Why we need a Social Media Conference (Suriname 2017)
This June, the Social Media Conference Suriname 2017 will be held in the Banquet Hall of Torarica Hotel & Casino. This one day event will feature over 20 speakers that will focus on the importance of Social Media for organizations, individuals and society in general. The International Keynote speakers (from Amsterdam, Miami and Curacao) will be talking about the latest trends on Social Media ranging from Tourism and the service sector to consumer based products, both on corporate and small-medium enterprise level. Local speakers will include self made Social Media and Content Marketing specialists, Bloggers, Mobile developers and enthousiasts, Social Media influencers and Media personalities.
The first question that usually gets asked (and I asked myself before committing to this event) is ‘Why?’. Why do we need an event about Social Media marketing, with Social Media at its core? Below you will find 7 good reasons why we need to have the Social Media Conference Suriname 2017, based on facts, research and (un)popular opinion.
1. Social Media is taking over the media landscape
Remember when a telethon was the way to go when you wanted to collect as much money as possible for a good cause and needed as much publicity as possible? Say hello to crowdfunding. Just two months ago a small group of people raised over 2,5 million US dollars on Crowdfunding site GoFundMe in less than a week time. The group, including Social Media stars Jérôme Jarre, Juanpa Zurita and Casey Neistat, actor Ben Stiller and athlete Colin Kaepaernik, started the ‘Love Army for Somalia’ campaign on Twitter, got Turkish Airlines to charter a cargo plane and by the time most people caught on to what exactly was going on, the campaign had already passed the initial target of 1 million.
Online media, including social media, have started to take over many of the functions that previously where completely owned by television, radio and other traditional media. The interactive nature of social media, in which user generated content can dominate the daily news cycle with limited control of a central authority allows content to go viral in ways never seen before. While Suriname participated in global hypes such as the Harlem Shake, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Mannequin Challenge, last year’s ‘Knoflooksaus’ debacle brought user generated content to another level, including a storm of memes, videos and even an own song/music video.
Even with a combined media landscape of over 40 television stations, radio stations and newspapers, Suriname had never seen a medium with a reach of over 100.000 viewers and listeners before Social Media came along.
2. Social Media in Suriname is finally starting to diversify
In Suriname, the most focus still goes out to Facebook in comparison to other Social Media platforms. Understandable, as there are 300.000 Facebook accounts (including fake and duplicated accounts) registered compared to 250.000 register internet users. According to AdWeek, Suriname ranks 3rd in use of Facebook reactions worldwide in the first year of the Facebook functionality’s existence. With 10 brands over 75.000 likes on their company pages and many personal brands with a following over 20.000 followers, Facebook has cemented its number 1 position in the Surinamese Social Media landscape.
However, part of the engagement on Social Media in Suriname has shifted away from Facebook. Especially users under the age of 25 are groups that dominate Instagram, the second biggest Social Media network in Suriname with over 100.000 registered accounts. LinkedIn in Suriname has also come on strong with over 55.000 registered accounts.
While these three networks are the ones that have provided clear country statistics, other Social Media platforms have been on the rise as well. Snapchat is more personal and reaching an even younger audience than Instagram and still is viewed as the cool and hip channel among teenagers and those young-at-heart. On YouTube we recently witnessed the second Surinamese YouTuber reach 10.000 subscribers. With their roll out of WhatsApp Status, the discussion about Whatsapp as a Social Media channel has become a legit one, as you could state that according to popular definition, the Facebook Inc. influence to make Whatsapp even more content driven has officially made it part of the Social Media landscape.
Whatsapp marketing, even before the new status roll out, was already considered as a part of Social Media marketing for many different companies. With the rise of Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Linkedin in Suriname, being a one trick pony (Facebook only based marketing) all of a sudden might just not be enough.
3. Advertising and branding budgets are slowly shifting
Online Advertising in Suriname has long been advertising heaven. In some cases, it still is. There are many succes stories for quality page likes for $0.01 per like and engagement, referral traffic and even online conversions for less than $1. But, Surinamese companies are catching up quick. If you don’t have many friends on Facebook, your feed might quickly become a commercial feed with both retargeting ads from international websites and sponsored content of local companies. With Facebook pushing the Instagram Advertising platform, companies often advertise on Instagram without even having an Instagram account.
While Social Media advertising is growing and budgets are slowly being shifted from other marketing channels toward online advertising, many companies don’t have a clear objective for their advertisements aside from focusing on reach and overal engagement. With the growth of advertisers on Social Media and the constant development of new advertising products/improvements on existing ad forms, companies need to figure out how they can differentiate their advertisements from others.
4. Most organizations still struggle incorporating Social Media
With the rise of the new media, traditional (media/marketing) companies are having a rough decade. Television, newspapers, magazines and billboards are losing the Attention War to the mobile phone, which as Gary Vaynerchuk explains, has become the first screen.
On one side, some have managed to get the competitive edge by seeing and maximizing its potential and its strengths. From movies and artists to global brands and small towns. On the other side, a huge majority of Marketing departments are still struggling to explain Social Media’s ROI to the Executives who still believe in marketing methods that often have never provided any form of advanced metrics and consumer insights.
Finding the right balance between Social Media marketing and the use of traditional marketing channels that still work becomes essential. Depending on your product/service, your company DNA, your target audience, your location and even (local/international) laws, you might find that the balance should be more on one side than the other. But in a market where a relatively large portion of organizations still puts newspaper ads on Facebook and Instagram, Social Media integration still has a long way to go.
5. The battle between consumption and production
When I studied Leisure Studies in 2004 the shift towards digitalized consumption of time as a trend had just begon. Social gathering was starting to see a decline and even when people got together, interaction had changed. The amount of spare time spend to visit family saw a decrease and time spend in front of a television became more important than ever. Time spend behind a PC was considered one of the top trends.
Just over 10 years later, the mobile phone has become the most used device in most societies and has taken over a big part of our social life. Many thought leaders, from Prince Ea to Steven Bartlett have also stated the dangers of too much Social Media consumption. Simon Sinek even lists technology as one of the main reasons why the millennial generation goes through major struggles in life.
This however is exactly the reason why we should embrace the opportunity of creation. With the world more consuming then ever, we need more creators, storytellers, artists and creatives. While not widely excepted (I sometimes still jokingly mention that Economics, Law and Medicine are considered as the only respected studies in Suriname), the new field of study, new jobs and opportunities are increasingly becoming more popular among youngsters that see the possibilities while browsing on the internet.
There is a call out for content creators. And all you need is your phone, an internet connection and a good idea. The worst thing about Social Media is that everyone with an Internet connection can create. The best thing about Social Media is that everyone (including yourself) with an Internet connection can create.
6. Finding the role of Social Media as part of ICT
The ICT sector is booming. At least, it is receiving recognition as one of the building stones for the future of our society. In Suriname, ICT has gotten the recognition for its potential as a major sector behind a big push of the ICT Association Suriname. With a growing amount of ICT related events, including held in Suriname, the long term focus of ICT has been around capacity building for all parts of the sector, but the short term focus tends to shift towards hardware, software, big data, system engineering and the internet of things.
While ICT events in Suriname provide opportunities to create instead of only consuming, the communication part of ICT mostly leans towards the technical side rather than the communication skills. On the marketing and communications side of the story, Social Media is also on the outside looking in. For many organizations, the Social Media budget often is just a fraction of the media budget, if there actually is a Social Media budget at all.
Social Media still needs to find its place in the ICT sector in Suriname. The technical side (development) is becoming more integrated with the growth of mobile app development and Social Media apps. But the days that Social Media is being run by the IT department are not that far behind us.
7. Finding opportunities
All conferences worldwide bring an extra element to an event, which is less common during a training session or meeting, networking. In particular, networking with a room full of people who are as passionate about the subject as you are. For Social Media even more so. That’s why Social Media Marketing World is considered as one of the best international conferences of its kind. With Networking, Discovery and Fun as its main ingredients, the conference provides the perfect way to participate in a comfortable way, while still getting the last info and know-how for your Social Media marketing.
With the Social Media Conference Suriname 2017, the aim is to go a similar route, not only providing attendees with the right info on the first six topics mentioned above, but also creating an event were creators, social media professionals and students can connect, to better develop the Social Media landscape of Suriname together.
Jean-luc van Charante MSc. MA. is an entrepreneur, Rotarian and Suriname Ambassador. With INEFFABLE NV he helps companies to communicate in a relatable way through Social Media and Online marketing, by bridging new media and existing marketing/corporate strategies. As lecturer at FHR School of Business and through his brand @JeanlucSR he motivates and stimulated young professionals to develop themselves in the fields of entrepreneurship, leadership and marketing.
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