Exploring the 'New Normal' at Social Media Week New York 2021
During this year's Social Media Week New York (aka SMWNYC21), the conversation was largely focused on the 'new normal'. As everyone's experiences and routines are changing, the ways in which we communicate have adapted faster than ever before. This transition has allowed digital media, specifically social, to grow at a rapid pace—sparking innovation and positive progression in trying times. Throughout SMWNYC21, three underlying strategies that developed in the past year were discussed that will carry forward in post-pandemic media.
Get back to basics and listen first
Brands have largely shifted focus, prioritizing messaging surrounding meaningful connections. When the social space was crowded with what seemed like infinite news updates, non-essential messaging took a back seat for most of the past year. This challenged brands to re-think their strategies, forcing them to transform communication to break through the clutter, and in some cases, pause and re-launch with more relevant, meaningful messaging strategies. Nadja Bellan-White, global chief marketing officer at VICE Media highlighted this shift during SMWNYC21, advising all brands to reset, prioritize positivity, and focus on quality content, as everything else will follow.
Getting back to basics and taking a 'listening first' approach is essential as the values, needs, and standards consumers demand from brands have drastically changed, and continue to do so as we work through the new normal.
While brands have faced unprecedented challenges, they have also been presented with a unique opportunity—reimagining social. Because business as usual was seemingly on pause, advertisers who wanted to stay in the game were forced to innovate, with some ideas successfully pushing the limits. With human interaction few and far between, communication transitioned to almost completely virtual. Through this change, digital developments progressed at a rapid pace, not only changing the way we interact with each other but how we interact with brands.
Through this dramatic shift, AR grew, filling in the gaps in connection. The blending of reality and AR aids in merging physical experiences for people around the world, and the people next door. Tools that seemed to only be used on occasion are now skyrocketing, becoming an essential substitute for interaction and brand experiences. As users are widely accepting and prioritizing this method of communication, brands are naturally following suit. Elizabeth Valleau, Global Creative Lead of Augmented Reality at Facebook leaned into this change, outlining the strides her team has taken in the past year to transform AR. Now that this augmented world is "always-on" brands can leverage at scale, virtually taking users on an island getaway, or assisting in trying on a new shade of lipstick without leaving the couch. Ultimately, brands need to adapt to the way in which people are sending and receiving messages and develop tools to enter in the line of communication.
Adaptation is key to identifying opportunity
Through blending world experiences, brands can facilitate connections among the disconnected. Moksha Fitzgibbons, President of NTWRK, echoed the importance of virtual storytelling when he highlighted developments in live stream shopping, a new concept that is rapidly taking flight. From the challenge of a virtual shift, brands continue to adapt and innovate, prioritizing experiences relevant to current norms.
In place of sample sales, grand openings, and product line drops, brands need to get creative in how they generate excitement around online shopping. Influencer storytelling and e-commerce have crossed paths, transforming shopping from retired QVC videos to engaging, episodic content that aligns influential creators with brands and product drops—sparking excitement and unprecedented engagement. This concept creates a sense of anticipation and exclusivity, only allowing product access to users who tune in and gain access to live stream content. These are just two examples of many unique innovations and transformative tactics that have blossomed from extreme challenge and unique conditions.
Overall, strong foundations facilitate innovation
Throughout the entirety of Social Media Week New York, the focus remained on getting back to basics and strengthening fundamentals, which will allow brands to pioneer new ideas. Industry leaders are tuned in, coming together to make significant advances in the social space.
Gabrielle Ciarleglio is supervisor, paid social, at Digitas