THE GET SOCIAL CONFERENCE 2017

The Get Social 2017 Conference was held in the Helix on Tuesday the 14th of February 2017. During this event, I listened to talks from 7 business professionals centred around key topics such as technology in business and social media marketing. Each of the 7 speakers that took to the stage talked in depth about the immense pace at which innovation has accelerated in the past number of years and how this is shaping the way in which we consume and engage with content.

Matthew Weil (VoiceSage)

One of the most interesting talks of the conference was given by Matthew Weil of VoiceSage, a business that delivers interactive customer communications solutions to brands such as Argos and Thames Water (VoiceSage 2017).

Matthew opened his talk by illustrating the effect the internet has had in recent years on influencing consumer preference and behaviour. He discussed that before the age of the internet and the boom of e-commerce, he would walk to his local store to buy the goods he needed. The people at this store would know his tastes in products as well as how his season was going etc. They knew him on a personal level.

However ever since the idea of online shopping has come into full effect, Matthew has had a much wider choice of products to choose from. At the click of a button, he can purchase almost any good he desires without even having to leave the comfort of his own home.

This anecdote showed me how difficult it has become for small retailers to retain customers like Matthew and with that compete against those who not only have an online presence but those who actually advertise this presence through the social media platforms we use most frequently. Matthew emphasised the dramatic shift in the way in which we now buy goods or services and how we are influenced by companies that want to us to buy their products.

This change has been reflected by businesses worldwide, some of which are actually opting to sell goods through retail websites as well as their own online stores instead of actually opening up physical stores. As the number of people shopping online continues to rise and the growing platform that is social media continues to expand, it makes more and more sense for companies to allocate more money to social media marketing than anything else and this is something that been reflected by Multi-Nationals in recent years.

A famous example of this is Dell, who were one of the 1st companies to integrate e-commerce into their sales process in 1994, something which proved to be so successful that it is now their main method of selling (Netonomy.net 2013). 

The facts are clear to see – it is now a necessary requirement for business to have an online presence  if they truly want to be successful. Not only that but they have needed to find alternative, more effective ways of penetrating their target market and this has come in the form of social media marketing.

Another aspect of Matthews talk that I found extremely interesting was the story of how his wife tweeted a food company outlining her confusion at the product information provided on the packaging, which stated the product to be half-gluten/half non-gluten which frankly made no sense.

I found it amazing that within minutes, the food company had replied to Matthews wife saying that they would fix the mistake. Furthermore, they were so grateful to her for bringing the mistake to their attention that they actually asked her to become a brand ambassador.

Such an anecdote illustrates effectively the effect that social media can have in building consumer relationships for businesses and portraying an image of a brand that values consumer opinion and feedback, something that could be said to be a form of free marketing in itself.

Anne Marie-Boyhan (Bank of Ireland)

The third speaker of the day was Anne Marie-Boyhan, social media and content marketing evangelist at Bank of Ireland.

Firstly, one of the most interesting and engaging aspects of Anne-Marie’s talk was her outline of BOI’s marketing strategy. I was surprised by the vast amount of efforts they make as a brand to reach consumers, particularly a brand of such nature. From its sponsorship of sports clubs such as Leinster and Munster Rugby (Bank of Ireland 2017) to becoming the official Twitter partner for Irish Small Businesses (Bank of Ireland 2013), they seem to do a lot more than their competitors in order to get their name out there.

“74% of internet traffic this year is video”
I was interested to hear how the brand has pinpointed video as a crucial component of its marketing mix, with Anne Marie noting that 74% of internet traffic this year is going to be video based. This is something I found quite surprising at first, however when I really thought about it, it seemed to make a lot of sense.

It goes without saying that there is a vast amount of content out there within the digital world, so much so that people are being overloaded/bombarded with information that they can’t process. Video, on the other hand, is almost a breath of fresh air in a world of media that is dominated by text. It’s often easier for the brain to process visual content rather than just plain text and for that reason, it is more effective in influencing a target market (Swati Joshi 2017).

I also liked how Anne-Marie highlighted Bank of Irelands plan to tap into new innovations such as live video, in particular Facebook’s live promoted posts. She mentioned how “it’s not always about going out with fancy cameras” and producing professional, cutting edge content and this is something I would tend to agree with. As a consumer, I can confidently say that it is often more effective to produce content that is more raw and realistic such as a Snapchat vlog of an event or an Instagram story outlining a new promotion. This is the kind of content that consumers will find both unique and easier to relate to, which will therefore make it more engaging.

Anne-Marie also outlined how the brand has made Snapchat a vital part of its social media marketing strategy, not to actually push products/services or deliver customer service but to actually engage with its customer base. I found it interesting that the brand uses a variety of social media platforms, all for different purposes and how their social presence is not solely based around the goal of pushing their services upon consumers but to actually interact and engage with the customer base it already holds.

The Bank of Ireland brand also regularly assesses the data from each of its social media accounts in order to see its level of reach and whether or not the content has left a positive impression with its target market. I personally found this to be a vital component of any company’s marketing plan as it enables them to review the performance of their content and make changes to it accordingly. For example, Anne Marie mentioned that the brands Snapchat stories have an average completion rate of 84%, showing that the content has quite a good level of engagement with viewers.

The final aspect of Anne Marie’s talk that I found extremely interesting was the brands implementation of micro-influencers into its marketing strategy. Unlike brand advocates or ambassadors which may be regular consumers or more commonly celebrities, micro-influencers are minor celebrities such as Instagram or YouTube stars or those that have a large following on a significant social media platform. 

A recent study carried out by Wharton School of Marketing professor Johan Berger found that micro-influencers are in fact the ideal candidates for businesses wanting to advertise/promote a product. The study found that micro-influencers hold 22.2 times more conversations per week than the average consumer recommending a brand to other people. In addition to this, 82% of the 6000 consumers said they were “highly likely to follow a recommendation if it was made by a micro-influencer” (Jonah Berger 2016).

Many consumers, like myself would have much less hesitation in trusting a micro-influencer as oppose to a celebrity as they are often individuals that work in the specific category of the good that is being promoted and are therefore more knowledgeable about the product. Micro-influencers present themselves as much more reliable and trustworthy individuals and for that reason they are a powerful resource to add to any brands marketing arsenal.

Hugh Curran (Digital Transformation Consultant)

The 5th speaker of the day was digital transformation consultant Hugh Curran. I personally found Hugh’s talk to be quite different from the rest – as he was not speaking on behalf of his own company, he could assess the world of Social Media Marketing from an independent perspective and provide us with examples of companies that are executing effective online marketing as well as those whose methods are proving to be extremely inefficient.

“Too many companies are putting out content that isn’t fit for purpose”
Hugh mentioned that many companies nowadays are putting out content that “isn’t fit for purpose”. To illustrate this, he showed us pictures of two sandwiches posted by two different cafés, one of which is quite a large entity with many branches and the other being a much smaller establishment. However, what was interesting to see was that the low quality, unattractive looking photo was actually posted by the significantly larger business whereas the other appetising, well-shot picture was posted by the smaller café.

I personally found it extremely surprising that the larger entity, who would have a significant amount of funds to devote solely to social media marketing could get it so wrong while the smaller business could get it so right. This is something however that Hugh confirms is not uncommon in the world of marketing, where often the smaller businesses are putting out more focused and engaging content.

Some of the most beneficial information I took from Hugh’s talk were the various rules that online marketing experts abide by in order to gain success with their target market.

Hugh firstly emphasised the importance of planning ahead. He mentioned how many companies often just “spit-out” content without ever really meticulously planning it. His advice was to “Take a micro view; then take a macro-view”. I found this to be an extremely interesting point. My interpretation is that often, it may be much more beneficial to provide content to a smaller, more compact group of people i.e. a focus group and judge the reaction and engagement such content receives. This will enable the company to improve it and therefore put out more effective, refined content to its larger audience knowing that it has been tried and tested and is now more likely to receive a favourable reaction.

Another interesting aspect of social media marketing that Hugh discussed which had never really crossed my mind is the negative feedback companies receive online and how they can go about controlling it. As an avid user of various social media platforms, this is something I have seen numerous times before, often through Twitter, a popular network that companies use to engage with consumers and offer customer service. Hugh’s advice to get the individuals phone number and to get them offline as quickly as possible is very sensible as it completely limits any further damage that has or can be done to the brands image.

By making a point of contacting the customer personally, it will completely detract from any desire they may have to name and shame the company on social media and therefore the less of a hit the brands image will take. It is an effective way of ensuring general consumer sentiment towards the brand remains favourable or at least not negative.

“Spend some money”,“The bigger the business, the more it will cost”
Finally, one of the most important things I feel I learned at The Get Social Conference 2017 is to not scrimp when it comes to Social Media Marketing, as it is one of the most crucial components of any entities business plan. Any business, be it small or large will always want to get maximum exposure as it not only helps in selling products but also in establishing a brand that people will know and recognise whenever they see it. Whether it be Bank of Irelands 3 downward pointing arrow logo or the Jameson brands “Sine Metu” motto, all brands strive to be recognisable to consumers.

Paul Berney (mCordis)

The 6th speaker of the day was Paul Berney, Managing Director of mCordis, a mobile and connected marketing advisory firm.

Pauls talk, like Hugh’s was quite unique in a sense that it provided almost a timeline of the progression technology has made throughout history, from the invention of the printing press in 1439 all the way to Starbucks new mobile order and pay system.

Paul immediately grabbed my attention by discussing the invention of the printing press back in 1439 and how this was to be an invention that was to revolutionise mankind. He emphasised the significance of such event that, for the first time in history, two items could be completely identical.

“We are entering the age of the connected individual”
Following on from this example, Paul went on to discuss the change in technology that has occurred in the last 3 – 5 years, such a change in which he described to be “immense”. Paul made the point that “we are entering the age of the connected individual” and this is something that stuck in my head long after leaving the conference. It really made me contemplate the role that technology plays in our lives and how it has become, in a sense, a vital part of our existence. Whether it is being applied in our education, our working or even our personal lives, we are always connected, always online. As Paul said; “we have to be connected to our digital selves to feel whole” and this is something many would find difficult to argue with.

This really made me think about the array of opportunities available to businesses from a marketing point of view. As there are more and more people online than there has ever been before, Social Media Marketing is both an affordable and efficient option for businesses that want to advertise a product. It is the medium through which they will gain the engagement and exposure they desire. Paul reaffirms the necessity for businesses in this day and age to engage in some form of Social Media Marketing be it on a large or small scale, as otherwise they are just letting an endless amount of opportunities slip through their fingers.

One thing I really enjoyed about Pauls talk was how he stepped away the idea of marketing (content, engagement, exposure etc.) and talked about how businesses have used their online presence in order to reduce friction from customer experiences and the immense effect that this has had in increasing sales.

Paul firstly used the example of Disney and how it has managed to diminish the biggest source of friction for its customers – waiting lines. To combat this issue, Disney has introduced “MagicBands” which vistors can now scan on a ride of their choice and be notified when they can go have their turn, thus allowing them to go do something else in the meantime instead of having to stand in a waiting line. As a result of Disney’s efficient use of technology, visitors are now able to get the absolute most out of their Disney experience, thereby improving overall customer satisfaction.

Paul also discussed how Starbucks has recently introduced its new mobile order and pay app, which enables customers to place their orders and pay for it on their phones before they even get to the store. This has proven to be a massive success for the business, completely reducing the length of queue’s forming within stores during busy periods. Such innovation has been so successful that it already represents over 5% of the company’s total revenue. It is yet another great example of a business making effective use of technology in order to strip complexity out of their customers experience.

One final point that Paul made which I found extremely interesting was to not go into marketing with the hopes of avoiding the technology element of the industry. As Paul emphasised, we live in a world of constant connectivity and as a result, technology is and always will be a vital element of the marketing profession, even more so by the time we graduate and begin the process of finding employment. Paul made me realise the importance of having an open mind and being open to change, not only in terms of marketing but in life in general.

As Paul said, it all boils down to how you can “create value for the connected individual” and this is something I will keep in mind going forward.

Eric Weaver (Xerox)

The final talk of the day was given by Eric Weaver, Vice President of communication and marketing solutions at Xerox.

Eric’s talk was quite unique in a sense that it provided a timeline of his experiences throughout such a long career in business and more importantly, how technology has developed throughout this journey.

One aspect of Eric’s talk that I found quite surprising was his mentioning that often in business, people can be very resistant to change. Eric outlined a number of instances throughout his career were he found peoples unwillingness think outside the box to be a serious barrier to progression for companies. For example, when working in the motor industry he described how he would stress to members of senior management the need to offer consumers the opportunity to test drive vehicles. However I was baffled to hear that this proposal was actually rejected on a number of occasions, despite the fact that other competing car dealerships were providing this option to consumers. Nowadays, I personally couldn’t even imagine purchasing a car without having tested it, so the fact that businesses expected to sell units back then without even allowing the customer to try the vehicle demonstrates clearly a real unwillingness to try something new.

Another interesting aspect of Eric’s talk was the issue of disruption brought about by new technology and the effect that this has had on businesses that have been slow to react. Eric used the example of Airbnb and discussed the disruption the company has caused within the hotel/accommodation industry. This is quite clearly something that even the largest hotel chains like Hilton, Conrad and Marriot International could have never seen coming but now, they must react to it by finding alternative ways of promoting their services and creating value for the general consumer.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice about Eric was the open-mindedness and forward thinking he applied throughout his career in business. I found it extremely interesting when he talked about how in 1994, he thought himself how to code html and built the first website for what is now one of the world’s largest consumer goods company’s – Procter & Gamble. Eric, unlike many others at the time, looked beyond the short-term to see how the internet represented a massive opportunity for businesses that wanted to promote their products and truly establish themselves as a brand. Eric saw real value in something that many people ignored and this tendency to think outside the box is one of the many reasons why I feel he has achieved great success in the fields of communication and online marketing.

“Innovation is an irresistible force which does not slow down, it only gets faster”
So, if you were to ask me what I thought was the most important thing I took from Eric’s talk, it would be to always keep an open mind in business and to make a conscious effort to welcome change and innovation as oppose to resisting it. As Eric said; ”innovation is an irresistible force which does not slow down, it only gets faster”. In other words, innovation is something that cannot be ignored. In a world that is dominated by technology, the pace of progression is quite clearly accelerating and this is something I now realise we must capitalise on if we are to gain success not only in social media marketing but in business as a whole.

Change was a common theme of The Get Social Conference 2017. Whether it be a simple a basic idea that disrupts an otherwise stable industry or even something simple like a mobile app that completely reduces a businesses primary source of friction for its consumers – everything seems to be constantly evolving at a rapid rate. Each of the 7 speakers that took to the stage made me realise the necessity of being open to change in this era of modern technology, if we are to really reach and make a significant impact on the lives of our consumers.

Reference List:

Voicesage 2017. About Us (Online). Available from: http://www.voicesage.com/index.php/our-story/ (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Netonomy.net 2013. Top 5 Largest Online Retailers – Who Are These Companies And How Did They Make It To The Top (Online). Available from: http://netonomy.net/2013/01/30/top-5-largest-online-retailers-who-companies-how-did-they-make-it/ (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Bank of Ireland 2017. Sponsorship (Online). Available from: https://www.bankofireland.com/about-bank-of-ireland/about-the-group/sponsorship/ (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Bank of Ireland 2013. Bank of Ireland to provide free support for small businesses using Twitter (Online). Available from: https://www.bankofireland.com/about-bank-of-ireland/press-room/press-releases/item/393/bank-of-ireland-to-provide-free-support-for-small-businesses-using-twitter/ (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Swati Joshi 2017. Why Video Marketing is the New Darling of the Marketing World (Online). Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/swati-joshi/why-video-marketing-is-th_b_9230342.html (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Jonah Berger 2016. Research shows micro-influencers gave more impact than average consumers [PDF] (Online). Available from: http://go2.experticity.com/rs/288-azs-731/images/experticity-kellerfaysurveysummary_.pdf (Accessed 28 February 2017)

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