Pond of stinky fish illustration by Yuri Kumada

What we learned at Hyper Island Social Media workshop

November 2018

Recently, we took a trip to Stockholm to take part in Hyper Island’s Social Media Marketing workshop. We had two objectives in mind. Firstly, we wanted to enhance our knowledge of social media marketing strategy, and secondly, we were hoping to pick up some new ideas for running workshops.

Workshops are an important part of life here at Elespacio. When a new project comes up, one of the first things we do is to get the client’s teams together to brainstorm and thrash out their ambitions, pain points, goals and strategies. Hyper Island has a huge reputation in the creative and digital industries, so we knew we would be learning from one of the best education providers in the business.

The Hyper Island toolbox

Hyper Island’s famously innovative workshop methodologies are based on the idea of experiential learning – or put simply, learning by doing. Workshop groups are made up of people from different backgrounds and industries, with different viewpoints and ideas, and we all worked collaboratively to put theory into practice on real-life brands.  

Check-ins and check outs: Be present, be seen and be heard

The first thing we did at the workshop was the Check-in. It’s a simple tool to bring everyone ‘into the moment’ and set the mood and the context for the day.

Workshop members stand in a circle and the facilitator asks a question, framed according to  the stage the project is at. So early in a project it could be “What are you bringing to this group?” or “What’s your vision for the group?”, and later on it could be “What’s happened since we last met?” or “What metaphor describes how you’re feeling about this project?”.

The answers to these questions can be one or two words, or a one or two-minute story, depending on how much time there is. And questions can be more playful too, such as “What’s your super-power pose today?” or “What’s your spirit animal?”. Once these are shared, the group is in a more ‘mindful’ place and ready to focus on the tasks ahead.

Super Powers and Stinky Fish

On the first day of the Social Media Marketing workshop, our Check-in involved each of us revealing our ‘Super Power’. Making an amazing vegan lasagne and tying a cherry stalk into a knot with your tongue were two of them. And it turns out that one of the Elespacio team has a spooky ability to photographically remember what’s in her fridge.

Then we were asked to get out our Stinky Fish.

Your Stinky Fish has nothing to do with personal hygiene or what you’ve got in your lunchbox. Your Stinky Fish is your biggest fear about the workshop topic, the “thing you carry around but don’t want to talk about, but the longer you carry it the stinkier it gets”.

One member of the group was afraid that she might not like social media very much. Another, an editor, was worried about not being able to write well for social media. Others were concerned about the use of personal data and whether it might end up harming society.

Putting your fears out there is a great way to encourage everyone to open up, get to know each other, and discover what you want to gain from the workshop.

Reflective Practice: taking it all in

Reflective Practice is another important tool at Hyper Island, the theory being that reflecting on what you’ve covered in each session helps you ‘harvest’ the learning.

This is how it works: after a session, reflect for five to 10 minutes in silence with a notebook. Ask yourself what happened during the experience, how you felt, what conclusions you can draw and how you can apply it in the future. Then share your reflections with your group.

This exercise not only helps you draw out the key learnings, but builds trust and openness within the team.

Social marketing tips and tricks

After all that reflection, checking in and checking out and revealing our stinky fish, we took away plenty of useful social media marketing tips and, in the Hyper-Island spirit of sharing and collaboration, here are some of them:

— Attention spans are shrinking

We’ve long known that social media users have the attention of a gnat. But apparently, those tiny attention spans are getting even tinier. It used to be 20 seconds, now it’s eight seconds. If you want to grab the attention of your target customer and ‘trick’ them into doing what you want them to (click, follow, share or whatever), you have three seconds flat, so you need to make those seconds count.

— Find the shared belief

We all want to be part of a community, because it reassures us of our own beliefs – and it simply feels good to belong. Every community has a shared belief. If you’re a sustainable fashion brand, for example, your community is made up of people who like nature and share the belief that we should protect nature with sustainable products. If you want to design good content, good campaigns and good strategy, you need to identify that shared belief.

— Find your superfan

Every community on social media is made up of three types: the superfan, who loves your brand and is desperate to share the love, the skeptic, who needs proof before they’re convinced, and the crowd, who will follow once they see what everyone else is doing. Find the superfan, because they’ll have shared your content within 15 seconds of your posting it. They do all the hard work for you by convincing the skeptics and getting the crowd to follow.

— Become a pro-stalker

Once you've identified your superfan, you need to start stalking them. That means manual work. Go on to their profiles, see who they follow, what they like, what they comment on, and you will come up some seriously granular data with which to build a persona.

— Storytelling affects your brain

Every marketing or branding professional has been told time and again that telling stories is important if you want to engage your audience. What we didn’t know that telling stories affects the way your brain works. Scientists have found that when someone listens to a story, their brain activity mirrors that of others listening and of the person telling the story. In other words, when you tell a story, you can actually make people think like you. That’s pretty impressive.

— There’s power in data. Just ask Trump

Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016 was notorious for, among other things, its use of social media to target potential voters. But all his team did was to use the tools available to every marketer.

They built lists of supporters using Facebook’s Custom Audiences, targeted ads using the Audience Targeting Options, and expanded the pool using Lookalike Audiences. The ads led to 100,000 different micro-targeted web pages, and the conversion rates were huge. Then they scaled up massively by buying data from various stakeholders (the Republican National Committee for example) and certified Facebook marketing partners. Whatever you think of the result of the campaign, there’s no denying the effectiveness of the strategy.

— Be personal on LinkedIn

It might be about what you do between 9 and 5, but LinkedIn likes things personal too. It turns out that if you post as a company, it has minimal resonance, but a post about your brand from a personal profile has plenty.

— Look for the influencers of the future

Brands have been wising up to influencer marketing for a while, nowadays spending 40% of their budget on it. Influencers can work for you on different levels – by being the ‘face’ of the brand, by creating sponsored posts, or through product sponsoring. But it’s the small, dedicated influencers who have the most potential to grow brand engagement and awareness as they grow themselves. Look out for the ones who have gone from 5,000 followers to 20,000 in three months, and nurture a relationship with them. There should always be a mutual benefit, so pay them, give them content and help them develop.

Our biggest takeaways about social media marketing? Firstly, that it changes almost by the minute, and to stay in the loop you have to keep an eye on what the younger generation are doing and tune in closely to the influencers, whose job it is to stay one step ahead in the social media game. And secondly, we’re going to tap into the idea of communities, with their superfans, skeptics and crowds, and we’re going to become pro-stalkers in order to take our digital marketing efforts to a whole new level.

We also came away with some great ideas for running workshops and next summer, we’ll be putting them into practice when we teach a digital advertising course at Harbour Space. If you’re in Barcelona come and join us as we share our nuggets of wisdom.