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The 7 Most Talked-About Moments from Social Media Week

In the ever-evolving social media landscape, staying ahead of the curve isn't just a goal—it's a necessity. From social media managers leading day-to-day operations to CMOs directing marketing strategy, brands understand that to stay relevant they must make an investment in social. And events like AdWeek’s Social Media Week are crucial for keeping brands at the forefront of industry trends and innovations.

Here, our team heard from top influencers and industry experts who shared valuable insights for brands—emphasizing the importance of moving beyond vanity metrics, harnessing the power of user-generated content (UGC), and even advice for aspiring CMOs. Join us as we share our takeaways from Social Media Week and explore the trends reshaping how we interact in this digital space.

The Power of Social Listening and UGC
Through social listening brands can access the unfiltered voices and opinions of their audiences. By tuning into those conversations, brands can also tap into UGC–including images, videos, reviews and testimonials. Not only does social listening and UGC offer valuable insights on brands, but they are powerful tools social media managers can leverage to develop marketing strategies, boost engagement, build trust and establish brand loyalty.

During the session, Why Social Listening Informs Brand Relevance, DuoLingo’s global head of social media, Katherine Chan discussed how social listening can play a pivotal role in adapting campaign content. This year’s DuoLingo Super Bowl ad started out as a featured smartphone widget aimed at reminding users to complete their daily lessons. Through social listening, DuoLingo confirmed this piece of content would spark conversations–allowing them to capitalize on an existing cost-effective piece of content.

As more brands shift to a social-first approach, we expect authentic content farmed from social listening and UGC to drive marketing success. According to Viral Nation’s The Always-On Social-First Organization Of The Future session, on average, 40% more views are attributed to lo-fi brand content than hi-fi brand visuals–meaning social-first brands are outperforming media-led brands.

Premium doesn’t win, connection wins.” Joe Gagliese, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Viral Nation

Audiences are tired of seeing polished content. By monitoring conversations about your brand and leveraging UGC creatively in campaigns, brands can optimize their marketing efforts–saving them time and resources while fostering authentic connections.

Sparking Viral Moments Through Cultural Relevance and Community Engagement
Throughout the week, one theme was clear–in order to succeed at social you have to be on social. Most social media managers have experienced the infamous “Can we go viral?” request and “The girls that get it, get it. The girls that don't, don’t.”

This is a reminder that there is a constant conversation occurring in your industry across all your social platforms–be a part of it. In order to capitalize on culturally relevant moments, it is crucial to be present and engage with your audiences. During the Memes Build Connections Through Cultural Relevance & Humor workshop with Doing Things, Moist Buddha and Tuna Meltdown, panelists emphasized the importance of being proactive and reactive to successfully tie your brand to trending conversations. By staying agile and responsive to your community’s online culture and social media culture as a whole, you can successfully determine if and how you tell your brand’s story.

”People don’t want to be told a joke, they want to be in on the joke.” Sam Graviet, Creative Director Brand Partnerships, Doing Things

During the BTS of Iconic Social Media Content session, the outcomes of each panelist's iconic viral post proved that strong communities drive reach. Panelists dove into the creative process behind their respective posts including Verizon’s #GAGCITY tweet, Foot Locker’s famous employee and Sweetgreen's normal person starter pack. Their brand consistency, timely execution and risk management contributed to crafting these successful cultural moments. However, it is important to note that not every post will go viral, and predicting which ones will is impossible. That is why maintaining an active presence on social media is essential–it allows you to assess which trends, sounds and content align best with your brand’s narrative.

Brands Should Find a Balance of Fun and Professionalism on Social Media 
A brand’s voice on social media should reflect the nature of a brand’s business, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t still have fun online. Brands, just like the employees behind them, have a personality that should shine through in each of their social media posts.

“[People] want brands to show up in the right way automatically, candidly and be real with them.” Roxy Young, Chief Marketing Officer, Reddit 

The fun side of a brand’s social media strategy can make them more relatable and authentic to their followers, and build an online community that can translate into offline consumption and brand loyalty. Consumers want to be able to see themselves in the brands they interact with and building an online community through a mixture of laughter and sharing accurate and on-brand information is key to achieving success.

One of Ad Council’s most iconic campaigns, Wildfire Prevention with Smokey Bear, has found a great balance between their key messaging and lighthearted social media trends. Smokey Bear’s social channels have been able to capture followers’ attention by jumping on viral moments such as the release of Beyonce’s Cowboy Carter and the Barbie Movie poster rollout, while finding a way to tie into Smokey’s message of preventing wildfires. Followers have now come to recognize Smokey’s channels as a place for information and entertainment.

Social Media Managers are the Next Generation of CMOs
As the Evolution of Marketing Leadership: From Social Media Managers to Future CMOs panel kicked off, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer Taylor Montgomery explained why marketers shape the future of business leadership. He identifies a specific group of marketers as the next generation of CMOs–current social media managers.

“You understand what matters most and it is the consumer.” Taylor Montgomery, Chief Marketing Officer, Taco Bell

Daily, social media managers play a pivotal role in identifying consumer sentiment because they spend more time listening and interacting with audiences on social media. They are more likely to identify what will influence a brand’s audience. In the session, Montgomery recalled a moment when he wasn’t sure if Paris Hilton was still relevant among younger audiences. He went to his social media team who explained Gen Z’s obsession with the early Y2K queen. Ultimately, it led to the return of the 2000s Volcano Menu campaign featuring Paris sharing her nostalgic “what’s hot” expertise.

What current CMOs should know about social is that sometimes they aren't going to understand social as well as their teams. Brands with an agenda are going to get less than half of what they would without an established understanding of their community. Show up as a consumer, not a brand. Montgomery encourages social media managers aiming for leadership positions to expand their brand expertise. It’s crucial for social media managers to understand what they want the brand to be and should take as much time understanding the business as they take determining how it shows up on social.

Creator Partnership Selection is Bigger Than Follower Count
The creator economy has become essential for communicators and brands. Where many of us get it wrong is that we want to work with the most popular creators with millions of followers, but follower count shouldn’t be the only thing brands rely on when deciding to work with an influencer. A creator could have 20 million followers on a social platform but their message is completely contrary to your brand's values, or worse, they have no sense of community within their followers to be relatable and genuine with your brand’s audience.

In Navigating Creator Liability: How to Ensure Brand fit for Engagement Excellence,
Noel Christopher, the senior vice president of product at Edelman and Andrew Dawson, the social networks practice principal at Brandwatch highlighted the importance of choosing the right creator for your brand. One way to ensure the partnership is successful is for brands to do their diligence with vetting–suggesting that brands should monitor creators’ online activity up to two years before and after the partnership takes place. Another way is to consider creators you would love to have long-term relationships with, not just one-off collaborations. Creators and influencers should be ingrained in a brand’s ecosystem just as much as any other piece of their social strategy.

But, it’s not just on brands that need to do their research, creators and influencers should also ensure that a brand aligns with their personal beliefs and messaging. In Insights from Hot Girl Coach, Megan Thee Stallion spoke on brand vetting–noting that her mental health and fitness journeys play a major role in which brand partnerships she accepts. That is why her collaborations with brands like Planet Fitness, Nike and the Ad Council’s Seize The Awkward mental health campaign were natural selections for the Grammy-award winning performer.

“I create the things that I want to see. I don’t create things for other people to like them. I go and do my own thing and stay true to me.” Megan Thee Stallion

When brands and creators do their research, audiences take notice. In turn, the “why” behind the relationship between the two feels more genuine and your brand’s community trust becomes stronger.

Focusing on Vanity Metrics Doesn’t Tell the Full Story
Once thought to be the best way to determine success online, “likes” and follower count are now considered vanity metrics to brands and social media managers. Brands have found that these metrics may look nice on a social media report but don’t give great insight into ROIs that drive brand success.

A consumer or business may interact with a post from a brand they follow without ever visiting the brand's social page. Likewise, a brand or creator may have millions of followers but struggle with genuine engagement and conversation–impacting revenue and or their ability to raise awareness on a topic.

Several AdWeek employees reiterated this fact in their AdWeek Hot Takes session, stating that the strongest brand social accounts are the ones that get people talking, are relatable and tap into cultural moments. We recommend brands focus on providing a meaningful on-brand experience that builds community between them and their target audience, while understanding that metrics will vary with each social campaign. Success on social media is moving more into a quality over quantity when reviewing metrics and brands should take notice.

LinkedIn is the Future for Brand Storytelling
LinkedIn is no longer just a job searching platform. People are utilizing LinkedIn to network, connect with and support others, learn new skills through LinkedIn Learning tools, and share their expertise in Collaborative Articles. With over one billion accounts, users have become thought leaders in their respective fields through the power of storytelling on LinkedIn.

Melanie English, director of social marketing at LinkedIn explained more about the future of LinkedIn during the session Building Brand Presence on LinkedIn. With the amount of diversity and visibility growing on LinkedIn, it is now a place where brands can showcase their subject-matter-experts while building brand relevance and trust among audiences.

“Calling LinkedIn a job search site is like calling Amazon a bookstore.” Melanie English, Director of Social Marketing, LinkedIn

As Gen Z enters the workforce, brands and creators are finding new ways to interact with them on LinkedIn. Soon Gen Z and Millenials will make up over half of the global workforce–making these groups essential to the future of LinkedIn. If you aren’t sure of the best way to interact for your brand, take the advice of Gen Z-er and self-proclaimed Corporate Baddie, DeAndre Brown who shared the stage with English during the session, “The best way to start is to just start.” LinkedIn offers a range of resources and guides for brands looking to engage with Gen Z, providing insights and strategies to create connection and community.

Social platforms are where trends are born, conversations ignite, and brands find their voice. By leveraging these insights, we can more effectively navigate this ever-evolving landscape with confidence and creativity.

Ana Rico Granados
Ana Rico Granados serves as an Assistant Manager of Marketing & Communications at the Ad Council. With a strong background in social media marketing, she excels in strategy development, content creation, and community management. She contributes to several impactful campaigns by fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity, advocating for mental health awareness, raising awareness for teens in the foster care system and spreading Smokey Bear's wildfire prevention message. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts is a Marketing Communications Manager at Ad Council leading PR and social media strategy for iconic social good campaigns. With over 8 years of experience in the communication field, she is passionate about creating impactful stories that resonate with diverse audiences and drive positive social change. Chris is a two-time alumnus of Troy University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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