Three Things We Learned at Social Media Week

In the days immediately after one of the most contentious (and shocking) presidential elections in American history, we attended Social Media Week in Chicago. As you might expect, the election — and social media’s role in it — were the talk of the conference.

After a race in which voters relied on candidates’ social media posts more than their websites and emails as campaign news sources, the conference provided some valuable takeaways.

Personal Versus Professional Divide

Social media, obviously, has professional and personal uses. But millennials — particularly those who’ve grown up with social media — often have difficulty operating effectively in both worlds. Personal posts are often quick and fun, while work posts must be more deliberate and strategic. This is something we think about a lot at Greentarget, where we emphasize thoughtfulness in writing social posts about (sometimes extremely) complex topics.

It’s important for companies to encourage appropriate social posts. Social media is a big part of the digital workspace, where employees are expected to seamlessly collaborate around the world, allowing the diversity of ideas to foster innovation. Unfortunately, employees and leaders at many organizations see social collaboration as a nuisance — when they should see it as a new way to communicate internally as well as with clients and prospective employees.

With the election fresh in our minds, we couldn’t help but think of Donald Trump as someone who effectively blended professional and personal social media messages. While Trump’s critics might find his style troubling, he has pushed boundaries on Twitter and has changed social media’s role in the public discourse. And, of course, he notched an Electoral College victory.


As our colleague Pam Munoz wrote recently, measurement will likely continue to dominate conversations about PR strategy, especially those focused on how social media supports and elevates a brand or message. The challenge is that, thanks to relentless change and innovation, social media metrics are constantly changing.

Traditionally we could only measure impact by counting clips and mentions because there was no way to measure the dialogue around news stories. But social media affords opportunities to measure reach and engagement with new metrics like shares, reviews, sentiment and advocate engagement. What hasn’t changed is the need to identify metrics for success at the start of any campaign. Today we can determine the impact of content across social channels by measuring our actual results against what we defined as success factors.

The impact of strong (and measured) results in social media was also on display in this year’s presidential election campaign. Last summer Forbes measured Trump and Hillary Clinton’s followers, social engagements rates, sentiment, SEO, visibility, ad spend and media coverage across a variety of social sites. The article revealed concentrated efforts to leverage social media channels more than candidates had in past elections. The metrics are important because the numbers allowed each candidate to see what worked and what didn’t. It’s important to note that Trump was winning the social media war when the article was written — months before he would win the election.

Social Listening

At Greentarget we pride ourselves in being able to help our clients engage in smarter conversations, and a big part of that is taking a step back and understanding contrary opinions.

This relates to social listening, a theme across several panels, including this one, during Social Media Week. Social listening involves assessing what is being said about a specific entity on various platforms and using it to discover what people are actually talking about. It requires going beyond just monitoring Twitter mentions or Facebook comments; you must dive deep and expand your search past your own personal pages and feeds. It is particularly helpful when trying to pinpoint trends, insights and conversations that matter to specific audiences, something we do frequently for our clients at Greentarget.

Given the prominence of social media in the campaigns, we wondered whether improved social listening could have prevented the shock after the final result. In addition to dominating the social conversation, Trump had more “pro” hashtags than Clinton according to research compiled by Tracx, a social media management platform. The same research also showed that similar trends played out in the swing states, where Trump pulled in nearly four times as many positive hashtags as Clinton.

Keen observers could have spotted these trends in the weeks and months leading up to November 8.

Sarah has found great success in generating quality media exposure for professional services organizations that operate across a range of industries and specialties.

Sarah is an avid marathon runner and uses Second City’s writing and improv classes as her creative outlet.

Tyler has found great success in developing and implementing media action plans that positively position clients. His passion for social media has helped him create effective plans and conduct useful social media audits.

Tyler  enjoys tweeting about TV shows, finding fantastic restaurants and cafes, and adding to his extensive collection of coffee cups.