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Blog // Thoughts
February 18, 2013

Social Media Week Singapore – Keynote

This morning I overcame a looming migraine (maybe lightning does cause them) and a gnawing sense of cynicism to attend this morning’s opening to Social Media Week Singapore. This morning’s event featured largely frank and jargon-free talks from Laura Balkovich, Head of Social APAC for Google and Damien Cummings, Regional Marketing Director, Digital & Social […]

This morning I overcame a looming migraine (maybe lightning does cause them) and a gnawing sense of cynicism to attend this morning’s opening to Social Media Week Singapore.

This morning’s event featured largely frank and jargon-free talks from Laura Balkovich, Head of Social APAC for Google and Damien Cummings, Regional Marketing Director, Digital & Social Media. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best sessions on Social Media I’ve attended.

Brands, Google & Social

“Google+ is really the next version of Google.”
Laura Balkovich

Laura Balkovich’s talk was largely a position piece on the way Google understands social interaction online, the changing face of search and the way Google+ is showing us what the future of the internet might look like. Within that the focus was on how important user generated content and online communities are for brands and companies.

A few comments I caught from Balkovich included,

  • 25% of search results for top 20 brands comes from user generated content
  • 40% of 14-34 say being relatable is the top quality they seek in a brand
  • There are 12 million cricket fans active in communities on G+
  • 70% of brand content created by consumers not brands

    At the beginning of the talk there was a bit of shuffling and snickering when Google+ was first mentioned, with the person next to me saying “I thought Google+ was dead.” By the end of Balkovich’s presentation I could see people around me updating their G+ profiles on tablets and smartphones – an amusing but revealing reversal.

    People, Passion & Social

    “Social Media = People”
    Damien Cummings

    Like any good keynote should, Damien Cummings talk really broke open the subject in a refreshing way. I’ve come to be somewhat cynical about big social media events because all to often their focus is claustrophobically narrow, defined by an obsession with brands and metrics.

    Cummings did a great job of pulling the focus back onto people and why they use social media in the first place, before talking about brands and the real challenges they face. Some points I noted include,

  • 57% of people don’t want to talk to brands
  • Brands should connect with people’s passion points
  • Top passion points in Singapore – shopping, food, tech, travel & work
  • Focus should shift from brand + location to passion + brand

    Takeaway Points

    “We’re not fearless in Asia.”
    Damien Cummings

    Before the event I was talking with a blogger I admire about how difficult it can be locally to get reliable information and access for key events in this city. That conversation was echoing in my ears as I sat and heard Balkovich and Cummings talk about the importance of online communities, influencers and super fans.

    Because all too often the focus, in social media related activity, is on brand communication and pumping out spam-ish announcements. But, there’s a lot less focus, far too little in fact, on understanding and developing communities and relationships with key influencers.

    I was surprised when Cummings pointed out that most of the largest Twitter accounts are either film/tv stars or companies and that the biggest individuals on Twitter have numbers followers in 12-15k range. As someone in that group I was stunned, because the interaction I get locally from brands in my field, from event organisers and from key companies is close to zero (which is very different to my experience living in Hong Kong or when I travel to other major cities). Clearly something is wrong here.

    And, the final point that hit home was the need to transcend location-obsession and connect instead with people’s passions. Most of the arts related social activity I see in Singapore feels very location obsessed and all too often feels outright spammy. This is a topic I’ll come back to after Thursday’s music related Social Media Week events.

    So, for now I’d like to say thank you to the Social Media Week Singapore organisers for a thought-provoking event and to Laura Balkovich and Damien Cummings for two great talks.

    Responses
    The World of Stories 7 years ago

    Now that’s one awesome blog. I specifically agree with overcoming the “location-obsession.” I like to talk, hear and see all things digital. I am based in India. But because of my passion, I am following a conference in Singapore. Less about location, more about passion! 🙂

      Fernando Gros 7 years ago

      Deepika – thanks for your comment; I agree. Location matters in some ways, but it’s not the most interesting story.

    amichetti 7 years ago

    What did Cummings mean, exactly, when he said the “largest” twitter accounts? What metric is he using? number of tweets? number of followers? scope of influence (which could also be measured in many different ways)?

    I find it interesting to hear your experience compared to Hong Kong, as mine is rather different compared to New York (where I was before moving here). In NYC, local interaction was really narrow — so narrow in fact that I didn’t find it useful. I often got better information via social media about events and activities in NYC via people who were visiting than via people in NYC. For the few narrow scopes that did sustain my interests (think: Village Voice, Jazz at Lincoln Centre and all their followers/ influencers / fans), it was fine, but if I wanted more broad information or updates, I was better off just doing a Google search.

    However, in Singapore, I find that my local social media circle — particularly via Twitter — is able to suggest and recommend activities far more broadly but still in ways that are relevant to me. Perhaps it’s that there are just fewer activities here in general (Singapore has roughly half the population of NYC after all) that I’m finding it easier to use social media this way… I’m not quite sure.

      Fernando Gros 7 years ago

      Adrienne – I’ve amended my piece to make it clear he meant number of followers.

      In Hong Kong I found social media, by which I almost exclusively mean Twitter, to be a brilliant way to meet people, find work & navigate the city. I had major hotels, restaurants, magazines agencies and most of the organisers for Social Media Week and other high profile events interacting with me regularly. I could ask questions about the city and get relevant answers most of the time. And, I met a lot of amazing people who went on to become friends, peers and collaborators.

      In Singapore my experience has been totally different. For starters Twitter users here, both companies and individuals seem to follow back and engage less. While I enjoy many of the conversations on Twitter, I find much less connection with my day to day interests and tastes. And, apart from a very narrow focus (music & photography), I’ve not found Twitter to be good way to meet people.

      So, while Twitter was central to pretty much everything good about life in Hong Kong for me, in Singapore it has just been an addendum.

      I do wonder from time to time if this is is a function of size. Hong Kong is a bigger city than Singapore, but Twitter is mostly an English phenomenon in that city and the expat population of Hong Kong is a lot smaller than the expat population of Singapore, let alone the whole English-sepaking population of this city.

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