One of the US’ premiere arenas to gain the latest insights on social media trends from a number of influential brands.

Among them:
GoogleFacebookTwitterLinkedInSalesforce, BuzzFeed, SocialChain, GreyAmerican ExpressOREOJP Morgan ChaseRedBullNew York TimesVox Media, and hundreds of others. 
Here are 4 packed days condensed into 7 takeaways from this years conference to take note of for 2019:

1. Create Stories for the viewers – not for you

STORIES obviously hold a lot of power in any industry, and brands are taking a deep dive into storytelling and video content period. Brands should ask themselves: are we being useful to ourselves and fulfilling on your own KPIs – or are we being useful to others aka our customers? In order to be truly sustainable and authentic, stories are best told via local talent and forces, in their voices. H.L. Ray, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Samsung, called this the “insight-out approach”. Shared value systems will help your brand speak organically and naturally. LinkedIn says we often tend to get ‘lost’ in our own brand bubble, and are way to obsessed with our own ‘self’ and what we want to say. One thing to always keep in mind is, it’s always about THEM, never about YOU. Always think about what you want the viewer to do, and be clear with your message.

2. Video marketing: save the best for first

Big brands, like LinkedIn, emphasized the need for a heightened focus on creating shorter videos, with the core of the messaging up front and within 10 sec of view time, even though 3 sec views can also contribute to increased brand awareness and purchase intent. Marketers often make the mistake of modelling their video storytelling off films through surprising or delighting viewers at the end - but people consume and experience that media type in a completely different way than ads and social media. If you don’t grab your audience’s attention immediately, you’ll lose them. Start with the most interesting element of your story to make them want more.  And, the number one; don’t expect your story or video to go viral. EVER. That in itself should never be your goal.

SMW Influencer Panel

3. Mega, Micro or Nano?

From a panel called “Performance Over Potential: Turning Influencer Marketing Upside Down” we heard that with great influence, comes even greater responsibility. And choosing the right influencer can make or break your campaign. Industry influencers are your best bet, if you are looking to create long term relationships, think of them as an extension to your brand, and treat your influencers partners as creative directors. Creative freedom can be immensely powerful when used this way, and you’ll want to turn influencers into long term advocates for your product or destination.  
Where 2018 was all about the ‘who’, 2019 is more about the ‘how’ – really think about how you are going to continue using that content beyond the campaign dates. Ask yourselves if this influencer has the right aesthetic and audience with this particular influencer  and will he/she create content that’s native and true to their handle and profile?  Are you in this for the quick fix and performance, or do we want to establish long lasting partnerships and brand ambassadors and evergreen content? It’s important to have those KPIs defined on the front end.

Most traffic from influencers isn’t measurable and a session with the The Outloud Group noted that 75% of influencer traffic is not directly attributable – so think of ways you can correlate different data types to your actual activations. For example, measure website traffic volume and follower count in relation to the timing of a specific influencer campaign.

4. Go vertical!

Consider 9:16 formats with most of your video content in 2019, try serving them as short ‘heartbeats’ or reinforce your core message every 3, 10 and 30 seconds for long form video (or say it in different ways). An idea is to create :5 clips and run as slideshows.  Find and highlight YOUR sweet spot with video and be consistent with sequential content.

5. Test, test, test

A/B testing (hands down THE most packed session at SMWNYC  this year!) is alfa omega, guys.
Especially anything new, or anything politically nuanced or provocative – measuring two different versions of either copy or creative can be a really helpful way to optimize, and it’s super easy to execute.
Why? Without any kind of failed variables, we can’t really be sure anything was truly a success.

A well known industry story: 
When Google were deciding on the color blue in their now infamous URLs, Marissa Mayer ordered testing on 40 shades of blue to be sure it would  the right one, and had them randomly shown to a number of visitors and Google would note which color earned more clicks. That’s how the color blue you see in Google Mail and on the Google page was chosen.

Facebook can automatically split test (as you can with most distribution and enewsletter platforms) and this can reveal what type of creatives and formats you should be producing more of, or what type of messaging or CTAs are more engaging, which can contribute to increased click-conversion rates – an efficient way to maximize spend overall. Be strict with testing and test one thing at a time (copy, or CTA or creative). Such tests can even be fanned out and ran from different pages.

6. LinkedIn dives into video - big time

LinkedIn is launching a slew of new products this year, that are really useful for B2B marketers.
Linked in Live – think sessions with a ‘Ask us anything’ type theme or events.
Video Ads - Linkedin is taking a deep dive into the video ad space, partnering with Moat.
Conversation Ads (2019 release, in beta) - great for B2B and employee engagement, etc

7. Mindful media diets

Lastly, there’s a growing concern over social media well-being. Users are becoming more cynical - with growing awareness of fake accounts, fake news and fake followers. We should all take a stand and use social for a ‘greater good’ - be responsible and use effective storytelling for social change and contribute to serving a well balanced media diet in these spaces and platforms. We need people to care about the quality of our media, we can be fun, but still be taken seriously. Be aware of the challenges we face in an increasingly divided and anxious world, when using humor. 
As a destination, our paradox is telling stories from a privileged life, Norway being one of the richest, happiest and ‘greenest’ places on Earth, and how we communicate that in a respectful and humble way in order to build an inspiring brand that people will want to invest their time with is everything.

(Insights collected from sessions with VOX, Facebook, Grey, SocialChain, IBM Watson and LinkedIn)

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As a special thank you for reading our blog post, we’d like to share this report we received at the 2019 American Traveler Trends Forum - Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at Grand Hyatt in New York.
Now, you can DOWNLOAD “The State of the American Traveler” for FREE! Destination Analysts is a market research company that provides the travel industry with a breadth of insights through actionable storytelling of data—from the comprehensive understanding of target audiences. If the US is one of your prioritized target markets, we're pretty sure you’ll find it useful (just click on the link to download).