Claire Hamilton loves social media, so we decided to send her to an event recently that focused on it. She liked the event so much that she wrote something about it. You love to see it.
Social media is a powerful tool connecting millions globally and bringing instant, live information to our fingertips. Living between two worlds, Northern Ireland and New York, social media is a way for me to stay present across the pond.
I can comment on a friend’s Facebook post about her new baby in New York, tweet about a cool event happening in Belfast and post an update of my dog and get a few lovely comments from friends in Rockland County and County Down. It has made living abroad less overwhelming because I still have a direct line straight to friends around the world.
I took my love for online connectivity to Social Media Belfast 2019, a full day of discussions with industry leaders, hosted by AgendaNI at the beautiful Titanic building. (FYI – the background of the speaker’s panel was the famous Titanic stairwell that Jack waited for Rose at…12-year-old Claire would be very happy.)
At the event, I listened to wide range of businesses and government organisations across the UK and Ireland discuss how they have integrated social media into their Communications and Marketing strategies and, to no surprise, social has taken over! (Pro tip: humorous posts, aka dog videos, are top performers.)
I was particularly interested to learn how social media is playing a massive role across Northern Ireland. The panel organiser, Paul McGarrity from Octave Digital, kicked off the event with some really cool local social stats. Facebook is still the top network with 78% usage in Northern Ireland (38% Instagram, 28% Twitter, 26% Snapchat, 19% Pinterest and 9% LinkedIn). Not surprisingly, there are more female Facebook users and the largest age demographic is 25-34, which is the first group of people that signed up for Facebook when it was founded in 2004. That said, social is changing rapidly. Younger people are less likely to join Facebook or interact on Twitter. Instagram and Snapchat are now top performers amongst teens.
Changing attitudes in Northern Ireland towards social media were also discussed, which was fascinating considering media attention around Netflix’s “The Great Hack”, cyberbullying and Fake News. Interesting to learn that a huge 87% of participants believe that social networks need to do more to stop cyberbullying, 86% think that it is important to take time away from social media networks each day and 83% agree that social media networks should do more to combat fake news.
Fake news was also discussed by Subhajit Banerjee, Head of Transformation at 10 Downing Street and Cabinet Office Communications UK. He addressed the alarming issue of Deepfake, which is used to combine and superimpose existing images and videos onto source images or videos using a machine learning technique. Referencing the RISJ Digital News Report 2019, he noted that 55% of the sample across 38 countries remain concerned about their ability to separate what is real and fake on the internet. Scary stuff!
The day’s line-up was very impressive and also included James Coltham, Head of Digital and Content for The Scottish Government; Aoife McKevitt, Content Editor for BBC Northern Ireland; Donna Roddy, Digital Marketing Officer for Visit Derry; Sharon Campbell, Deputy Head of Communications for Trinity College and Jack Hamilton, COO at Mash Direct.
A common topic discussed across the board was how you don’t necessarily need a massive budget to execute a successful social media campaign. Trinity College and Dogs Trust Ireland both reiterated this, stating that sometimes the best reactions come from very simple, yet creative ideas.
An example of this is Trinity College who recently started using their stuffed animal bear mascot in social media posts to welcome students back to school. #TrinityTed, as he is named, was featured with the local student radio station, the student union meetings and other student welcome activities. A tiny, inexpensive campaign but his popularity and recognition amongst students has brought smiles across campus.
Another sweet idea was from Dogs Trust Ireland. Again, it didn’t take much money, but it was simple and authentic. Instead of buying presents for each other during Christmas, they purchased presents for the dogs in their centre and recorded their reactions. They were absolutely priceless and drove a lot of attention to their social channels. (I even teared up watching the videos during the presentation.)
Dogs Trust Ireland understands how important humour is in driving awareness around campaigns that aren’t as popular. For example, they created The Big Scoop for their annual dog fouling campaign. Not a pretty subject but it has to be addressed. Instead of preaching, they decided to make it relatable by creating a funny video. It drove 7k hits to their website, 165% increase on the same period last year, over 550k impressions – over 160k of which were organic on Facebook, and Facebook followers reached 82k!
I enjoyed a great day of learnings and networking with businesses driving innovation through online channels. One big shout out is to Mash Direct, one my favourite local businesses, using social media to share their story, strengthen their brand identity and communicate with people that buy their products. From the Peter Rabbit movie campaign to drone footage of their family farm, Mash Direct continuously re-fresh their content to get the message far and wide and use social as a strategic part of customer relationship building.
I’m already looking forward to Social Media Belfast 2020 to discuss how much the landscape has changed. To quote one of the speakers, James Coltham, Head of Digital and Content for The Scottish Government, “a week is a long time in politics…and social media,” so who knows what 2020 will bring!