Sounds are part of life, but when we learned how to bottle it up and share it back in 1877, well, that was the real birth of the power of sound. Thank you Thomas Edison for inventing the phonograph.
Sharing sound stimulates our thinking and triggers our past experiences. It’s amazing to see how our brains and sound relate. They seem to remember a lot more than we give them credit for. And they are often storing away experiences and repetitive sounds that we barely realize, until that same auditory signal triggers us in the future.
We know this is true just by thinking of how excited we can get as our favorite band starts to play songs we have heard hundreds of times. Less obvious, however, is how auditory “reminders” can trigger us during the course of a normal day.
Why is this important to all of us?
Well, in communications and marketing, we often focus on the written word and the visual image. Makes sense. We spend far less time on the auditory experience, even though it can transcend language, cultural barriers and other common obstacles we all face in reaching our customer. Why wouldn’t we use sound in our normal outreach to social channels for example? What is that distinguishing characteristic we want to trigger association with us each and every time?
It can become our auditory brand signature.
The auditory cortex part of our brain has the ability to precisely process and distinguish the wide range of sounds we experience. During this process, we hear certain sounds that cause us to feel a certain way emotionally. We can also distinguish different sounds by the memories they bring us.
If we are building brand value over time, we can then ask “what is the auditory experience that our customers have when they think of us?” “Are we using sound to drive behavior or to establish a signature that differentiates us in the minds of the customer, perhaps without us even realizing it is happening?
There is plenty of evidence that this is worth our time. Yes, having a great brand involves a cool name, logo and packaging. All are important visual appeals. However, it’s time to think of how to use all five senses online in a more powerful way. Haptic touch, by the way, is the latest innovation to make us rethink the power of the five senses.
The evidence is there that when done well, the use of sound is powerful. Whether we look at Nike’s 1988 Revolution ad or the jingles of Intel or McDonald’s or how GM associated with a great song from The Who, you can see the power of sound to get our attention, remind us of the power of a brand we love or help us pay attention to a new product in a way that is more entertaining.
Sound often adds that entertainment value. It makes things a bit more fun. And it ultimately becomes a signature that can build brand power. The next generation of musicians is figuring this out big-time, particularly rappers. Some rappers are using a certain word, phrase, or another name for themselves that they say in the beginning of their songs. This allows the listener to subconsciously identify which artist is about to rap if they are singing as a group. Some of the most iconic examples include Lil Wayne’s sound of a lighter, DJ Khaled’s phrase “we the best music” or the famous “major key”, and Wiz Khalifa’s funny laugh.
Which brings us back to the main point of today’s musing. Sound matters. It is underrepresented in how we market and communicate today, yet we know its power. We all experience it every day. Do we know what is in the auditory inventory of our customers and why? Better yet, do we understand how we can align with our customers and improve their joy and happiness with our brand via our auditory cues and sound?
It’s time to discover the full power of sound in our online world. And by the way, for the skeptics who think that smell and taste will never be online, just give it time. Entrepreneurs are breaking down the barriers one sense at a time.
Last week UK academics and representatives from the NHS and a couple of young people gathered at the House of Commons to take part in a panel run by GlobalNet21 on how we should approach meeting the healthcare needs of Generation Z. More meetup than formal consultation, I quite welcomed the unexpectedly random circumstances that gave the evening a more informal feel then you would expect: the Sri Lankan concurrent event which meant we spent ages in a very busy security queue outside, the change of room, the constant division bells for MP participation and the lack of attendance of perhaps the star of the show, the MP Lisa Cameron (SNP), herself.
None of that mattered much in the end because I was able to catch enough of the opener, the setting-the-scene Q&A between Dr. Sarah Lewis, Research Associate on the Digital Health Generation project, and two young people, Jack and Alex, and heard what they had to say about how Generation Z finds and uses healthcare information. The most important point they highlighted was the difficulty in finding information that they can trust. It was clear they feel they are navigating through all sorts of unfiltered information and it isn’t easy to find credible experiences as sites/apps aren’t advertised adequately. They noted the danger of winding up in bubbles of misinformation but seemed aware of this and clearly had started to craft strategies to mitigate its risk. To form fairly confident decisions, they reported having to constantly check with other sources in order to root out healthcare’s equivalent of fake news. In particular, they called out finding the experiences of others on YouTube as a key place to find information in a way that is not only trustworthy but engaging.
This was perhaps the most important point for me in the session and Hazel Jones, Director of Apps, Wearables and Uptake, NHS Digital, picked up on it and said that she agreed they needed to do more to reach young people through vloggers and were testing concepts using ambassadors. For me, this was the gold nugget I would take away from the event. In my own work researching perceptions around the patient journey, from symptoms, through diagnosis and then onto experiences on treatment I am often staggered by the hugely personal stories shared online by patients themselves and the way online relationships make all the difference to the quality of their lives. As an example, survivors in breast cancer tell others not to Google, not because they don’t want them to find information for themselves, but because oncology data moves so fast, what they are likely to find is already out-of-date and can even cause panic. Here, more than ever, this role of peer-advisor approach is critical. It is on the level of life and death itself, it’s that important.
Unfortunately, the subsequent conversation was directed mostly at healthcare apps. This was a shame as I didn’t see much evidence that Jack and Alex found them particularly valuable. The room was full of people who wanted to mention the buzzwords of big data and IoT and so we got carried off on a discussion on what sounded like what young people clearly want is to be able to track their data, huge amounts of it, and probably all the time. Dr. Emma Rich, Reader/Associate Professor in the Department for Health at the University of Bath tried to reel this in by saying this probably isn’t the future we should be imagining. There are mental health issues that can arise with an overzealous tracking of personal minutiae that we are best to avoid.
Emerging technologies clearly have a key role to play in this but we just need to find better ways to help people find each other to share experiences, and perhaps this is especially true for Generation Z. In this event we only briefly touched on some of what I think are the most important issues. Continuity of care was noted by Professor Andy Miah, PhD, Chair in Science Communications & Future Media, University of Salford and this is of critical importance in accessing services when you live a mobile life, for example, say at university for half the year. You could add digital literacy to that list as well as the emerging consent literacy which we all could use help with.
From my perspective, certainly in our own work at W2O with patients and clinicians, the gaps we see most are not in the technology or the capturing of the data. Where most work needs to be done is around what do the new signals we see in healthcare data actually mean? A cardiologist told me recently that he only wanted to know about a new diagnostic biomarker if it leads to a clinical decision. Whilst it might be interesting from a scientific perspective, it ultimately was just not very useful. Without a sense of what fundamental healthcare behaviours we need to encourage and without the medical evidence to really understand what data points support these over time, we won’t be able to make all this fascinating new data ‘work’ for any of us.
W2O presentsFiring-Up Emerging Leaders (FUEL) Forum— an event by and for millennials. After successful events in NYCand LA, we’re excited to bring FUEL to Austin! The focus of the evening will be on how individuals and companies foster the entrepreneurial spirit by highlighting what matters the most to millennials.
In a world where the internet is no longer optional, having a social media presence has become a requirement for individual users and companies alike. Technology and thorough research have given us the ability to target our content to precisely the right audience. The only remaining question is: what content should we be putting in front of these semi-captive social users to inspire engagement?
As Millennials have entered the workforce in increasing numbers, it may be possible to leverage their native knowledge of social media to create content that inspires not only a chuckle, but the virtual nod of assent that is a like, share, retweet or comment.
One factor that Millennials report as a deciding factor for engagement levels is whether the content fits into their online persona. Any online action is public, and thus reflects upon the user’s personal image. The increasingly common, carefully cultivated social media life means that for something to be worthy of sharing, it must fit into the user’s personal brand.
A recent ad for Vitamin Water featuring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul struggling through a workout was repeatedly mentioned as one that Millennials were more than happy to share, comment on or tag friends in. Lovers of the show, fans of Paul’s, or really anyone who has ever not truly been 100% enthusiastic about their time on the treadmill (aka everyone) could identify with this ad, and the 15 second bite-sized Facebook clip was perfectly share-ready.
Another ad that inspired engagement among Millennials was the 2017 Heineken ad entitled ‘Worlds Apart.’ Several pairs of strangers from opposite sides of the political aisle each build a bar together while getting to know each other, and are then shown a clip of their partner sharing their social and political opinions, taped prior to their shared experience. When given the option of leaving or talking it out over a beer, each chose to remain and engage in discussion. Regardless of where you may fall politically, this ad inspires engagement. After all, who wouldn’t want to be known for espousing a love of peace-keeping and beer?
What these two seemingly dissimilar ads have in common is the ability to incorporate peoples’ existing interests, like sharing a beer and television, and common enemies such as working out and political divisiveness, so that content is seamlessly integrated into the user’s existing online presence. While the respective products are not necessarily the immediate focus of either ad, both brands received major props for their enlightened involvement that garnered far more attention than placing the product front and center ever could.
Another facet to gaining engagement centers on which channel is utilized. Millennials overwhelmingly admit that they exhibit what are basically split personalities, not just between their social media and their life in the “real” world, but between different social media channels as well. Essentially, a person may have an Instagram personality that is slightly more wild than their semi-reserved Facebook persona, while their LinkedIn personality is so bland it can’t even sit with them.
As a result, the same content that gets unprecedented engagement on Twitter, where Millennials report feeling less inhibited in their social actions, may report next to no engagement in front of the same audience on Facebook, where family, friends and potential employers promote a greater level of self-censorship.
For this reason, content that is bolder, riskier, and potentially less PC (a risk companies should maybe not always be willing to take) may perform better on Twitter, such as Wendy’s replying with extreme sass to customer requests, while Facebook may be the place for the safer content that can be more appropriately shared.
Branding has become so entrenched in everyday life that its power cannot be overstated from a personal, professional or corporate standpoint. Everything we do online is now available for our entire network to see. While we’re all focused on our personal brands, when it comes to creating engaging social media, companies should think less about how the client can fit their corporate identity, and more about how they can be relevant to the client’s personal brand.
After traveling nearly 2,000 kilometers across nine cities (Dresden, Nϋrnberg, Mϋnchen, Heidelberg, Neustadt an der Weinstraβe, Bacharach, Kӧln, Hamburg and Berlin), we took a break in the Marriott lounge tonight in Berlin to reflect on our key insights into Germany for this special edition of Millennials Unplugged. Here’s our “top zehn insights”.
Germany is younger than the United States….as a country – The United States was formed in 1776. Ninety-five years later, Germany was formed as a nation in 1871. Germany was part of many empires over the years from the Romans to the Protestants, but it takes a while to form a country.
Learning German also means understanding the “dialekten” (dialects) — Understanding language in its entirety is more than just understanding the dialect. It’s the individual words and culture behind the words. To understand a language, you have to understand the subcultures, dialects and know where they are from. In Germany, there are six main dialects:
Low German (Plattdϋϋtsch)
High German – Standard German (Hoch Deutsch)
In Dresden, where Brittany studied German for four weeks, the Sӓchsisch dialect is prominent, of which there are seven sub-dialects. In Sӓchsisch, instead of saying “ja” (yes in English), “nu” is said…and instead of “zwei” (two in English), “zwee” or “zwo” is said. There are also Dutch, Swiss and Austrian dialects of German. More than 40 in all. Wow.
The best branding example – an east German man wearing a derby – The Ampelmann is the symbol shown in stop lights in Berlin, Dresden and other cities in the eastern part of Germany. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Ampelmann icon was discovered and embraced as a part of east Germany that would endure. It is now so popular you can visit the Ampelmann store in Berlin. Yep, Bob has a t-shirt.
Whatsapp is what’s happening – Brittany studied for four weeks at the Goethe Institut with 106 students from 30+ countries. As Brittany was meeting her new friends at the Goethe Institut, the first question they all asked was, “Do you have Whatsapp?”. When Brittany reluctantly replied, “No…”, she then knew she had to download it to communicate with her new friends from Spain, Norway, Finland, Guatemala, Saudi Arabia, and more. Moral of the story…when you have an international audience, the main way of communicating is Whatsapp. How many of you communicate on Whatsapp on a daily basis? It’s an important future business tool for all of us.
Facebook & Instagram are the international glue — another surprise to Brittany was when the course was coming to an end, and she and her friends wanted to stay connected, they preferred following each other on Instagram and Facebook rather than Snapchat and Facebook. A real surprise to an American Millennial who lives and breathes Snapchat. Bob is not surprised because he has snapped twice in his life.
Embracing the old and the new – Germany has a very intense history over the last 100 years, which we all know about. What is impressive is how they weave in a continual educational plan in each major city to remind all of us of the past, while embracing what’s next. Germans don’t hide from their history. They accept their failures, embrace their successes and look forward with optimism and resilience. We can all learn from them in 2017 on how to approach the future and respect and learn from the past.
Emperors were the first sales directors – as we read about emperors based in Nϋrnberg and other locations in the 13th through 16th centuries, we learned that they had to travel all around, going from castle to castle, to maintain and control the land and its people. It made both of us remember you don’t get much done sitting in your office. In today’s world, you have to get out and see the offices, the people, your clients and customers. If you wait for people to come to you, you lose power in today’s world. Centuries ago, if you waited, you lost your castle, your empire and probably got killed as well. Thankfully, the world isn’t as rough and tough as it used to be.
Bier, brot, brat and bretzels — No country has more pride in their beer than Germany. We would argue no country has more pride in their carbs than Germany. You might think they burn off a lot of calories gardening, but our experience shows that this is often “bier gartening”. But hey, there is football, a major passion and a great way to stay in shape. During our trip, we saw Bayern Mϋnchen play Liverpool in Mϋnchen and yes, during the game, we had bier, brats and bretzels. We’re hitting the treadmill when we get back.
Water matters – centuries ago, you protected your castle with a moat. Your city was centered on a river. Your access to the world was based on your proximity to a body of water. On our trip, we traveled on or near the Neckar, Elbe, Rhein, Moselle, Spree and Saar rivers and saw how important water was and is to Germany, both for business and pleasure.
Societal trust can be witnessed when it is real – Germany has excellent examples of how people decide to trust each other in society. For example, when you pump your gas, you pump first, then pay second. No one is watching you. They just trust that you will walk in, tell the attendant which pump you used and pay.
When you are on the Autobahn, and you hit the four gray lines, you can go as fast as you want in the left lane. The cars in front of you will move out of your way. You can trust that the other cars are going to get out of your way. This matters quite a bit when you are traveling over 100 miles per hour. In America, we can’t imagine either of these scenarios happening, yet they are possible.
We hope you also enjoy Germany like we did this summer.
Fake news is not a new topic. It’s been around since the beginning of time. What is new are our media habits, which make us more susceptible to bias and fake content.
In today’s world, we have so many choices on where we consume our news that we do not have the controls we once had for journalism to thrive. When Bob grew up, you listened to the networks, the local and national newspapers and they told you what was important. Those articles were written by career journalists. Now, as Brittany grows up, millennials get their “news” from a far wider variety of channels, often from secondary sources.
So we asked 22 millennials to give us perspective on what is really happening. In addition to asking questions about fake news, we also provided 10 headlines for review just to show how hard it really is to decipher what is true or false. We just wanted to get their perspective on what they are seeing and observing.
Here are our key insights:
Fake news is an everyday issue – the belief is that we are encountering fake news every day and it may be impacting how we think. 2/3 of our audience believe they see fake news every day and 1/3 are not sure. All that really matters is our perception that it may be happening.
Facebook & Twitter are becoming “News Replacers” – Facebook and Twitter are the two go to’s for news for millennials. Yes, they check in with mainstream news outlets, but social channels are filling the void and we have a tendency to believe what we read in the channels we visit most often.
Plausibility is a Problem – the definition of plausible is that it “describes that which has the appearance of truth, but might be deceptive” What we’re hearing is that if you see enough of something, you become unsure – if you keep hearing about a topic, you wonder if it is fake? Or is it being pushed by people with a heavy bias that is mostly truthful, but not 100%? Or is it real? For most topics, we don’t pay enough attention, yet we hear about the topic on a regular basis. Frequency builds familiarity and with time, some ideas start to seem plausible.
We fill in our knowledge gaps ourselves – if we don’t know for sure, our biases and preconceived notions kick in to help us make our decisions. We just aren’t often that aware of our own biases.
The lack of journalistic standards in social media is leading to increasing acceptance and/or ignorance of what real news is – if you don’t realize what the standards should be, like ensuring you have two sources that are fact-checked, you don’t realize what you are missing. We need more education on what the journalistic gold standard means!
Bias can be confused with fake news — 59% say fake news shows an extreme bias on a topic. This is not a definition of fake, of course. But what it shows is that with journalists often not being the primary source for news, we are starting to trust and believe anybody who writes/posts online and we are seeing a rise in experts on social media who are highly biased in their views
We often just aren’t sure what we read – one of our headlines we asked about was “Florida Democrats Just Voted to Impose Sharia Law on Women”. Most people said this didn’t happen, but not everyone was sure. The story is definitely false, but there were bloggers out there trying to say it did happen. So depending on your informal news sources, you may believe what was clearly false, might be plausible.
Fake news triggers our biases faster – if we already believe a certain way, we are more likely to be accepting of fake news, even if we know this particular article may not be accurate. Basically, our biases can grow via fake news, which is not a good thing for future rational discussion. This happens more and more as we narrowcast how we learn, e.g. only going to certain channels to talk with the same group of people and accepting what they say as the truth.
One of our favorite fake news headlines — was “Florida man dies in meth-lab explosion after lighting farts on fire” – most of those we surveyed thought it was false but it could have happened. We agree…it’s absurd, but it is also so odd you think “well, maybe?”..although it would never have happened to Walter White….Jesse possibly….
Our key insight applies to millennials, boomers and everyone in between. We need to put more emphasis on journalistic standards for news in social channels and we need to educate our peers on what real news looks like.
Real news trumps fake news…..as long as we know what to look for. It’s going to be up to all of us to do a better job on education and even embracing standards in the wild west of social media news.
It’s that time of the year again in NYC – Social Media Week. All of the social gurus from the greater New York City area gather their teams and rush to Midtown West to attend the weeklong event. Those who don’t tweet, amp up their Twitter game, and those who call themselves video-experts, were just hit with VR and AI…so that was a curve ball! Oh, and Snap Inc. dropped their IPO smack in the middle of SMW, not to mention their number one competitor announced Instagram “Stories” ads for all brands on the same day. Needless to say, it was an eventful week!
Who’d We See?
Many great speakers took us through the week, including Megan Summers, Global Head of Production at @Facebook, Alastair Cotterill, Global Head of Creative and Brand Strategy at @Pinterest, and even David Harbour, Tony nominated actor from popular Netflix series “Stanger Things” took the stage. Brit Morin, entrepreneur who is the Founder and CEO of Brit+Co, discussed the power of video and Henry Goldman, Head of News Video at @Buzzfeed gave his input on viral content and what it means for the future of digital marketing.
What’d We Hear?
A ton of insightful one-liners, machine based communications is the natural progression, and everything under the sun on the immersion of video! Some things we knew…most things got us thinking. As social media professionals, our goal is to strategically serve media to the right audiences by leveraging advancements in technology to share content and build experiences.
We learned a bunch from attending social media week, but four key moments stole our attention:
The rise of video, particularly viewership
Transitioning from an age of information to a world of experiences
Reaching millennials…because they too, are the future
The new future of digital: machine driven communications
#1. The Not-So Shocking Rise of Video…
…proven by the surprising number of viewers. Last year, YouTube surpassed more than one billion hours of viewership. Not hard to believe when you consider the fact that videos are our main source of information as it allows us to connect with and experience the brand from a visual and interactive perspective. Whether it’s Snapchat Discover, Instagram Live or snackable GIFS, we watch everything from recipes (looking at you Buzzfeed “Tasty”), news, and even advertisements (Instagram “Stories,” anyone?) are all better served as video content.
But, not just any video content. High quality, appropriate to the platform, video content. Over the week, we learned from an array of experts that video content should:
Be social, personalized, on demand, and empathetic
Capture attention early
Be designed for sound off (but delight viewers with sound)
Be experimental – play more
Fit the platform
All in all, we know video works, we know people are watching, and we’re going to keep creating video because we’re only going to get more immersive from here.
#2. Transitioning from an age of information to a world of experiences
So what does this really mean? Back when newspapers and TVs were our only source of news, everyone took their time absorbing information. Now, our rushed and busy society has waved goodbye to the days of long-form information consumption. It’s social media that has provided a large driving force behind shorter, more easily consumed content (give me a 15 second video with 140 characters or less, or I don’t have time for that!).
Of course everything ladders back to video content these days because out of a video, we gain an experience, but we can’t forget about Facebook 360 (like being put in the center of the bustling NYSE during an IPO) or carousel ads (sliding through each course of a meal, thanks to our favorite restaurant). Learning how to make DIY party favors or watching a rally LIVE – experiences. Putting on big, funny-looking goggles and waving our hands back and forth because we’ve just been jet-setted to mars – an experience.
Content is the means of saying something better than we can actually say it. It is through this content that we have to envision experiences we want the audience to take, and how they run with it, is on them. The beauty is that even if they don’t interpret the content the way we want, they’re still building an experience, and that’s how we know we’re doing it right.
#3. A different approach to reaching millennials
Alastair Cotterill from Pinterest made a bold statement during his session at SMW stating that, “One of the biggest hurdles that marketers face today is creating content that’s personalized and inspires people to act.” He approached this by asking agencies and advertisers to bring BIG, innovative ideas to the platform that do one simple thing: improve the lives of Pinterest users.
Pinterest’s largest demographic, millennials, or the selfish generation if you will, are constantly seeking content that helps “me, me, me.” Brands can add significant value (and find great success in advertising) by creating content that provides the user with an answer or solution that improves their quality of life.
Short teaching videos
Quick and easy resources of information
Social media is no longer a place to just “shove” information. We must provide the user with great value. Millennials are learning as we advance and children are training for jobs that don’t exist yet. The future is here. #bots #AI #VR
#4. What’s all this talk of bots?
We will admit, a huge eye opener was gaining exposure to bots, artificial intelligence and virtual reality this year at social media week. We know that this is where immersion experiences are heading, but to hear the number of brands that are already using these tools to influence their social strategy was really amazing.
We heard from @Viacom and how they partnered with Facebook Messenger to develop their own bot for the EMAs this year. We also learned from the @New York Times that through their VR app, anyone can be a journalist. Users are taken live to the stories of top news scenes and can fully emerge themselves into the 360 video experience.
A true kicker however, was the presentation hosted by @TheEconomist on bots. Machine learning is important to the way users think and process, but in social we have to figure out their place. The challenge, as mentioned by Alan Berkson, is with customer service and managing those expectations. If we give machines control, is it less personal?
Where do we net for now? Berkson says: “The future of bots is anticipation and analyzation.”
Again we find ourselves going back to this idea of shifting to a world of experiences and how the emergence of behavior influenced by the shift in technology is changing society as we know it. We can’t wait to see how this shapes up before next year’s Social Media Week.
In a Nutshell…
We came, we saw, we networked, we engaged, and most importantly, we were exposed to new and insightful approaches to social media. Mastering the art of human connectivity in this ever changing and digitally driven world is key for brands treading through a sea of social users. Reach your audience and see real results by tapping into smart, effective, and consumable content and marketing.
Thanks to all the speakers, sponsors and those involved in making Social Media Week 2017 a success! We’ll be back.
And in case you don’t have time to read our roundup in depth, but can spare a minute to see what our team thought of #SMWNYC in 140 characters or less…
@samhershman – “#Tech hasn’t changed human behavior as much as human behavior has embraced shifting in #tech.” We did this to ourselves, now we have to keep up.
@eileenobrien: “To build a fan base follow the 3 principles of devotion: be unique, build participation & build a service.”
@laurenmoore: “Agencies should help brands advertise in a way that helps consumers live their lives and improve their quality of life.” From @acotterill, Pinterest
@breannethomlison: “Brands have to know what they stand for in today’s world, they must speak up ASAP.”
@jessicavanner: “1 minute of video equates to 1.8 million words in our brain, this is 40k pages of text.” From @mklein_NYC, Global Marketing at Facebook
@christianapascale: “Engagements on Snapchat are totally different than traditional media & much more personal. No more clicks/time on page, it’s about screenshots.”
@alyssagrates: “Make yourself useful (on social media); it’s advice from your mother that was good advice then and is good advice now.”
This blog was co-authored by Lauren Moore. Lauren serves as a manager of Social Media and Search Marketing Strategies at W2O Group, helping clients across healthcare, pharma and tech implement and execute paid social media and search marketing campaigns.
We’ve also tangibly shifted the way marketers, reporters and businesses communicate and engage with us. As Bob Pearson explained in Storytizing, aligning the right message with the right audiences in the right time and place is more critical than ever. As the first generation of digital natives, millennials represent a particularly unique audience. We inspired organizations to adopt our preferred methods of communication—namely, social and digital media—in order to share their messages effectively
Inspired by this concept, and recognizing the impact that emerging leaders have had on the workplace, W2O Group is excited to host its first-ever Firing Up Emerging Leaders (FUEL) Forumthis week in New York, a Social Media Week event. At FUEL Forum, we’ll bring together an ambitious group of young professionals to share advice and discuss the opportunities ahead of us. The event will be headlined by a stellar lineup of speakers across varied areas of expertise (see below), who have proven to be rising stars and trailblazers in their respective organizations
As a platform for millennials to connect and learn from each other, there’s so much potential for FUEL Forum to spark positive momentum for the next generation of innovators and C-Suite leaders. Stay tuned for highlights and insights from the event, and follow the conversation with the hashtag #SMWFUEL.
FUEL Forum Program & Speakers
Keynote How to Thrive in Your Career: Practical Advice for Rising Leaders
Callie Schweitzer, Managing Editor of Thrive Global; former editorial director of audience strategy for Time Inc.; award-winning journalist and recipient of numerous industry accolades, including Inc.’s 30 Under 30, AdWeek’s list of Future Publishers and Forbes’ 30 Under 30
This blog was co-authored by Jacquelyn Matter, an Account Associate at W2O’s Los Angeles office. Jacquelyn assists with public relations efforts for a multitude of healthcare clients in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device sectors. She also sits within the marketing and business development teams, where she helps with internal projects and events. Connect with her on LinkedIn or say hi to her on Twitter!
Recently, Brittany and myself had the opportunity to address the PRSA Georgia Leader Board and the Young Professionals Special Interest Group in a dinner at South City Kitchen in Buckhead. The subject was “Talkin Bout My Generation: Surprising Truths about Millennials”.
Brittany gave most of the insights in this presentation. Here is a summary of what she said:
Documenting our daily lives – Although the popularity of Snapchat is constantly increasing, the question of “Why Snapchat over other social platforms?” remains. Through a millennial’s perspective, Brittany explained that Snapchat serves as the greatest hits of the day. It allows us to track everything we do throughout the day and see what our friends are doing throughout the day. From there, our favorite photos are saved and posted to other channels such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For millennials, Snapchat is in the moment. Facebook is like a scrapbook. Brittany said millennials also use Snapchat as a quick and entertaining distraction, whether it be to post a story, read interactive articles from media outlets like CNN or ESPN, watch Snapchat live, or send a quick message to a friend. But why send messages on Snapchat when texting still seems quicker and easier? Simple. Snapchat allows for both verbal and nonverbal communication, making a text one step closer to meeting face-to-face.
The definition of a friend – Bob adheres to the notion that if we’ve met and had a conversation, we can be friends on Facebook. Brittany explained this is not the case for most millennials. The standards are the same, but how they approach it is different. Similar to how you talk to someone in person and find common interests, millennials do the same, but online. And they’re comfortable with the same result. For example, when Brittany decides to accept/decline a friend on Facebook, she will look at number of mutual friends, what their interests are, what school they go to, what they’re posting, and any other available information. In doing so, millennials have the same result as a face-to-face conversation. With so many friends, millennials have more reach and are at an advantage for larger networking.
Entertainment habits – At the end of the day when Bob wants to relax, he’ll get comfortable on the couch and watch a movie or TV show, whereas millennials watch content whenever and wherever they go. Brittany explained there’s two different things driving millennials in terms of content: mobile and the moment. Millennials are constantly on their phones and constantly have free moments. Brittany gave an example that if she were waiting at the gate for her flight, she might play angry birds, watch videos on Facebook, or watch a quick episode of Friends on Netflix. Basically if millennials have free time, they’re going to entertain themselves not wait until they get home to watch a movie. But when millennials do sit down to watch something, no matter what is on the big screen, something is competing against it for our attention on the small screen.
From “Call of Duty” to “Duty Calls” – Many of us grew up playing outside with tangible objects and couldn’t imagine growing up any other way. So Bob asked Brittany why do millennials play video games so much? Why not go outside more and shoot some baskets or throw a baseball? The answer is simple. In our world, machines are part of our life. Whether some form of robot or a machine asking us what to do, it’s not any different than how we’ve been playing video games forever. Growing up in a virtual world allows us to acquire certain skills from video games that we can apply later on. Some of Brittany’s friends love to fly drones and create videos for fun. They could soon be operating drones for a business and flying them over crops for fertilization.
Trusting Brands – Having been brought up in an era when big brands were icons, Bob still remembers the Coca-Cola ad, “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” Do millennials experience loyalty to brands? Do they trust brands? In order to please a millennial, advertisements must be real and relevant. Brittany said millennials really dislike when ads pop out at them. On the other hand, Brittany gave an example of an ad millennials do like. At the hotel that morning when Brittany was taking a Snapchat of her breakfast and swiped through the filters to find a Starbucks filter, it let her know Starbucks was one floor upstairs. Now that is relevant. With so many ads and such short attention spans, millennials are also more likely to pay attention to advertisements that pertain to them in the moment.
Entrepreneurship – Millennials were expected to start businesses at a faster rate than any previous generation…yet they haven’t. Brittany listed three reasons why.
We’re smart enough to know we need experience
We have more student loan debt than ever before
No guarantee that when we graduate, we will have the right job…or a job
It’s not that millennials are any less entrepreneurial, but structural economic challenges are getting in the way. So, we have all this great talent inside companies today…. what if we unlocked it? It’s a great opportunity for today’s leading brands.
Game churning is a warning to brands – When Bob was younger, if he bought a game, he would learn it, play it, and commit to it. Although with the variety of games, apps, and game consoles available today, it’s impossible to pick a game to play…so millennials usually hop on the bandwagon and play whatever their friends are playing. The actual brand name is much less important. Brittany said millennial’s loyalty is to the quality of the game, our friends, and a good experience with the game.
Giving back – As active participants in civic and philanthropic organizations, Bob claimed his generation sees much more “slacktivism” from millennials. The truth is, millennials care just as much, but are more likely to go online – not in person – to voice their support. Brittany explained millennials are actually learning about philanthropy from the time they first use a device. Maybe this will lead millennials to be more interested and involved later on in life when they actually do have the money and time to contribute.
Overall, I want to point out how wonderful it is that the PRSA Georgia Leadership team reaches out and helps to guide and nurture the careers of young professionals in Georgia. This chapter is a national example of how to “do it right”. Thank you to Alison Ilg, Elyse Hammett,Denise Grant and the rest of the leaders who are helping build the future leaders of communications.
We are the topic of controversy, the target audience of tech and one of the most poorly understood generations out there. We’ve been raised by technology and have grown as leaders of the digital movement since birth. We listened to boy bands, made sweets in our Easy Bake ovens and watched endless episodes of Saved by the Bell.
We are millennials. And now, we are young adults, too. We are ready to enter the workforce and show the world what we’ve learned. But the question remains, is the world ready for us?
Ask any person over the age of 35 what they think of when they hear the word “millennial,” and I guarantee you’ll get some colorful responses. Sure, there may be some that offer generic terms such as “tech-savvy” or “young,” but many will resort to the common stereotypes widely associated with the generation. You will get things like, “self-entitled,” “spoiled,” “lazy,” and “narcissistic.” You will see disapproval on their faces and hear annoyance in their voices.
So, what did we do to deserve such a reputation? Answering this question is exceedingly difficult, especially considering the fact that no two millennials are the same. Those lazy, self-entitled kids we are so commonly affiliated with were born alongside some of the most brilliant minds of our time. We’ve done some big things in the 20-some years we’ve been on this earth, and we will continue to do so as time progresses. According to a study by PwC, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce by the year 2020 – yes, less than five years.
For those of you who find this statistic alarming, allow me to address your concerns. In many cases, there are innate differences between how people perceive millennials and how we really feel. There is a reason we’re given the stereotypes we are and many of them have significant evidence behind them, but just as with any social judgment, you cannot believe everything you hear.
What they say: “You are too sensitive.”
How we feel: With the growing paranoia over political correctness, individuals are repeatedly causing uproar over anything and everything that could be misconstrued as offensive. And yes, many of these individuals are millennials. But there’s a reason we have such a heightened sense of sensitivity. We’ve spent our lives learning about equal rights and why everyone should be accepted for who they are. Yet, we’ve witnessed social injustices that go against everything this country was built on. We’re not saying every complaint is valid. There are plenty of people out there who shout their opinions simply to fulfill their own selfish agendas, but the ones who are truly trying to change our world for the better should at least be given a listen.
What they say: “You rely too heavily on technology.”
How we feel: It’s no secret that the incredible inventions, upgrades and revolutionary discoveries that occurred over the last few decades are sometimes met with hostility from those who don’t feel they are beneficial. Sure, life did exist before the iPhone, and yes, people did keep in touch before Facebook, but instead of condemning these milestones as useless inventions that are destroying the social skills of future generations, we should be embracing all they have to offer. They all have their downfalls, and it is vital that each of us takes some time off every once in awhile, but we should not be criticized for using the tools we are given. Technology has done some amazing things. It allows us to stay connected to friends and families, quickly communicate vital information and offer our help to others in the drop of a hat. Social skills will always be important, but it is possible to know how to work an iPad and also hold an adult conversation.
What they say: “You have no idea what hard work is. “
How we feel: It’s inevitable that many of us have had it easier than our parents did in many aspects of life. Parents want better for their children than what they had – that’s just how it works. So, many of us tend to have that experience. But just because we didn’t have to walk through eight feet of snow to get to school or use a typewriter to turn in our essays, doesn’t mean we’ve never experienced hard work. Hard work comes in many forms and not all of them are physical. When it comes to education and intellectual abilities, the pressure to preform is everywhere. This pressure has existed for many generations, and few have earned it without a conscious effort to do so. We still have exams, we still work long hours and we still are responsible for our own success.
There are many valid arguments against millennials today, and we can’t blame people for being wary of the years to come, but we do deserve a chance. Save your judgments for later, and allow us the time to show you how we can improve this world for the better.
Over the past 10 years more companies have moved to an open office architecture for a number of reasons such as cost savings, encouraging/enforcing collaboration, and breaking down silos. While many companies want to develop the next innovative and open workplace like Google did, some actually believe, “Google Got It Wrong.” However, those who believe Google got it wrong may have missed a crucial component when describing why other companies have failed in matching Google’s success of the open workplace design. The problem is that other companies have been trying to mirror Google, which is not a one-size fits all workplace. Google’s open architecture works because it matches the company’s culture.
It is crucial that all workspace designs are customized to the company’s culture and business model or is a shift towards the type of culture the company is trying to create.
Expected Reaction from the Workforce
While matching culture to design is crucial, it is just as important to keep in mind the entire workforce when making a change, not just one group, like Millennials. A 2015 article from Forbes, identified that both Millennials and Boomers have different outlooks on working in a workplace with open architecture.
Studies have shown that Boomers struggle with an open workplace, since they value their workplace privacy and see office space as representative of one’s status and level of achievement. Boomers have always been working towards a corner office or at the very least a window. Without this status they find it difficult to measure success at work outside of compensation.
As for Millennials, this group seems to be the biggest proponent of the open workplace as they understand the importance of collaboration and working in teams. Millennials want to connect with colleagues outside of the office and find that working in an open office helps them make connections. While Millennials acknowledge that conversations and noise near-by can be distracting, they believe the trade-offs of fostering collaboration within/outside of their teams is worth it, according to a 2012 study from Emerald Insight.
Implementing a New Workplace Environment
So, are you thinking about make the change? Keep in mind that business functions and leadership have a place in ensuring a smooth transition and putting employees in the best position to succeed in a new environment. As it may be a culture shock to most employees, there are ways to avoid the day-one madness. To this end, each business function such as, tech, operation/facility, HR, and leadership should have a key role in design discussions and keeping employees informed.
Roles and Responsibilities
IT involved in initial conversations for office redesign as they will help to determine layout and connectivity
Operations/Facility should identify options other than desks, such as sofas and breakout rooms to encourage open collaboration
HR involved to identify where management/teams are placed keeping in mind that grouping teams together fosters more collaboration
Leadership should train managers by providing them with questions they should expect from employees, such as the use of specific spaces (rooms, sofas, desks, etc.). Leaders should also encourage employees to interact with colleagues in a shared space. This new space will be a bit shocking for employees (especially Boomers)
As millennials begin to hit one, two and three year anniversaries at work, their feet begin to itch. It’s time to uproot their lives and try out a new location! Who doesn’t love the idea of conquering a new city, trying out new bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and most importantly escaping the bitter cold, dreary rain or sweltering heat (depending on your current city that is). According to a recent Business Insider article, Americans are least likely to consider international relocation for a job. However, the one demographic of Americans who are far more likely to seek out career moves abroad are millennials. Fifty-nine percent of millennial professionals say that they would be open to moving to a foreign country for a job opportunity. We thought it necessary to catch up with some of our own W2O Group millennials who are traveling far and wide, home and abroad and near and far to see how and why they decided to make their own moves.
Holly Batchelder: New York, NY — Boston, MA
My background is rooted in science, and I spent many years – during and after college – working at various research institutions and hospitals in the Boston area. After a couple of years, I realized my true passion was translating science into easy-to-understand health information for patients in need, so I went to graduate school to pursue a career in health communications. When I finally completed my program, I took a leap of faith and accepted a job in NYC at Twist.
I loved living in NYC. I reconnected with friends from my past, met fun new co-workers and indulged in a convenient little delivery service you may have heard of, called Seamless. However, there was still a lot I missed about Boston, including the nearby beaches, the health-conscious culture, and – of course – the lobster rolls!
In the end, I am so happy that I moved back. The Boston office is small (12 people), but we are thriving! We have an unbeatable office culture, and when we’re not at work, you can find us boxing at The Club by George Foreman III, or drinking Paloma’s at 75 Liberty Wharf in the Seaport.
Erin Scialabba: New York, NY — Austin, TX
Ultimately, I moved to move—to meet new people, to try new things, and to gain a fresh perspective on life and the work that we do.
At 25, I realized that I had a lot of growing to do; I’d lived in the New York area for my entire life, spending season after season doing the same activities with the same people. I loved my home, my family, my friends, and my coworkers, but I was itching for a plot twist.
So I set myself up to make the change. Months before I wanted to leave, I spoke with managers about my interest in living and working in Austin. I met with leadership in New York and Texas about logistics. I connected with other transfers around the company and asked them about their experiences. Not only was I taking responsibility and ensuring that I didn’t leave anyone high and dry, I was also creating external momentum to help me take a leap of faith.
So I jumped—and by jumped, I mean I slept for 20 hours while my incredible parents drove me halfway across the country, where I would later live with a roommate I found on Craigslist.
But since the initial jitters, I haven’t looked back. Not only have I had a great time exploring one of the coolest cities in the country, I’ve also made significant strides in my career. By switching offices, I was able to “start a new job,” but draw on a year’s worth of experience I had already gained in New York. Moving to a new office almost doubled my professional network and my confidence at work.
Brianna Kuhl: New York, NY — London, UK
I spent a good amount of time abroad in college, first in Austria and then in France, and ever since I’ve wanted to find my way back out ASAP. I joined W2O over 2 years ago knowing about our many amazing office locations. The London office has a lot of heavy digital growth goals and, after a quick visit last month, seems to be everything I’m looking for. So here I go, off to a new country in a new place where I need to learn how EVERYTHING works. I can’t really explain how excited/nervous/happy I am. It’s a decent amount of paperwork to get a visa for another country (and securing travel for your pet is EVEN harder, more intense than getting myself over there for sure!) but in less than 10 days I’ll be in a new place with a bunch of AMAZING folks out in the UK office. Definitely a learning experience going through the process but overall there is so much support at W2O it’s been much smoother than you would think. I am excited to start a new chapter with a supportive company.
In Texas, we would say “Nancy Zwiers? Yeah, she’s done a few things in her life”. Typical Texas understatement, of course. Nancy has held multiple executive positions for Mattel, the #1 toy company in the world; she led worldwide marketing for Mattel’s $2 billion Barbie doll brand; she re-launched Polly Pocket and grew the #1 Cabbage Patch brand. And she has advised clients ranging from Disney to Hasbro to Spin Master about the area of kids and play. Yeah, Nancy knows a few things.
So we thought this Millennials Unplugged should be an interview with Nancy to learn more about youth marketing and what it all means. Here’s excerpts from our talk.
Q: You were selling over 100 million Barbie’s a year, inventing new Barbie’s and learned a lot about what matters. What did you learn about how we think as kids?
A: I like to say that we had big data before there was big data—with so many transactions, we were able to see patterns that others missed that helped us develop our understanding of “Core play patterns.” These play patterns are amazingly consistent across time, geography, and culture. We have concluded that play comes from the inside out. It is a biological drive. If you tap into these core play patterns, you are more likely to be successful in engaging kids.
Q: That’s fascinating. We always think we are so unique. Why are we actually so similar?
A: Play is nature’s way to ensure we learn what we need to learn to survive.
For example, the original play pattern is “exploration & discovery,” which starts at birth—or maybe even before. It’s innate in us and it drives us to explore our environment. As we grow up, that same play pattern is fueled by curiosity and the little thrill that goes with each new discovery.
Q: Very cool. What are some examples we can relate to?
A: Reading flows from this play pattern. Our desire to travel is a form of exploration & discovery. Scientists feel like they are playing as they are driven to explore their scientific fields. We want to learn in order to survive and we play to discover and learn. The second play pattern we all share is “challenge & mastery,” which is at the heart of sports and most game play. It drives us outside of our comfort zone to help us grow.
Q: How is entertainment viewed compared to play?
A: Entertainment flows the opposite direction of play. It comes from the outside in. That said, the new “discoverability” of entertainment content is a manifestation of exploration & discovery. Further, the more entertainment is interactive, the more the lines are blurred between entertainment and play.
Q: We realize it’s hard to ask you what your favorite toy has been…..but we will……
A: My favorite toy of all time is Barbie. And the most innovative Barbie dolls are the ones that I like the most. We created the first radio-controlled Barbie (Dance n Twirl Barbie), Becky the first “differently abled” friend for Barbie, the first mass customized doll (University Barbie) and even Barbie’s baby sister, Kelly, so we could facilitate the nurturing core play pattern.
Q: What’s the importance of nurturing as it relates to toys?
A: Girls, especially, are irresistibly drawn to nurturing play—whether a baby doll or a pet. Girls are also drawn to toys that let them explore what beauty means to them—think fashion dolls and arts & crafts. Frozen’s famous star Elsa personifies girls’ beauty fantasies.
Q: What happens when we grow up?
A: Our behaviors change but the drive behind them stays the same, so instead of Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, now we play with X Box or Minecraft. You know, boomers didn’t have as many opportunities to play with a wide range of toys. We only had a few TV channels*, but we were ok with that. Now, kids and millennials have a wide range of toys and they see play as digital or physical. Plus, they have an expectation that we can personalize our play experiences. Customization and interactivity are the big things.
Q: When we think of the movies, what is happening when we love a character?
A: We find that you need an aspirational lead character that is also relatable. Aspirational means “I want to be like her/him.” and relatable is “He/she is like me.” These are the characters we most want to play out fantasies with. The real life Princess Diana illustrates this. She was actually a princess, she was beautiful AND she had flaws. Having a weakness makes us love characters more. Think of Superman and kryptonite. One quick note: In the key imaginative play years of children from 3-6 years old, they will often fantasize with a toy/character that often reflects gender stereotypes. Many adults think this should change but it is part of an overall process of developing one’s identity.
Q: What is the future of the toy industry?
A: 3D printing will have a big impact on the toy industry…..digital (and physical arts) and crafts will grow…..kids are getting more focused on wanting to express themselves more……the need to differentiate from our peers is growing….customization and personalizing experience is important. The Internet of Things will have powers we never realized. Imagine a new 3D view master with augmented reality or having Siri-like interaction with dolls? Or learning how a child is using a toy and then suggesting what else they may like based on sensors in the toy itself, sending back data to headquarters that is meaningful.
Q: Nancy, what was your favorite toy growing up?
A: It was my microscope. I loved it. I still remember what my hair looked like under the microscope.
Thank you Nancy, this was fantastic. Very insightful!
Brittany Pearson (millennial) and Bob Pearson (boomer)
*Bob’s favorite Saturday shows were Speed Racer and Jonny Quest.
As a marketing analyst, my day is governed by digital media. My nights are equally dictated, as I am guilty of sleeping next to my phone, just like 83% of other Millennials. Tech-dependant as we are, I’d expect this “generation of digital natives” to be very fond of online experiences. In fact, according to statista, 85% of UK 16 to 34-year-olds used Facebook in 2014. Can we infer from these numbers alone that digital experiences are always the preferred choice by us Millennials? As you might have guessed, I intend to make it a tad more difficult by contrasting some digital vs. offline experiences:
Education: While traditional education has undeniable benefits such as direct peer and teacher interaction, over 6.7 million students were taking a minimum of one online course in 2011 – an increase of more than half a million year-on-year. Online education will enable people from poorer families or rural areas receive valuable skills. Interestingly, print reading is highest among 18 to 29 year old US students, according to a Pew study, as the text book layout benefits comprehension and distractions and skimming are less likely.
Work: Similar to traditional education, being physically present at work has huge benefits, such as your boss knowing what you are up to. However, home offices will be an important factor in juggling work and family, as a survey in the Microsoft whitepaper points out. Further benefits of home office are a less stressful environment, a quieter atmosphere, commute elimination and increased environmental sustainability.
Dating & Friendships: Dating apps allow us to roam potential partners whenever and wherever we want. Some portals such as EHarmony and OkCupid ask personal questions that supposedly match you to people with similar opinions and interests. Therefore, online dating is a form of offline speed dating, as you don’t have to waste precious minutes getting to know someone to figure out later that their love for cats doesn’t match your allergies. Digital, in this case, gives you a wider range of opportunities, while you will most likely want to meet your online encounter in real life before getting married. Regarding friendship building, technology also works as a facilitator. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 57% of US teens have met a new friend online, with 30% having made more than five. Due to their love for video games, boys are more likely than girls to make online friends.
Family: Most of us can speak from experience that being around your family in person is superior to a Skype call, where the video quality is sub-par. Nonetheless, apps and platforms allow us to reach out more often and share little, yet important moments as well.
The endless list of things we do online includes mobile banking (enabling female farmers in Africa build their own businesses) or sharing hobbies, such as cooking, sports, art and photography. Due to Instagram filters, everyone can now be a “photographer” and we can share our successful or not-so-successful cooking experiences with the entire world. We can also share calories burnt after our first mile or half-marathon and make our Facebook friends envious. Most of all, we can find people who share rare hobbies such as a fondness for pigeons. It’s much easier to find like-minded people online or strangers to talk to confidentially. Privacy goes both ways online: you can be anonymous and share fears and thoughts, but at the same time, you can gossip and insult others without being identified. Negative factors seem to increase online where it is also much easier to voice your opinion to a greater audience. The latest incidence being the refugee crisis in Europe, where a lot of celebrities voice themselves supportively online, but allow fans with negative sentiments to comment and reach this wide audience as well.
As it turns out, the digital landscape is widely complex. Deciding on what experiences are more enjoyable online is further hindered by factors such as your audience’s background, preferences and motivations. As the recent Economist article “Myths about Millennials” points out, “individual differences are always bigger than generational differences.” One should not make assumptions about a group of people just because they were born in the same time period.
Generally speaking, however, digital is always better. Not because we replace real experiences with digital ones, but because digital adds options to our means of communication. Every communication tool in history has had its pros and cons, but the tools have been improving over time. Improvement meaning enhancing communication, bringing us closer together. We started with smoke clouds and can now communicate with people on several continents at once and in colour. We want to share information and experiences – sad moments, achievements and joy. Yes, there are still many improvements to be made, technically and personally (be it privacy issues or us constantly looking down on our phones while walking in the streets). Ultimately, communication is what we’re all about and digital communication is a further added benefit along the way – and not just for Millennials.
After this peek into the facets of digital, I want to invite you to join W2O Group’s PreCommerce Summit that is part of London’s Social Media Week, to further expand your knowledge. Hear industry experts talk about marketing’s future and share your opinion on whether digital is always better. You can RSVP here: http://w2oevents.com/
In the past six years, I can count on one hand — one finger, actually — the number of times I’ve attended a conference and not been an active participant in the Twitter conversation onsite. It was 2009, my laptop was at the office, and I did not yet have a smartphone. You can bet that was the last time I traveled without multiple devices, a smartphone being one of them.
As a millennial — yes, one of those — I began my career at a time when Twitter was only for the tech elite, Facebook was still “The Facebook,” and LinkedIn was a glorified resume. Now, similar to how no one can remember a time when anything got done without email, I can no longer fathom — nor want to — a world where social media wasn’t a driving force behind how business gets done, and done well.
In my past life as a healthcare conference producer, social media wasn’t yet the widely adopted medium for communication and collaboration that it is today. Speaking faculties and conference agendas were created from research and whatever publications and articles were available online, and events were publicized via mass email campaigns and cold calling. Just a few years later, the landscape had already changed drastically.
In my next role as an editorial content producer at a technology publisher, hashtags were the new sources for news stories, LinkedIn was the first point of contact, and QR codes were all the rage. To stay timely, topical and relevant was to keep up with the rate of change in social media adoption and use. Today, that thinking still holds true. Only now, the cost of not participating is something that individuals and brands alike can no longer afford.
We’ve all heard that “content is king,” and from a content generation perspective, Twitter is one of the most valuable — and all too often, underrated — sources. If someone had told me back when I was putting together conference agendas that there would soon be a channel that would provide, in real-time, insights on the topics and trends that your target audience cares most about, I might have traded an arm or leg for access. Now, that information is just a screen tap away.
But the wealth of benefits that Twitter provides goes well beyond social intelligence — topic and audience targeting, influencer analysis, idea generation and the like. While it’s true that the incredibly rich data that Twitter provides — when paired with the right analytics, active listening tools and analysis in place — creates an unmatched opportunity for social optimization and ROI-inducing initiatives, to me, the most valuable aspect of the channel has been the relationships that is has allowed me to cultivate. And for that, I could not be more appreciative.
While conferences and networking events might have previously been where industry colleagues would be introduced to one another for the first time, now, these onsite interactions are simply an extension of the relationships that began through a series of 140 character posts. The number of times I’ve approached — okay, ran toward — industry colleagues with whom I’ve connected on Twitter first, and recognized solely from their profile picture, is a bit embarrassing. But the amazing opportunities, incredible learning experiences, professional connections, and friends, that I have made, simply because we were engaged via the social medium first, makes it all worthwhile.
Case in point being earlier this year, at W2O’s #HITsmCIO event at HIMSS’15 in Chicago, where provider innovation, information and technology chiefs gathered together to discuss the proliferation of social media in healthcare. UPMC’s chief innovation officer, Rasu Shrestha, M.D., one of the Twittersphere’s most active — an quite frankly, awesome — digital health leaders, shared that when it comes to hospital and health system use of social media, “it’s less of a question about whether you should do it; it’s can you afford not to.” I would have never gotten the opportunity to meet, know, and most importantly, learn from, Dr. Shrestha in the same capacity if not for Twitter, where his perspective perfectly echoes what we advise our clients, friends, and ourselves, regarding social media engagement.
For House of Cards fans, during one of his infamous first-person narratives to the camera, Frank Underwood noted that “imagination is its own form of courage.” For anyone who has yet to take the leap or see the value in social media from a personal perspective, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. Imagine yourself interacting with and learning from individuals you had previously only read about, fostering relationships with an unmatched network of thought leaders, and carving out a voice for yourself in the space. It might take a bit of courage to put yourself out there, but just imagine the possibilities.
And for those brands who have yet to harness the power of social engagement and intelligence — from healthcare and digital health, to technology and pharma, through B2B startups to well-established B2C staples — the time to imagine how these social channels can drive opportunity and incredible value for your business is now. Remember, it takes imagination — and courage — to see innovation and opportunity where others cannot, and social media engagement is no exception.
For more information on how social commerce and SoMe intelligence is driving change, enabling opportunity and creating a competitive advantage across the marketing and communications landscape, be sure to follow #PreCommerce on Twitter for updates and notable information from W2O’s EMEA annual PreCommerce Summit, taking place in London on September 14, 2015.
Please see here for more information on the event. In the area? Come join us – registration is free!
When we look at millennial habits, social networks have become a remarkably important part the Millennials’ digital life.
We all know “The Facebook” first started as a community platform for college students. Today, the social network has over one billion registered users that connect and share information on a global scale.
Similarly, Twitter began as a source of ‘microblogging’, in which users could send out 140-character blurbs on anything they wanted. It has now transformed into one of the fastest and most viral opportunities to communicate breaking news and information.
A new source of information
Social media is becoming more than just a place for people to connect. It’s a reason for discovery, it’s a way to absorb knowledge, it’s shareable.
A survey conducted by the American Press Institute measured the use of several social networks as pathways to news-like information. Interestingly, they found that each social network is now considered a news platforms my proper definition.
Eighty-eight percent of Millennials surveyed stated that they occasionally got their news from Facebook, while Pinterest (36 percent) and Twitter (33 percent) were close to follow.
More often than not, Millennials engage more actively with news that’s already on social networks than developing their own social content. They tend to click on regularly read news that has been shared or viewed by people they know, which is ironic, since the original purpose of social media is to provide users the opportunity to connect with people to see what they’re talking about or interested in.
The fact that more Millennials are looking to social networks as a trusted source of information makes social media an extremely powerful tool.
Social media is a powerhouse
In addition to being a resource for news and information, social media has also exposed Millennials to different opinions and views. This generation is constantly looking to social media for insights into purchasing decisions, political views, and social views.
Goldman Sachs Data Story on Millennials found that 34 percent of people aged 18-35 turn to their online networks when making purchasing decisions. Unsurprisingly, this generation tends to do more online shopping than in the store, and brands that have little-to-no social presence are often overlooked when making purchasing decisions. If they aren’t being talked about online or among their social network, people will move on to brands that have a presence.
In recent years, political candidates have seen the impact social media has on Millennials’ lives and they have started to use that in their favor. President Barack Obama is one of the first presidents to have an active social media presence, in which he uses Twitter to inform and connect with his supporters.
Snapchat is a social platform that has seen a fast growth among the younger audiences, 71 percent of its core user base being between 18-24. Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, recently joined the social messaging app in a move to reach this audience, those who will potentially be voting for the first time in the 2016 elections.
Most recently, we have seen social media set the stage for social activism. Many Millennials are now looking at social networks as a way to raise awareness of philanthropic efforts and initiatives, because they can reach a larger audience, at a faster rate.
In 2014, NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was taken out of Gaza for reporting the killing of four Palestinian boys by the Israeli Defense Force. The lack of media reporting on these issues in Gaza was quickly noticed, and the hashtag #LetAymanReport was developed to alert the world of the situation. Within 24-hours, Mohyeldin was back in Gaza and continued reporting on the whole story.
Similarly, events such as the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have sparked movements like “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” to shed light on issues of racism and police brutality in our country. Millennials have the ability to voice their concerns and opinions like no generation has before them and social networks give them the power to do so.
Also notable is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which took to social media to raise awareness around amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive disease marked by degeneration of the nerve cells that control voluntary movement. The social campaign, which encouraged people to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves, raised $115 million last year. It was so successful that the ALS Association has partnered with major organizations, like Major League Baseball, to implement the challenge every August until a cure is found.
Millennials have the power to inspire, facilitate change, and illicit choices.
Millennials are a force to be reckoned with and they don’t plan on slowing down. Social networks give them a platform to connect, learn, share, and educate. Their affinity for technology and their passion to have a voice has reshaped the way they view and use social media. In a time where you can Tweet, share a status update, Instagram, Vine, or Snap thousands of people at any moment, the Millennial voice is more important and impactful than ever.
Via Georgetown University Center for Social Communication Blog
I’m a “Slacktivist.”
At least, that is what the Internet tells me after I perform a quick search on “Millennials and Activism.” According to myriad voices, my generation is known for creating and implementing “Slacktivism,” a digital action plan in the form of online clicks, Facebook likes and media sharing surrounding political and social causes. The term is controversial: It has been used to describe this young generation’s “cheap” attempt at political action: Changing ones’ profile picture in support of a social cause; “Liking” politicians on Facebook or Retweeting them on Twitter; and using a specific hashtag (#BringBackOurGirls) or taking part in viral campaigns (the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) in support of a larger cause or relevant issue. All of this in place of actual volunteer work or donations.
However, our generation is far more complex than a simple retweet in support of X cause. I debate this purely because of my own efforts to make a change. Last semester, I started an after-school journalism program in a charter school in Syracuse, New York. Nine other journalism majors and I would leave class and walk to the school to teach high school students newswriting and inspire a love of storytelling. I am continuing the initiative this fall.
I know though that I am not the only Millennial out there trying to make a difference. In fact, there are numbers to prove it. We are recognized for volunteering in torrents for organizations like Teach for America and for donating to charities at a higher rate (87 percent) than our elders. And just because we are online, doesn’t mean we aren’t politically and socially conscious: In 2013, the Harvard Institute of Politics found that Millennials who were actively engaged on social networking sites had higher levels of political engagement and stronger partisan identity.
Still, there is more to the story than just quantitative analyses. At the most recent Committee of Millennials meeting, members of W2O’s New York office discussed why they support certain causes, the influence of collegiate charity involvement and the need to adjust the charity space to fit the digital age.
Christiana Pascale explained the need for Millennials to have a connection to the cause prior to getting involved. “If it is personal to me, if it is for a cause that has affected my life or someone close to me, then I am more likely to get involved and donate,” she said.
Pascale supports THON, otherwise known as the Pennsylvania State University IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, a yearlong effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. Pascale says that, by remaining involved in the cause, she gets to give back to a cause she supports and remain involved with her alma mater.
“It’s always nice to have that connection to your school, especially for a good cause,” she said.
College is a notable time for Millennials to become invested in causes and develop the roots for continued involvement postgrad. Olivia Zucosky started a chapter of the Make-a-Wish charity on Colgate College’s campus and plans to remain involved in the cause after her graduation next spring.
“In college, you have time to start causes on your campus with your friends for a cause you are both passionate about,” Zucosky said.
However, the ability for Millennials to remain active and volunteer for causes they are interested in becomes limited when they enter the working world. Therefore, many turn to online donations as opposed to in-person volunteering efforts to offer support.
Lauren Barbiero explained that on-site volunteering often takes up too much time compared to financially supporting the cause online with a few simple clicks. “If it is online, that means it is easy enough to get involve with and to donate to,” she said.
Digital tools such as websites and social media channels are advancing the ways in which Millennials are donating and becoming involved in charities. Call-to-action buttons on organizations’ websites easily direct users to donation pages. By entering a code into iMessage and hitting send, Millennials are able to donate and support causes from their iPhones. Organizations are active across social media platforms to spread their messages across younger demographics.
“As charities and organizations become more digital, more social, it will become easier to recruit people to support and volunteer,” Anke Knospe said. “The digital age is going to revolutionize how people donate and support certain causes, especially for Millennials.”
What do you do when you’re not working? No matter what the generation, many will consider this same question, especially when the weekends come around. However, when asked who they will be with, Millennials have their own perspective on how peer-to-peer relationships should occur in the workplace.
Older generations are known for separating their work lives from their personal lives, but this is not the case for Millennials. Known as the digital natives, this demographic connects with peers on Facebook and interacts with colleagues outside of normal business hours. An infographic from PGI details how 71 percent of Millennials want their co-workers to be like a second family. To accommodate the growing number of Millennial employees who build their workplace relationships out of the office, organizations and businesses are rethinking their cultural efforts to better attract and retain top talent.
After all, a positive corporate culture is more important to Millennials than money. According to a survey from CNN, a full 60 percent of 2015 grads said they would rather work for a company that has a “positive social atmosphere” even if it means lower pay. A LinkedIn survey also reiterates the Millennials’ need for community building in the workplace. Of all respondents, 50 percent said workplace friendships motivate them, and 39 percent said these friendships make them more productive.
Still, actively creating camaraderie at work is easier said than done. In fact, this is where a majority of cultural efforts tend to fail—when the employer tries to play too large of a role in forcing friendships. In the Miami Herald, workplace consultant, Cam Marston, stated the most successful companies encourage young workers to take charge of creating the camaraderie they want at work themselves.
“Young people are saying we want a happy hour or we want a cooking class and we would like to organize it,” Marston said. “Employers are then facilitating those activities by giving Millennials space on the bulletin board or Intranet and not frowning when requests are made.”
W2O Group and its culture committee have a similar perspective on this aspect of employee engagement. According to Lauren Barbiero, media manager at W2O, the culture committee allows anyone in the office to participate or take the lead on things that are meaningful to them. She emphasized that this results in more active involvement because everyone genuinely wants to be involved.
In the New York office, a dodgeball team has epitomized how community building can be embraced by coworkers. Since its inaugural season in the spring of 2013, it has become a staple cultural activity for W2O. Meriel McCaffery, senior manager on the Corporate & Strategy team, said, “It definitely has helped me get to know folks across the company that I never usually work with.”
At W2O, there’s even a committee dedicated to—you guessed it—Millennials. A typical agenda for the Committee of Millennials includes socializing time, professional development activities and discussions with senior leadership. Led by Millennials for Millennials, it’s an opportunity for this group to discuss things that are meaningful to them.
Organizations that want to foster a community-building atmosphere for its Millennial employees need to stop overthinking it. The best relationships are formed when authority figures sit back and let the employees take the lead. Friendship is not something that can be forced. But, when Millennials have an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, their peer relationships will inevitably follow.
As summer interns working at W2O Group, we have the privilege to work on various accounts, develop analytical skills and work with the most innovative leaders in the industry. In addition to these opportunities, we were required to team up for the intern project and develop a marketing campaign to drive awareness for a local non-profit and increase the level of donations made by millennials. Over four weeks, our team collaborated across all offices to research our client, gather analytics and present our campaign to W2O employees and leadership. Initially, the project was intimidating. By the end, we all held a deep appreciation for the extensive work put in and insights gained.
As millennials ourselves, we encountered both advantages and disadvantages as we set out to create a campaign targeting millennials. As we researched various types of millennial campaigns, we quickly realized that our generation appreciates the opportunity to self-broadcast and personalize an experience with brands and organizations. Leveraging this, we decided our campaign needed to satisfy this expectation, while still communicating the organization’s mission in an interactive and compelling way.
We strategized methods to engage and increase donations from the “digital natives”, which encouraged us to reflect on our individual digital and social habits. We considered our inherent skills and relationship with technology to decide which social media platforms would best complement and drive our campaign.
“It’s hard to pinpoint what a millennial will like or engage in down the road because our likes and dislikes change so rapidly.” – Taylor Murphy, Digital Technology Intern
Clearly, our team was composed of only a small segment of the millennial generation, limited between the ages of 20 to 22. While our age range may have seemed like a disadvantage at first, it forced us to combine hard evidence with our individual experience to further our analysis. This allowed us to set aside our biases and expand our research to identify the universal characteristics that define millennials.
After our presentation, Bob Pearson, president & chief innovation officer at W2O Group, asked us, “Would you share this?” A question that resonated with us, we realized that as millennials, we are prominent drivers in the online space that want to share ideas and be heard. Pearson provided us with a takeaway that tied our analytics findings to our campaign ideas. With four simple words, he was able to sum up what our team’s main advantage was—we know millennials because we are millennials.
Aside from learning more about our own generation, we also learned about the dynamics of working on an agency team. Here are five takeaways for future interns working on this project:
Time management is a must
Agency life is characterized by the hustle and bustle of being billable. This is something you realize on day one. When our team was introduced to the intern project in the middle of June, we already had our own client work to keep up with. The juggling of everyone’s busy calendars during this period made Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant our best friend. It was necessary to find the balance between getting work done separately and as a group—two completely different dynamics, but equally important.
Working in a team spread across the country is hard
W2O Group has offices all over the world. If a person on your team works from London, you need to take into account a five-hour time difference or risk calling him or her in the middle of the night. Although we had no one working abroad, our team still had to navigate three different time zones. This was something that was difficult at first, but we eventually used it to our advantage. When team members could not finish something in the New York office, interns in the Austin and San Francisco offices could often pick up the slack.
“The project ended up being a valuable learning experience as we had to take responsibility for our roles and figure everything out ourselves, making it an exciting process.” – Mackenzie O’Holleran, Insights & Strategy Intern
Don’t limit yourself to a title
When teams are assigned the intern project, they receive a project brief and are told to assign various “leads.” There’s an analytics lead, a media and engagement lead, a creative lead and more. Something our group learned quickly was that, overall, a collaborative approach works the best. We produced our best work when we had a cross-over of people working on parts that weren’t necessarily their responsibility. This created a true sense of integration throughout our presentation and prevented us from appearing disjointed.
Everyone’s opinion matters
Disagreements were common during the intern project, but this was not a bad thing. If there were no disagreements, chances are our team wouldn’t have been taking the time to analyze ideas in the first place. Our team’s disagreements demonstrated that everyone really cared about producing quality work rather than making rash judgements and rushing into a decision. Although disagreement was common, we strove to foster an environment where everyone’s opinion was a valued piece to the campaign puzzle.
There will always be people willing to lend a hand
Do not be afraid to ask for help. The sheer number of employees that took time out of there busy days to help us with this project truly speaks to the great people that work here. These employees truly are an untapped resource to utilize for this project, and so much more. Expanding your network at W2O Group is essential and the intern project offers participants the perfect vehicle to do this.
The intern project not only gave us real-world experience working on an account, but it also taught us about the current media world we live in and how we, as millennials, can make an impact. We learned that our age and life experience are not setbacks but advantages. As both interns and millennials, we took advantage of our social media expertise and applied it to a campaign that would target a specific audience. Overall, the intern project taught us lessons that we will take with us as we advance in both our careers and the world at large.
– Andrew Petro, Olivia Zucosky, Danielle Hay
Intern Team Includes: Michael Capone (Digital & Analytics), Olivia Zucosky (Planning Lead), Danielle Hay (PMO), Tania Soto-Lopez (Analytics), Andrew Petro (Account Lead), Daniel Ayersman (Analytics), Mackenzie O’Holleran (Analytics), Dylan Stuart (M&E) and Taylor Murphy (CCX)
If you’re from Texas, you might know that a Longhorn, a Horned Frog, and an Aggie don’t exactly get along on the football field. That goes without saying if you also add in a Pelican, a Spartan, a Tiger, a Mustang, a Wildcat, a Bear, and even an Orange Man…you never know what you’ll find. Who knew Horned Frogs and Aggies could work together in a digital light? Or that Bears and Wildcats could become friends whilst inquiring and compiling useful analytics? Luckily for us, this was the perfect mix to create an excellent marketing campaign. In only one month and across four different office locations, W2O interns developed a simulated marketing campaign and presented a deck for a non-profit corporation to target millennials. Our subject was a local non-profit corporation that offers credit cards that cash back points as a channel to donate directly to charities of the user’s choice directly from their mobile app. How much easier could donating get?
“We collaborated across four different offices to #MakeItHappen, now that’s the definition of #LetsHang.” -Andrew Echeguren, Media and Engagement Lead
Millennials are not one segment – As you might know, the age group of Millennials differs based on who you talk to. By definition, we are between 18 and 34 years old. This is definitely a difficult age range to target, but we were asked to reach out to all millennials who are interested in giving back. When we ran our analytics, we found that millennials are interested in both charity and philanthropy. Our #1 source of information from millennials was from Twitter handles.
The power of hashtags – It’s easy to start a conversation in person with a simple “Hello, how are you doing?” or “Good morning, did you see the CNN news this morning?”…The web can seem a little overwhelming, but there is a way to focus the conversation. If you are reading this, you are probably familiar that it is called a hashtag. With our campaign, we wanted to reach millennials in creative and unique ways to get their center of conversations about how they can help and “Charge It Forward”. Our team created our own hashtag, #PositivelyCharged, to begin and facilitate conversations.
Crowd sourcing knowledge & diversity matters – Much like representing different mascots, each member on our team had a different skill set they each brought to the table…and those skills didn’t all come from one location. They came from four different W2O offices. Our planning lead, Lauren Harris, brought up the challenges of collaborating with a national team, and explained, “Working between time zones and offices was a new challenge that I think we all learned a lot from.” Back at our universities, the most distant person we will work with on a project, is across the lecture hall or living in a different dorm on the same campus. “Working across three different time zones was pretty tricky, but we all adjusted our work ethics and learned how to work around our obstacles,” stated Digital Lead, Brittany Pearson. That must be similar to what you may have learned a long time ago – or maybe not too long ago, depending if you’re a Boomer or a Gen X. Bottom line…we grasped that we are far more powerful as a team, than we are on our own.
Importance of presenting – More often times than not, a presentation of some sort is required as part of a project for class. Anxiety and fear is normal…but why? It’s only your peers, whom are your own age – and your professor of course, but that isn’t all too worrisome. For many of us, this was the first time to present to an audience other than classmates or teachers/professors. For some, fear came from anticipating speaking in front of leadership of our company…but this experience allowed us to understand how a campaign should correctly be performed. Our account lead, Caitlin Orwin, noted, “Presenting in a business setting was an invaluable experience that presented challenges foreign from any I’d faced in class presentations. No matter how many class presentations you give, none can prepare you for the real thing outside of an internship and I feel much more confident in my presenting skills after this experience.” Another insight per presenting, was from the team’s PMO, Anna Hodge, “It is rare for interns to gain presentation experience – I feel really fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to present to a group of W2O employees across the country.”
Think on your feet & don’t be shy – I think it’s safe to say we all learned that in the business world, you must think on your feet. For example, Greg Matthews, Managing Director at W2O’s MDigitalLife, asked an extensive question referring to the analytics information we provided. In class, a professor doesn’t necessarily ask you a question to get your juices flowing – they just give you a grade on what they think you deserve. It’s also important to learn how and when to speak up. Our team learned that you have to put your ideas out there and not think twice whether your idea will be rejected or glorified. Analytics Lead, Garrett Clare, reflected on how his “teammates were always helpful and insightful, adding their input when necessary, in addition to always being open to what others wanted.” You’ll never know unless you try…or speak.
Overall we learned that the soft skills of collaborating within or across offices and learning how to develop insights and then present them are as important as the hard skills of learning communications or analytics or marketing. Experience matters.
Now back to the mascots…we learned how to work together during the summer, but with football season approaching and going back to school, it might become a little harder…but we’ll figure it out 🙂