Social Media Week Independent Austin held its inaugural year in our capitol city last month. Over the course of three intensive days including keynotes, workshops, MasterClasses, panels, mentorships, and more, attendees examined emerging trends, refined skill sets, and shared insights in social media and digital marketing.
Best Practice Media left feeling inspired, creative and optimistic about the foreseeable changes in the social media industry. After several long naps, the consumption of some chocolate-covered espresso beans, and enough time to organize our whirling brains, we’ve developed three major themes and takeaways from #SMWiAustin.
Read It and Weep
The primary philosophy behind marketing has shifted. Companies and their products are no longer “the hero” when it comes to the overall brand message. Because so much of our social interaction and cultural mindset has come to revolve around the individual, customers don’t want to be “saved” by a product or service. Our brands and companies are there to provide assistance on the customer’s “journey to greatness.”
Often times, we fail to express empathy with our customers and there is nothing for them to relate. On the flip side, by providing a (debatably) humorous character to represent the rest of the company, Progressive Insurance's Flo and The GEICO Gecko have produced phenomenal success in ad campaigns, making every action seem approachable and encouraging. To succeed in this era of customer-based marketing, you need to possess emotion as well as relevancy and reliability.
White Horse or White Pages?
If this seems to be leading to a certain theme, that’s your childhood brain at work! We, as human beings, are designed to react positively to the formula of storytelling. If your brand can create a marketing narrative containing a beginning, middle and end, statistically speaking, anyone who comes across it is much more likely to remember you and your message.
This goes back to the fundamental change in how marketing is perceived: if our readers/followers/leads see themselves as Luke Skywalker, our brand has to be seen as Obi Wan. And just as Obi Wan led Luke to an extraordinary destiny, our messages across all channels must contain a call-to-action to participate in our narrative. May the force be with us.
The Sidelines: Often the Safest Place to Be
Don’t lie: we’ve all sat back and laughed at Wendy’s toasty roasting of any who dares to cross the surprisingly catty Twitter account for the fast-food chain. With its 1.51 million followers, it’s difficult to say if its unabashed (possibly unprofessional?) responses are helping or hurting the industry giant.
Social media managers everywhere are wondering: how fast would I be fired if I tried tweeting something like that? The answer, like most things, depends: is your audience, industry or brand voice capable of engaging in mildly-offensive communication? If that doesn’t fit your tone, you should probably stay away.
Similarly, when a hot political topic is bubbling around on Twitter, be sure your company has decided on its values, regardless of political leanings, and stick to them. Make sure it’s clear when a public opinion comes from an employee and is not a representation of the company.
What's Next for Digital Marketing?
Going forward, there really is no perfect guide to marketing. Especially as technology evolves, how we interact with it - both as marketers and consumers - will morph as well. In our post-factual democracy, emotional connection is more important than ever. Everything written, posted and shared will be viewed with some sort of political bias, and more often than not, companies have to deploy their thick-skin against “the haters."
From our time at #SMWiAustin, Best Practice Media got an insider’s look on the future of social media, more effective ways to communicate with followers and, most importantly, how to roll with the punches. We're already looking forward to what we'll learn at Social Media Week Independent Austin 2018. Stay tuned!