Last week, I had the opportunity to join 15 other marketing professionals in hosting a series of roundtable discussions for students on topics such as social media marketing, personal branding, entrepreneurship, and advertising. The event, aptly named Meet the Marketers, was put on by AIESEC UBC, a local chapter of a global student-run non-profit organization that aims at fostering leadership and learning opportunities for students of different cultures.
From the students’ perspective, this night presented an opportunity to meet local industry professionals in a casual and comfortable setting to ask questions — what a typical day looks like in the life of a marketer, how we got where we are today, and how we learned what we know in the different areas of interest. The AIESEC executive board did a great job setting up the event, which included a keynote speaker and a delegate package with bios on event speakers from companies such as MacLaren MacCann, TalkShop, and Domain7.
I attended the event on behalf of 6S Marketing and was fortunate enough to share a table with the high-energy content strategist and self-proclaimed purveyor of silliness, Leah Gregg, from Rethink. For Leah and I, who had never met before, our table topic of social media marketing made it super easy to get in sync. As with most excitable marketers, we were more than happy for the opportunity to share stories about our personal career paths, industry insights, and, at our table, what the first social media networks were that we joined “way back then” (ICQ and Flickr, anyone?!). The sessions were short and snappy, resulting in enthusiastic discussions and question asking from both sides that could have easily had us chatting beyond the clock, and often did.
Although I’m sure we still managed to do more sharing than the students, I realized that us professionals were super lucky to have been able to spend this evening with such an inspiring group of young and motivated students.
Here are 4 key takeaways that the students helped to confirm for us marketers:
- Facebook is still king
- Brand values do matter
- Being social is still the most important part of social
- Establish yourself as an expert by openly sharing your knowledge
At least for these millennials who ranged in age from 18-24 years. With Facebook being the first social platform many of these Gen Ys signed up for, access to already-established networks of friends, and the functionalities of Facebook Groups for school project work, were big reasons for staying engaged. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was also cited as a growing channel of interest — with Twitter referenced as an alternative way to get pieces of news content. New social network Ello was never referenced, and SnapChat wasn’t big on the radar for these youth looking for more permanent interactions.
It’s not just your product that matters, but also the people and culture behind the product. Students told us that when they “Like” a page on Facebook it’s because they resonate with the values of the company. Animal-friendly and eco-conscious companies like LUSH Cosmetics met the criteria of being authentic and well-positioned with their values. Consider the values of your brand. Make sure the content you share and develop aligns with these values.
When asked why they were using their preferred social networks, the answers unsurprisingly related to connecting with people and the desire to know and share things with friends, family, and the outside world. Given the psychology behind this answer, and the staying power of this reasoning, it’s another confirmation that brands really do need to consider how they can become social and relevant with their consumer communities — over and above just responding to posts and the occasional sweepstakes. Being social means expanding into opportunities that allow for shared interactions around current events, pop culture, and holidays.
What do you want people to recognize your brand, personal self, or company for? The old adage of “knowledge is power” brings greatest results for those willing to share their expertise. This doesn’t mean giving away all the ingredients to your famous recipe; it means gaining trust through transparency, tips, and establishing the insight that you or your brand can bring into a marketplace. Use your blog, events, website, and social channels to share what is uniquely yours to share — figure out the content categories that are relevant to both your brand and consumers. Bonus: sharing information that helps or is relevant to others can be really empowering and invigorating for both brands and the people behind them.
Being a student is really an incredible experience — and my intention at the event was to encourage everyone to embrace all the learning that is available in such a supportive environment and also to share that there are lots of paths to take on the other side. In the spirit of sharing, here are a few tips and mantras that can be applied to those of you finding your path through education, careers, and finding out what makes you tick.
- Work hard. Be kind.
- Embrace learning at every opportunity.
- Own your development, and forge the path you want to take.
- Be confident and push your comfort zone. Not everything will be comfortable initially.
- Volunteer. Give back and be amazed at the opportunities for growth and development.
- Network with purpose. Build your relationships with win-win in mind.
- Read, read, read. Keep filling your brain with knowledge.
- You can be a leader without the title. Make leadership a conscious choice.
What tips would you add?