It was our best line-up yet as our 5th annual INTERACT Summit went live this week to talk through what drives us as marketers, creators – and people - in social and digital. Our theme this year was “Finding our New Culture”, and this ran the gamut from what we (now) expect out of work, through to how we approach leadership (and yes, even how we need to approach media measurement).
As we’ve navigated the ups and downs of the past two years many of us have shifted our focus. The data tells the story pretty clearly. In this Zoom centric time, the interest being shown on social media in items you don’t see on camera, like shoes, fell 82% versus the same time pre-pandemic. There were also drops in beauty products, fashion and weight loss as many of us adjusted our priorities towards broader topics, like “change your life” (up 48% vs pre pandemic), “finding meaning” (up 151%) and even more practical topics like “changing jobs” (up 355%). . For some, expressing our creativity became more important with apps like garage band up over 100% and people engaging with content about going to events 237% more.
What’s next is about embracing the unknown, welcoming the chaos, becoming a beginner again. Perhaps life has always been uncertain but because of what we’re experiencing as a society we can’t ignore it anymore. It’s all there in the data but it’s also there in what we’re feeling every day and the best approach is about combining them both, the art and the science, the music and the math to make something that helps us to get closer to where we are going.
We opened the Summit with a TikTok panel that showcased creator marketing content from brands that have a strong social game. If you still think TikTok is a Gen Z, ecosystem our data in our newly released Total Digital platform proves otherwise. It shows the growth of TikTok has been in really healthy double digits, but we saw some of the strongest growth with the 35 plus age group.
It’s something TikTok’s Adrienne Lahens highlighted during the discussion: “one of my favorite segments of creators are the grandfluencers so certainly it’s a platform or everyone and every age and we really focus on bringing such a diverse variety of creative on the platform and we’re much more focused this year on teaching brands how they should show up on the platform”.
Univision’s Leslie Koch, Fox Entertainment’s Diogo Felippelli and NBC Entertainment’s Guy Ram talked about where they’ve found success with short form video. Koch shared that their Hispanic audience is super active on social and three quarters of their followers on social use TikTok weekly “something surprising for us is that every audience is on TikTok. We’ve run campaigns for mums, small business owners, sports fanatics, we’ve really run the range.”
The strongest take out from the session was that experimentation and authenticity are key on TikTok. That means testing the platform, watching the content, and working with your creators because they know what works. As Ram said “it’s about keeping the authenticity without being cheesy and forceful. We work with creators but as a creator ourselves when we think about how we bring it to TikTok that feels native to the platform, it is the audience showing us the way.” Felippelli agreed, “If you take risks and you understand your audience and hear them out, you can build a really sound content strategy”.
Fostering an insights culture that values testing was another recurring theme. Cristina Chiesa, Senior Director of US Insights and Analytics, for the Baked Snacks and On-the-Go portfolios at Mondelez International talked about how to foster a learning culture - which is pretty critical when you’re driving growth for a brand like Oreo that’s been a household name for 110 years.
“What’s important for somebody that measures things for a living is to create a culture where people feel comfortable learning, evolving and changing their mind or saying, “I don't know, I'm going to learn about that and come back to you”.
While scorecards have their place at the right time in a platform’s evolution, Chiesa cautions against what she terms a “scorecard culture” - which can incentivize teams to focus on the wrong things.
So how do you set up a framework that incentivizes people to embrace a learning culture? Chiesa said the frameworks need to be agile. That you can't be learning very late in the piece that it didn't work, and must aim to see everything you do as helpful in finding your direction.
“When you start early on by understanding your brands, you understand the problem that is the key to agility. Make sure that you understand the fundamentals and then start measuring, little by little, narrow down what you want to learn. Don't wait until there is a big study because any one data point will fail you. Any one data point is contrary to agility.”
Variety is a 117 year old brand that is also finding new ways to stay fresh and young and growing. Its Chief Marketing and Chief Operating officer Dea Lawrence said it recently shifted its strategy to really focus on Facebook and TikTok after looking at some of the analysis from Shareablee, “It all starts with the content, if you create great content, you will get the audience. It’s no secret.” She said it’s riskier to stand still than to move on a new idea and that doing nothing is not a strategy.
“You have to make a decision and you have to go for it. We produce 70 live events throughout the year and when the pandemic hit we all gathered and said we have to go virtual and we have to do it fast and it paid off in a big, big way. In a very tumultuous time we were able to build up a whole other business”.
At INTERACT, we embrace contrarians on the program. Our keynote speaker Rand Fishkin came on to remind us that hustling isn’t the only option. He says the future of work is optionality. Fishkin is an advocate for chill work that enables choices for better sleep, people feeling supported, and making smarter decisions so you don’t have to work harder to get better results.
“When I speak about this publicly people always say, ‘well couldn’t you make more money if you worked harder?’ Yes, maybe - but I think burnout, poor decisions and stress will actually make us worse over the long term.” He says it’s about efficiency not quantity and that means minimizing process. We’d love to hear what you thought about his perspective.
No matter which approach you’re more comfortable with, Optum RX’s Steve Cragle, says how you deal with change is ultimately the key. If the last two years drove home any reality it’s that chaos has always been and will always been a reality of life, maybe there was never a much simpler time.
We heard that the pandemic obliterated the illusion that any aspects of our lives, society or business are static and controllable. Once you let go of that ‘fiction’ possibilities open up said Cragle: “change and chaos has always been the status quo, but the idea is you don’t want to be paralyzed and risk averse forever pining for times past, if you’re able to overcome your fear of change and recognize that sometimes as human we fear fear, for fear itself.”
“If you can get comfortable with the idea that chaos is the wellspring of innovation and all progress, it’s in confronting chaos that society moves forward.”
Ultimately all the sessions at INTERACT were about helping us all move forward or at least identify which directions we want to pursue next, whether it’s at work, at home or in our communities.
If you weren’t able to join us, sign up for all the session recordings here but even better – catch us next June 2023.
We’ll be sharing short video highlights from the Summit via comscore.com/interact
Left to right: Frank Kavilanz, Tania Yuki, Cristina Chiesa & Joe O’Donoghue at the 2022 INTERACT Summit