social media The social web is now fully embedded into our lives. It’s the new normal in audience behaviour and university and employer brands ignore it at their peril. But how are organisations tackling the challenge? Amy Mollett, LSE Social Media Manager, and Sarah Guthrie, LSE Head of Internal Communications, share six things they learned at the Social Media Week Conference 2015 in London.

This piece originally appeared on the LSE Communications Blog.

1. Don’t just make video content for the sake of it; make good video content that users want to share

Many media and marketing commentators have named 2015 the year of video: video marketing on social media is getting increasingly bigger, with brands pushing more and more video content to us not just through YouTube, but through Facebook and Twitter too.

In her session on advertising, Sarah Wood, cofounder & COO of video ad tech company , noted that the number of videos being produced is on the increase but share rates are down. What does this tell us? Your audience will decide whether your content is social: if it’s not good enough then it won’t be shared. Consider why your audience would want to share the video and what’s in it for them.

2. GIFs and Vines don’t work for everyone

Blogs, brands, and news websites commonly use short video content in the form of GIFs and Vines to grab the reader’s attention and inject some comedy or behind the scenes action into the content. Two examples of those that do it well are Buzzfeed – who use lists of fun GIFs and clips to keep readers entertained and increase the average session time (see ‘25 Times A “Friends” GIF Perfectly Described Life‘) – and the BBC, whose Vine channel features clips from their longer news reports.

But this trend doesn’t work for everyone. Georgina Goode, Head of Social Media at the Government Digital Service, commented that for GOV.UK’s Twitter feed and website, users don’t want to engage for very long. Instead, a focus on simple micro messages and signposting on Twitter has been the key to keeping users happy.

3. There’s still lots of work to be done on diversity in media, marketing, and communications

Like many conferences, there were occasions where some Social Media Week panels were lacking in diversity. Some in the audience called this out, even referring to the excellent All Male Panels Tumblr, whose tagline “congratulations, you have an all male panel!” sits above a name and shame list.

One panel session focused on women’s experiences of discrimination and sexism working in the media, and while the anecdotes and experiences were interesting, the session could have been strengthened by some data and resources on these topics. The overall pay gap in Britain stands at 19.1 per cent measured by median gross hourly pay and it would have been interesting to have some data on salary comparison in media and communications. In terms of resources, groups and staff networks can be very valuable for support or sharing ideas (see LSE Power), and there are many great websites with advice on careers, diversity and success (a favourite being Levo).

4. We should definitely not be content

Linking back to the first point and the debate around ‘Content’, Will Hayward, Chief Commercial Director from Dazed Group, has an issue with the word and feels it is an injustice to all of the work created editorially for audiences.

Will argued that the era of ‘content’ being the buzz word is coming to an end. Culture has evolved to maximise the opportunities social media offers and even humour has changed and new types of comedy have been born – a great example was the response to David Cameron’s tweet last year about the Ukraine, which culminated in many responses.

It’s vital to raise ambitions and create something meaningful and inspirational. Don’t just create things to fill space, but respond to needs and wants so that the audience can’t help but listen and respond. Will also argued that the need for continuous communication is bringing the notion of ‘campaigns’ to an end. You need to focus on what you are and what you can do that is different. This will deliver value for your organisation.

5. The future of university, recruitment and employee marketing is social

A panel from Intercontinental Hotels Group, The Student Room and consultancy Havas People, who specialise in recruitment and employee marketing, considered what they have learned and where the future is.

The social web is now fully embedded into our lives. It’s the new normal in audience behaviour and university and employer brands ignore it at their peril. But how are organisations tackling the challenge?

The answer, it seems, is to delve further into Facebook. It’s still top dog and its reach is getting older. For the younger audience instant messaging is more of interest and more direct than posting content. And for The Student Room, they are growing their own social media platform.

For employee engagement, and student engagement in our case, it’s important to open up social media to the organisation. It can play a significant role and employees (and students) are a huge representation of the brand. Don’t create a ‘social media policy’ but a ‘social media playbook’, so that it’s not about do’s and don’ts, but getting everyone involved.

“Enterprise social networks” is a key strand of activity in employee engagement. For the uninitiated this is applying social networks into the organisation. One view was that Yammer had lost its way and the future is with Slack, used already by NASA. However, a range of views prevailed and there was experience of using Yammer, Basecamp and Tribe across the room.

6. BuzzFeed has big ambitions

Heidi Blake, UK Investigations Editor for BuzzFeed, shared the social news and entertainment company’s vision to shape a new type of journalism.

Their aim is to write and share stories with impact which rise to change. They are focussed on social sharing and the reader deciding on whether to share a story with friends. People will only share stories which they care about and this will lead to democratisation of news.

BuzzFeed wants to challenge traditional investigative journalism. It is not a didactic briefing on the news, but about people sharing what’s important to them and recognising that everything has a different audience. They are carving out space for investigative journalism and worked with Newsnight on the Kids Company investigation. They want to be the defining media company of this century. So watch this space…


Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author

Amy Mollett is Social Media Manager at LSE.

Sarah Guthrie is Head of Internal Communications at LSE.

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