Market Trends

Written by The Marketing Team April 27, 2018

Highlights of Social Media Week NYC: Gen Z, Tech, Messaging, E-commerce & more

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The big apple. Home of the American dream. New York. A place bustling with energy and ideas, and the last few days at Social Media Week> have typified that.

Social Media Week NYC 2018Celebrating its 10th year, Social Media Week New York (or #SMWNYC for short), is the city’s premier media and marketing event. Bringing together professionals with a curiosity and passion for new ideas, innovations and emerging trends in social media, the conference features over 200 global speakers. Throughout the week, sessions in a number of different tracks explored the theme ‘closer’ – a growing conflict between community and individualism, and social media’s power to both bring people together and isolate.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be there this week, never fear! Here are just some of our highlights, organised by theme:

Gen Z

Many of the sessions we’re either devoted to, or touched on, the subject of Gen Z. Born in 1995 or later, Gen Z individuals are defined by a number of different qualities, even compared to millennials (born between 1981-1994). Here are the major differences:

  • Realistic vs. Optimistic:

    Gen Z-ers expect to work harder and earn their success.

  • Independent vs. Collaborative:

    Gen Z-ers are more independent and tend to have their own vision for a project or piece of work, for example.

  • Digital Natives vs. Digital Pioneers:

    Gen Z-ers are the first true digital natives.

  • Private vs. Public:

    Gen Z-ers are more likely to value privacy, and carefully curate their social media presence rather than revealing all. This somewhat explains the popularity of social networks like Snapchat, where Gen Z-ers are able to create a closed world and share their personal lives only with those closest to them.

  • Face-to-face vs. Fully-Digital:

    While millennials were happy to mainly communicate with their peers digitally, seventy-four percent of Gen Z prefer to communicate face-to-face with colleagues.

In their session The Gen Z Social Media Forecast, Piers Fawkes and Avery McCaffrey of PSFK spoke about Gen Z’s desire to own their identities, and not be controlled by traditional stereotypes around age, gender, appearance and the like. They also spoke about this new generation’s ability to project their personas, and the trend towards a highly curated online presence.


Apart from surfacing the gem that “40% of Gen Z feel working WiFi is more important than working bathrooms”, Kate Lewis (SVP/ Editorial Director at Hearst Digital) spoke about how Gen Z view communication as a creative activity. That could be another reason for the huge popularity of Snapchat amongst teens, who enjoy the ability to communicate through filters, lenses and AR. She also touched on Gen Z’s hunger for authenticity, and ability to smell fakeness on the part of other people and brands.

This point on authenticity in social media was discussed a lot throughout the week. In their session THIS is Social Media: Hate It or Love It, Harry Bernstein and Jason Peterson of Havas, noted that at its core social media is not about advertising – it’s about being social.

New Technologies

Like every marketing conference these day, AR, VR and Blockchain all popped up at some point. One particular thought that stood out, however, was connected to that theme of authenticity. Also from the Havas session mentioned above, Jason Peterson spoke about how Marketers have this tendency to go after the latest ‘shiny toy’ when, in reality, these new technologies are just new ways of communicating a message to an audience. Regardless of what kind of fancy new tech you use to deliver the message, if the message itself is not compelling and interesting to your audience, it will fail.


Panel discussion, called 'How Instagram Became The Music Industry's Go-To Social PlatformIn another panel discussion, called ‘How Instagram Became The Music Industry’s Go-To Social Platform‘, the group of 4 panelists discussed the need to tailor content to the medium. The example came up that when TV first came out, ads involved someone sitting in front of the camera reading out the words of a radio ad. In the same today, with social platforms, brands are still getting used to how to deliver their message in an authentic and fresh way.

Social Messaging

The rise of social messaging platforms, and their massive adoption around the world, was another big theme from Social Media Week NYC.

In his session, ‘The World Beyond Social‘, Travis Montaque (CEO and Founder, Emogi) talked about dark social and the sheer amount of sharing that is happening outside of social, through messaging platforms.

He went on to talk about how the ‘conversational era’ represents a change in the way people are engaging with technology. It’s not just about messaging, but about how people access technology to interact with the services that are important to them.

wechat-logoAnother great session on this topic was ‘What The World Can Learn from Chinese Social Media‘, from Jonathan Smith (Founder and Managing Director, Hot Pot Digital). Jonathan focussed in on WeChat, highlighting its role and importance in the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers. Jonathan noted that making messaging the core of social apps and building transactions into messaging are two major things the Western world can learn from Chinese social media.


In the same panel session as mentioned above (‘How Instagram Became The Music Industry’s Go-To Social Platform‘), one of the panelists noted that attention always precedes monetization in social media. The growth in advertising and e-commerce on social media have come as a result of brands identifying where people are spending their time and attention, and therefore where they will spend their money.

Dan Lagani, President & Chief Revenue Officer at Diply, at SMWNYCDan Lagani, President & Chief Revenue Officer at Diply, spoke in his session about powering up social commerce on Facebook. Since Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest added shoppable functionality in 2014 and 2015, people have become comfortable discovering and buying products on social. He noted that e-commerce sales will reach nearly 800 billion dollars by 2021, and that social media is #1 source of purchase inspiration.

He also shared some keys to success in social commerce, one of which we tweeted below:

Data, Analytics & AI

In the panel session, ‘The Data Whisperers: Tips for Turning Data Insights into Action‘, a few of the topics touched on included:

  • Data isn’t a strategy. Every business should be using data to inform their strategy.
  • Recent concerns about data privacy don’t seem to have actually changed people’s behaviours. Looking at Facebook’s results from this week seems to suggest that.
  • Sometimes, as a business, you can have too much data. Focus on gathering and analysing data that can give you a clear picture of where you are and where you need to go.
  • The GDPR is an important step, but only the start of data protection regulations that we will see adopted over the next few years.


The Future is Personal: How Early Insights are Personalizing Marketing', Eric Edge of PinterestIn his session, ‘The Future is Personal: How Early Insights are Personalizing Marketing‘, Eric Edge of Pinterest shared his vision of a future of marketing that is non-disruptive. In his experience at Pinterest, people are looking to brands for ideas that will help them discover the next ‘thing’. Marketers are helping to fuel those ideas and that is why personalization, powered by AI algorithms, is so important.

Personalization at its best is “a mutual exchange of value between a consumer and a brand”. The future of marketing and advertising is about speaking to the individual, not the masses – and technologies are starting to evolve to make this more and more possible.

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