In May, I had the opportunity to participate in a premiere panel at Social Media Week One, Breaking Ads: Unlocking the Creative Potential in Paid Social, with Sam Christie (West Coast Brand Partnerships Lead, TikTok) and Rob Schlissel(Marketing and Partnerships Senior Director & Senior Producer, The Shorty Awards) about unlocking the potential in paid social media, as moderated by Kristin Busk (Director of Social Innovation, The Many) and Alex Barnes (Media Director, The Many).

As the session is behind a pay wall, I’m sharing my responses to the session questions if it’s helpful to your planning or paid social strategy development.

Here’s the session:

Question (moderator):

Tuck, if you can tell our audience a bit about who you are, what you do, and what your favorite emerging social channel is for personal use and why?

Answer (Tuck Ross):

Hey I’m Tuck. I’m in marketing. Previously at Disney, Hasbro, Guitar Center and others running marketing, digital strategy. Now focused on digital marketing coaching and training.

My favorite emerging channel? TikTok! It’s so fresh. It’s low key entertainment. Fun, authentic. Someone called it the “last happy corner of the web.” For many, TikTok is the new network, the new TV, comedy, entertainment, social.

In my free time, I’m helping people start and grow their TikTok accounts, as well as their digital strategies — big or small. Find me @tuckross on all social channels and

Question (moderator):

Every good marketing & influencer campaign begins with strategy, so let’s talk about this:

On our virtual stage we have representation from different industries, everything from CPG to financial and healthcare industries. Can you tell us how you choose a social media channel for your influencer campaigns, given that there are inherent challenges with industries like healthcare and finance whereas with CPG there are less parameters. And, has this approach changed during the Covid-19 economic shift?

Answer (Tuck Ross):

I think anywhere you are, whatever your category, you pick a channel based on where your audience is and where their attention is. If they are on Twitter, do that. Try TikTok if you don’t think it will work and prove yourself wrong. Picking a social channel isn’t complex: It’s where your audience is and where your customers are too.

Your brand is your superpower. Your customers are influencers of each other, and I always want authentic influencers who already know the brand, use the product, and can represent it in authentic ways.

A significant challenge is always that you can’t control what influencers say. So you start with a proper vetting process to find influencers that match your brand values and ethos — who do you want to represent you? Do your research so you don’t find out something later that you should have known at the start. For me, I like to work directly with the influencers, reach a mutual understanding of the goals and message and let them interpret into their content. Your customers define your brand with how they engage with you, how they use your product — let your influencers do the same, but with your guidance to stay true to who you are.

Question (moderator):

Do you think influencer campaigns play a different role in the funnel in Healthcare/Finance vs CPG (for example).

Answer (Tuck Ross):

My answer is no. Every customer is on a unique journey depending on the category but those journeys hit common points: There’s a problem or challenge. Someone is seeking to find a solution. They do their research. They compare. They seek social proof or community input or reviews. Check out their options directly and make a decision. The influencers, whether customers or formal influencers or employees, are serving to create awareness, maybe validation and social proof, increase consideration, perhaps even connect the purchase or transaction. The timing is different for each one, but the steps are the same. I’m saying this from experience — having seen it from entertainment to retail and ecommerce to financial services.

Question (moderator):

An integral part of our strategies is making sure what we are doing is building connection.

Most know that social media really took off when Facebook came into the space, but not as many know that it has roots long before then, including starting with the military — and then we had sites like Friendster, MySpace and others that joined in. When Facebook came into the picture, it capitalized on 1) the idea of social proof and 2) this idea of sharing who you are with others and building connection. We saw the fostering of “community” built into the DNA of Facebook and now other social channels, which are increasingly diverse.

This requirement for community challenges us as marketers to go beyond chat groups, forums and pages, and look at creating real connection.

So my question for the panel is: How do you use influencer campaigns to create real, personalized, tangible experiences with eye-to-eye contact (the non-digital side of content, if you will)?

Answer (Tuck Ross):

I love that you said MySpace! That’s personally how I started: Designing and building MySpace pages for bands, churches, and small businesses. What a true loss. Lol I thought Justin Timberlake was going to bring it back!

Facebook brought a lot to the table, including real identity. People forget that most of social was pretty anonymous — you could pretend to be anybody. Facebook really brought forth the concept that this public profile HAD to be you.

Now, especially as the pandemic evolves, it’s more difficult to make more tangible physical connections and will be hard going forward in the current environment. I mean, look at online dating as an example — or dating in general.

But as all of us build out influencer programs, I think connecting customers, writing reviews, making comments on Facebook, whatever, with the brand, providing recognition, and then bringing their contributions as quotes, featured reviews, questions into FAQs and explainer videos, featuring them in video or written testimonials, and including them in how the brand is featured and represented to the rest of the world is critical. It’s key in platforms like Instagram and TikTok that feel more personal and having even spaces like VR step up so that we can make these digital spaces feel as personal as possible.

It’s critical now more than ever when transparency and authenticity are the essential workers of a marketing strategy.

Question (moderator):

So we’ve talked about strategy and the approach to building campaigns, and I think it’s important to touch on how those two converge to form content.

We know that influencer campaigns can serve both top of funnel and bottom of funnel goals, depending on how we activate them. How do you see influencer marketing playing a role in this generation of research both at the top and the bottom? What types of content from influencers are most effective in serving the research generation?

Answer (Tuck Ross):

Yeah this is so exciting. When I was at Hasbro over 10 years ago, we were trying to build shops on Facebook to sell products in the tabs. But now, influencers can directly drive a sale via affiliate links. Via ads on Facebook to the new Facebook Shops. And through ads or links on Instagram in Stories. Commerce has been democratized into the hands of the customers and they are your salesforce.

And if you see the stats: 54% of people use social to research products. 52% of brand discovery happens in social media first. 71% who have a positive experience share that on social with their network — and it’s higher if they have a negative experience. And here’s the kicker: over 50% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations for purchase consideration. Influencer actions, customers, nano, micro, major influencers are driving the full funnel, top down.

Question (moderator):

And, bonus question — how has this changed with Covid-19?

Answer (Tuck Ross):

I’ve been watching the media and there’s definitely two sides: Some saying that influencer marketing is dead, and there’s definitely been a drawback from brands, as budgets draw back, sales drop, etc. But others noting that more than ever, brands shouldn’t be selling right now, but it’s a time for support, caring, and communication — branding over sales. Influencers can support this. And if the message is right and in the right categories: Meal kits, masks, home cleaning products, wine, these areas are making sales and killing it.

Side story: I personally did two influencer campaigns myself during COVID-19 for a wine delivery service and a hangover recovery product — both on TikTok. My target audience is moms. And that’s my niche: Surviving parent life. These brands know that especially parents need a little more sauce during this time to keep their sanity. It’s right on point and following the trends driven by pandemic.

I think the best parts of influencer marketing has been amplified: Authenticity.

If you are dropping products just because you are famous, people don’t care. They want it to be relevant, relatable and connected to the influencers values, just like any of our personal relationships. And during COVID, you can respectfully market into categories that are still in play or even opening up now.

Question (moderator):

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room — TikTok. It’s not new, it’s been around for several years, but really just took off in 2019 and saw a surge during quarantine. It was originally thought to be a very young audience, but GenX and even older have adopted. It was originally thought as talent and dancing, but has now touched several categories: health & wellness, financial and medical industries, entertainment, and more. Marketers are trying to figure out how to best use it still with lots of theories, but no clear answers on the algorithm. Guess and Marc Jacobs really took that first leap as brands last year and now we have advertising capabilities.

All this said, how do you see TikTok playing a role in the industries you serve with regard to influencer campaigns?

Answer (Tuck Ross):

Ok if you have TikTok, go their right now. I’ll wait. No pop it open. Pick your top hashtag or a few and search. I guarantee any of them have thousands or even millions of tagged videos. It’s a misconception that your audience isn’t here and if it’s not, it will be soon. Over 100 million now on TikTok in the US — it’s massive, adding over 70 million users this year alone already.

The algorithm is actually pretty simple: Good content (funny, informative, surprising, amazing) will win. It rewards creativity. It’s a talent show with a broader spectrum.

I see TikTok absolutely playing a role. Go back to where we started: The audience is here or it’s coming and this is where attention is. And the platform is fun, people are funny, and funny is working during COVID.

TikTok unique visitors from Jan to March up 48%, 52MM users in the US, 2 billion downloads globally, adding 12MM unique users in March alone. Spending 30 mins or more a session average.

TikTok will continue to grow and as the use of TikTok expands, it will challenge time spent with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others.

(session ends with panel thank you)

Full session description:

Breaking Ads: Unlocking the Creative Potential in Paid Social

Tue May 12, 6:00 PM — 7:00 PM EDT / 3:00 PM — 4:00 PM PDT

You’ve been briefed in on the media plan and you’re off to start creative for your paid social posts. You’re sticking to best practices and creating your messaging hierarchy. You’ve featured the product, but only just enough. Your brand name is highlighted in the first five seconds of your ad, there’s a hint of lifestyle and a dash of tagline. You’ve followed the traditional steps to fit into the paid media mold depending on where you are in the funnel. But the question remains, did you tap into all of the magical possibilities that exist in social to make paid ads that break through and deliver value?

As marketers, it’s up to us to use each platform for its unique strengths and make ads that resonate in crowded feeds. With media consumption changing on the heels of COVID-19, paid social will continue growing to become more integrated into the human experience. And especially now, it should be just as aspirational, reassuring and entertaining as any other form of content.

In this session, unlock the creative potential in paid social in a panel featuring experts from The Many, TikTok, and more.

Attend this session and learn:

  • How to create an innovative new playbook infused with the creative edge that marketers and consumers crave
  • How new, adventurous, and innovative platform-specific standards can help boost your brand
  • How media consumption is changing and the role paid media will play as it continues to evolve

See Social Media Week One session detail here:

Marketing Executive | Digital Marketing & Social Media Expert | Speaker | Creator | Advisor ❤

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