Social Media Week Chicago 2016 brings new perspectives

By: Stella Fanega, Associate Board director

CJA associate board director, Stella Fanega, attends Social Media Week Chicago for the first time. She calls the experience a “life-changing moment.”

Notebooks, colored pens, and an SMW HQ pass – I was all set for this year’s Social Media Week. On Nov. 14, Social Media Week held its conference in the windy city of Chicago. The conference had its last hurrah on Nov. 18.

Social Media Week is a news platform and worldwide conference that offers ideas on how social media, especially technology, is altering societies and culture around the world. Given the opportunity from the Chicago Journalists Association to attend Social Media Week, this has been one of my greatest blessings and a perfect way to close my 2016.

When I first arrived at the venue, the staff was very welcoming, which is actually one of my favorite parts of the conference. The event was held at VenueOne Chicago, which offers 25,000 square feet of event and meeting space.

The first session I attended took place on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 9:30 a.m. Andrew Meyer, the creative lead of Facebook/Instagram, presented on “Feed Me: Advertising in Today’s Feed-Based Mobile Social Platforms.”

In this session, Meyer presented his four simple rules for gaining viewers, and he did so by simply adding emojis:

  1. Is it funny? Does it make me laugh?
  2. Does it touch me?
  3. Does it have brains? Is it teaching me something?
  4. Are we doing something to push these boundaries? Are we taking chances?

Throughout the session, attendees gained more information on how to use video on their personal Facebook accounts and professional accounts as well. Moreover, attendees were also given the opportunity to meet and have a conversation with Meyer and other inspiring speakers.

CJA associate board director, Stella Fanega, poses with Facebook and Instagram’s creative lead, Andrew Meyer. Photo courtesy of Stella Fanega.

“The biggest risk is not taking one,” Meyer said. “I truly believe that you have to go for it if you want to win.”

Social Media Week in Chicago is a great opportunity for seniors in college to get out there and network. With networking, students are given the chance to meet professional journalists and make great connections in order to fulfill a successful career. Ellen McGirt, senior editor for Fortune magazine, believed that by attending Social Media Week, attendees aren’t just gaining new connections, but they are also learning and creating ideas that will somehow shape the future.

Each speaker was given 30 minutes to present, and attendees were given options to either stay throughout the whole session or attend a conversation panel, which was located right outside the main venue. On top of that, food trucks, such as Stan’s Donuts and Chicago Food Truck Hub, were selling various eats.

The second session that I attended was led by Claudia Malley, chief marketing and brand officer for National Geographic. Later on, Aaron Huey, who is a contributing photographer at National Geographic, talked about his work and what he thinks about storytelling in the context of social media and many other areas. The session was called “The Power of Storytelling: How National Geographic Dominates a Fragmented Media Landscape.”

Aaron Huey, who is a contributing photographer for National Geographic, speaks to the crowd during a session called “The Power of Storytelling.” Photo credit: Stella Fanega.

I was already interested in hearing what Malley had to say about storytelling because as a journalist, it is truly important to know how to tell a story. “It’s about knowing who you are as a brand and being focused on letting whoever you’re reaching know who you are,” Malley said. “So really be true to that voice.”

Malley explained a few factors that National Geographic focuses on, in terms of becoming a successful platform.

  1. Lead with the visual: There is nothing more powerful than a big bold image.
  2. Invest in the storytelling and the storytellers: Invest in the best photographers and storytellers.
  3. Where, when, and how to keep consumers: This factor is very important because you need to know how to maintain consumer engagement.
  4. Be flexible and adaptive.
  5. Lean into purpose: “Purpose is what drives us an organization; our voice is more important now than ever before,” Malley said. “This is the time to reclaim truth; through the power of social media, we can get people to change.”

If I were given the opportunity to spend every minute learning more about what I love to do as a journalist, I would take it. I would like other journalists like me to be able to attend Social Media Week so they can experience an amazing and life-changing moment.

There are a lot of opportunities out there. However, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to grab that chance. So spread your wings and fly, my fellow journalists. Remember, it’s your story to tell.