Four Lessons I Learned From Social Media Week in Vancouver #SMWVAN

Social Media Week descended upon Vancouver for the first time since its conception February 2009 in New York City and it did not disappoint. 30 events were held in 5 short days starting September 19th in which great amounts of discussion occurred, ideas shared, and lessons learned.

aWith the purpose to educate and further advance understanding of Social Media, the week was of great value to those in the Social Media Community particularly those in the business industry. I was personally able to attend 10 events, all of which had different perspectives and offered different insights.

Below I highlight the four major lessons I learned from SMW Van.

Lesson 1: Everyone is trying to catch up with Social Media.

The area has grown so quickly and is continuing to expand at such an incredible rate that it is impossible to be able to understand all of its complexities. The days in which someone could distinguish oneself as an internet marketer are gone. Social Media has outgrown this broad category and has segmented into different channels such as SEO, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Blogging to name a few.

Independent consulters of Social Media have had success by positioning themselves as a specialist in one platform or another. Examples of this are titles such as a Youtube specialist or a Search Engine Optimizer. Being great at one platform is starting to prove quite effective for individuals in today’s state of the market.

Although the Canadian Government is still lagging behind technology, it is making considerable steps forward into being able to govern Social Media Issues. Fasken Martineau led the way in the legal talks preparing 4 different topics for the week describing the grey areas and what has emerged in recent past. The highlighted points from the events I attended are as follows:

• Employers must notify potential hires if they will investigate their social profiles and if they do they still cannot discriminate against age, race, gender and other key characteristics.

• Privacy settings and social media policies play major roles in determining if evidence is admissible or if an action is indeed cause for termination.

• Employees can’t say derogatory comments about their employer even if it is during non work hours if their privacy settings are set to public.

• Employers can monitor employee online activity if they have notified they will do so and the employee is using the employer’s assets.

Companies may be legally mandated to give one’s personal information away if one is making derogatory or malicious posts towards a company or individuals. One can no longer hide behind a username.

Lesson 2: A Consistent Message is an Effective Message

One idea kept appearing during the events, consistently posting mediocre content will win against posting brilliant content once. In other words, connecting consistently for a long period of time is much more effective than posting perfect posts every once in a while. This is likely because subscribers will be more engaged with an individual or company because there is constant communication creating more meaningful bonds.

As simple as it may sounds, all social media channels being utilized must work in conjunction with each other. Having a disconnect between one’s blog and one’s twitter feed can cause confusion in the mind of the audience which in turn makes it much harder to build a clear image of oneself or one’s brand. With a unified front, a clear message will be portrayed to those reading one’s social media profiles and in turn receiving the desired response more frequently. More donations, more customers, more followers, or more job opportunities will arise if this is done correctly. This isn’t to say that all communications must be the same but they must complement each other. Every platform is unique in how they communicate and this must be considered when sharing one’s content.

However, although a unified front is necessary, this does not mean that one cannot be colourful when expressing oneself, in fact it is encouraged. Social media is at its core a personal communication tool to the masses and this created the need to show personality. To feel connected the sense of talking to an individual must be present or at least to a company that is talking to one individually.

Lesson 3: Social Media is ONLY a Tool to Connect People

The Enterprise Summit 2.0 key note speaker, Eric Weaver, summarized quite clearly what I had observed during the week, “A social media strategy is like a cell phone strategy, or a road strategy. That’s a focus on the tool, rather than the business objectives.” A good basketball player is not measured by his knowledge of the circumference of the ball, it’s materials, or colour patterns—but rather his understanding of the game and his physical attributes.

In this context, Social Media is the ball, the basketball player is the user, the game is the people being connected with, and the physical attributes is the imagination and character of the individual. For this reason, those specializing in a certain Social Media platform become a foot soldier. The battle is fought on the field but the war is won in the general’s tent.

In order to be a good Social Media user, one must first understand that it is the people that matter most. Because of this, old time tested truths are still very relevant. Patience, authenticity, and honesty are absolutely crucial to success in Social Media. In life one does not propose marriage until a relationship has been developed. However, in business, how many times have people tried to sell a product quickly over Social Media? From an individual point of view, how quickly does one ask for major support from someone one barely knows? How many times does it work?

A relationship isn’t built overnight; patience must be exercised to be truly successful. Constantly pushing contests, events and discounts to one’s audience without building a community is about as effective as a pushy salesman with the exception that Social Media has a mute button. Just following someone does not give one the right to ask for help. An honest and authentic relation must first be made. The key is not the sell but to connect and engage one’s audience. Provide them with information that is interesting to them to get their attention. Social media is not about the user, but about the audience.

To understand Social Media, one must understand human nature.

Lesson 4: Social Media Analytics and Integration are the Future

Social Media analytics have become much more robust and getting better as time goes on. One of the recurring ideas during the week is that it isn’t necessarily the people who subscribe to one or the people who buy a product who are most important to one’s network but the people who can connect one with those consumers.

For example, if someone did not buy a book one was selling, but did share it with the 5,000 other people following him of which 10% bought the book, that person is strategically more important. Thus, the focus is now on finding these consumer connections as opposed to trying to contact many individuals. This level of analysis and rankings are beginning to emerge; looking into prioritizing an individuals’ influencing power as opposed to simply the purchasing habits is a key trend.

Amongst all the talks and events, the general sense was that Social Media is moving towards an integration of all the platforms. Hootsuite had tremendous support amongst the attendee’s and there is a desire for better analytical tools to emerge. Furthermore, the vast amount of communication produced by Social Media has created so much information that there is also a need to filter out all the noise to focus on what is really important. Getting to consumer complaints, answering a followers question, or finding which platform one is being talked about is so vital to be able to improve one’s connection with one’s audience.

Already, there are companies like Sysomos, who also sponsored the event, trying to fill this void. Both twitter and facebook have introduced analytics tools. All of this is pointing towards the wide spread use of metrics and in depth analysis as the next frontier for Social Media.

The hype over Social Media is over; it is no longer just a cool new thing. Individuals and companies are starting to truly understand how to use Social Media as the powerful tool that it has strongly proven to be.