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Everything We Learnt at State of Social 2023

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1st September 2023 in

State of Social made its triumphant return to Perth last month, gathering marketing experts from around the world to explore the interactions between authenticity, community and technology.

Contrary to the whirlwind of technological advancements that have swept through our industry this year, State of Social went beyond routine discussions about the latest tools. Meg Coffey, the founder of State of Social, welcomed the audience by clarifying that our primary focus as an industry should not be on the tools themselves but “the change our tools allow us to enact and the connections we make with them.”

We’ve unpacked the key themes from the event by incorporating insights from the speakers and pulling out critical ideas to help you better engage with your audience.

The Need for Authenticity

With many markets and channels today saturated with competition, authenticity has emerged as a key differentiator for brands. The quest for authenticity, underscored by Edwin Smith’s assertion that “authentic and real is the new perfect and polished”, signifies a pivotal shift in consumer-brand interactions.

Andrés López-Valera of Storyation, Bec Sands, Brittany Garbutt of Pretzel Australia and Bronte O’Donoghue from Eagle Bay Brewing Co all took the opportunity to expand upon the idea of brand authenticity at State of Social this year.

The keys to authentic brand interactions are:

  1. Focus on topics and audiences that are genuinely relevant to your brand. Ignore the rest.
  2. Select your key message and communicate it consistently.
  3. Lean into your brand story.
  4. Don’t be afraid to act like a human and make mistakes.

It may have paid to be conservative in the past but audiences of today are looking to make real connections with the brands they interact with. Review the areas where your brand touches your audience and look for opportunities to be more authentic and real.

Building Community and Co-Creating

Once you’ve found your audience, the next step is to build a community. With the tools and platforms available to marketers today, establishing a community and co-creating with your audience has become easier than ever.

Liana Rossi of Ogilvy PR Australia kicked off State of Social by highlighting the effectiveness of targeting niche audiences. Ogilvy’s research indicates that niche communities consistently yield better campaign results when compared with mass-market targeting. To illustrate her point, Rossi referenced Spotify’s The Art of The Playlist campaign. In this campaign, Spotify empowered its playlist curators with Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) tools to create custom playlist artwork. Despite there being no pressure for users to share their creations, the campaign sparked a surge in organic shares of Spotify playlists and their new Gen AI artwork, showcasing the power of engaging niche audiences through their passions.

It’s critical to do more than merely mimic the behaviours of your audience, however. Time should be invested in understanding the cultural codes of the niches you aim to engage. Bec Smith of Brownes Dairy, Kelly-Ann Bunney from Margaret River Brewhouse and Patrick Blacker of Blacker Media all stressed the importance of understanding communities, suggesting that brands should first identify what matters most to their audience and then create opportunities to connect.

Start your community-building journey by:

  1. Gleaning insights from your website data and reviews to understand what your audience is truly looking for.
  2. Investigating the cultural codes and context of your audience, ensuring you know how to speak their language and meet them on their terms.
  3. Eliminating the ‘one-size-fits-all’ marketing approach.
  4. Creating opportunities for your audience to interact, co-create and connect with your brand.

Balancing New Technology and Effectiveness

When you find yourself in the midst of technological upheaval (as our industry often does), it’s important to remember that all that glitters is not gold. Yes, AI is allowing marketers to work in never-before-imaginable ways, but as Coffey made in her opening remarks, “There’s a delicate balance to be struck between the cutting edge and preserving quality.”

López-Valera doubled down on Coffey’s statement, saying “Contrary to the polarising opinions about AI, a middle-ground does exist—neither diving headfirst nor completely rejecting it.” It’s in this balance that campaign effectiveness lies. Marketers today have an opportunity to tap into an entirely new source of inspiration and efficiency while still leaning on the tried-and-true methods that resonate with their audiences.

Pretzel Australia’s Brittany Garbutt felt strongly about this point, underscoring the importance of not losing touch with the real world where our audiences physically reside. She referred to Pretzel’s Pink Duck treasure hunt campaign, where rubber duck toys where hidden across Perth and Melbourne with clues to their location being given out on Pretzel’s online platforms. Garbutt and her team were able to leverage their online channels to drive real-world activity, and she noted that the remarkable success of the campaign in terms of online impressions and in-store activity spoke for itself.

Striking a balance between new and tried-and-true comes down to the following principles:

  1. Analyse and test the impact of new technologies before you commit to full organisational adoption.
  2. Consider your key levers for audience engagement and determine if an improvement can, and should, be made using new technology.
  3. Remember that your goal is campaign effectiveness, regardless of the methods for achieving that.

In Summary

Embody authenticity, foster community, and judiciously balance the adoption of new technologies. As marketers, our ultimate goal is to make real, meaningful connections with our audiences, and to do so, we must be genuine, thoughtful, and strategic in our approach.

Interested in more State of Social insights? Our very own Johari Lanng spoke at the event and presented his tips on navigating the Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) transition. Learn more and download four GA4 resources here.

Header image courtesy of State of Social.

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