SNL cast member Cecily Strong wrapped up an invigorating Day 1 at social media conference “The Social Shake-Up” with the timely quip, “Politically, we all agree on dogs.” Strong was there as a guest of WHOSAY, whose new mission is to create brand-safe influencer marketing campaigns.
The fact that the conversation turned to politics shouldn’t be too surprising given the recent success SNL has enjoyed thanks to its Trump, Spicer and Melania parodies. What was a bit more surprising is that the day also started on a political note.
Pottery Meets Politics
Evan Kraus, President of APCO, a global communications consultancy, kicked things off with a keynote that took us back to a 2,000-year-old pottery brand and fast-forwarded to the most recent presidential election. He provided the history lesson as a means of setting up two key points that lead to a third. Point 1 was that we all make emotional connections with brands and point 2 was that we are all part of tribes and behave accordingly.
For marketers, the implication is that if you can define the tribe well, you can connect with them. Noting that the slogan “Make America Great Again” resonated strongly with Trump’s target tribe, Kraus concluded that it wasn’t just the language but how the candidates engaged with their tribes that ultimately decided the election’s outcome.
Micro-Influencers: Less Is More
Social influencer and entrepreneur Shaun McBride, better know as Shonduras, rallied the audience with his stories of success on Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. Shaun is a wonderfully engaging and down to earth speaker who has a knack for translating his success into advice for brands. Among the many nuggets he offered:
• Focus on micro-influencers with truly engaged followers
• Diversify your efforts. You never know when a platform will go away
• Get behind something important versus a one-off gag. It will have lasting value
• Build an audience not by asking them to do something but by giving them something of value
• Listen to your fans and then follow up on their suggestions
Employees Are Your Best Advocates
In a breakout session, Cisco’s Carmen Shirkey Collins and Casie Shimansky shared how they built a highly effective employee advocacy program. As proof of their success, they noted that they have a 6-month backlog of employee-written stories for their blog and that employee posts on channels like Instagram have twice the industry average when it comes to engagement. The lessons for others include:
• Set goals: without them, you can’t show success
• Make it about them. The hashtag #WeAreCisco set the tone
• Offer guidelines, don’t script. Staff aren’t told what to put on Snapchat when they’re the voice of Cisco
• Recognize success: Cisco celebrated Top 9 photos on Instagram at year end and strives to treat their Snapchat ambassadors like VIPs
• Forget stock photos. Employees are infinite source of “real” images and some are even good photographers
• Start small: Snapchat takeover started with 20 ambassadors, now they have 80 around the world
From Twitter to Netflix
The next breakout session focused on Twitter, featuring Allison Goreham of Turner, Bianca Prade of SKDKnickerbocker, Josh Martin of Arby’s and Nina Miskin of Twitter. Mishkin called everyone’s attention to an extraordinary Twitter moment when a tweet about Rihanna and Lupita Nyong ended up inspiring a new Netflix movie in a matter of days from tweet to deal! Among the tips shared at this case-rich session:
• Risk is inherent in social. So educate all the stakeholders in advance
• Dealing with legal: Create a playbook and content that anticipates arising issues
• Translate the value of social into terms non-social folks can understand
• Creativity pays: Arby’s extremely clever food art that only hardcore gamers understood helped attracted new customers and appealed to their core
Never Too Many Stories
There were many other sessions I couldn’t attend since there were 4 breakouts going on at a time. On the main stage, I did catch Doug Busk, Group Director, Digital Communications & Social Media for The Coca-Cola Company presenting on “Storytelling.” Busk offered insights into Coca-Cola’s approach to corporate storytelling noting their primary goal was to build “brand love and corporate trust.” Busk pointed to the importance of transparency to achieving these goals and shared a recent success story with their “Our Way Forward” videos featuring their new CEO.
Last but not least, I too presented on Storytelling, offering up “The Top 7 Reasons Most Brands Fail at Storytelling” while pointing out how all these fails could be fixed. Using personal stories to illustrate both the power of storytelling and the pitfalls brands face, my 7 fails included:
1. Old school strategies. Brands need a new strategy statement which includes Conflict, Character, Voice and more
2. Brands don’t like conflict but without it, there is no drama, no reason to engage, no emotional connection
3. Brands want to be the hero: Better to be the sage or sidekick and let the customer be the hero
4. Forgetting to surprise the audience
5. Trying to tell the whole story: It’s okay to leave some things to the imagination
6. Measuring the wrong things: Storytelling is not direct marketing so focus on brand health metrics
7. Neglecting to tell a cohesive story: Just because it’s news doesn’t mean it’s relevant to your brand
And that was just Day 1!