October 6, 2017 Last updated on January 16th, 2019
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When Photoshop came out, we learned it.

When Final Cut Pro came out, we learned it.

Yet, social media is still a medium that we all haven’t learned 100% somehow.

The reason for that is the accelerating speed at which this medium is developing. There are new changes to our favorite platforms every single day, making it hard to stay updated, and it often seems almost impossible to make long-term social media strategies.

If you think you’re the only one in this predicament, don’t worry. Everyone’s in the same boat — from small brands to big retail beasts — trying to crack the social media code. Earlier in September, we attended Social Media Week in London, a comprehensive, packed conference on social media and digital marketing. We saw (and heard) experts from Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Twitter themselves talking about the psychology of social media, explaining what’s hot and what’s not, what social media trends made it big in 2017, and which ones you should take with you to 2018.

If you’re on Twitter (like we are?), you can browse through #SMWLDN for some insights.

To save you time, though, we came up with this quick, snackable recap of the most interesting social media facts we learned at the event. So, without any further ado…

9 social media facts we learned from #SMWLDN 2017

9 social media facts we learned at Social Media Week 2017

1. Vertical video on Facebook

Vertical video isn’t news, and yet many haven’t adopted the trend yet. Earlier in 2016, Facebook rolled out vertical videos in mobile News Feeds, only to discover that people are more likely to watch such videos for a longer time — and with the sound on. Again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise: Facebook already has over a billion mobile-only users, which is more than half of all the active users on the platform. And smartphones, as we know, have vertical screens. And people, as we know, are too lazy to turn their phones for horizontal videos.

So if you plan to create videos for social media (which you should, as video is still king), make them vertical. And watch your engagement on videos go up.

2. The speed of feed

Did you know that each week we scroll more content on Facebook than the height of Big Ben? That’s 96 meters of content in a feed ? Yep, we live in the content consumption era!

Information overload and decreasing attention spans mean that content tends to become shorter; its format is changing; it needs to become MORE creative than ever for people to stop scrolling the feed and start paying attention.

The speed of feed is nothing but crazy nowadays, and the job of brands is to find the way to catch up with that pace in a creative and relevant format (aka everything that moves: videos, gifs, etc).

“70% of the time people are into quick, snackable content.” Click To Tweet — Kat Hahn, Head of Creative Shop, Northern Europe, Facebook

A perfect example: the Planet Earth II documentary from BBC. The film is about one hour long and was broadcast worldwide, collecting around 2.7 million views. When put on social, however, it was reduced to a 2-minute video — and as a result, it attracted 10 million eyeballs instead.

The reason to that is simple: most people consume content on-the-go, checking social media quickly, in small doses — while they’re in the queue for the morning coffee, snacking on content as if it’s a chocolate croissant. According to Facebook, 70% of people are in the “on-the-go” content consumption mode, while 20% like the so-called ‘lean-forward” content (which is longer and more interactive), leaving just 10% for long, immersive “lean-back” content.

In other words, it’s about time you really ask yourself: Are short-form videos playing a role in my social media marketing strategy?

3. Learn how to engage socially

However, short-form content, as good as it is, won’t stand out from the crowd on its own. It needs a WOW-formula.

And what is this formula, I hear you ask?

According to National Geographic, the WOW content formula consists of 4 elements. Content needs to:

  • Have the power of wonder

Showing the unknown, the undiscovered, the unexplored, that provokes conversation and awe at the same time.

  • Be time-relevant

To break through the clutter, you need to react fast to the social events happening around the world. A good example: The People Vs. Climate Change campaign, launched just in time when Donald Trump, who doesn’t agree with common views on global warming, took office earlier this year.

  • Engage with the new technologies

This means using Live Stories, 360 videos, chatbots, AI to try out new formats and ways of reaching out and connecting with the audience. A good example: going Facebook Live from Everest in April 2017.

  • Collab with the like-minded partners

A good example: the film Before The Flood directed by Fisher Stevens, was created together with Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s known for his environmental activism

Last but not least, you really need to have a social purpose and stay true to your brand by underlining the cause that you’re standing for throughout your content. Just don’t forget to “travel” your content across all different accounts, and adapt the story to the format that’s expected on each social media platform.

National Geographic live from Everest on Facebook Live

National Geographic participating in the Q&A from Everest on Facebook Live

4. Ditching the traditional KPIs

Now, I’m not going to say that measuring KPIs is not important. It is. The right KPIs help you develop your strategy, refine it, get better results (not to mention report back to your boss to justify your social media efforts). But the thing is, more often than not we’re measuring KPIs just for the sake of measuring them, and they become nothing else but vanity metrics.

Sure, you got a lot of pageviews on your latest post, but so what?

Instead, focus on the number and quality of real conversations that your brand gets with your customers. What do people actually say? What’s the mood online?

5. Social media is still the hardest to justify

Both brands and people invest heavily in social media — either with money or their personal time. Social media has become a massive part of our lives, and brands are slowly, but steadily, shifting into digital completely.

However, if you speak to social media managers, it seems that the ROI of social media is still hard to justify.

The reason to that is that the bigger social media becomes, the more complex it becomes, too. Part of the problem is also the fact that C-level execs usually see ROI as a primarily financial, monetary return, not taking into the account that the typical attribution model has more than one touchpoint leading to a successful conversion. Social media might not drive sales directly, but it starts a conversation with your customers, makes sure your brand is seen and heard, and, most importantly, ensures that it’s still relevant 5 years from now.

Because let’s face it: with nearly 3 billion social media users worldwide, if you’re not on social, it’s the same as saying you don’t exist.

“The best ROI of social media is that your brand will still be relevant 5 years from now.” Click To Tweet

6. SEO vs PPC. SEO still wins

The difference between SEO and PPC is like buying a house and renting a house. The first one is an investment, and the second one is mostly a waste of money. PPC might be helpful (especially in the beginning, when your brand is just a newborn baby), but it should not be a long-term strategy (whatever your PPC guy says).

7. Don’t create chatbots just because you can

Chatbots are the next huge thing, and we’ve already seen many companies trying to harness this new opportunity. Oftentimes, however, they shouldn’t be.

Last year, the world saw Yeshi, a bot launched by Lokai to bring awareness to the water crisis. The whole ‘customer journey’ is accompanied by a bot, that has its own face, own personality, own character, and own agenda (to give food for thought and educate) — and that’s what made Yeshi a great success. Thing is, many brands are throwing themselves at chatbots just because they are the “new hot thing”. They’re making a big mistake by not giving their bots enough personality — or, in other words, not making them human enough.

It’s the human experience that makes chatbots so cool — not the tech part of it.

8. Copy on social media: the shorter, the better

Social media is word-restrictive — think of the Twitter 140-character limit, or Instagram’s 2000-character limit, for example. And that’s why we often underestimate the power of words on social, mainly focusing on the pretty pictures.

Social media copywriting is a form of art, though.

Two Davids (Levin and Schneider, both Creative Directors) from ThatLot, a London-based media agency, pointed out the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly examples set by brands on social.

One of them was from Getty Images back in 2016, when Prince, one of the most notorious music legends of our times, died at the age of 57.

While the whole world was mourning the loss, the brand decided to ‘harness the opportunity’ and created a tweet, which was a straight-up ad, linking to Prince photos available for purchase on the site. Feels super inappropriate, doesn’t it?Don't be tacky! Lessons learned from Social Media Week in London

Meanwhile, 3M, a science-based technology company, did the same thing, also chiming in with a comment — and yet it felt completely different. With a simple, clear tweet, that had no copy in it at all, they referenced to Prince’s famous song “Purple Rain”, thus 1) staying timely and addressing the tragic event 2) staying brand-relevant, and 3) expressing authenticity at the same time.

3M Tribute to Prince

The way they did it, doesn’t feel like a sales opportunity — it seems heartfelt and appropriate. And the complete lack of words only strengthens the statement.

In fact, according to ThatLot, when it comes to using words on social, less is more. Your copy needs to work in isolation, on its own, making clear, immediately understandable references. But most importantly, your copy needs to be SHORT (and informal).

Here are a few rules of social media writing:

  • Simplify your writing style, don’t use pretentious vocabulary
  • Always use contractions
  • Always be more colloquial and informal, don’t be too pretentious
  • Omit particles that aren’t necessary (e.g. “that”)
  • Never use “think” or “believe”, just state what you have to say right away
  • Strip down adverbial phrases

Here’s an example of how to take a “normal” sentence and make it “social media appropriate”:

Social Media writing example from ThatLot

Copywriting on social media: the shorter, the better!

In other words, parataxis — a technique that favors short, simple sentences — is the solution to good writing on social media, as it makes your copy clear and focused.

9. The best social media tool is being on social media yourself

Last but not least, a very important social media fact we took away from #SMWLDN is that if you’re not on social media yourself, you’re never going to be good at it. If you want to excel at Instagram marketing, become an Instagram user. If you want to understand Facebook marketing, start using Facebook yourself. You gotta be where your customers are — how else would you understand what they want?

Over to you! What’s the biggest social media fact you learned this year?
Let us know in the comments below!

PS. You might want to read: Small Businesses on Instagram: 9 Tips For Maximum Success

About the author
Olga Rabo

Olga Rabo

Olga is a LeadGen manager at Iconosquare, based in Berlin. She’s all about creating strategies, increasing clickthrough rates, and sharing her in-depth knowledge of content and social media marketing. She’s a big travel addict, a huge Katherine Ryan fan, and her favorite time of the day is brunch.

More posts by Olga Rabo

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