Social Media Week 2024 Takeaways


From generative AI to the creator economy and that impending TikTok ban, we know it can be daunting to keep everything top-of-mind when you work at the speed of social. So, when we were given the opportunity to take some purposeful time away from the endless scrolling and hear from the top movers and shakers in social media, you can bet that this team responded enthusiastically.

Social Media Week is an annual conference organized by AdWeek. It features three days of workshops, keynotes, and panel discussions about the latest and greatest in social media. The diverse range of attendees, from social teams representing brands and agencies, content creators and influencers, to general marketing practitioners, created a vibrant community of creatives, all there to improve our craft in arguably the most essential marketing strategy for any business, organization, or individual in today’s world.

This year, TSL had the privilege of sending four cross-discipline representatives to the Big Apple to absorb it all. In addition to immersing ourselves in this community of like-minded professionals and visionaries in our industry, we also had the opportunity to network with industry leaders while fostering new connections and potential partnerships. 

With upwards of 50 events happening throughout the three days of the conference, we boiled down our learnings to three singular takeaways:

Embrace and maximize the power of social across the funnel.

While most SMW attendees are likely already sold on the power of social media in your marketing mix, it became clear that the idea that social has a part in every level of the consumer journey is easier said than done. 

To make the most of social media’s power, brands must embrace it at all levels, experimenting, testing, and iterating content and calls to action that go up and down the funnel. TikTok, in particular, is an essential part of the top-funnel marketing mix and cannot be ignored. As Kate Kenner Archibald, CEO of Dash Hudson, put it, “This is where people are, and to pretend they’re not there is detrimental to your business.” Our team resembled bobbleheads by the vigorous nodding during this panel discussion.

And this also encompasses the full breadth of the social media experience, not just content and social media management. Boosting is crucial in maximizing social across the funnel, as algorithms purposely keep content from your audience. “Paying a creator to access only 15% of their audience when you choose not to promote is a missed opportunity, ” Joe Gagliese, Co-founder at Viral Nation, pointed out. Finally, it’s essential to amplify content, not just through owned efforts but also with influencer content. By adopting this approach, brands can expand their reach and increase their impact on a larger audience.

The key to winning Gen Z- don’t try so hard.

We often hear that the best way to gain followers, have consistent engagement, and create brand loyalty is to be authentic. But what does that really mean? 

We know that Gen Z craves transparency, a peek behind the curtain of perfection. Still, when it comes to what they engage with on social media,  Generation Z is an opt-in generation. And they curate everything from brands to their social feeds. They know when a brand is trying too hard to activate a trend. We heard quite a few times that Gen Z has excellent “BS filters.” Quality content and ideas are more important to them than production quality. 

A member of the panel of Gen Z creators said, “Don’t be afraid of Gen Z versus Millenial. Both groups want to feel something. Good, entertaining content is something they will both resonate with. Great storytelling knows no generational boundaries.”

Crafting a brand story on social has become a significant part of our strategy work as our clients have reported powerful results from impactful storytelling.

AI is being used in surprising ways.

Unsurprisingly, the mention of AI stirred up many feelings in this crowd. We heard from teams/creators who had utilized AI to create from scratch, edit, integrate client feedback without reshooting (many using native tools now available for many creative software), and manipulate “reality” to combine real-world and manufactured assets to create something truly unique. 

When the opportunity to ask questions was opened, a common throughline was fear. Fear of legal repercussions. Fear for the future of their careers. Fear of client or creator backlash. But mostly, fear of the unknown. 

Of course, creator IP issues should be considered. We know AI doesn’t come from nothing, but we’ve also been here before. We’re in the Napster phase of AI—more guardrails will come. For now, it’s time to explore. But we must do it with respect and integrity.

As always, The Social Lights doesn’t just embrace the speed of social. We outright excel within it. And we’re more than ready to take on the challenges for you and your brand.

For our visual learners, here’s a peek into what Social Media Week looked like from our perspective ⬇️

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Background on The Social Lights
The Social Lights® is a social-first agency headquartered in Minneapolis that partners with clients to grow their business through strategy development, creative production, media buying, and social media management. Current clients include General Mills, Ecolab, Cargill, Caribou Coffee, Kwik Trip, Polaris and Massage Envy. The Social Lights was founded in 2011 and is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise. Learn more at The Social Lights.

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