We recently held an event in our New York office to celebrate social media turning 21. We were joined by digital marketing professionals from everywhere who shared their experiences, frustrations and predictions.

At the center of this exchange was our leading panel of experts from the world’s largest brands, agencies and publishers.

Analyzing the shift from traditional to digital, from vanity metrics to conversions, from on-time to real-time, they answered our burning questions on what it takes to create a winning social media marketing strategy in today’s consumer-driven landscape.

Here are our key takeaways.

1. “Remember who you are as a brand.” – Gemma Craven, Head of Social & Mobile at McCann

Recently listed as Campaign Magazine’s 2018 Digital 40 Over 40, Gemma Craven is no stranger to social media excellence, having worked on a stream of award-winning digital campaigns including the famous ‘Fearless Girl’.

For her, there are endless opportunities for brands to tap into when it comes to social, but the key lies in remembering who you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it for.

“Brands need to have a lot more awareness about who they are and what they’re doing”, she says.

“Consumers today want to align themselves with brands they share values with.

People are looking more to brands and companies to actually have a position, to take a stand.”

Making these connections means practicing authenticity in everything you do, living and breathing a consistent brand purpose, and engaging in the right conversations.

“There are moments where brands can jump into a conversation, but you need to plan carefully what your role is going to be”, she says. “Remember who you are as a brand. Don’t jump into an area where you don’t have the foundation to support you.”

2. “It’s all about knowing where your audience is.” – Darris Lee, Senior Analyst, Research Data Standards at BuzzFeed Inc.

A recognized leader in viral content, BuzzFeed is famous for its unique approach to content. And for Senior Analyst, Darris Lee, much of this success comes down to how well they know their audience.

“It’s all about knowing where your audience is”, he says. “That’s been a large part of why we’ve been so successful.

We put our content where the people who are going to see it are.”

Relying on tools like GlobalWebIndex to analyze the platforms and channels most relevant to their target consumers, Darris says this insight empowers the brand to not only ensure it’s investing in the right media, but that its consumers remain at the forefront.

“It’s always important to think about what value you’re giving to your audience”, he says. “If you think about our shift towards news, all of that is built to inform. Our quizzes are generally built to help you understand and identify how you see yourself. Brands should be looking at what their audience expects from them, and creating something that’s in line with that.”

3. “It’s a buzzword, but ‘authenticity’ really matters.” – David Roter, Global Revenue & Partnerships at The Players’ Tribune

Authenticity is a term familiar to every marketer. But for David Roter at The Players’ Tribune, it should be far more than that. “It’s such a buzzword, but the word ‘authenticity’ really matters”, he says.

For any brand looking to portray authentic marketing, it takes fostering a deep understanding of its consumers’ values, and forging a brand message that aligns. This, he says, is where you can really see the power of the platform. “I read something earlier today that made me stop and think”, he says.

“People may not love ads, but they love engaging with brands.

They go out of their way to skip and to block ads, but at the same time they like engaging with them – especially those that share their values. I think there’s something really powerful in that which should shape where we go.”

4. “A platform is nothing but its users.” – Jennifer Brett, Leading Americas Insights, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

The question of which channels and platforms to invest in is one every marketer faces. For Jennifer Brett at LinkedIn, the key to knowing what works (and where) lies in keeping up with fast-moving trends.

As she explains, platforms will naturally adapt to fit their primary audiences as these evolve over time, so knowing what consumers are doing on each is key.

For leading brands like LinkedIn, whose primary audience is getting younger, this shift is plain to see.

“On LinkedIn, the percentage of younger users is definitely increasing”, she says. “If they become the prime audience, we will shift to what they’re doing and how they’re behaving because ultimately a platform is nothing but its users and how they engage.

With our publishing platform, for example, it will be interesting to see over time whether there is a younger skew of people publishing content. That content may be different to what’s on LinkedIn now, but if that’s what matters to members and what they want, then that helps set the tone.”

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.