After a one-year hiatus following the tragic death of its founder, the great Robin Fray Carey, the Social Shake-Up returned to Atlanta this week with the goal of "shaking things up" in the world of social media. And although it could not possibly have hoped to recapture the magic that Robin brought to the event she called "her baby," it was still an impressive assembly of nearly 600 social media professionals who work in the trenches for brands and nonprofits every day.
Here are 10 things that this social media practitioner learned at the event:
1. "Talk Like a Pirate Day" isn't for everyone
Yes, it's fun for brands to jump aboard trending hashtags and silly "holidays," but doing so just to do it isn't a solid strategy.
Companies should carefully determine which events they have the permission space with which to participate, and even then should prioritize that content alongside other, presumably more business-driven initiatives.
Or as Carly Migdall from Delta said:
"Don't just participate in a topic because it's trending. Participate because your audience cares that it's trending."
2. Evergreen Value
48% of traffic to The Atlantic's website comes from articles that were not posted in that month.
This clearly demonstrates the importance of evergreen content and not being too quick to judge the success or failure of a particular piece of content.
3. Not all Millennials are the same
This often-discussed, yet still misunderstood generation includes those born in the early 1980s through those born in the late 1990s. The technological differences alone in those time periods are astounding - from computers to email to mobile phones - so it stands to reason that those born on either end of the generation will be most distinct.
This is important as marketers consider how to attract this all-important demographic.
@dgingiss Born in the 80s? No iPhones/social or 2008 collapse until college. Born in 90s? Formative years shaped by those things. Impact is huge.- Megan Brewer (@meganobrewer) May 24, 2017
4. Social Customer Service is Critical
Customer service on social media "can absolutely change brand perceptions," according to a panel of Millennials at the conference.
Customer expectations for response time are high and unyielding, but an engaging, empathetic, and helpful response from a brand can greatly increase the willingness to share positive experiences.
5. Live Opportunities
Having trouble getting started with live video? "Just push the damn button," said social good advocate and 50 States, 100 Days author Chris Strub, adding that "all you really need is a cell phone and a good Wi-Fi connection."
Strub's other takeaways include focusing on documenting real life, paying attention to the live audience, respecting your audience's time, and promoting in advance.
6. "The Five P's"
To be successful at live-streaming, practice the "5 P's" - 'Promote', 'Practice', 'Pick a Good Location', 'Plan Good Content', and 'Roll with the Punches'.
7. The Power of Micro-Influencers
Using micro-influencers (those with fewer followers but strong credibility in a desired niche) is becoming a more popular marketing strategy, said Snapchatter and digital entrepreneur Shaun "Shonduras" McBride.
"Sometimes all it takes is a free pizza" to get micro-influencers interested in promoting your product or brand, McBride added.
8. "You gotta get creative if you want to grow."
This quote by Shonduras was one of my favorites of the whole conference, because it reflects a real problem facing many brands.
The companies that are willing to think outside of the box, to test and learn, to fail fast and often, to (insert your own euphemism here) are the ones that will stand out from the pack in the very crowded space of social media.
9. Social Influence
62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media, according to a Pew Research Center study, and last year's U.S. election proved "what modern presidential candidates have always known - that they are a brand," said Evan Kraus of Apco Worldwide.
Brands - and future politicians - should take a look at what worked and what didn't for candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and adapt accordingly.
10. Engagement Rules
If there is one key to success in social media, it's engagement.
Whether you're building a personal brand (like Shonduras) or representing a major corporate entity, social media is the first marketing channel where people can actually talk back.
Be prepared, be present, and respond to everyone.