Musings from Social Media Week SMW14

I am not an objective writer about Social Media Week. I attended the first two years of this six-year-old worldwide event in New York City when it was free, largely grassroots and spread throughout the city. 

The last two or three years, SMW has become inevitably more corporate, expensive, polished and streamlined, though many of the events are still free and available on a first come, first serve basis.

That being said, however, I wanted to share some thoughts. For instance, one of my favorite tools to chart conversations around social media is Crimson Hexagon, which quickly helped me create a “topic wave” of the major topics and when they peaked at the event. Most of the buzz around #SMWNYC happened last Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 18 and 19.

Too Crowded

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this year’s SMW event was the constant crowds. It was hard to get into many of the sessions, with constant lines forming and moving. Another evolving aspect of event planning was evident: Many sessions had their own unique hashtags so they could better be tracked and engaged with in social media. 

My thoughts about Social Media Week were more colored by what took place at the same time, around the event, more than what was going on there. For example, Facebook announced its acquisition of WhatsApp and Sprinklr announced its acquisition of Dachis Group pretty much on the same day.  With Jeff Dachis speaking at Social Media Week, the timing of the latter was convenient, though the announcement left me wondering what is next for Sprinklr with its entry into big data.

This time, Social Media Week focused on “The Future of Now: Always On and Always Connected.” I attended two sessions in person: both Unruly Viral Marketing sessions in NYC (#SMWUNRULY). Fortunately, most of the sessions were streamed, and the videos will live perpetually online (but you need to create an account on the Social Media Week site to actually view the livestreams that were recorded).

The first Unruly session was a Masterclass: The Science of Viral Video Sharing, hosted by Unruly which is available online at the following link for registered members of Social Media Week. I attended this very crowded and packed session. (There were a few hundred SMW attendees that day who wanted to attend and were turned away due to space limitations in the session room.)

What Makes Video Viral?

I've been working with Unruly and Rutgers University to launch a new online course about the Science of Viral Media and wanted to be present in case an announcement about the course was made there.  The information at this session was good, but hard to absorb in a crowded room (perhaps the online course is a better venue for this kind of information).

But the one thing that stood out to me was an the idea that viral video (and viral media, by extension) has strong emotions associated with it that drive sharing. The most successful viral videos have a positive and negative emotion (an emotional wave) associated with them (a few examples were given), which reinforced aspects of the work I have been doing with Social Media Analytics and my understanding of how viral media psychological drivers could be encoded. 

The textual analytics around detecting psychological drivers around viral media, already alluded to, nicely complement what Unruly is doing with the Unruly Sharerank algorithm — though Unruly doesn’t yet have a text analytics underpinning (when I get done making a case for it, they probably will want to explore incorporating such a feature).

The afternoon Unruly session I attended — Finding An ‘Always-On’ Video Strategy for Brands to Engage Consumers, Presented by Unruly — expanded on the material in the first session. It was more engaging and held in a much larger room. (There is a video stream with this session as well, but there seems to be a problem with the audio of it). My favorite part of this session was filling out a survey around a popular social video ad for Unlock the 007 in you to detect psychological and social motivations around why people shared the video in the first place (which we explore in more depth in our course).  We were left with a strong feeling for the material and presenters.

I could always write more but will stop here.

Certainly, the next few months will be very interesting, both for the alluded to announcements that made while at Social Media Week and the direction our viral media course