NEW YORK—It’s not a matter of if, but when social media will permeate all forms of communication and business. That was the consensus among the experts from all corners of the social media spectrum who gathered here Wednesday for day one of AdweekMedia’s two-day Social Media Strategies conference. While attendees largely came from the advertising and marketing worlds, much of the content was relevant to publishing companies as well.
In his keynote presentation Greg Coleman, president and chief revenue officer at the Huffington Post, said social media is a vital component to content creation at the Huffington Post. He said the site’s editors are required to have a deep understanding of search engine optimization, and that each editor manages their own SEO practices. “Blogging, aggregation and original, sharable content, regardless of the vertical, is what makes us so successful,” Coleman said.
When asked whether he thinks SEO is the same as social media, Coleman said it’s not, but that social media is inherently reliant on SEO, as well as content.
Although he declined to offer specific revenue figures concerning the site’s social media efforts, Coleman said the Huffington Post’s traffic already is up 125 percent over last year, with the top three verticals being entertainment, politics and comedy. In addition, comments on the site have doubled since last year. Coleman said another layer of its social strategy is enlisting thousands of “deputized moderators” to participate in the conversation by filtering comments.
Coleman also said that social media platforms have become a rich source of news. For instance, he said Huffington Post editors monitor Twitter “constantly.” He said Twitter “knows what’s hot” 12 hours ahead of other sources, like Google.
“Social media will essentially fade into the background, in that it will be a part of virtually everything in the next few years.” That’s what CNET news staff writer Caroline McCarthy said during an afternoon panel discussion outlining the social media trends to watch. McCarthy and fellow panelists David Katz, founder and CEO of SportsFanLive, and MDC Partners digital innovation vice president Brandon Berger agreed that the collision between social and mobile technology—especially when combined with GPS applications—has perhaps been the biggest factor in social media recently.
“The analogy I use is that that people were happy watching movies, then 3-D came along, creating a completely new experience that engages people in a new way,” said Katz. “The same thing is happening now on Internet and on mobile with consumers having GPS in their pockets. The trend is pretty significant. The impact of knowing where you are with real-time information will continue to have an effect on retail, especially on impulse buying.”
Berger agreed that the implications of GPS applications, especially ones that offer customers points-based incentives, check-in offers and/or the ability to influence the purchases of others can “transform the entire retail experience.” “We’re seeing more apps being developed for in-store use. That’s what’s hot right now,” he says. “When you add in data and CRM, you can create better offers, incentives.”
In terms of leveraging social media for brand marketing, McCarthy warned that there is no one particular solution for advertisers (and by extension, for publishers). Social media, she said, isn’t a one-way street—it’s about communication. “Be aware that not only do you need to be prepared to communicate over these platforms, but you need to be ready to deal with the responses you get.”