NetBase Live 2016

Over the last few weeks my schedule has changed significantly, following the completion of an ongoing consulting project. Since then I’ve been working full-time on finding full-time work, complete with the full suite of coffee meetings, volunteering, and researching opportunities of interest. This week my plans abruptly changed again, when my friend, mentor, and former Cox Communications manager Adam Naide announced his coming to town to speak at Netbase Live 2016. I was thrilled to receive a ticket and attend for more formalized networking and social media-specific programming.

Below you’ll find a recap of the event from a few panels I attended. Topics include:

  • Social media trends from industry thought leaders.
  • A deep-dive into Coca-Cola’s brand building and content strategy.
  • Leveraging social intelligence at Cox Communications.
  • The future of social media and predictions for 2017.
  • Keynotes from Ayesha Curry, Robert Terecek, and Brian Solis.

Day 1

What Coca-Cola Has Learned About Building Brands on Social Media Channels (main recap)
Presentation by Benjamin Kealy: Global Social Media Strategist at The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola manages an astounding ~ 600 social media handles worldwide. Ben shared with us that the company employs approximately 600 social media employees to match this scale, housed in 35 social interaction centers, primarily agency run. Not surprising, seeing as Coke is one of the most social brands in the world.

Ben took us through the history of Coca-Cola’s social presence, sharing that the Facebook page was initially fan-created by two individuals up until Facebook asked the company to take over. Ben also shared with us how 95% of Coca-Cola’s YouTube content is not created by Coke, but by fans and outsiders. Coca-Cola, who are used to controlling the conversation, have used this specific channel’s case study as a learning experience across their content strategy. Ben introduced us to the concept of a “Democracy of Content,” sharing that in the quest for popularity and entertainment online, anything goes. For example, a dude bathing in an inflatable pool filled with Coke has received upwards of 45M views!

We all know Coca-Cola promotes heavily around events like the Olympics and World Cup. Ben urged us to rethink real-time marketing, stating that it shouldn’t be limited to social media exclusively. With real-time, you have an opportunity to tap into something real that’s happened in the world, in a way you belong. In other words, in a way that’s genuinely positive and not opportunistic. Take the two examples below for instance. Corvette with a heart-felt Prince tribute ad, and Norwegian Air with a clever message to Norwegian women following Brangelina’s break-up.


Ben followed up on these two examples by relating social networks to an old-time campfire, stating that the networks are a reflection of human nature. Advertisers are quick to capitalize on these networks, seeing them as audience opportunities which, however, introduces a Schrödinger’s cat scenario (A paradox to quantum superposition placing a cat in a closed box with poison, at which point an interpreter cannot know if the cat is alive or dead. Similar in the advertising sense when entering a new community for the first time, not knowing their reaction.).

We then transitioned from these real-time concepts to the user trend in moving from public spaces to the “dark side” of social. These are channels where no advertisers can operate (think Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE, and Kakao Talk). Here’s a great article from Business Insider on the topic: Widely Popular Messaging Apps Are Becoming Immersive Mobile Platforms In Their Own Right.

MAU of
MAU of “dark apps” (Business Insider)

Next up in the discussion was Coca-Cola’s use of influencers. Ben claimed Coke to be the first ever company to use celebrities in promotions, beginning in the 1890’s. Today we see many celebrities aligned with the brand, such as Selena Gomez (pictured below), but the definition of “celebrity” is changing. Are YouTubers celebrities? What about the other brands leveraging these celebrity networks? Ben explains that there must be a true affinity for Coke to become an official ambassador of theirs.

As a quick influencer test, place your competitor’s products in the same influencer spot you’re running. Is their product directly interchangeable, changing nothing about what the celebrity is saying? If yes, then you’ll need to choose a different influencer.


Lastly, Coke’s content strategy. Ben laid it out like this:

1 – Planned content: Often 6-8 months out.
2 – Ready for real-time: Pre-approved Olympics opening ceremony tweets, for example.
3 – Real-time: 10% of their strategy. Have a sense of what you’re looking for, i.e. authentic moments inherently expected at whatever event you’re targeting.

The takeaway here — real-time is mostly about planning, and being ready for organic moments for you and your brand to capitalize.

A final takeaway from Ben’s content strategy — data is key. “It’s important you dedicate a resource to analyze your data and analytics in order to do it justice.”

Measuring a return: The below image shows how Coca-Cola is working towards showing an ROI correlation in their content marketing efforts. Starting with Platform Metrics (likes, views, shares) which then tie into larger Behavior Metrics (reach, engagement), after which you can compare with other integrated campaigns or competitors’ efforts through Connections Metrics. At this point, your data can indicate Correlations around if […] occurs, then we can expect […] in return. The outcome: Business and Brand Results at the top of your hierarchy (aka ROI).


Keynote: Ayesha’s Homemade, Using Social to Build a Personal & Culinary Empire
Presented by Ayesha Curry: Celebrity Chef, Author & TV Personality

A lot of Ayesha’s Keynote was anecdotal and somewhat subjective, so I’ll get straight to the takeaways.

  • To stay organized as an influencer, look to utilize tools like Slyce (launched by Ayesha’s husband, Steph).
  • No Kid Hungry: A program in collaboration with Williams-Sonoma aiming to end childhood hunger in America. Really amazing program, and kudos to Ayesha for spearheading.
  • Ayesha looks up to Tory Burch and Jessica Alba as social media influencers and brand builders.
  • On the topic her daughter (Riley), Ayesha described how their family is just trying to live their lives. After the NBA Playoffs last year, Riley blew up in popularity with an ensuing media craze of offers everywhere, but Mama Curry says “No” until her daughter is old enough to decide for herself.
  • Ayesha believes in meal time as a family, something my parents have also instilled in my heart over the years. The sense of togetherness must be developed at a young age, otherwise being “independently together” (on our phones, etc.) will become the new norm.
  • Learn about Ayesha and her soon-to-be empire, including her show, cookbook, and more, on her website here. P.S. Her favorite comfort food recipe is an Oven Roasted Brown Sugar Chicken.)

How Cox Uses Social Intelligence to Drive Business Value
Presented by Adam Naide: Executive Director of Marketing, Social and Emerging Media, Cox Communications

Adam began by posing the question, “How many of you want to be friends with your cable company?” … or Internet service provider, for that matter. Not many raised their hands, however, Adam urged the crowd to reconsider that a relationship can provide certain benefits in terms of expedited assistance and so forth.

Cox is able to use social media intelligence to identify these happy customers and incentivize or nurture them to be at the forefront of Cox’s marketing voice. Cox has killer content to leverage through their programming (think Game of Thrones), so using social intelligence to activate passionate fans has become a major driver of value at the enterprise business level.

Adam shared the company’s three pillars of social philosophy: Social Intelligence, Social Marketing, Social Leadership. By leveraging analytics and NetBase intelligence tools in their marketing, Cox is able to create relationships with key customers and capitalize on organic mentions in real-time. In social leadership, Cox is building an impressive B2B marketing machine, seeking to be best-in-class in customer data and insights.

In a quick case study, Adam discussed the launch of Cox Contour, their flagship video product. By strategizing the launch using social intelligence, Cox was able to successfully promote Contour as the best television interface available, bringing significant sentiment changes to cable TV. Cox identified and engaged Contour advocates, capitalizing on the positive word of mouth buzz spreading around their Talking Remote, for instance. An example here:

Adam cited the impressive NetBase software in social intelligence and machine learning, praising the audience insights. His team was able to dig in and understand the complex audience markets around the student and gamer demographics, creating an informed approach as to how Cox would launch their Gigablast Internet campaigns. They found that students were more interested in wifi connectivity and overall speeds, while gamers were discussing connection / gameplay lags in a context Adam and Cox were unaware of — “rubber banding.”

The team then launched a 360-degree integrated campaign including a #CollegeProblems-themed rap video, ads on Twitch, etc. Good stuff.

Next up, Adam discussed Cox’s real-time marketing, in particular around the Rio 2016 Olympics. NBC had outlined certain requirements and regulations around what Cox was to post, while Adam employed the McBeard agency in developing creative GIFs and memes while still playing by the NBC rules. To no surprise, the McBeard posts received higher engagement rates.


Finally, in an audience question Adam was asked about providing an ROI to the Cox upper management. Adam, visibly fired up by the topic, responded by explaining the off-putting notion that social media is expected to provide a $-amount return while TV ads and outdoor displays are not. Yes, social ads used for commerce to drive sales can be measured, but that’s separate from Adam’s team. Social can provide value in a variety of ways apart from direct commerce — think brand building, customer care/support, earned media, and qualitative story telling. Bravo, Adam.

Keynote: The Relevance Revolution – Using Social Insights to Compete for Customer Relevance
Presented by Brian Solis: Social Media Influencer, Anthropologist, Author, and Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group


A seriously thought-provoking keynote offering a ton of food for thought around innovation and social relevance, rethinking community norms. I’ll look to keep this Keynote recap relatively short, as to not ruin Brian’s book to anyone interested in his innovation philosophies and anthropological topics.

The slides were outstanding, and Brian’s delivery was on point. Take a look at two of my favorite slides, below.



Brian urged us to consider “Embrace” the new “Engage,” as empathetic brands who proactively listen are putting themselves in ahead. Co-creation is replacing advertiser-created messages that have been historically shoved down the consumer-throat until the messages are automatically tuned out.

Unlearn in order to innovate. Brian mentioned rethinking his book-creation process in his latest release. Can a simple image or chart replace a paragraph of text? What’s preferable, and more beneficial in information retention, to consumers today? How are the new generations consuming content? The takeaway: Social media is not a platform, it’s a community.

“Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.”
– Brian Solis


I had the opportunity to meet-up with Brian following the presentation. He mentioned to us in passing that he actually studied children’s adoption of technology and their consumption methods in deriving his innovative emerging media methods. If you’re interested in more Solis, check out his book titled X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Thanks, NetBase, for giving them out at the conference!

Day Two

Trends in Social Media Panel: What’s on the Horizon for 2017 & Beyond
Adam Naide: Executive Director of Marketing, Social and Emerging Media, Cox Communications
Michael Fein: VP Measurements & Insights, Edelman
Patti Gomas: Strategic eCommerce and Marketing Consultant, Deloitte Digital

A great panel with lots of awesome perspective from these three leaders. Let’s break it down.

Influencers are becoming brand saturated. There’s simply too much promotion as brands flock to borrow audiences. However, Michael categorizes influencers as their own channel as opposed to a tactic. He urges us to adopt an audience-first approach in marketing, as opposed to channel-first. The influencers your brand needs are not exclusive to social media. Think outside the box here. Patti agreed, citing her trend in focusing on less channels overall as the ability to target audiences successfully increases. You don’t have to invest in all channels — it’s actually quite the opposite. A more targeted channel-approach allows for more thorough strategy, measurement, and overall success.

The end of the traditional marketing funnel as eCommerce and site traffic may not be as valuable as now, in the dot com era.

Automated programmatic advertising is coming, and automated social is dying. Consumers want personalized content, in their personalized context, everywhere they go.

Abandon current perceptions and app definitions. Patti cited a recent trip to China where they are, quote, “so far ahead of us in terms of technology and integrations.” WeChat is being used to pay for groceries when initially conceived as a messaging app, and Buy Now buttons are everywhere. Adam mentioned contextual integrations where you may type, “I’ll be over soon but need a ride,” and Uber will pop up to assist. Imagine an iMessage-esque world where keyboard apps are a compilation of social network / service-related app functionality. Woah.

Content shift to vertical video. Michael noted Snapchat, Snap, Inc., and the new Spectacles product. Newer generations are entertained by experiences, often purchasing experiences over products, and happy sharing the experience of watching Twitch videos together of others playing their favorite video games. In-video chat feeds, reactions, and floating hearts are only some polishings that reinforce the phenomenon, depicting how a keyboard is absolutely necessary.

The future does seem to be vertical. (Vervid)
The future does seem to be vertical. (Vervid)

Expiring content is here to stay. Adam suggested the shift to “dark apps,” and the ability to choose who will see your content, and for how long. Networks will become more personal and private, with expiring content that allows users to share real-time updates without having to worry about the content/context later on.

This wraps up my conference recap! Thanks for reading, everyone, and thank you for an awesome conference, NetBase!

Bonus: You can view the Robert Tercek Keynote on Facebook Live here, and recap on the Twitter conversation by checking out the #netbaselive stream.

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