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Thoughts from the Social Brands event, February 7th 2013

Last week NixonMcInnes sponsored the Social Brands event held in London, and Will gave a presentation on taking social to the next level. I’m not normally a big fan of event write-ups as they normally feel too much like link-bait, but four days on I wanted to capture my overall thoughts from the day.

Sounds odd, but for me the whole thing felt like confirmation that the job I have and the industry I work in is solid and ageing gracefully. Some reading this will know the pain of vanity-parade conferences full of identikit presentations, terrifying networking breaks and the dreaded sales-pitch. Social Brands had none of these. It was a collection of smart people all working to achieve something worthwhile in social media.

The speakers were uniformly excellent (including Will obvs) the subject matter was varied and every-time I talked to another delegate, brand AND supplier side, I learned something. As Marketing has already written a comprehensive and blow-by-blow account of the day, here are my highlights:

1. The legalities of social media are fascinating; I sat in on a workshop session led by Phil Sherrell from Bird & Bird. Phil is a lawyer specialising in brands and corporate reputation, and he gave a comprehensive overview of what you can and can’t do legally in social. Aside from the high-profile examples like the Wayne Rooney tweet, he gave some lovely examples of how the law applies to social media. While I knew that retweeting a tweet counts as endorsement, so does favouriting - in the eyes of the law you’re still publicly acknowledging that you’ve seen and approved of that statement.

Also apologising in social media doesn’t necessarily accept liability, something that others disagree with, but I guess that’s the fun of a growing medium – the absolute rights and wrongs are yet to be established.

2. Pharma is hard; Kai Gait, Digital Director for GSK gave a brilliant presentation on the challenges facing pharma in social media. As an industry they’re unable to promote products, even simply engage in conversations about relevant conditions/ailments. I had a chat to Kai in the break about the similarities with the finance world, but acknowledged that even the banks can talk about money.

For me the ethics surrounding this are fascinating; for some obviously large pharmas are evil corporations, for others they’re essential businesses which will help us live longer and healthier. Given the potential for social media as a source of information around our personal health the role of pharmas could be a critical and hugely helpful one. 

3. Germans are funny; another workshop I attended was around crisis, delivered by Thomas Knorpp of Sainsburys. Thomas gave an honest and straightforward overview of how the supermarket deals with crisis, including a look at their three-tiered classification system (if something happens to impact the running or long-term reputation of the business it’s a crisis). He was brilliant – very funny and refreshingly matter-of-fact about the ugly side of social media.

For me he was representative of the whole day. Social media is a grown up. It’s an evolving industry with precedents & norms, and while there’s a dizzying amount of possibility and potential, what’s already been done is worth celebrating. 

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