Key Strategies And Ideas From This Year's Westchester Digital Summit

Companies today must not only embrace social media, they must excel at it—use the right platforms, the right content (in the right context), and the right approach—say the experts and attendees at the 3rd annual Westchester Digital Summit.

Hey, marketers, remember that time just a few years ago when you could pat yourself on the back for making sure your company had a nice little social media presence? Maybe a Facebook page with a few hundred likes, a blog that was updated once or twice a month, a CEO who sent out an occasional humorous tweet, and maybe even an “official” company page on LinkedIn that explained what your business was all about. Ah, the good old days…

They’re completely gone.

That message came across loud and clear at Thursday’s 3rd annual Westchester Digital Summit, an event created and produced by White Plains-based social media and marketing agency Silverback Social. Held at the Rye Town Hilton, the event drew hundreds of the area’s top digital marketing and social media pros. Featured speeches included keynotes from the insightful, “F”-bomb-dropping Jeffrey Hayzlett (former chief marketing officer for Eastman Kodak and host of All Business on C-Suite Radio) and “likability” guru David Kerpin (founder of Likeable Media). Breakout sessions and panels touched on a wide range of digital marketing and social media topics including the evolution of social media, the power of visual content, the rise of mobile in digital strategy, and even surprising topics like digital’s role in spurring sustainability, mindfulness, and community awareness.

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The event’s key takeaway? Content is king. Digital marketing is all about content—and getting it right is crucial. If attendees had any lingering doubt about this, The Summit laid them to rest. (I believe the number of times the word “content” was uttered there shattered all previous records for single-day word usage!) Most important is to “understand the context of your content,” said Melanie Deziel, creative strategist at Time Inc. Although readers of The New York Times will respond best to digital content around multi-source, in-depth, investigate articles, listicles and snappable content will do better with The Huffington Post audience, Deziel explained. Personal content can be very valuable, added Thomas Galati of LinkedIn, who pointed to posts like “What I would tell my 22-year-old self,” as good examples of how influencers can engage the audience on his platform.

Educational content is also more valuable than promotional content, noted John Hall of content marketing firm Influence & Co—something that advertisers often struggle with. “We don’t want to be sold to all the time,” Hall explained. It’s also crucial to know whom you are trying to influence with your content (prospects, peers, partners, customers, etc.) and tailor it accordingly, Hall said. Expectations must also be tempered, as digital content doesn’t always reap rewards immediately: “You can’t do one post and expect to get 10,000 new users,” noted Galati.

Brad Wilson, CMO of Travelocity, who brought the Roaming Gnome with him (prompting many gnome selfie tweets from attendees), highlighted the value of truly “native”-feeling promotional content. Travelocity’s success in getting the gnome into relevant travel-related digital media content—including stints on The Amazing Race, Big Break, and ESPN College ­Game Day—helped fuel Travelocity’s success across the earned-owned-paid media spectrum. It worked, Wilson said, “because the gnome sparks the mischievous side of us and instigates people to want to travel…and the strategy [of using the gnome on digital media] ignited conversation.”

Lastly, the power of visual content cannot be underestimated. During a panel moderated by business news anchor Joya Doss, panelists from Pinterest, Facebook, and Google all name-dropped advertising partners (Bank of America, Chobani, Frito-Lay) that succeeded through digital content with a heavy visual impact. And social media wunderkind Katrina Craigwell of GE (one of Forbes’ 2014 30 Under 30 honorees) showed how the company’s stunning aerial images of its new sustainable locomotive (shot by a noted photographer dangling precariously off the side of a helicopter) went viral, boosting awareness of the new train far beyond the typical audience for locomotive news.

Here are some of the other key takeaways from the event:

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Use emerging platforms with caution. Keeping up with new social media platforms is essential. Panelists agreed that live video is the next big growth area, with apps like Periscope (where parts of the Summit could be found live-streaming) paving the way for a whole new set of digital marketing capabilities—and headaches.

Data is key. Social media just for social media’s sake isn’t enough, pointed out several panelists. The key today is to use data to find out what digital marketing strategies are working (and aren’t), and then to hone the message and the delivery mechanisms to yield real results.

Social media isn’t just for talking. While pushing content out is the key focus on most social media, companies must also use it as a listening platform. Keynote speaker David Kerpin drove this home, urging attendees to use digital to “listen, apologize, solve, think.”

Our Wine & Food Festival returns June 4-9!

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Our Best of Business Ballot is open through May 15!

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