A Very Sociable Round-Up of SocialNorth
Like with all good stories, I’ll start by setting the scene. It’s Wednesday. It’s hot, and boy is it humid. Table seats on our train from Leeds to Manchester were selfishly taken up by half the occupants and luggage they’re designed for. Sounds like a regular hump day, right? Wrong. There was no ‘hump’ about it – this particular Wednesday meant one thing, and one thing only: SocialNorth. And we couldn’t be gladder that we’d bagged ourselves three spots in the audience.
Co-founded by Justin Clark and Lee Benecke who were fed up with having to travel long distances to attend marketing-related events (we’re looking at you, London), SocialNorth was conceptualised to connect the digital communities of the North. Since its debut event in 2020 (and subsequent you-know-what), awareness of the networking catalyst has somewhat grown. Last night, just shy of 300 of us rocked up to Manchester’s Stoller Hall. And it’s no wonder – SocialNorth’s speaker line-ups boast some real talent that’s only going from strength-to-strength as their reputation grows.
About last night
After introductions and mingling over canapes and drinks (doubly refreshing given temperatures in the mid-twenties), we took our seats. The lights dimmed over us – the audience – but the stage was ablaze. An attention-grabbing video from SocialNorth quickly turned excited chatter into silence, setting an intrigued atmosphere for the interactive and thought-provoking evening ahead.
So, who did we hear from? Six social media professionals whose CVs pack a punch – and then some!
- Queens of LadBible Group’s video content, Rebecca Tyrell (Instagram and TikTok Lead) and Hazel Lubbock (Head of Social Video)
- Claude Springer, Social Area Director of Meltwater
- Rise at Seven’s Brand Director, Pheobe Russell
- Gisella Lomax, Global Head of Social at UNHCR
- Vogue’s Senior Audience Growth Manager, Alyson Lowe
Lessons we learned
Thankfully, Google’s now favouring longer-form content, so I’m not restricted to trying to briefly round up hours of truly tangible, highly applicable, and genuinely inspiring takeaways. (But I have split it up into 5 parts, because we all still favour accessible content.)
- Know your audience
The ladies from the LadBible Group couldn’t emphasise this enough. They made no apologies for continually homing in this message, referring each point, case study, or example they shared back to having knowledge of your audience. Specifically, the types of audience sieving through content daily across our numerous social channels.
It seems obvious when it’s said out loud that a 20-minute YouTube documentary isn’t as well-received if shared on Instagram – simply, their audiences want different things. But what maybe isn’t so obvious is how you can rework the same piece of content and tailor it to each platform’s audience. Got a part of your video that’s funny? Clip it down and distribute it on TikTok.
Or, rework the same content idea but execute it differently. Well-performing YouTube videos tend to be sleek – big money has gone into the filming equipment, extensive time is taken to ensure an impressive edit, and the landscape shoot spans hours, if not days. But does such an aesthetic have the same impact on Instagram? Not quite.
Rebecca and Hazel detailed how the IG audience favours less ‘professional’ and more low-fi video content, because that reflects the content creator audience that’s evolving with the platform. Meaning videos shot in portrait and on your SmartPhone, with the final edit ready in a matter of minutes.
- Stop trying to predict what’s going to happen on social next
“Because none of us have a crystal ball,” said Claude. Sure, we can recognise trends, spot patterns in social platform algorithms, and use our best-performing posts to inform future strategies, but did anyone predict how damn disruptive TikTok was going to become? I’ll leave that to linger.
Opening his presentation with the question, ‘Is it a social media world that we’re just living in?’, Claude’s buoyant speech became particularly memorable for the personalities he’d given to each social platform to help us visualise the theory. I’ve narrowed down our favourites:
‘Slow and steady wins the race.’
Lesson: Stop trying to write it off – Twitter’s here to stay. Think about it – where else has a feed of breaking news instantly justified or pulled apart by journalists, governments, and world organisations?
‘The Robin to you, Batman!’
Lesson: Meta-bought Instagram is obviously going to follow suit of what the social media giant is doing. But take it with a pinch of salt – we all shared a giggle over those recent Instagram algorithmic updates…
‘Amplification is the aim of the game and we’re here to play!’
Lesson: The dedicated ‘work’ platform of the crop is incorporating more features and modes that are slowly merging professional and personal – think the recent post reshare update. Why? Social is, well, social – and communications in and between the workplace are no different in our post-pandemic world.
‘The biggest social disrupter creating new boundaries of possibility and monetisation’
Lesson: Surely this social phenomenon speaks for itself? It’s shook up the social world, and Meta’s quaking in its boots.
- Search and social, a match made in heaven
When Pheobe took to the stage, we knew we were in for a treat. Her enthusiasm for social marketing needed no introduction – it was obvious that she lives and breathes search as she talked us through how her team has achieved some eye-wateringly impressive results.
Campaigns don’t necessarily need to follow the status-quo – if you’re trying to leverage a social trend to make content perform, why not flip it? Choose a product or service’s keyword, and start your own social (TikTok) trend. Optimise PR, and get everybody talking about that trend that’s been caused by your brand.
Bish bash bosh, you’re ranking #1 on Google before you know it. And you’ve got tens of backlinks to your site, and some pretty sweet TikTok videos in your locker.
- Clicktivism – it’s everyone’s problem
Ah. Gisella Lomax, I’m genuinely worried that my words won’t do your speech justice. The Global Chief had the audience engaged from the go as she offered her opinion on the rise and fall of social media. How backwards it is that the more we’re exposed to images, photos, stories, videos, cartoons (the list goes on) of the horrors of the world, the less we care. Her UNHCR social team were quick to spot the trend in their own posts – that shares of groups in danger were less than those of individuals. Pretty dark, right?
And with social media also making us angrier (there’s been a Yale study on it), Gisella really provoked thoughts of responsibility. Who is responsible – the platforms themselves? Their content creators? Users, like you and I? Government bodies? Well, it’s another one that no-one really knows – social media exploded so suddenly and exponentially that things like policy haven’t yet caught up.
Will they? That remains to be seen. But Gisella wanted all 300 or so of us sat in Stoller Hall to understand and remember that we, a group that live on social daily, are the ones best equipped to change it. React to it. Inform it.
- Your strategy lies in your data
Tough acts to follow, but followed they were – Alyson, take a bow. She didn’t beat around the bush – I doubt that anyone sat in that hall hadn’t flicked through a copy of Vogue, least not framed one of their infamous covers for a wall. Her presentation largely focussed on the traditionally-print powerhouse’s transition to digital and social. ‘With success’ being the understatement of the evening.
Remember Billee Eilish’s cover from 2021? Course you do. It was EVERYWHERE – stocked in shops, discussed on the news, liked, commented, and shared on socials… Including Vogue’s very own Instagram account. Now, before Billee, Vogue remained protective over its content – sure, a few photos accompanied by interview excerpts were normally shared on its channels, but never the entire piece. Until Vogue recognised that Billee’s cover could break the internet, and it was their content to own.
Her post broke the record for being the platform’s photo to reach 1 million likes the quickest, just under 6 minutes. At the time of writing this, it’s closing in on 17 million. 17 MILLION. And Vogue’s opportunity lay in its data – they knew that there was a surge of users to their site, and they also knew that as soon as the cover was available to the public, the web would be saturated with its contents spread over other publications before lunchtime.
So, they decided to own it. Inviting the audience to access the interview – for free – on Vogue’s website itself, they capitalised on the readership that was so very deservedly their own. Safe to say that British Vogue’s Instagram Execs got some new-found responsibility – they’re currently at 6.5 million followers.
Wrapping it up
So, to our colleagues who asked us this morning, ‘how was SocialNorth?’, I hope this will suffice. To Justin and Lee at SocialNorth, we hope this provides you with a glimmer of the current and future impact of your social movement desperately craved by the North. And to you, the reader – never a day goes by at Halston B2B where we’re not listening, learning, and applying. It’s this that propels us to produce hard-hitting campaigns for our clients. And if you’d like to see what we could do for you, you know what you’ve got to do…