Last week, the Wunderman Thompson social media team attended Social Media Week, an annual conference run by Adweek, that brings together the industry’s brightest minds in social media to showcase insights and strategies across three days of talks and workshops.

The social media landscape has never been more dynamic, exciting or complex, with new frontiers emerging and disrupting the existing rules of engagement. The key to success on Social Media going into 2023, is in understanding what these are, how to make the most of them and implementing effectively.

Below are the team’s key insights and learnings from each day at Social Media Week.

Day 1 – Entering The World Of Social Media 3.0

Web3 is the hardware upgrade for society and commerce.

First up, we heard from Lola Okuyiga, the founder of lifestyle and fashion brand Wonder, about focusing on underrepresented audiences and increasing representation and ownership through Web3. NFTs are going to have a bigger comeback than the QR code, with digital collectibles and utility being key.

Community in the Web3 era is not just a list of followers that you simply publish to.

Lindsey McInerney, founder of Sixth Wall, and Tina Ziegler, art curator and NFT consultant, talked next about early Web3 winners being those that power up their biggest fans with the tools to create alongside them first. There is not a one-size-fits-all Web3 strategy and each brand will need to reflect on their own community, product and story to understand the best approach to maximise their future in the space.

Success in the Metaverse will come from having first mover advantage.

Diageo's Will Harvey, Dialect, Inc.'s Haifa Barbari and Digital Catapult's Max Cleary discussed the future of the Metaverse and the opportunities it will unleash. It’s important for brands to embrace the test and learn mindset. You need to start small to think big. The Metaverse rulebook is currently being invented, so brands should be experimenting. The space is evolving quickly, making it a risk and reward game, with huge opportunities for brands that take that first mover advantage.

The Metaverse will not be successful without community.

Next, we heard from BEN's Ricky Ray Butler on how to help brands navigate the creator economy and emerging technologies, as well as the importance of AI. The Metaverse according to Ricky is already here and consumers are engaging with it. However, whenever brands are more excited about a term than consumers, you need to be careful how you analyse it. He believes that creators are the biggest advertising medium today and will power the Metaverse and Web3.

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Day 2 – Brands Building Fandom – Connecting & Growing Communities

There is no distinction for young people between ‘digital selves’ and ‘real selves’.

Sixth Wall founder Lindsey McInerney opened Day 2 to talk about identity in the Metaverse and crafting more fluid self-representation in immersive spaces. We learnt that identity can be incredibly fluid or multidimensional and that it’s not always possible or desirable to be who we are in reality. The internet is the place where we’ve been able to express ourselves and if social media is the output of Web 2.0, then the Metaverse is the output of Web 3.0, meaning more exciting and nuanced ways to explore who we are or tell people who we are.

UGC is quickly taking over as the top consumer brand strategy for growth in 2023.

Skinny Tan's Hayley Hall and LoudCrowd's Justin Papermaster talked about how the exponential reach of UGC is quickly taking over as one of the top brand strategies for growth in 2023. Reach and engagement have dropped across platforms because social algorithms have been reworked to prioritise authenticity and UGC. You’re more likely to engage with people you know or follow so brands can’t rely on their own posts and must develop a strategy that thinks about audience holistically, such as working through micro creators and figures who facilitate trust.

Put community connections at the heart of brand strategy, not just social strategy.

Depop's Jumoke Adekunle spoke about social commerce and the role of influencers in creating communities, all while doing it sustainably. Depop's mission is to build the world’s most progressive and diverse home of fashion with a community-powered ecosystem. They seek to be the home of fashion, not the house of fashion. Jumoke spoke of the importance of focusing on authentic, long-term relationships, not just tactical partnerships and to make sure you have long-term feedback loops in place. Initiatives that create meaningful, mutual value rather than one-way value extraction are key to their success.

Always think ‘platform first’ and tailor social ads to the people seeing them.

Mediaocean's Javed Laher, MBA shared his strategies for personalisation and making sure ads are tailored to audiences correctly. Consumers expect relevant experiences and brands must deliver that consistently with each social channel. Each channel requires a different mindset. For example, if you’re in a club and you see an ad for Harry Potter, or you’re in a library and see an ad for drinks, that might seem odd. Swap them and they suddenly make sense. 70% of consumers expect brands they interact with to know their needs and preferences.

Create niche, useful social content that is relevant to your audience on TikTok.

Chef and TikTok star Poppy O'Toole talked about how she uses TikTok to communicate and ways the platform supports her in growing an engaged community. Poppy gave some lessons for brands, such as how niches always seem to perform better on the platform than broader content. Niches build a community of lovers and keeps them there and engaged. TikTok needs to be seen as a continued conversation and not just a video you made three months ago and uploaded.

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Day 3 – The Next Frontier: Harnessing the Cutting Edge of Social Media to Establish Brand Influence and Create Lasting Impact

Brands can’t exist in today’s world without a foundation in social media.

Vicky L. Free talked about her focus at Adidas on building a purpose-driven brand that matches storytelling with story doing. In their mission to keep the consumer at the heart of what they do at Adidas, social media moves at the speed of culture and helps them refine on the fly. Social media platforms give the opportunity to see what’s working. Adidas work hard to build on human insights but always execute and activate at the local level.

Gen Z audiences want entertainment, imperfection and for people to be more real on social platforms.

Ryanair's Head of Social Media Michael Corcoran spoke about his brand's irreverent, humour-led approach that helps them stand out in the social space. Michael pointed out that the main motivation people go to social media is not to see polished ads but to be entertained and get away from what’s going on in the world. Posting polished content does not provide the value people are looking for. His advice is to really think about communities and understand what people really want, then use that to connect them with your brand.

It's impossible to be perfect and if you are perfect then you might be quite vanilla.

LEGO Group's Rachelle Denton talked about how one of the world’s most loved brands remains culturally relevant after 90 years. Social media is a critical part of LEGO’s marketing mix and their philosophy is that in a social media environment it’s impossible to be perfect because it’s a test and learn environment. If you’re continually learning things and testing to do your best work, you can only do better. So be playful.

Throughout the week we also entered daily workshops, with highlights being joining Brandwatch and Reddit for a chat about communities on Reddit, where relevance and context are everything, helping us to better understand how brands and agencies can successfully enter these conversations and pull meaningful data.

We really enjoyed out time at Social Media Week, whether it was listening to the speakers or networking and talking to others as part of workshops we leave with a lot that we can apply moving forwards in our work.

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