Last Thursday I enjoyed a day away from the office as I headed down to London for Day 4 of Social Media Week. I was blessed with 28 degree weather (although this did make the tubes slightly unpleasant) and the venue was in a wonderful location on the South Bank, just a stones throw away from Big Ben.
This was the first marketing event I’d ever attended, and I found the seminars fascinating. The general theme of all of the talks was the future of marketing and looking ahead; I liked this viewpoint as it’s insightful for brands to predict future trends and also helps them make decisions in the present that may benefit them in a few weeks/months/years.
Social Media Penetration – Implications for Civil Society
This talk focused around one platform in particular; Twitter – though this was hardly surprising as one of the speakers was the Head of Public Policy. There was a key discussion on how social media gives anyone and everyone the ability to have a voice. Referring to the American Presedential Election, it was also mentioned how politicians who focus on the use of Twitter rather than mainstream news sources give their audience the opportunity to get involved and ‘have their say’. It’s raw and instant – and the immediacy of responses and debate make it hugely different from the official statements and press releases that are put out by print media. The same immediacy allows trends to pick up momentum at rapid speed, such as #BlackLivesMatter, which has become hugely important and it’s awareness was raised partially from the power of social.
The second half of the talk revolved around imposing regulations for these platforms – the debate focused around self regulation vs the need for government intervention. The overall summary was that platforms need to self-regulate initially but may need imposed regulations as social platforms become more mainstream. The struggle is balancing the safety of the users with freedom of speech/expression. Certain trigger points and events will shape how platforms must regulate; recently Facebook removed an image of a naked young girl in Napalm – not a sexual image, but one highlighting the devastation occuring. There was uproar when this image was removed as it was viewed as censorship, which raised calls for Facebook to review their policies to ensure such an instance doesn’t happen again.
It was highlighted how the key platforms do work with the government and other organisations to work towards a safer environment for their users. Twitter partners with the government on political issues and encourages debate in elections/referendums, whilst they also work with charities such as Samaritans on how they can regulate posts of a certain nature such as suicide, to ensure they are protecting their users, without taking away their freedom of expression. Ultimately it highlighted that whilst the power and importance of social is still relatively new, as it becomes more mainstream and in-line with print media, regulations will have to be imposed for the safety of its users.
Future of Social in 2020
The next talk focused on the Future of Social in 2020 and what we can potentially expect. For such a fast-paced industry it’s nearly impossible to accurately guess, but it’s interesting to hear others views on which platforms and trends they believe will still be around/at the top of their game in 4 years time.
One idea I hadn’t really heard before was that Instant Messaging will be the next big thing; brands have yet to conquer this, but it’s hugely popular, used very frequently and is a great way to share messages and files. Although, currently, no brands have really found a way to make their mark on this platform.
Instagram was highlighted as an important platform, but only for certain brands. Although it’s excellent for food brands, it’s not quite as ideal for more corporate businesses such as banks!
Of course, Snapchat was mentioned – however the issue with Snapchat is that brands are asking for a large budget for content that disappears almost instantly. Analytics are only available from third party sources and are still very basic, making it difficult for brands to justify the investment.
Effectively, social media is now a paid channel – regardless of if brands have a high number of followers, a high reach for your posts is only really achieved using ad spend.
The overall conclusion for the future of social is that it will be fully intergrated rather than being a separate area to mainstream marketing. The panel believe that the currently independent role of social will morph into all aspects of marketing as it will become an essential tool rather than an ‘add-on’.
Live Video by BuzzFeed
“2016 was the year that live video went mainstream”
It’s instant, reactive, raw and allows audience interaction, hence why Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Periscope are all doing it. From Puddle Watch to Chewbacca Mom, you could say that live video is taking the world by storm. The panel discussed how it’s the new hype of journalism – a form where the audeince become part of the narrative with their constant feedback. It’s distributed content, which also opens it up to a wider audience, which the stats reflect – on average, live videos are viewed 3 times more than normal videos and receive 10 times the amount of comments!
However, it’s not without its issues. Live videos can often look amateur, experience technical malfunctions and errors – none of which are wanted, especially when an established brand is presenting the video. So, I hear you ask – what makes a good live video? There are a handful of key ingredients needed to make a live video that’s worth watching; extraordinary scenes, a sense of jeopardy, absurdity able to convey raw emotion and it must be simple, original and engaging. Not much, right?!
The future of live video suggests improved technology, multi cameras, drones, filters and more. All of these will improve the overall video quality, also making live video more of a direct threat to mainstream news sources. New platforms have also started trying to get involved, such as Twitch, YouNow, Tumblr Live and more. The popularity and appeal of live videos that anyone can broadcast anything in the touch of a button.
Engagement and reach are higher on live videos as the sense of immediacy encourages interactions, suggesting it is definitely something to look into for brands (and influencers!) wanting improved engagement. When the audience see the broadcaster directly responding to audience’s comments, it breaks down the barrier between the two.
The main issues often found when doing live videos is that the slight lag can often be offputting for presenters, and technical errors are significantly more likely. For the presenter reading the screen, the comments flood through at an un-readble speed, so the BBC have learned that they must have a second person to read the comments and send certain ones to the presenter via WhatsApp, to avoid as many pauses/delays as possible on the live broadcast. Issues with 3G/4G are also likely, meaning presenters should do trial runs on their personal Facebook accounts prior to the actual live video, and back up sim cards are also a wise option.
In addition, there are ethical considerations that must be addressed. The unpredictability of live videos poses a potential danger to the presenters and the audience; anything could happen and if it does, it’s happening live with no way to backtrack or edit. Furthermore, safety must be considered when sending reporters to breaking news sites – the same extent of care and regulations must be imposed as with presenters for main news outlets.
An interesting question posed by an audience member was ‘can brands plant questions to alter the direction of a live video?’ The response from the panel was a firm no; that this would be dishonest and deceptive. The whole principle of live video is that it’s raw, authentic and driven by the audience, so it must be transparent. To combat the issue of the initial lag and lack of questions, the panel suggested that you could do a pre-post request for questions to discuss on the upcoming live video; this way, the video is still influenced by viewer questions but the presenter is not having to wait for first comments.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Social Media Week and found the talks so fascinating and informative – in an industry which changes so quickly, it’s interesting to try and predict what it’ll be like in a few years time.
What do you think marketing/digital will be like in the future?
I hope you enjoyed this post!