brandon Billings, VP of Social Media and Content Strategy with MMGY, an integrated travel- and hospitality-focused agency knows it well. “I’ve never seen such downtrodden emojis,” he says when discussing what was revealed by his deep dive into recent social conversations surrounding travel.

Understanding the travelers’ perspective requires real-time data even in normal times. In times of uncertainty, it’s been key in his understanding of what people are thinking and feeling, presently. For MMGY, social listening has revealed a red thread of “dreaming” of travel. People literally and figuratively need to escape and are just waiting for the moment when they can stop dreaming of travel and instead announce that they’ve booked their trip and are counting down the days.

Tools that work best together

Both Laura and Brandon agree that social listening tools work best in conjunction with channel-specific metrics, so long as you keep the brand goals at top of mind. For Brandon, this means reassuring clients that travel drives economic recovery, and travel buys are influenced by social media escapism. For Laura, this means tapping into the Human Truth that fosters all connection.

By harnessing the power of collective data, we’re able to continuously shift strategy in alignment with consumer needs and create real impact from important data.

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Why Vulnerability is Key to Authentic Influencer Content

“The simple, aspirational aesthetic is over,” Takumi’s Group CEO Mary Keane-Dawson declared early in her #SMWONE session alongside her colleague Derek Wiggins, USA Country Head. about the current state of influencer marketing. She punctuated her sentiment with a pair of photos: the first, a prettily staged image of a sun-kissed woman holding a daisy in her mouth; the second, a less staged image of her sputtering to spit the flower out. And while this pristine and staged aesthetic was on its way out before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the latter has us all feeling as discombobulated and uncomfortable as the woman in the second photo.

As it turns out, that’s making what influencers do now, and will do next, so appealing.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Platforms that can elevate imperfect content will shine
  • Influencer marketing content will favor more raw and unpolished stories
  • Be open to experimenting and playing around when communities need it most

Veneers Down, Vulnerability Up

“Reality has come in and slapped us all in the face,” said Derek Wiggins shared, going on to say, “what it’s done is it’s humbled and changed our opinions, making us more open and vulnerable.” He shared a quote that reveals the resulting work is not only more raw and unpolished, but more fun for the influencers themselves:

We’re just being ourselves and making sure we’re having fun behind each piece of content – we really think having fun and genuinely loving what you do is SO important to stand out.

And who wouldn’t want to engage with content, or with creators, who are enjoying themselves? As it turns out, a vast majority of social media users. A 2019 Takumi survey revealed that 8 in 10 followers of influencers said they’d stop doing so if an influencer misrepresented themselves or their lifestyles to followers; 78% said they’d do so if they realized an influencer’s lifestyle promoted unrealistic or unsustainable life habits. Now that we’re all at home, there’s figuratively and literally nowhere to hide…and the content these professionals create could change significantly as a result.

It’s TikTok’s Time to Shine

As the aesthetic fades away, platforms that can elevate imperfect content will shine…and for Takumi and Wiggins, this means TikTok. Coaxed onto the platform at the urgings of his wife, he now finds himself one of the 522 million users (and fast-growing, as new data is showing) who returns to the site multiple times each day to be entertained. It’s a fantastic space to “be relevant, [to] make it yours,” he said, adding, “as a minority, looking for things to relate to [when I was younger] was difficult. Now, it’s a market for everyone.”

The platform is about more than dance challenges and whipped coffee; Wiggins highlighted two examples of influencers using the space to contribute to a larger social good. Calls for cause marketing were put out to their influencer community; creative spots came back for campaigns like Oreo’s #CookieforaCause (to benefit Save the Children) and #HaagIndoor and Secret Cinema’s campaign to keep people indoors. And independent of brands, pro bono campaigns emerged for #SafeHands (promoting frequent and thorough handwashing“Influencers have to adapt and rethink things like never before,” Keane-Dawson noted, audibly marveling at their community of creators as she continued, “this is where their creativity comes out.”

Play Around When the Community Needs It Most

For those worried that their work wouldn’t be as polished as normal, Wiggins and Keane-Dawson are in agreement that now is the time for that sort of work. Because consumers increasingly care less about the curated aesthetic and more about genuity and realness of content, now is precisely the time to play with the form, especially on platforms that reward that sort of playfulness like TikTok.

“Lead the charge and don’t be quiet,” Wiggins insisted, noting that people will remember down the road who didn’t want to speak up for fear of getting it wrong. Partnering with people who know what they’re doing means everything here; Keane-Dawson heaped more praise on the influencers they work with, saying they’re meeting the moment just how so many of us would hope: “they find the humor, and they find the connection…it’s amazing what these creators can do.”

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