10 Tips for Digital Marketing Success in 2019: Takeaways From Spark.

Live video, influencer marketing, content on a budget...these topics and so much more were covered at the recent Spark conference. Here are 10 sparks of inspiration from some of the world’s leading social media and digital marketing experts.
Chris Sugrue
November 22, 2018 - 10 min. read

Ignite Conversations That Connect.

The inaugural Spark conference was held in Copenhagen last week. Hosted by Falcon.io, the one-day event boasted some of the most influential names in marketing including Neal Schaffer, Sree Sreenivasan, and Matt Navarra, and was attended by world-renowned brands such as Toyota, Lonely Planet, Carlsberg and Momondo.

An incredible amount of ground was covered in 20+ interactive sessions under the banner of “Ignite Conversations That Connect”. The day covered all the big questions facing social media and digital marketers as we head into 2019. We will cover some of the highlights here.

digital marketing tips 2019

Falcon.io founder & CEO Ulrik Bo Larsen opens Spark. Source: Bruno Amaral / Digital Insanity.

Evolve or expire

“Marketing is perfectly optimized for a world that no longer exists.”

This was a key message in Falcon.io CEO and founder Ulrik Bo Larsen’s opening keynote. The point was driven home further by a slide from the Falcon culture deck showing a Blackberry with the headline “Evolve or Expire”. It set the scene for a day of discussing the tactics and strategies necessary to evolve and succeed.

True to the day’s theme, Ulrik also unveiled Advertise – a new Falcon platform product enabling companies to do automated social media advertising at scale. 

Here are your 10 sparks of inspiration from our guest speakers:

  1. Defeat social media algorithms with people power
  2. Win precious attention with live video
  3. Organic isn’t dead, but it needs a hand
  4. Talk to audiences, not at them
  5. Use the right social media ROI model
  6. Forget these video “best practices”
  7. Treat your audience as you would a real friendship
  8. Learn these tactics to beat Google, Apple, Facebook & Amazon
  9. Use purpose marketing 
  10. Yes, you can do content marketing on a budget, here’s how

1. Defeat social media algorithms with people power

social media conference

Neal Schaffer’s keynote: “Influencer Marketing in 2019: How to Create an Influencer Marketing Strategy That Generates Results”.

Social media strategy speaker, consultant, and author, Neal Schaffer, spoke about one of social media’s least understood, yet most valuable tactic in an era of waning organic reach.

“I believe that influencer marketing can be used by any company, even in boring industries, even by nonprofits,” he said, adding that influencers provide the best audience-centric content, a key thing to help larger companies overcome their 90% company-centric output.

Neal broke down the core of what goes into a successful influencer marketing campaign. Notably, he stated why it’s important to ditch the idea that influencer marketing is only about celebrities and glitzy campaigns.

“Everyone is a publisher…Anyone can be an influencer,” he said and advised relying more on employees, fans and partners. He also cited the value of micro- and nano-influencers, those with 10,000 or even 1000 followers or less.

Also see: Why Neal Schaffer Believes: “Anybody Can be an Influencer”.

2. Win precious attention with live video

digital marketing trends

Sree Sreenivasan closed the conference with: “LIVE! Lessons From Going Live Around the World”.

“The scarcest resource of the 21st century is human attention.”

Closing speaker Sree Sreenivasan opened with this quote from former WSJ publisher Les Hinton, and then delivered the remedy – live video. His concise advice: Live video can help you cut through the clutter, done well it’s a game-changer and done poorly it is just awful.

Here are Sree’s tips for making live video a game-changer:

1. Live video should be a part of, not the center of your digital strategy – experiment with different platforms.
2. Why go live? If it’s not going to be special, don’t do it.
3. Planning is everything – publicize your video before and during (and always carry power banks)
4. It’s not about your network – cater to your audience and video guests’
5. Read, interact and respond – your best video will mean little if you fail to track comments and interactions. Make sure someone is tasked to monitor the reaction and filter questions. *Tip: always ask a question in your video description as a conversation starter.
6. Go for at least 10 minutes – shorter is not better (see point 5).
7. Reintroduce yourself – do this throughout the video and restate what’s happening for the benefit of just people tuning in.
8. Consider your two audiences – your live audience and the replay audience, promote the video to both before, during and after.
9. Practice, practice, practice – the “Only Me” feature in Facebook is perfect for this.

3. Organic isn’t dead but it needs a hand

“The question isn’t whether organic reach is dying or dead, it’s that the bar for the quality of your content is higher.”

Those were social media consultant Matt Navarra’s words on the panel: “Extending Organic Reach in a Pay-To-Play World” that he co-hosted with Kristyna Hougaard of Unity Technologies. 

For both, organic social media is far from dead, but to succeed it needs the right conditions and help from paid efforts. Ad spend simply amplifies what would be reasonably successful organic content anyway. The key to success with purely organic content is to ensure it hits the nail on the head with the desired audience and offers them real value.

Neither should you focus on reach. “Reach and engagement are both native metrics. Instead of looking just at native metrics, look at your business metrics and see how social metrics affect those,” Kristyna said. Matt added: “Reach is only one metric. Think about what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to sell things or drive events, for example, reach doesn’t matter as much. I’m focusing on engagement more now.”

Also see our earlier interview with Matt Navarra: Organic Reach Isn’t Dead. Here’s Why…

4. Talk to audiences, not at them

digital marketing tips

Christope Hardy of Toyota delivered the keynote: “Stop talking at me. Please talk to me. Audience-led Storytelling in the Age of Plenty”.

“Toyota spends million on ad campaigns that will ultimately have no effect or at least not directly drive sales.”

So why does one of the world’s most famous and successful car brands to that? Christophe Hardy, Manager of Brand Communication, Social and Editorial, for Toyota Motor Europe explained.

It boils down to brand power, and how meaningful and relevant content directly correlates with sharing and engagement. From a content perspective, we’re in the “age of plenty”. To cut through the noise, Christophe described Toyota’s content formula as being: quality x depth x context x relevance x media.

He cited the “Start Your Impossible” Campaign as an example of how Toyota has consciously transitioned to a “human movement brand”: 


Also see our recent interview: Content Marketing and Audience-led Storytelling: Interviews With Lisa Toner and Christophe Hardy.

5. Apply the right social ROI model

Sabrina Rodriguez, Global Head Social & Content at Dentsu Aegis Network, highlighted an eternal social media challenge – how despite the prevalence of social media now, many C-Suites remain unconvinced and ambivalent.

Her keynote “Bringing Social to the Boardroom: How to Drive Real Business Value Through Social Insights” was packed with tips a lot of social media professionals who feel unappreciated could use. Notably, she broke down how “How not to build a social ROI model”, defining this as:

  • Focusing on one business goal – the entire company could benefit from social media, don’t just latch onto sales.
  • Sticking to your own social media agenda – your social goals may not be aligned with the broader company’s. Make sure to talk to all your departments.
  • Forgetting that social data is a goldmine – use it to understand how competitors and customers are talking, and ensure the useful data gets to your other departments.

6. Forget these video “best practices”

Todd Patton, Head of Comms & Story at TwentyThree advised people to let go of a few often repeated video best practices, based on the video marketing platform’s own experiences:

  • Shorter is better – TwentyThree’s own research found the opposite, and that people who watch 30-min videos are more likely to make a purchase.
  • Avoid embedding videos in emails and websites – it can get heavy, but that is better than sending them on to other sites such as YouTube. Gifs are a light option for emails.
  • CTAs don’t perform for videos – as long as the viewer feels the video delivers value, they are willing to take the action or even fill out a form.

Todd hosted the session: “How to Drive Video Engagement With Simple Methods”. In addition, TwentyThree produced a lot of fantastic coverage throughout the day, press play in the tweet below for a dynamic round-up.

7. Treat your audience as you would a real friendship

Hanne Grainger, Global Social & Content Brand Manager of Jameson Irish Whiskey, showcased how her company maintains a playful but highly thoughtful brand personality across its markets.

She started with the fact that the top 10 most followed brands on Instagram have 445 million followers, which speaks volumes about how willing consumers are to engage with the brands they identify with. So how does Jameson Whiskey build and keep its loyal fan base, and earn its status as the top-voted whiskey brand on social media?

social media conference

A slide from the session: Turning Strangers into Friends: Pulling Up a Stool Next to Your Mates, Not Your Followers.

Aside from a handy dose of Irish charm, the Jameson social media team ensures their social presence follows the same rules as a genuine friendship. They avoid the classic brand mistake of talking only about themselves, and never butt into the conversations that don’t involve them; though they do engage with the content they know interests their fans.

And, as in any person-to person-relationship, they tweak their behavior depending on their surroundings but stay recognizably the same brand – vital for a global company dealing with international cultures and alcohol advertising laws.

8. Use purpose-driven marketing

“By communicating messages that share a greater purpose than just selling trips, we’ve received a return on investment as high as US$213 per every dollar spent for some of our campaigns. This proves that communication that touches people creates value for both the recipient and the brand.”

This was from Allan Askov Christoffersen, the Brand Activation Director at travel company Momondo. In particular, he highlighted Momondo’s viral DNA Journey campaign that garnered 600m+ video views and 18.6m interactions.

Here is Momondo’s formula for success in purpose-driven marketing:

  1. Choose your position and make a stand
  2. Show people what’s in it for them
  3. Showcase exactly who you are as a brand
  4. Make them curious and wanting more
  5. Use emotions to craft stronger relationships
  6. Start a movement of community and keep building on it

9. Apply these tactics to beat Google, Apple, Facebook & Amazon

digital marketing tips

Philip Westermeyer on “Winning in Times of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (GAFA)”.

Philip Westermeyer, the founder of Online Marketing Rockstars, schooled his audience on how companies can learn from and compete with the tech giants of GAFA (a European acronym covering the Silicon Valley big four). This means:

  • Go horizontal. Once you’ve spent money to acquire a customer, offer them a variety of products and options.
  • Retain your customers. Use subscription models or CRM software to avoid paying for every customer touch through GAFA’s auctions.
  • Stand out by provoking. Create shocking/interesting campaigns and leverage your CEO as a brand.
  • Digital PR. Few companies understand how to do it right, but CEOs like Elon Musk understand you need to use frequency, absurdity, agenda setting, and authenticity to get press.
  • Be agile on GAFA. Focus on optimizing your marketing strategy for these huge platforms. Utilize tactics that work for you such as shoppable posts on Instagram or Facebook groups.

10. Yes, you can do content on a budget, here’s how

“Your brain will get further than your budget.”

With those words, Lisa Toner of Hubspot addressed the universal digital marketing gripe of simply not enough budget. She cited the tactics any marketing department can use to overcome their budgetary restraints.

User-Generated Content (UGC) featured high on the list – a topic also covered in-depth in another Spark session: “Power to the People: Finding, Activating and Using UGC in Your Social Media Strategy,” you can see Maria Mckenzie of Lonely Planet’s take on that in this interview.

Here are Lisa Toner’s tips for content marketing on a budget:

  • Know your persona’s goals and challenges.
  • Build a pillar and cluster content strategy – it’s the era of topic research, NOT keyword research.
  • See what’s working for the competition using Buzzsumo (Ahrefs is another option). You can see the most shared and linked to content on a particular topic. Add a meeting agenda item for the hot topic of the week.
  • Create blog posts for each FAQ your customer support team receives. This will save support reps time and your competitors’ customers may well be looking for the same answers.
  • Identify hot trends via influencers with BuzzSumo or Ahrefs.
  • Build a user-generated content strategy – it’s free and engaging.
  • Get creative with video. You can do a lot with only a little budget.
  • Add structure to your ideation process. Use a scorecard or a spreadsheet.

Thank you to all our speakers and guests–we’ll see you next year!

The first Spark conference more than lived up to its promise to “Ignite conversations that connect”.

We look forward to welcoming about our amazing speakers and visitors from around the world to Spark 2019!