Dispatches from London: Social Media Week 2015

As if the back-to-school flurry weren't enough, fall brings with it the anticipation of the holiday season and even more events to attend. With our own Spredfast Summit coming up in two short weeks, it marked a timely return for Social Media Week London to whet the digital appetite.

Social Media Week has come a long way since expanding from its New York launch back in 2009. SMWLDN’s Communications Manager, Tom Sharman, shared how it now operates in 17 cities across the world, hosting in six continents over the years with over 70,000 attendees in person per year globally and over a million connecting on social and mobile. It is certainly no surprise that marketers and digital experts are hungry for knowledge and innovation.

Our Connected World is Upwardly Mobile

With the majority of events held at one of WeWork’s creative office spaces in Central London, the SMWLDN community also operated independent events around the Capital, such as the entrepreneurial hub of Google Campus. London’s SMW Director Gianfranco Chicco gave the opening speech, identifying the theme of this year’s conference as ‘Upwardly Mobile’. His reasoning behind this title was that the lines are now blurred between what is offline and online: “The internet is now an extension of the real world; it is much more seamless." The main areas of exploration for the week were aimed at bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds, focusing on key areas such as storytelling and content marketing, the new audiences we have and the changes in our connected society, as well as the future of work.

As a social media manager back in 2012, I wanted to find out the challenges other digital roles faced, particularly due to their infancy at the time. Like any job, we all need a community to share our ideas and enhance our expertise. Working in social media is no different. So to continue paying it forward, here are some top themes shared by the coffee-smitten, app-tapping, Wi-Fi hunters of London’s social media scene.

Social Media has grown up

A new maturity of digital expertise has evolved. We are much more savvy on social, with even more exciting ways to connect to our audiences. Brands are upping their games to stay relevant, demonstrated by Skyscanner using Twitter’s Periscope app for a #24hPeriscope project where they recruited bloggers across the world to share live showcases across 24 cities. Artists such as Richard Prince are pushing boundaries with Instagram-themed exhibitions and grime musicians are performing on Snapchat instead of radio or YouTube (because that is where they audiences are).

Dazed Media CCO Will Hayward stated that we should have the ambition to inject more meaning into work. Social has grown-up from LOLcats and we need to play with various mediums with a view to inspire. Our digital teams are also growing and we understand that good engagement is beyond just likes or shares; it's about building a community. The Royal Opera House invested into their social strategy in 2011 and now boasts a dedicated team independent of marketing and public relations departments. This team publishes videos on YouTube, with productions screened live at venues across the world, integrates Twitter reviews into their website, and is always seeking to engage, not just broadcast.

Photo source: socialnewsdaily.com

Our attention spans are prized

According to a recent Deloitte consumer report, the UK unlock their phones over a billion times daily, collectively. Tariq Slim from Twitter shared how brands were winning in 3 areas: Communication, Content and Consumption. How we communicate to our customers has shifted. In time for London Fashion Week, Topshop began their #LiveTrends campaign, displaying fashion ideas on digital boards near stores based on trends from the catwalk. In-store displays were also styled accordingly and as a result, they gained 3.5 million in customer engagements with a 75% sales uplift.

Our first three seconds of view are most critical, continued Tariq, making short-form content more popular with brands like Samsung showcasing products on Vine and BT Sport utilizing auto-play video for Champions League coverage. Our consumptive behaviour indicates we are leaning towards more all-in-one experiences. Mobile is no longer a silo channel, so brands need to scale in a meaningful way by harnessing the right tools and being creative. Emotional ads drive better business than rational ads, according to ad tech company Unruly, and with a quote stating you are 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad, it provided more food for thought.

Social is a global revolution

We have the ability to challenge stigma through digital. With various sessions over the week with learnings from Girls in Tech UK and panels on how technology has brought #activism into public forums, Social Media Week underscored that social has become the voice of the people. Ogilvy Labs shared lessons from Far East Asia such as how the WeChat app in China has rivaled WhatsApp on functionality, tailoring CRM experiences on mobile so brands can travel with you and attract you to local stores with special treatments and gifts.

Another session came with the reminder that only 3% of global creative directors are female, with the panel discussing how we need to focus on behavioural versus gender specific drivers. Brands like Old Spice and P&G’s Like a Girl campaign were cited as great examples of how marketing can look beyond traditional demographics and still have great appeal. AirBnb have shifted our own attitudes on what is conventional and now we trust strangers in our homes. We can learn from these brave moments around us and do things differently.

Stay agile to thrive

As shared in an earlier Spredfast blog post, it’s incredible to see how the social landscape is adapting and evolving. It's essential to stay relevant and relatable to penetrate the attention of our curious customers. Social Media Week helped to focus on this and with our human need for discovery, this will continue to mould our interactions in future. Read our latest Smart Social Report: Volume 2 for our research into current trends and analysis in the marketplace.

Lizabel Stella's picture

Lizabel Stella

Lizabel Stella
Lizabel is a London-based social strategist at Spredfast where she develops and executes social strategy, content strategy, and performance & impact strategy projects, both in EMEA and in support of the U.S. based team. If not found on a plane, you may find her partaking in her favourite activities such as gig attending, cinematic hibernation, updating her blog (lavitastella.com), or comparing notes on general food/coffee snobbery.