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  • Alana Sandel

Social Media Trendspotting Notes: CES 2020 In Review

Didn’t make it to CES this year? Don’t worry. I took notes for you — with a keen eye this year toward observing what does or doesn’t work in media, particularly in the context of technology that can improve people’s health. My observations are as follows:


• When it comes to social media, there is an agreement that marketers have to constantly reprioritize plans and tactics to stay focused on what matters most. The words “authentic engagement” get thrown around a lot, but this is easier said than done. Brands that achieve strong organic engagement are usually effective at platform-by-platform microtargeting; you can’t cut and paste your YouTube tactics or strategy over to TikTok, for example, and expect them to work the same.

• High-level, custom storytelling and media (with top-shelf creative execution done more and more with the help of production companies) are now table stakes for gaining traction in social media. At CES, some brands shared their struggles in trying to engage TikTok users. Some brands, however, got "the vibe" of the platform. For example, Elf Cosmetics partnered with TikTok to make a custom song and generated 1.2 billion views. If your content is not supremely shareable and executed with a firm vision, it’s not worth your users' time.

• Influencers are still front of mind, with companies devising strategies that engage both macro- and micro-influencers to get the ideal mix of reach and relevance. There are billions of engagements per year in media overall. If you add influencers, the number of engagements jumps even more. There is more content than people can keep up with, but, according to one CES panel I attended, engagement on Instagram has increased in the last year (with some legacy platforms starting to plateau). Another reason influencers are a starting point: They are your guides. No brand can hope to master all the nuances of a given platform, which makes influencers an invaluable shortcut. It burns too much budget to figure it all out yourself. Macro-influencers have been in the game long enough that they’re now launching a new wave of businesses to capitalize on their social media time investments. Watch where they’re going before you plot your course.

• This may sound like a nightmare to Boomers and Xers, but younger users “fold time,” escaping the linear digital reality of “too much media, not enough time” (and oncoming “social recession”) by talking, watching, scrolling, walking and swiping all at once. But you still have to have an authentic story, a solid strategy and a nondisruptive way to penetrate their bubbles; how does your brand’s social point of view lend itself to stories they will care about? • While you’ll have to enlist your own experts to create the right initiative, figuring out how to convey culture and a narrative is huge. (Not a social media strategy per se, but have you ever figured out what your brand’s “hero narrative” is? There might not even be one!) YouTube is a great storytelling medium. At one of the CES panels, I learned that the optimal YouTube video runs about 10 minutes. I also learned that Facebook-owned Instagram is now giving videos higher priority in its search, and brands like Univision are reaching out to Gen X and millennials on YouTube and saving their Facebook efforts for older audiences (but you knew that).

With its dazzling immersion, hungry exhibitors and high density of pros in marketing, product development and research, it took a lot of planning to make the most of the event. (Brain, meet firehose.) The more we're awash in stimulus, the more good curation seems to matter: I saw packs of journalists and influencers being guided in groups, getting a hand-picked view of the must-sees in each pavilion.

As marketers, brave branding and a clear message will be our next critical important iteration. Until next year, thanks to everybody who made the event so much fun and offered so much great learning (and who threw great afterparties). You've given us marketers so much inspiration and so much to think about! Read this article on Forbes here.

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