What social media managers need to know – my takeaways from Social Day 2018

If you want to be a successful social media manager you need to stay up to date on the latest industry developments. Cat Davies shares her biggest takeaways from Social Day 2018. 

If you want to make money as a social media manager you can’t just complete your training and hope work will come to you. You need to ensure you’re a current expert on all things social.

(You also need to understand how to actually run a business, even if you’re just freelancing from home, but that’s a whole other article!)

We recently teamed up with superstar social media manager Cat Davies to put together an email series for you with 7 Days of Success Tips for social media managers. You can sign up here if you haven’t done so already.

In order to stay ahead of the industry and ensure her own knowledge and skills were completely up to date, Cat recently attended Social Day 2018. Here are her biggest takeaways for social media managers.

What social media managers need to know – my takeaways from Social Day 2018

From the 30 May to the 1 June, I spent three days in the Congress Centre at #SocialDay18, hearing from Facebook, Twitter and Snap HQ as well as hearing from people working in digital agencies or working client-side on the big brands.

Social media conferences get a bad rap as there are some professional speakers who haven’t tweeted on anything but their own accounts for years, and talk in such general terms as to render the entire keynote a total waste of everyone’s time.

But Social Day is a brand I trust. I know Lucy Hall who runs it, I like her, and more importantly I like her taste in speakers. She goes left field where others stay safe, and her commitment to diversity of speakers means that quality and innovation of thought is brought into the room.

Watch Lucy Hall’s takeaway here:


So what was the best part of the conference?This was a question Claire Sparksman asked on Twitter:

This blog is my attempt to bring together the themes of the three days and tie together all the knowledge shared and ideas exchanged.


Will you be replaced by bots?


It’s not news that we are in the technology revolution. But when statistics are thrown around like 85% of customer service will be done by bots in two years, you sit up and realise that technology will overtake you unless you make a conscious effort to keep your skills up to date.

The focus of the speakers wasn’t to scare us into believing that ‘the robots are coming’, but to challenge us to think about the morals and ethics of the issues that AI and robotics brings with it.

Katie King’s talk in particular focused my thoughts on what work I need to start specialising in to future proof myself for when automation scales and the transactional elements of my current job have moved on from needing a human to be involved.

There is a very interesting question about social media management and how much of this is transactional. Since 2017 I have preached about the need for creativity in our industry and how the ‘schedule it and leave it running’ approach has become less and less effective.  

However this transactional approach is still being used by many brands, and it is going to be interesting to see if tools develop that use AI to populate social media channels without the need for a social media manager.

Assuming this does happen – and I can see tools such as MixBloom or SmarterQueue evolving to do this – what then do the human social media managers do?

We need to be focused on our creativity, the ability to problem solve using real time data, and I personally believe we need to learn to code. To be creative, analytical and technical and be able to keep up when the role of the social media manager evolves to social media AI creator and operator.

Watch my takeaway on this here:


Are you making the best use of the video offerings available on the platforms?

Video was talked about everywhere at Social Day. Especially vertical video! Ian Edwards from Facebook HQ even said that “2018 is the summer of stories” for Instagram (who are owned by Facebook). The popularity of Instagram Stories can not be over-stated.

Watch Lloyd Knowlton’s takeaway here:


The focus of vertical video comes from the long-predicted move of the social media user from the desktop to the mobile.

This statistic shared by Bruce Daisley from Twitter HQ confirmed that this has now happened. As social media marketeers we need to design for the mobile experience first, as that is now the majority of the audience.  

Vertical video not looking great on desktop isn’t a problem, but 9 out of 10 people not watching your horizontal 16:9 oldskool, over-produced video because they are on their mobile phone and just scrolled past is.

The key to video performance is to design the video for the platform it’s playing on. There were some fantastic ideas shared by Snap HQ, but my favorite show-case of videos that worked were from @onthetoolstv.

It’s well worth losing yourself on their Facebook page and learning what they do and how they make videos that aren’t differentiated from the crowd-sourced videos that are sent in to them from their 1.7m strong community.

As a side note, I enjoyed the fact that @OnTheTools was started as two friends who wanted to build a recruitment app for the trade industry. Three years later they still haven’t finished the app but have a very successful digital marketing business!  

Are you trying to game the algorithms or are you trying to produce engaging creative content that your audience will enjoy?

In the industry we are all guilty of getting over-excited when Facebook announces a new change to promote friends’ posts above business content, or when Instagram threatens to change the grid structure.

The consistent message throughout Social Day, from multiple speakers, was to challenge the room to be more creative and stop reacting to platform changes.

Watch Debbie Clarke’s takeaway here:


The context of this is because all the platforms’ key objective is to deliver the best experience for the user. And this is never going to align with what social media managers, want which is a feed full of their client’s content being served up for free!

We need to recognise that people are on social media to chat to their friends, not to businesses, and if we want to grab their attention and take some of their precious time we need to get creative.

Watch Sarah Clay’s takeaway here:


I liked the example from McDonalds, which took advantage of the interest in the new Facebook reaction buttons that had just been released, and asked its’ followers which flavour milkshake do you dip your fries in?

This got great results for them as it was based on real life – people do this in their restaurants – and also it felt new and fun on the platform at that time.

Ian Edwards from Facebook HQ challenged the room to think creatively when it came to lead generation ads on Instagram. These are the most powerful advert type on Instagram, but the best results come when they are used innovatively – when you try and engage through the advert with your audience and have fun with them.

Reading between the lines of this part of his talk, these adverts perform poorly if you just pop up a picture and add some hashtags.

So if it’s all about engagement then how do you make engaging content?

Want to create engaging content? Be authentic.

Watch Claire Grace’s takeaway here: 


The fastest ways to generate engagement were to make vertical video and live stream. Let’s start with Instagram Stories specifically. Ian Edwards shared this gem of a statistic:

If you want people to start to talk to you, vertical video stories on Instagram are the quickest way to start. Once people chat to you through stories, they will grow more and more connected and invested, and will grow into a regular commentator and engager. But it starts with vertical video.

The second idea that was explored was live streaming. The live experience has been analysed time and time again, and we like watching things together and chatting with each other together. It’s the most engaging content and it’s good for us.

Passively scrolling makes us feel sad, chatting online about a joint and shared experience makes us feel good.

So how do you go about live streaming?

This is reductive, but these are your big three choices and it’s well worth having a live streaming strategy in order to generate the engagement that your brand needs to stay relevant on social media in 2018.

The extras

The best bits for me of a conference are the casual asides the speakers make that aren’t part of their presentations as they consider the remark common knowledge. And it blows your mind. Here are three of the nuggets I took from this years #SocialDay18.

Number 1: McDonalds gets clearance on all gifs used and ensures they have the rights to the footage.

Number 2:  Profile pictures with phones in them are considered cheesy. That one hurt a little.

Number 3: Content Cal use Twitter and LinkedIn as their social media channels. They aren’t everywhere.

Watch Emily O’Neill’s takeaway here:


My final thoughts from Social Day 2018

Social media is ever-changing and I think that makes conferences like Social Day a brilliant focus for me to get up to date. There is no way that listening to the founder of a digital agency that has got a 10 minute video viewed 14 million times on Facebook isn’t going to be useful in my mind!

I love hearing (and validating my own process) from the big brands. And it’s great to get the talks from the platform HQs and listen out for the signals of where they are headed in the next few years.

And although I rolled my eyes at a slightly strange panelist who suggested we should all “stop pretending to tweet and talk to each other”, I did really enjoy spending time chatting face to face with people I have met and formed amazing friendships with online.

Just one of some quite astonishing photos taken throughout the 3 days. You can tell I’ve never learnt my angles!

The next conference I’m going to is actually run by Paul (pictured) in Nottingham this September and I’m going to be back at #SocialDay19 in May 2019.

Did you go to #SocialDay18 and if so what were your takeways? And if you didn’t what do you think of one (or all!) of these themes I’ve discussed in this article?

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Photo by Kev Costello