VidCon Australia: Defining Influence & Working With Influencers

When I flew to Anaheim last June, I wasn’t simply escaping a cold, wet, dreary start to winter in Auckland. I was on the hunt for sun, surf, summertime…and, something else entirely. Exactly what that ‘something’ was, I hadn’t a clue – but I knew I’d know it when I saw it.

I knew a few things. I knew that the something I was searching for wasn’t as tangible as a cold cocktail in my hand whilst sitting on Santa Monica Beach. Though, when I look back now, there are definite transcendental qualities inherent in beachside cocktails. But I digress…

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When I got to California, I wanted something awe-inspiring. Something surprising. Something enlightening, even.

Is that too much to ask? You see, I’ve been living in New Zealand now for nigh on 15 years, and while I absolutely love my chosen homeland, I sure do miss the diversity & sheer size of home. California stands fairly sturdily on a foundation of desert-heartiness & beachside industriousness. It drips in cool-factor, geekiness, and social awareness. It’s a home to most, a religion to many, and a dreamy fantasy to a chosen few who go through life with rose coloured glasses always on. California, to me, is interwoven into the fabric of my soul. My body and aura react to my home state – a native child grown near the sea.

It was California’s all-encompassing bigness that taught me from early on that I could dream and do anything – as big or as small as I wanted to. But I would have to work hard for what I desired. I’d have to learn to take the hard-knocks with the soft, salty smooches.

Growing up in San Diego was an absolute trip, though. We played lots of sports, studied a lot & spent every stolen moment we could at the beach. But, beyond the sunshine, butterflies, beaches & tanned bodies of adolescence, there was always something in me that yearned for more. Never happy with the somethings in front of me. As to the above – I needed something. More.

Though, I should be clear here from the outset: I didn’t ever need more stuff.

Stuff has never appealed to me – and I don’t think it ever will. I didn’t need more money. I didn’t need more praise. What I needed was more of life. I needed more small moments of joy. I needed more opinions that didn’t quite jive with mine. I needed to discover more. See more. Learn more. Experience more. Be more. And so it was that through this quest for moreness, I developed a very strong sense of curiosity. And, because of this sense of exploration, I’ve been able to consistently see the world through different lenses & experiences.

In fact, it was the curiosity for discovering more that led me to New Zealand in the first place.

And now all these years later, that same curiosity is what keeps leading me back home.

img_5979-1Over the past decade, I’ve been very lucky to attend some amazing world conferences & gatherings that’ve changed who I am. Even in small increments, I’ve begun a huge pivot toward a more fulfilled life. A life of value derived from helping others and telling stories. I’ve also rubbed shoulders with some of the most amazing storytelling minds on the planet, & in doing so gleaned as much knowledge as I possibly could over the course of a workshop, an hour-long session, or a cocktail (the cocktail lessons tend to be the best for gleaning!).

So it was one of the greatest pleasures of my professional and personal life, to have been able to experience VidCon in Anaheim this year from an industry/professional standpoint. If you don’t know what VidCon is, simply put, it’s one of the biggest most inclusive events on the planet. It is a celebration of differences, technology & ideas. It’s also the place to be to watch a beautiful coming-together of different communities and fandoms. For a professional storytelling-social media-strategist-OG, VidCon brought together creative tips & tricks, channel executions, marketing strategies, trends, algorithms, and talk around the morality of modern media.

Geez Louise, I ran around like a nerdy kid in an awkward adult candy store for the entirety of the event! Three jam packed, fun filled, and awe inspiring days turned me into a major VidCon fangirl in California. I met so many amazing people, learned a lot about the media industry vertical that I work in, and found that thing I was looking for all along: my spark.

At a huge convention center filled with 36,000 people, I remembered exactly who I was and what made me tick.

Storytelling. People. Inclusion. And, passion for what we do professionally and personally. Talk about finding ‘something’ in exactly the place you weren’t looking! Magic!

I should also mention that, whilst at VidCon, I realised how much of an important part geography plays in the kind of content we consume. We really do tend towards common, comfortable stories that reflect our cultures, countries, and social groups. Many of the featured creators, while HUGE in the USA, were & still are fairly unheard of here in New Zealand. So, yay for VidCon, I found some new fave creators.

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Fast forward four months from VidCon in Anaheim, and here comes another opportunity to find something else.

VidCon Australia, the inaugural event, was happening…and there was no way I was going to miss it! In fact, after getting to know some of the people from for the industry track, I was beyond stoked not only attend the event in Australia, but to be asked to speak on adapting global storytelling trends to local markets. Talk about excitement!

Taking place in my favorite Australian city, my fiancé and I flew from Auckland to Melbourne on a Thursday night – and we stayed through Monday afternoon.

I was literally so excited that the mood of our trip was nothing short of celebratory.

We splashed out & stayed at a fairly swanky hotel (which always helps set the scene for a good time) and woke up early Friday morning to explore the city a bit.

We wandered down Degraves Lane for our ceremonial avocado on toast breakfast – washed down with the most amazing coffee on the planet. After breakfast we headed to AC/DC Lane and took in all of the beautiful colors and portraits on the graffiti-laden walls there. From there, we spent some time in the National Gallery of Victoria looking through amazing exhibits and getting all cultured – n stuff. All of this before lunch!

At about noon we headed to the Melbourne convention center to check in to VidCon. I was an absolute ball of excitement and nervous energy. Luckily my friend Jim (who I met in LA) was heading up the industry track in Australia, so I knew there would be at least one familiar face in Aus for this conference.

Check in was super easy, and the staff and volunteers were gorgeously friendly. Even before the actual convention started (it took place over the weekend) everybody seemed amped for fun times ahead. And, let me tell you, fun times were had!

Saturday was wickedly fabulous. Like LA, but smaller in scale, VidCon Australia packed a fun-factor punch.

I, of course, was early. If there’s anything I’ve ever been in my life – it’s early. For work, for school, for parties, for planes. Early is my bag, baby! The great thing about being the first person to places is that you see things magically come to life. Empty spaces are transformed into thriving events & memorable moments in time. And I love to watch magic unfold.

Most of the day Saturday, I spent up on the Industry Track floor learning all that I could from the speakers, and networking with friends both new and old from across the world.  Every now and again I’d hop down to the Creator Track or the Community Track events to take in some of the pure rocket-fuel energy of fandom that comes dripping from VidCon. The day flew by, literally. And we closed with drinks and networking with others from the Industry Track – all of us well excited and exhausted in equal, beautiful parts.

Sunday was a big day. Day Two always is!

I really enjoyed digging into all of the tracks on Sunday – running around the convention centre like an over-hyped dici-geek on a cotton candy and pure coca-cola drip. My talk was at the end of the day, and, to be honest – I wasn’t sure anyone (save for my fiancee & New Zealand crew) would turn up. Sunday evening is usually when I’m in my Smurfette Onesie watching Harry Potter with my family. Anyone who came to hear me waffle on would be a wee legend in my book.

Luckily, people showed up! And, kept showing up during my 45 minutes of fun & sharing. On a personal level, I was able to really enjoy the moment & take it in. I laughed with the crowd in the room (who knew Betty White dabbing could be such a crowd-pleaser?), answered some great questions & have been in touch with most of the folks who were present in one way or another since. That’s the beauty of attending things like Vidcon Australia, you meet all kinds of people who will be in your life in some way or another from that point on. Some you’ll throw ideas around with, some you’ll help out with a challenge (or they’ll help you), and some you simply meet for a coffee and to spin yarns with.

Talk about a gift, right? Memories, people, & stories to keep for a lifetime. Yep, sign me up for more.

img_0539After VidCon finished up (soon after my session on Sunday afternoon), we celebrated in style by hitting up an amazing restaurant in the central city, Cookie. My fiancee, my buddy Jim & I sat chatting, re-hashing the three days just gone by, and drinking amazing red wine & cocktails. We lol’d, we pontificated, and we ended the night at a rooftop bar nearby with yummy Australia red wine.

Beautiful times with beautiful souls – that’s what I’ll take away from VidCon Australia. After Cookie & our rooftop tipple, we bid adieu to Jim with warnings of Drop Bears nearer to the coast (he was headed off adventuring, while we Kiwis had to head back to NZ for work on Monday.)

All in all, the first VidCon Australia was an experience of a lifetime – not just for me, but for a lot of people.

I think it was quite a gift to see the conference in its first year, the heaving throngs of fans and creators that are in Anaheim will be on the horizon. But for 2017, I can honestly say that I loved it all. The people, the vibes, the fandoms, the city and learning. It all added up to an amazing event that I can’t wait to return to in 2018.

The best part? Just as I had found in Anaheim in June, I found so many somethings I never expected in Melbourne.

And, if you need more convincing, here are my TOP FIVE REASONS to head to VIDCON MELBOURNE in 2018:

  • Location, Location, Location

    Melbourne is an amazing city. For art, culture, food, wine, sports, music… you name it. I’ve been to Melbs so many times for both work and play, and still cannot wait to get back. The Convention Centre in Melbourne is perfectly placed for an event like VidCon – it’s in walking distance to the central city, scarily near to an amazing shopping complex, and literally steps from great restaurants that sit right on the water (perfect for sunset-gazing.)

  • Access

    The access you get to amazing global speakers and content that’s world-class is second to none from an Industry perspective especially. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the Creator & Community floors in Melbourne, but I’m sure those tracks were superb as well. The secret sauce to VidCon Melbourne is literally access. Whether it was the ABC, Instagram, or Influencer agency leads – access to information was off the charts. And, right now, the conference is in growth mode, which means that this is the time to get in and listen/talk/network/geek out with world thought leaders on a more personal level.

  • Networking

    The networking is strong with this one. No, really. It is. Some of the most magical moments of the conference for me were the quiet times in between sessions when speakers or attendees would simply sit together and pontificate on subjects in depth. Getting to know people from countries, backgrounds, and industries is very important when it comes to being able to compare notes and bounce ideas off of when you’re in smaller places like I am here in New Zealand. I also love just walking the exhibition hall floor, too, to see who else is down there curiously looking into the experiential aspect of VidCon.

  • Fandoms

    Fandoms are the backbone of VidCon. I’ve never seen so many diverse, engaged, and passionate people when it comes to influencers/creators/YouTubers and their communities. I find it absolutely fascinating to just sit and watch how the young people who attend VidCon act and interact with each other – and, on the other side of the coin, interact with their online heroes IRL. There’s literally no better place to get right to the heart of how Gen Z and younger generations are creating content – and consuming it. The fandoms are powerful. They’re fascinating. And, they give me so much insight and hope for the future of storytelling. The kids, team. The kids just want a great story.

  • Inspiration

    Inspiration. It’s something I know I’m always chasing. I’ll keep this point very short-and-sweet: just go. If you can, go. Grab an Industry pass. Go to sessions across each of the three tracks. Do the meet-and-greet hall and feel the buzz of meeting a creator (and being surrounded by their fans!) Magic is all around, as is inspiration.

For photos, vids & stories of my travels to VidCon & beyond, follow me here: www.instagram.com/cassieroma

Social Media Is Dead, Long Live Social Media

A few evenings ago, I had the immense pleasure of sharing a room with about 70 local digital and social media minds to talk about the ever fascinating topic of Social Media ROI. I’ll be honest and tell you this: I stopped going to most social media gatherings centered around this topic a long time ago because I feel like I’ve been there, done that.

We’ve hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-hashed the subject a million times as an industry to seemingly no avail. Trying to find a ‘golden measure’ of social media success is oftentimes akin to hitting your head against a brick wall. The brick wall doesn’t budge. But your head does. And, all you’re left with is an achy melon and the knowledge that bashing yourself against an inanimate object for over a decade isn’t good for anyone involved. Especially you.

That said, I went along the other night for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew the person putting on the talk. She’s a cool cat, and amazing at what she does – if anyone could draw interested, interesting, and engaged people to the venue to really get down to nuts and bolts and talk, she could. And, she did!

The night itself was great. The venue was funky, and open plan – mostly brick, too (yikes! protect your heads!) The speakers for the evening were engaging before, during, and after the proceedings. Dialogue fascinating. And the crowd asked important, evolved questions. Yee haw! Though we all took angles in talking through social media ROI, a common thread was woven across the tapestry of topics. And, when boiled down, the most important takeaway for me from everyone in the room was this: humans matter most.

In marketing.
In storytelling.
In channel planning.
In brand and social media ROI.
Yep, humans.
They’re the best.

Seems pretty commonsensical, right? That people matter more than platforms. More than analytical tools. More than data and insights. More than anything. But your brain would boggle and your head spin at the amount of times I’ve been called into a meeting and been told to “prove the worth” of Facebook as a line-item on a community or direct marketing campaign pitch. You’d fall out of your chair in shock (or maybe not) at how often I still get asked about whether audience should go before channel. Here’s something I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind: ROI is driven through the human condition. All of it.

AUDIENCE. FIRST. ALWAYS.

Let’s taking a quick walk down memory lane, shall we? I remember the first time I was hauled into a senior manager’s office to sit next to the CEO and CFO and talk social ROI. The exec knew that that new ” social communication channels” were lining up to be the new next-best-thing, but weren’t sure how these emerging channels would slot into the existing marketing mix. Fair enough to ask the hard questions as bean counters. But, at 25yrs old I wasn’t quite as well versed in the language of cash-flow and P&L ledgers as I am now to be able to have eloquently answered the questions put to me as I could now. In fact, my attempts at speaking ‘marketing talk’ to digital people, and vice versa, were fumbling at best. I failed a lot at convincing people of the value of social media, but also kept at it. I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run. From that, I got more and more wins on the board. It was all simple psychology and basic marketing fundamentals – just on new platforms. Right? If only the IPA study about brand building in the long term had been out a decade ago!

The funny thing is this: social media has always just made sense to me. At all junctures. It’s never been strange, other-worldly, or foreign. Maybe because I’m inherently a creative and love learning new ways to share images, or stories, or video. Social has been another avenue (or, more recently, major freeway) on which businesses and individuals were able to tell powerful stories in a more relevant way than perhaps traditional advertising could. In my life, social media has become a passion, a profession, and almost an obsession. From the beginning, social media ROI has always been in relationships – it still is. Before the tracking tools. Before the analytical powerhouse back-ends. Before the ad platforms. Before custom and lookalike audiences. Before all of that, and to this day, I firmly believe that social media ROI is in all of us. It’s in emotion, familiarity, and trust.

So when I say social media is dead, we all know it’s not. It’ll never die. But, it will evolve and change quicker than Beiber’s hairstyle. Social is powerful. It unites us. It divides us. And it earns us the right to speak about things other than just our products. Social media allows brands banter, heart, and voice. Each touch-point, each piece of content, each story is a chance for you and your brand to differentiate and ingratiate yourself to consumers. Put people first, and your ROI will be ever-growing.

Long live social media.
Long live all media.

Breaking Bad Buzzwords (A Marketer’s Guide to Less BS)

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience in a work meeting? One of those did-I-just-zone-out-or-are-these-people-speaking-Martian moments where you hear people as clear as a bell, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t figure out what in the world they’re on about?

You hear words, pauses, and see nods of approval from others. But sentences are far from sonorous. They’re not easily digestible. You chew and chew on blurted acronyms. And, although you try your best to take everything in and make it stay – the words just slip through the cracks like sand through a sieve.

You know what I’m talking about, right? Buzzwords. Words that aren’t words. Acronyms. Jargon-y sentences. Marketing dogma. Monday-to-Friday speak that focuses in on laddering up to strategic objectives while still maintaining the essence of a brand through targeted audience demographics.

Ugh.

If stopping eyeballs from rolling (my own & those of others in the room) was a superpower, I’d use mine for good. Promise. My goal? To save the world from meeting after meeting of Buzzword Overkill. I’d swoop in and demand clarity. And detail. And real-human-speak.

I’m not sure if I’d don cape and spandex bodysuit, but that’s not the important thing to ponder on right now (or maybe it is?) Spandex is pretty darn comfy.

Honestly though, all sarcasm and irony aside, in my eyes the use (or often over-use) of professional slang can at once be overwhelming and off-putting. When buzzwords and acronyms are thrown around willy-nilly like confetti, I zone out. My internal monologue takes over, and my mind wanders off to greener, more concise pastures.

Looking back a few years, my career was focused mainly in the arenas of social media and digital marketing.  During this time the word ‘viral’ was my Kryptonite. It was – and often still is – overused. The best thing about an evolving digital and social marketing landscape? More and more marketers and agency partners understand that marketing, storytelling, and channel mix all play together nicely if done well. In fact, I haven’t been asked to make a viral video in at least six months now. It’s like seeing a light at the end of a common-sense tunnel!

But, beyond asking for viral videos and shareable Facebook posts – there’s a new Buzzword heading  for (or already at) Overkill Level 10. And, weirdly/fittingly/hilariously enough… it’s in my actual job title.

That said, before I move onto said word/phrase let me just say this – I love what I do. Love. I wake up each day able to practice my passions – and get paid to do so. That’s a big win. Storytelling in all of its shapes, sizes, forms, and nerdy amplification/distribution subsets really keeps my engine revving.

So, let’s hop to it. I’m sure you’ve guessed the word.

Content.

Yep. Content. 

The word ‘content’ gets bandied about these days in so many shapes, forms, manners, and reckless iterations that I sometimes find my head spinning. Literally.

When talking about campaigns and strategy, lots of folks typically define ‘content’ as a singular item, story type, artistic execution, or any mismatched mixture of the above. Video? Yep, that’s content. Images? Uh huh, that too. Social media posts? You betcha. Infographics? Yessiree. Long-form articles? BIG YES! But  what about those folks who, oftentimes in the same meeting – and sometimes in the same breath – mean something completely different to any of the above? They’re human curveballs sent to strike me out swinging – or at least have me knock a foul-ball into catchable territory.

Because of inconsistencies in how each person in a room defines content, I’ve implemented a rule in meetings where the word ‘content’ is actually banned. Why? Because content itself is a catch-all phrase. It can be the most broad definition of branded communication, or drilled down into a singular touch-point. But, most people don’t take the time do define what they mean when they’re talking content. Which is why it can be a confusing and confounded principle to grasp for a lot of people. It’s also why there are so many divergent views on strategy and campaign roll-out when talking ‘content.’

By banning the word itself, or getting people to substitute it with something silly like ‘pineapple,’ I find meetings are more, erm, fruitful.

Really though. Think about how many times a day a typical marketer, agency suit, or creative hears, writes, or reads the word ‘content.’ Then imagine the word pineapple being bandied about haphazardly instead.

The absurdity, and the absolute frustration in using a nonsensical word when you want to use another kind of makes you stop, think, and be really concise and detailed when talking about strategies and ideas. Which, I reckon, is a good thing when money (or the potential for it) is on the line, right?

We need to be super-iterative when we talk about content. When we talk about context. When we talk about placement. And channel. And insights… and, most importantly, when we’re storytelling on behalf of a brand.

When approaching content marketing (AKA storytelling), the first thing I need to begin a journey into the depths of creativity is data. And from the data, insights. And then information about the product/service/offering we’ll be creating ideas from. Then, we crack into iteration. Into channel. Into creative execution. It’s so much easier to talk about a video series, or an infographic based story, or a long-form textual article, or a quiz than it is to talk about, ugh, ‘content.’

So don’t just take it from me. Take it from all of the eye-rolling-content-saturated-modern-marketeers and do us all a favor. The next time you’re tempted to use the word ‘content’ in a meeting, be super specific. Even in your own mind, think ‘pineapple.’ Sometimes simplifying ideas down to their most basic function is difficult – but embracing the hard stuff means better clarity. And, bigger wins.

Also, it means I’ll still be awake at the table, listening to you – taking it all in, actively engaged and impassioned. And, nodding in delight at your, ahem, pineapple creating acumen. Thank you in advance for your clarity.

Now, who’s up for a tropical cocktail? I seem to have a hankering for one now…