As the landscape of social media matures, James Whatley finds this year’s Social Media Week a more grown-up affair.
If you don’t work “in digital” then you’d be forgiven for not realising Social Media Week has just taken place. The London event, a yearly get together of brands and agencies all discussing how to best “do social”, came to an end last Friday. After the heavy criticism of the 2013 edition, how did it fare?
This will not be news to those practitioners who earn their daily bread against the hard-nosed business metrics of real-world marketing, but it’s still pleasing to see the category move away from the meaningless goals of more “likes” and “RTs”.
In general, in 2014 the main social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have moved away from the earned media space and made inroads into the (more commercially viable) paid media category. This has shifted the focus to more traditional metrics such as: have we sold more stuff? Bringing that point home to the attendees of Social Media Week London can only be a good thing.
Previous iterations of Social Media Week London have attempted to explore the wider areas of social media influence (covering everything from the Arab spring to the London riots), but this year was very business-orientated. Whether this was a good thing remains to be seen. Crowdcentric – Social Media Week’s founder and new London organiser – obviously has its targets set on building where it matters most.
All credit to the unofficial fringe events that at least attempted to make things more culturally relevant. If you looked hard enough, you could indeed find events that covered food, fashion, and politics. But they were not official events and they were not easy to find.
At the mid-point of Social Media Week London, I was invited to chair the judging of the Social Media Buzz Awards. One of the categories, “best ROI in a social media campaign” had several entries, but just one actually included the ROI figure in its case study. In a horrendous paraphrasing of William Gibson: social media for business is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.
Clearly, social media has finally matured. From the multi-million pound businesses such as Buzzfeed extolling the virtues of satiating employee boredom to case studies from brands actually showing monetary wins from their Twitter campaigns. Last year, people talked about ROI because it made you sound like you knew what you were talking about. This year, people demonstrated ROI and proved it (just a shame they didn’t enter them for any awards).
From the sublime (visual content opens doors!) to the surreal (native communications need to be like a jockey – short, agile and human), the level of crazy barfing of one-liners and “insights” from the users of the #smwldn hashtag meant that even if you were in the know, most of the time you didn’t get what was being said. As a result, a fair amount of cynicism was thrown its way.
And quite rightly so – a healthy dose of scepticism never harmed anyone, especially anyone whose industry is constantly being chopped and changed by an algorithm shift in Palo Alto. But it all felt a little half-hearted.
And that’s just it: the people doing great work and delivering fantastic results in social media are the ones who probably didn’t have time to attend everything this year. There seems to be an acceptance that Social Media Week London is a bit more like Freshers’ Week. The young and keen come in to learn, find their way around, and get drunk along the way. While the older ones stand around moaning and perhaps pick up some talent in the interim.
It’s easy to poke fun at Social Media Week but this year’s lineup was actually very good. If you looked hard enough and put the effort in, you might have gained some great insights from the best in the business.
What does that mean for 2015? Why not come next year and find out.
The original story was found on the Guardian – here