7 key takeaways from SMWF 2012

Social Media World Forum 2012

Earlier this week I attended the Social Media World Forum (#SMWF) in Olympia, London. As the first big conference of the year I was looking forward to the event, especially so as the schedule included some big name speakers (stand-outs included Chris Brogan and Scott Monty from Ford) and many of the sessions promised some very interesting discussions and insights.

After a debrief and review of the two days, I’ve compiled a short list of some of my main observations, insights and learnings from SMWF 2012:

Design matters

This isn’t just about the visual style and design of an online channel (which is very important) but also the way in which processes are designed.

Social tools, for example, should be used as part of a business. Just as the marketing department shouldn’t have the only telephone in the business, they shouldn’t be the only ones responsible for managing social media.

Design also extends to one’s own website. Every website – regardless of who it belongs to – should have a conversion element to it. The goal should be to always let the customer know what to do next. This shouldn’t be executed by offering a plethora of choices but by making the customer experience clear and straightforward at every possible touchpoint.

Key source: Chris Brogan

Social media is becoming increasingly visual

With the emergence of Pinterest and the visualisation of FacebookTwitter and Google+, it’s clear that social media is becoming increasingly visual by nature and will continue to be a key trend of 2012.

It’s long been agreed that brands are having to become publishers and creating and maintaining visual output will become another important facet to content creation.

Key source: Panel – The evolution of the conversation

The technology is not enough

As much as social media can be a boon for your business, one shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that new technologies will magically solve a brand’s problems or suddenly bring in extra custom.

Just as buying in CRM software will not immediately allow you to form better relationships with your customers, social media tools are unlikely to help you ‘engage‘ your audience and spread your content virally.

To manage relationships and build successful communities online you must already possess key social/interaction skills. There are no short-cuts and therefore no amount of technology will make up for a lack of these core skills.

Key source: Panel – Managing online reputation via social media

Not all social media users are created equal

With the advent of frictionless sharing, brands such as the Guardian have been able to boost traffic to its Facebook app by allowing readers to opt in and share all articles they read with their Facebook friends.

Whilst some users are comfortable sharing content passively throughout their social graph, what about others that are more conservative?

Brands must consider the spectrum of users they’re engaging with on social networks and design for both the enthusiastic and conservative user.

Key source: Panel – Social media engagement measurement and metrics

Learn the art of storytelling

Storytelling is a vital skill and it will become increasingly important for companies to learn how to tell compelling stories about themselves.

Brands must focus on developing their ‘voice’ and telling the right stories to convey the messages they want to get across to the consumers they’re targeting.

In addition to this, companies should also consider creating stories based on the experiences of their customers. Why are people buying things from them? What are their stories about the brand?

Key source: Benjamin Ellis

Be smart with data analysis

Collecting and analysing data is an essential task for any digital marketer and with the huge amount of emphasis currently being placed on social media ROI, for example, it’s important to measure how effective your digital marketing efforts are.

But data analysis can be a double-edged sword. Whilst being able to collect a large amount of data is good, it can also pose problems, i.e. data overload. It’s important therefore to focus first on what you want to know and work backward from there.

One must also learn to dig a little deeper with the data received. For example, people aren’t always truthful in focus groups and the real art is in asking the right questions in the right context to get to the real answers you’re looking for.

Key source: Panel – Monitoring and measuring social media

Creativity and imagination are essential

Being on Facebook or having a Twitter account is no longer enough. Social media is finally making its way into the mainstream and more and more brands are getting to grips with the potential it offers.

As a result, brands must think of creative ways to inspire their customers and be imaginative in their approach to integrating social into their marketing and day-to-day business processes.

Scott Monty highlighted two campaigns that caught my attention: Fiestagram and Doug, the Ford ‘Spokespuppet’.

Both of these campaigns are fun, amusing and quirky in their own way but are also extremely imaginative and capture people’s imaginations. In today’s increasingly noisy digital landscape it will be those that are willing to experiment and try something different that will win out over other’s who simply ‘follow the leader’.


Overall, I took a lot away from the conference although at times I did expect a little more original insight from the many ‘experts’ in the keynote addresses and panel discussions. I felt at times I was hearing the same points made about social media I heard one, two and even three years ago.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed a number of the panel discussions and the highlight keynote address for me was Chris Brogan’s from the very first session of the first day. Chris delivered a smart, humous and thought-provoking presentation that I’m certain most people benefited from.

How about you? Did you go to SMWF 2012? If so I’d love to know which sessions you attending, which ones you enjoyed much and what insights you took away from the conference.