What We Learned at Social Media Week Toronto 

By BrainStation November 18, 2019

Social Media Week (SMW) 2019 held its Toronto conference last week, and the global event brought together a wide range of marketing professionals and experts. Attendees were eager to explore the impact of social media on the digital and social landscape. 

Throughout the four-day conference, one theme was abundantly clear: Be authentic! 

We’ve heard this message before, but despite these warnings, it’s easy for Marketers to fall into the trap of producing conversion-centric content. Panelists shared their advice for creating value-based ads that both engage and inspire. They also discussed the importance of creating authentic relationships with your audience. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the things we learned at SMW 2019.

(Value-Based) Content is King

As Jeff Goldnebert of Abacus Agency put it, “you can’t out-perform bad creative.” The experts and panelists from SMW repeatedly reminded us that noteworthy advertising content tends to be values-based (in that it says something about the company’s greater ethos), with campaigns that tell a relatable story. 

When it came to setting standards for content production, both Blue Ant Plus and Pinterest had similar filters with which to gauge the quality of their content. 

Blue Ant Plus aims to produce content that is: 

  • Relatable
  • Novel
  • Simple
  • Filled with tension

Pinterest content aims to be: 

  • Beautiful
  • Novel
  • Positive
  • Attainable
  • Active 

Essentially, both companies stress the importance of producing attention-grabbing ads that tap into people’s real emotions with inspiring, authentic stories. 

Blue Ant Plus brought up iconic examples like Nike and Patagonia that tug on heartstrings. Or, as Pinterest likes to say, inspires rather than interrupts. 

Nike Ad: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

Patagonia Ad: Why Patagonia is Fighting for Public Lands: two people look over at national monument

The Rise of the Micro-Influencer

Steve Bartlett, the CEO of Social Chain, A media company and agency, reiterated the importance of inspirational content with a cautionary tale about influencer marketing. Their agency’s research illustrated the vast number of influencer accounts propped up by fake followers; inconsistent influencers who will promote whatever they’re paid to share; and celebrities who are bulking up their like counts with fake accounts. 

It’s no wonder trust is on the decline. Bartlett then further illustrated the point, revealing that a large portion of his conent engagement comes from his podcast diary. Why? Because he’s revealing his true self. 

Sarah Feldman of Endy also emphasized the importance of finding authentic ambassadors. Endy ensures that their ambassadors have used their product and genuinely improved their sleep because of it, which gives their work for the company a layer of believability and trust, ultimately helping the company develop long-term relationships with its customers. 

Endy mattress ad Jann Arden laying on mattress

To capture some of that authenticity, companies have started focusing on “micro-influencers,” or as Neil Mohan, the Creative Agency Partner at Facebook Canada calls them, “creators.” Micro-influencers have between 1,000 to 1,000,000 followers and are often interested in a specific niche (think foodies, travel junkies, fashionistas, and fitness fanatics). This specialization tends to lead to a deeper, more personal connection with their audiences, with higher engagement. In fact, research has shown that influencers with 1,000 followers generated 85 percent higher engagement than those with 100,000 followers. 

Engagement Has to Be Real

Engaging with your customers should be real as well. Who hasn’t had a frustrating experience with a bot? 

Toronto-based jewelry brand Mejuri was insistent that they create real relationships with their Instagram community. Their social team is made up of members that are actively engaged with and listening to the community to ensure that their interactions come across as genuine. They also don’t want to miss any crucial opportunities for personal interaction or engagement. 

Carre Ohem, Social Media Manager from The Gist echoed this sentiment and suggested a series of questions that can help you figure out if your social content will have the kind of reaction you’re looking for. Does the post make you feel something when you’re creating it? Is it funny, sad, or relevant? 

If not, question why you’re posting it and whether it will elicit a real response from your audience. 

Inspired by the latest Social Media Week? Take a look at our Social Media Marketing Certificate Courses