Four Takeaways from Social Media Week Chicago

September 30, 2013

Social Media Week Chicago

Webster’s Dictionary defines social media as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal ideas and other content.” Social media as a term is not even ten years old (according to Webster’s), yet it continues to evolve and change. With this in mind, I attended Social Media Week in Chicago last week.

Due to other obligations and time constraints, I was only able to attend six of the more than 180 sessions. However, I noticed a few things while attending these sessions. Here are four:

1. Story is important. Whether a session focused on content marketing, branding or social media in general, the word I kept hearing throughout my time at Social Media Week Chicago was “story.” In fact, five of the six sessions I attended mentioned the importance of story. Brands need to be able to tell a strong, convincing story about their product(s) in order to attract customers. Content marketers need to craft a strong story about their clients/products in order to continually attract web visitors.

At the Monday session on telling your brand story, Brandtrust CEO Daryl Travis described how stories tap into both the conscious (5 percent) and unconscious portions (95 percent) of our brain. He mentioned that successful products/brands are usually better at telling their story and that consumers often draw from the brand’s story in order to help shape their own.

In the session on content marketing, members of Cramer-Krasselt stressed that marketers need to “do more than tell a story, tell your story” and indicated that consumers in general want to know more about the brand and its story.

In his keynote, author and comedian B.J. Mendelson recommended that the audience pick up a copy of Robert McKee’s “Story” in order to gain a better perspective and understanding of story.

2. Social Media is Sometimes Bullshit. This takeaway is borrowed from the title of the B.J. Mendelson book “Social Media is Bullshit.” Medelson offered his view about social media during Wednesday’s early session. Consider him the anti-social media guru in a world of marketing and social media “gurus.”

In his presentation, Mendelson offered the audience a different perspective of social media. While many marketing experts believe that social media is the ultimate solution to market an organization and its products today, Mendelson reminded the audience that more than 290 million Americans do not use Twitter and 287 million Americans do not use Facebook (his data shared in the presentation). He also stressed that all communication viewed on Twitter and Facebook is being expressed by a minority of people, yet mainstream media tends to represent this communication as coming from the majority.

Mendelson believes that journalists don’t do enough fact-checking and that information shared on social channels can easily be manipulated and regarded as truth when, in fact, it is not. He recommended that journalists and marketers spend more time gathering data, preferably offline.

In addition to the Robert McKee book mentioned above, Mendelson recommended that marketers read Northwestern University’s “Kellogg on Marketing,” a book considered one of the bibles of marketing. I found this as an interesting and a wise recommendation.

I didn’t agree with everything Mendelson said, but I appreciated his point of view and liked that he stressed the importance of having a more broad understanding of marketing.

3. Face to Face is as important as ever. While social media is all about communicating online, I believe the magic happens when we communicate in person. That’s why events like Social Media Week, South by Southwest (SXSW) and Blogworld have been so popular. These events are great for learning, but they’re even better for making strong connections.

In his presentation, B.J. Mendelson indicated that he sees a trend of more social media going offline and mentioned that 93 percent of word-of-mouth marketing is offline.

My favorite moments of Social Media Week occurred when I was able to connect and say hello to friends and people in my network. It was also great to speak and shake hands with world-renowned chef Homaro Cantu from Chicago’s moto restaurant. Interestingly, Cantu edits most of the videos for his restaurant.

4. Get creative. My favorite session at this year’s Social Media Week was “Influencing Social Awesomizers With Personal Content” delivered by Rise Interactive CEO Jon Morris. What I loved about it was the significant amount of creativity that the Rise team utilized by creating an infographic that helped describe the online confrontation between the Kansas City Chiefs and Chiefs fan and marketing strategist Travis Wright. The infographic helped forge a relationship between the agency and the very influential Wright. I enjoyed learning about the thought process behind this and other influencer campaigns which Rise has created.

In a the crowded world of social media, its more important than ever to utilize creative ideas in order to gain the attention from friends and followers.

For more on getting creative, please visit “How to Keep Your Creative Juices Flowing“, a blog post from Kira Byczek on the Social Media Week website.

Overall, my experience at Social Media Week was a positive one and I look forward to putting this knowledge to good use for my clients.


If you attended the event in Chicago, what were your favorite sessions? What were your key takeaways?