The 10 Most Interesting Takeaways from Social Media Week NYC 2016

Social Media Week New York wrapped up Friday with an impressive roster of speakers and thought-provoking panels who shared stats on mobile use, how virtual reality will change the future of communications, and how social sharing drives social media strategy.

Here are the 10 figures that got people talking last week.

Mobile is everything. The average person checks their phone 30x a day. For millennial’s its 157x per day – that’s 10x per hour! Seventy-eight percent of adults say they have their phone on them all but two hours out of the day. What are people doing on their phones? Probably chatting. Six of the 10 most used apps globally are messaging apps.

Social media has enabled the democratization of communication. “Today we have more creative capacity at our fingertips than ever before,” said Toby Daniels, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcentric, referencing the power of our mobile tools that give us access to content and free software. Comedian Morgan Murphy went further to say: “Social media is a way of saying ‘this is me, this is my voice.’”

Virtual Reality was again the buzzed about topic this week. In her talk on the “Future of Communication,” Facebook’s North America Marketing Director Michelle Klein quoted one industry leader who claimed “VR was the last screen.” New York Times CEO Mark Thompson – whose company partnered with Google to distribute Cardboard boxes to subscribers last year ‑ remarked how “this new technology would bring important stories to life in a new way.” “The role of a chief executive is not to stop people innovating, but instead to curate it,” he said later.

“Why do people install adblockers?” Thompson asked rhetorically before challenging marketers to create ads that consumers actually wanted to see and weren’t intrusive. “We produce high-quality journalism,” he said. “It takes an enormous effort to create outstanding journalism. It costs a lot of money.” Thompson said the paper’s subscription model can only take that so far and that advertising money was crucial to the paper’s success. “The Times’ journalism is not a commodity, it’s handcrafted.”

With the launch of Seeso, President Obama appearing on comedy podcasts like WTF with Marc Maron and absurdist web series like “Between Two Ferns,” it’s apparent that comedy is having a moment. NBCUniversal’s Evan Shapiro explored why the “Church of Comedy” is so crucial to us as a society right now. "Think about how crazy the world is right now," he said before referencing news stories regarding ISIS and Ferguson. "Comedy isn't an option, it's a necessity."

Will McInnes, CMO of Brandwatch, stressed how valuable it is for marketers to use algorithms. "Habits control your life, but algorithms control your decisions," he said, before describing the different decisions people make that are made based on tailored algorithms. Things like your diet, health insurance, and your online purchases. Pinterest, for instance, uses algorithms to provide related images you may have interest in. Nine out of 10 people who click through to a website on Pinterest purchase on the same day. Companies have the power to take control of the algorithm’s "invisible hand" to sway decision-making. "Nudge them" he said. "It's a non-invasive way to encourage behavior without forcing it."

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Authenticity should be top of mind for a brand. "In the US and UK, there's a big resistance to anything that seems remotely branded,” said Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of Innovation at J. Walter Thompson. Peers, word of mouth, all have direct impact on the commercial value of a product. Authenticity stretches from algorithms to content strategies developed for relevance. Dan Gardner, co-founder of Code & Theory, explained how a relevant brand has higher value over differentiation. Sixty percent of millennials will click on a piece of sponsored content if it looks interesting.

Content, content, content. Trends in content marketing continue to be defined by a brands ability to tell its story in the most authentic and relevant way possible. Marcus Collins, VP of Social Engagement at Doner, suggested an almost romanticized view on content, “Content is designed to inspire an action…the function of the content itself is not how beautifully it’s designed, but that it’s resonating with the people you’re trying to connect with…it requires a deep level of empathy with the audience.” Brian Becker, VP of Content Marketing at JPMorgan Chase had a similar idea: “Content marketing is humanizing your brand through telling stories.”

How do word of mouth and social media fit together? In his keynote address titled “Funny & Buzzy,” Comedy Central CMO Walter Levitt emphasized the importance of creating shareable content by arguing that social sharing drives marketing strategy. “When your brand stands for funny and irrelevant you have to do crazy a** shit,” he said. Levitt provided various examples of how Comedy Central used social sharing in order to promote shows and successfully increased viewership; i.e., an event for the series Broad City welcoming fans to “Paint with Broad City” at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. His steps for creating a successful social media strategy? Always ask, “Is it shareable? Can it be measured?” And, “Try lots. Succeed lots. Fail lots.”

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The role of the millennial generation in the startup. “The biggest thing about our generation is that there’s no work-life balance,” said Mikhail Naumov, CSO of DigitalGenius. “Get behind a greater mission and stand for it.” Naumov applauds millennials aggressive desire for change, however, according to Josh Bruno, Co-Founder and CEO of Hometeam, “Now, more than ever, the millennial generation wants to be connected to what they’re doing… the more a millennial is tied to what might happen, the more they’ll be enthusiastic about their work.”