5 Key Takeaways from #SmartSocialSummit 2015

Editor’s note: In October of this year, the greatest minds in social will gather at Spredfast’s Smart Social Summit 2017. Register here today and follow #SmartSocialSummit on Twitter for more updates.

At an event like #SmartSocialSummit, where you're surrounded by the smartest minds in social, it's easy to get so stoked on networking or so into a product demo that you end up missing a session. And even if you made everything you hoped to see, it can be difficult to digest all that information—but that's where we come in. We've got five key takeaways for social marketers from #SmartSocialSummit 2015 that we know can help you drive a truly #smartsocial strategy. Read up, take notes, and get ready for a shot of inspiration, to boot:

1.) Don't forget the medium is the message

Marshall McLuhan first said this back in the 60s: it's the idea that the characteristics of the medium itself—rather than simply the content being delivered via that medium—make a difference on how that message is interpreted. It's 20th-century wisdom that applies seamlessly to 21st-century technology, namely social media.

Your Instagram posts will necessarily be more casual and behind-the-scenes than your LinkedIn posts, because of the inherent nature of each medium. Tina Wung, of Anheuser-Busch, explained that one of the company's biggest lessons of the past several years was learning to let go a bit of their sense of brand identity in order to tailor messages to social mediums. "Content is not what it used to be," Wung said. "We had to get really comfortable with the fact that content was a beautiful photo on Instagram, or a homemade video on YouTube, or a six-second Snapchat story. We have to think about content creation in different ways. If we present something super-polished [on social media], this audience will know it's just brand identity we're trying to shove down their throat. We had to let go."


Keynote speaker Andy Cohen answered questions from curious attendees.

2.) One social size does not fit all

Another common Summit theme was the understanding that because each individual brand or media company has its own business goals and strategies, its social strategy might therefore too be unique. Most retail properties lean heavily on Instagram or new image-heavy mediums like Snapchat, where YouTube and video strategy might be critical for a company like Ganassi Racing.

Keynote speaker Andy Cohen explained that Twitter, for example, offers keys insight into the fans of the Real Housewives series, for which he acts as executive producer. "The Housewives fans are a fascinating case study for engagement," Cohen said. "I view my Twitter feed as a focus group for what the audience [of The Real Housewives] thinks about what's going on on the show. When focus groups come at the end of a season, I feel really good because I know the data will be commensurate with what I've already been seeing on Twitter and socially."

But Cohen doesn't stop with tried-and-true networks like Twitter: Because he knows his audience is plugged in, he and his team have also experimented with Periscope, Facebook Live, and even Dubsmash and newbie (as of yesterday!) ListApp.

3.) The name of the game is loyalty and subtlety

Multiple Summit sessions touched on the ever-critical millennial audience, and the unique challenges that marketing to them presents. Millennials appreciate brands and media companies when they speak from a place of authenticity and subtlety. In other words, they are notoriously difficult to market to in traditional ways.

The way to fix that? Find ways to truly surprise and delight them, to make them feel unique, and to offer them something, even if the return isn't an immediate trip down the funnel to purchase. Brand loyalty must be hard-earned and genuine in order to stick. Combs Enterprises (yes, that Combs) understands this challenge: Aubrey Flynn explained that every social play the company makes starts with first listening to what their audience has to say. "We use insight to inform marketing," Flynn said. "We look to engage top influencers and our most enthusiastic supporters, identifying user-generated content in order to maintain a very authentic and credible voice on social media." That kind of strategy helped Combs Enterprises pull off the biggest water launch in history, earning well over 2 billion media impressions—without any associated media spend.

4.) Leave space to ideate

Keynote speaker Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative and Louder Than Words kicked off day two's lineup with a crowd-wowing talk on creativity, productivity, and maintaining sanity and passion in a world filled with distraction and other threats to time. One tip we found particularly incredible—and valuable—from Henry's presentation? Put specific time on your calendar to think of ideas. All of us understand that new, creative, out-of-the-box ideas are critical to gaining the competitive edge in business, but how many of us actually set aside time to do nothing but think of ideas? He challenged those of us in the audience to set aside just one hour each week to do nothing but ideate.

It's an idea so good and so universal we think it's worth passing along to any social media marketer: How much more creative and strategic could your social campaigns be if you give yourself time to simply brainstorm?

5.) As social matures, be mindful of its BBI (broader business impact)

While social media ROI might still be a slightly slippery concept to some, #SmartSocialSummit attendees know that social is no longer a nice-to-have. But as social marketing matures, so too must the understanding of its broader business impact. No longer should we look at social data in a silo, argued Spredfast partner Brandwatch's Will McInnes. When we combine social data with other business data, unparalleled opportunities emerge.

His great example: An ice cream company (who shall remain nameless) blended social data with sales data and weather data to find something counterintuitive. "It turns out, people talk about ice cream more when it's raining and crap outside," McInnes said. Ice cream and the desire for it was not necessarily about summer holidays, or beaches, or the ice cream van. And with this fascinating insight, McInnes explained, "They were able to pivot their advertising strategy. So think of the ROI of that choice to blend social data with weather data and sales data." Where can you take your social data out of the silo and across the broader business to shift strategy and affect your bottom line?

Hungry for even more #SmartSocialSummit knowledge nuggets? Check our recap from day one—and the video, too. 'Til next year...

October 14, 2015
#SmartSocialSummit Day One: Work Smarter and Build Trust
October 20, 2015
Finding the Value of Social Isn’t Hard, It’s Just Complicated
Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.