10 highlights from Social Media Week London

Our team is just back from Social Media Week London, hosted at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre to gather ideas, meet industry leaders and pick up on some of the top social media trends marketers will be using in 2019.

In his opening remarks, Toby Daniels, founder of Social Media Week, talked about our increasing conflict with social media: ‘technology was meant to make us open-minded, but instead we have become narcissistic.’ Toby went on to explain how the #SMWLDN three-day packed agenda would explore the global theme Closer through roundtables, keynote talks, networking opportunities and an exclusive peak into what’s to come in 2019.

1 – Facebook doing social good

The first keynote to kick off the conference has also made the top spot on our list of highlights for Social Media Week London.

The world is twice as connected because of social media, explained Ian Edwards, Facebook’s Planning Director for Northern Europe, to a room full of marketers; the challenge is to maximise the good and minimise the bad on Facebook.

Despite the social channel coming under heavy scrutiny over the last few years, Ian was determined that there is still a huge amount of good the platform offers to communities around the world. There are 23 billion Facebook groups in the UK alone giving people with common interests a platform to share ideas and collaborate.

In their drive to meet quality standards, Ian also outlined that the social channel has taken down 874 million pieces of spam just in Q1, and will be focusing on features next year that have a positive impact on society.

We have recently launched Facebook’s birthday fundraisers to allow millions of people around the world to give a gift to a charity or social cause they believe in on their birthday.’

2 – Media voted the least trusted industry

Next up was Toby Gunton, general manager at Edelman, who presented the latest barometer report that looked into the erosion of trust in media and social media in particular.


The report not only showed that the media industry is now the least trusted institution due to fake news, but that 1 in 3 people are quitting social due to distrust of how their personal information is handled. In his keynote, Toby outlined that those surveyed agreed brand messaging on social media was a lot more persuasive than advertising, and many felt it should be illegal for brands to be given access to personal data for advertising purposes.

The silver-lining from the talk was that people are keen to see brand values fleshed out on social: brands shouldn’t just share what their values are but use social platforms to show how they are implemented.

3 – Neuroscience and social media

This brings us nicely to the next highlight from the conference – Why You Need to Rewire Your Social Strategy: 6 New Learnings from Neuroscience. This intriguing keynote presented by Neil Davidson, Managing Director at HeyHuman, explained what happens to our brains when we use social. Through various examples of brain receptors, it became clear how content that generates low cognitive load and high engagement can perform better on platforms like Facebook.

‘A lot of brands are trying to shout louder and louder on Facebook but those that simplify their message can really stand out from the crowd and drive most engagement,’ added Aoife McGuinness, Neuroscience Advisor and Consultant to HeyHuman.

Aoife also went on to explain how bots are back and that we are apparently OK with that. Neuroscience research suggests that positivity levels increase when we interact with chatbots like WOBOT because, ‘chatbots are based on cognitive therapy, and in [certain] instances we have seen men respond more positively sharing issues with a bot than with friends and family.’

If we are happy to embrace technology when sharing our personal issues and woes, how else will tech be impacting social in 2019?

4 – AI in the creative industry

Maria Flores Portillo, General Manager UK Persado, showed us how AI can speed up the traditional creative process: ‘The average adult has 40,000 words in their vocabulary; machines don’t have limits when coming up with words for campaigns, allowing A/B testing to be done on various creative ideas.’ To get the most out of machine learning, it should be applied during the preparation and evaluation parts of the creative process, Maria indicates.

Delegates of the conference were then invited to see AI in action as the Lexus team unveiled their new car advert, entirely scripted by AI.

5 – Lexus and the AI-scripted TV advert

View below the first TV advert released by Lexus entirely scripted by AI.

Once the screening was over, Michael Tripp, General Manager, Lexus Brand Comms answered questions about the role AI played in the creative process of the advert and noted, ‘we have always been programmatic when creating content for target audiences, so AI is actually enabling creativity through its ability to analyse so much information and accelerate the creative process.’

6 – Buzzfeed using data to create more content we love

From using AI in creative campaigns, to using data to steer creative format, our next Social Media Week London highlight was from Buzzfeed: ‘How to remain agile and nimble in the platform space’, presented by Antonia Bonello, Associate Creative Director at Buzzfeed.

The publishing giant produces 600 pieces of content per day, and while Antonia doesn’t expect all of them to go viral and perform well, data is fundamental. ‘We had one goal, to stop people scrolling past content on Facebook. The team used data to find out what content has the sticking factors, which turned out to be food, memes, and videos.’



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We’ve said this before… but we’ll say it again: THIS is the best thing you’ll ever eat. 🤷‍♀️

A post shared by Tasty (@buzzfeedtasty) on

Combining the learnings from all the data available, the Buzzfeed team was able to create Tasty, a publishing platform dedicated solely to food, filled with one-minute recipe videos. The website currently gets 2.1 billion monthly views across all their platforms, showing how through data brands can create content that target audiences want to engage with.

7 – How real-time social data can make marketing agile

There’s using data to create engaging content, and then there is using real-time social data to improve marketing agility. This topic was covered by a panel discussion made up of some of the most well-known brands around the nation, and hosted by Michael Paradiso, VP EMEA, NetBase.

For Lloyds Banking Group real-time data is used to measure campaign sentiment, highlighting any risk alerts a campaign might trigger, allowing the marketing team to quickly change direction if needed.

Beauty giants L’Oréal found shifting from a traditional to a digital marketing matrix difficult, however through integration and social listening they have more opportunities to understand customer behaviours and interests.

‘It’s very easy for social media to stay siloed; we need to keep integrating it into other departments like ecommerce to get the best results,’commented Rema Gouyez Benallal, Group Digital Content Manager, L’Oréal

8 – Exploring Facebook Live

But before there’s enough data to monitor performance, Digby Lewis, Executive Director of Content at Iris, and Jake Ward, Business Development Director at Groovy Gecko, ran a session that looked at all the features social platforms offer and how best to create engaging content, in particular with Facebook Live.

‘Organic reach works on Facebook Live when you’re talking to a passionate audience,remarked Digby, while explaining how through the platform Channel 4 were able to allow audiences to pick the outcome of live video content. To demonstrate, the duo ran a quiz through Facebook Live, enabling the audience to take part and answer questions asked on stage through the app.

9 – It’s not our attention spans getting shorter, content is just longer

Whether you are marketing a twenty-minute video using Facebook Live or a five-second clip on Instagram, Dom Whitehurst, Head of Digital Engagement at Wavemaker, stressed that time and again adverts that don’t look like adverts are always the best performing because our attention spans are not getting shorter, we are just switching off from content that we can’t relate to.

10 – How to make audio sharable on social?

The content it seems both marketers and audiences will definitely be able to relate to in 2019 is audio. The BBC ran a keynote talk about whether audio can ever be shareable on social. Anna Doble, Digital Editor, BBC World Service, explained how through a podcast she and her team were able to capture the attention of thousands across social: ‘When investigators couldn’t figure out the evidence code for the murder mystery we were trying to solve, we shared the evidence with our audience on Facebook and had 15,000 responses from fans trying to help us solve the mystery.’

This challenging three-day conference definitely offered a lot of food for thought, revealing practical ways marketers can adjust, create and evaluate campaigns to ensure they are genuinely engaging, and ultimately to deliver better results

If you missed out on Social Media Week London, we are now planning Social Media Week Bristol! Sign up now to hear more about the week-long conference in 2019.