Stay Relevant: How to Innovate and Lean Into a New Virtual Culture Webinar

GBA WEBINAR WITH ELITE MODEL WORLD AND HASHTAG SPORTS

TikTok, Zoom, Livestreams and digital events, it’s no secret that virtual culture is rapidly evolving amid the pandemic. But what does that actually mean for your business or brand? How do you gain traction and carve a space in uncharted digital territory? 

Tune in to hear from VP Social Strategy & Content at Elite Model World, Gregory Littley and CEO of Hashtag Sports, Anthony Caponiti about what activations are working on platforms such as TikTok as well as what it takes to turn large-scale industry conferences into interactive virtual events.


FEATURED PANELISTS

GREGORY LITTLEY is the former VP of Social Strategy and Content at Elite Model World. He is a Shorty Award winning global brand leader who brings over a decade of experience in crafting digital brand strategies. At Elite Model World, Gregory led a team of creatives to leverage celebrity and partnerships to build powerful brands in our new digital age.

ANTHONY CAPONITI is the CEO of Hashtag Sports. Anthony is the mind behind the company’s creative brand strategy and quick rise to notoriety over the past six years. Anthony took his background as a competitive NCAA Track and Field athlete at Emory University to build a community dedicated to engaging the next generation of sports fans and consumers.


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Andrew Whipp:

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us. We know that your time is very valuable, especially with the current state of things, so we appreciate everyone choosing to spend that time with us, and above all else, we hope everyone’s staying safe right now. My name is Andrew Whipp, and I’m the Lead Creative and Editor at Green Buzz Agency. I’m also joined today by my friend and colleague, DJ Jamiel, a producer here at Green Buzz Agency. How are you doing, DJ?

DJ Jamiel:

Hey, what’s going on, Andrew? I’m super excited to be along for the ride today. I’m super excited about both of our panelists. I think what they’re going to talk about is extremely applicable to everybody right now in the moment, and that’s pretty cool and unique.

Andrew Whipp:

Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. Today’s webinar is the fifth in our Green Buzz Agency webinar series, which was created to connect our community of thought leaders who can help us break down top line strategy and best practices and advice during these tough times. Today, we’re going to be covering how to innovate and lean into a new virtual culture. If you’re looking to break out of the box, bring some new ideas back to your teams, then you are in the right place. But before we begin, just want to make sure that our audiences know what to expect from today’s webinar and that everybody is familiar with the features on the platform.

Andrew Whipp:

Firstly, our webinar will be an hour long, and in that hour, you’ll hear from our two panelists who will present for roughly 30 minutes. Afterwards, we’ll have plenty of time for a live Q&A where we’ll take audience questions. And we’ll send a copy of the presentation and the recording to everyone who registered after it happens. With that, I want to get to introducing our speakers and telling our audiences about a very special panelist announcement. Today, as you can see, Carter couldn’t be here with us, but in his place we have the multi-talented powerhouse, Anthony Caponiti, who is the CEO of Hashtag Sports. As CEO of Hashtag, Anthony is the mind behind the company’s creative brand strategy and it’s quick rise to notoriety over the past six years.

Andrew Whipp:

Anthony took his background as a competitive NCAA track and field athlete to build a community dedicated to engaging the next generation of sports fans and consumers. Today, he’ll be walking us through the strategy behind transitioning Hashtag’s flagship conference entirely online. Of course, we’re also joined by the incredible Gregory Littley, a shorty award winning global brand leader who brings over a decade of experience in crafting digital brand strategies. As the former vice president of social strategy and content at Elite Model World, Gregory led a team of creative people who leveraged both celebrity and partnerships to build powerful brands in the new digital age. Thank you both for sharing your time, your wisdom and your experiences with us today.

Andrew Whipp:

We are really, really excited to kick this off, as DJ said. With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the good stuff. Gregory, I think we’ll turn it over to you to start us off.

Gregory Littley:

Yeah, thank you so much. All right, my kind of case study and story that I want to share with you really comes from, if we can think back, to a late March, the early days of COVID when there was so much, not only anxiety and unrest and confusion in terms of creators, contents, talent, our models that we really had, me and my team, we had to take a step back and really look at what are the safest ways to approach content creation at this time? What are the most sensitive ways to create content at this time? Depending on where our talent was located in the world. We had to really focus on making sure that we were gauging the comfortability of our talent, the safety of our talent and the overall mental and emotional wellbeing of our talent. With all of those considerations, what we wanted to do was to creating a safe way to showcase not only our talent, but also to spark inspiration while making sure that we were remaining safe and providing safe guidelines to our talent in the time of COVID.

Gregory Littley:

That really was the birth of our holistically TikTok specific trend PoseAtHome. Really, what we were trying to ideate was, how can we make a statement or provide a creative way that our talent can showcase their life and bring to light what they do best, which is modeling and creating beautiful and disruptive visuals, but also playing within the confines and the user behavior, and what we know to work on the platform, TikTok. We had originally launched and thought really deeply about who to launch with. At Elite, we had access to such amazing global talent, but one talent, particularly that my team became quite close to in terms of creation and ideating, and just really thoughtful content conversation is Coco Rocha.

Gregory Littley:

If you know anything about her, you know that she’s not only vibrant, but creative, and just falls into her passion, really hugs her passion of creative and content on social, not only across more legendary older platforms like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, but really has been such a standout content and model on TikTok. The idea of launching with her was very important, because we knew that we had to pick someone that not only would inspire current talent, but also resonate with real people to really make sure that we were driving that unique asked for user generated content at this time, but to also make sure that it all fell under the umbrella of entertainment and sensitivity, and falling within whatever your region’s guidelines at the time were dictating about COVID-19.

Gregory Littley:

To date, we’ve had 2.3 billion views of the trend, which honestly is a huge number and certainly surpassed any of our expectations. I remember hitting 300 million and just celebrating with the team, being like, well, this is the most, this is huge. But what we did not necessarily anticipate was TikTok sat up and took notice at the trend that we created. What they really saw was they enjoyed the fact that they could instantly see that PoseAtHome was not only drawing the attention of real users, but additionally, it was becoming a holistic trend that certainly drove home the idea of sheltering in place, being at home, practicing social distancing, but also showcasing your creativity and giving you a little bit of a spotlight at a time that the world was so dark and bleak truly.

Gregory Littley:

TikTok sat up and took notice. Within working with them, we have a wonderful relationship with TikTok. They’re some of the most passionate, creative driven people that I’ve ever worked with at a platform. I really can’t sing their praises enough, but they took it, PoseAtHome, and placed it on the official challenge section page, which, from a brand perspective, from a company perspective, the value of that placement is absurd. It’s literally hundreds of thousands of dollars, that brands, companies, people pay to have their campaign placed on this page. This occurred during the first week of May. Like I had said before, we could have never expected the type of numbers and engagement that resulted from that placement, which truly does speak to the power of TikTok being the most relevant social platform of the moment, and also the user behavior, the ability to adopt quickly and create instantly, really showcased its power through this.

Gregory Littley:

Within that first week, we had hundreds of millions of new views, tons of people actually creating and being inspired by the PoseAtHome and adding the tag. Then I think we actually have an example of our launch video and then a little bit of what that trend challenge page looks like.

Gregory Littley:

What I love about that video, clearly there was no better person to launch with than Coco, but the idea of taking all those considerations and making sure that me and the team were really guiding this through in a safe manner and having the addition of the Yo Gotti song pose, which was like the perfect suggestion by one of my team members, Christina Monroe. It really brought it together in this lightning in a bottle moment. I think what we saw the proof that this worked and the proof that it was the perfect combination of leading with our strategy, thinking about the execution, making sure that this was alive and living on a relevant platform, in addition to making sure that we were inviting others to take part in this in the safety of their home. When you look at the page, and it’s over 2.3 billion views, that’s all the proof you need to know that, not only was this effective, but it was such a successful campaign, really.

Anthony Caponiti:

Thanks. Hello, everybody. It’s nice to be on with you today. I appreciate your time, and thanks to Green Buzz Agency for inviting me to speak on this topic. Hopefully, you like what I have to say. What we’re going to look to do here is, it’s a bit of a shift from the sexy TikTok campaigns that you just heard about, but living in this now, more so virtual world, how to, especially as an event organizer, but equally for anybody really, that is a marketer today in 2020. Likely, you’re touching on some element of events or lead generation in your day job. What we want to touch on is how can you make that transition? What are some basics? What should you be thinking about? Some lessons learned and maybe how to grow that strategy over the near term and the long-term.

Anthony Caponiti:

There’s a little bit of quick information. We’ll keep it short on Hashtag Sports. But the reason we want to share this is give a little bit of irrelevancy about our mindset about how we think of producing and organizing an event. Something to keep in mind as we go through this is, there’s no one size fits all, and that’s something that’s really important to keep in mind. As an event producer and anybody that’s putting on any type of event experience virtual or otherwise, we’re going into our fifth year as an annual gathering for the sports entertainment ecosystem, which is more and more, as each day goes by, converging. Interestingly, we were born as a predecessor event to our real world event from a fully virtual conference.

Anthony Caponiti:

Really, at its time, I believe it was quite trend-setting, and not sure how many experiences like it really existed. In 2014, 2015, when we partnered with Google Plus and Google Hangouts, which was a newer platform at the time, we built a fully virtual experience. I think the first year in 2014, we had 65 speakers live from around the world, including five different countries. Every speaker made it on, everything went off without a hitch. It was fully built on the Google plus API connection built on top of it, and everything was fully virtual. In fact, it was even dual track where you could go in and select your track. We were ahead of the market in that sense at the time, and then that became the springboard to our real world event platform, an industry gathering for the sports entertainment ecosystem.

Anthony Caponiti:

I just share that with you in the sense that I’m bringing in some historical knowledge about where we were five to six years ago, from where we are today, and watching all go full circle is very interesting. We wouldn’t have had that crystal ball to predict it. As I mentioned, again, like anything in life and as a marketer and event producer, content creator, there is no one size fits all. We obviously learned that from what we just talked about with TikTok in creating a campaign that’s going to generate views and eyeballs, and ultimately win for your goals. When you’re thinking about what this transition might look like, number one, the starting point is again, what is your event type? i.e., really, what is going to be your goal here?

Anthony Caponiti:

If you are an event organizer and your living is organizing one or more events, and that is the engine of your business in terms of revenue, as opposed to you’re a marketer who is trying to reach B2B customers or even consumers for that matter for product or services. There’s going to be elements that are similar or different. Obviously you just have to know who you’re creating what experience for, that’s always paramount. Are you a large scale event? Do you cater to B2B audience? Is it B2C. In our lane, as a B2B event organizer of a growing large scale event, so our business again, is generated, in terms of revenue, primarily in the early days, especially as an annual event, an annual event platform.

Anthony Caponiti:

We started with a conference that grew. Last year, we introduced our Hashtag Sports Awards in the Engagement Academy of Sports Entertainment. As we grow, we put more layers on top, but at the end of the day, we are a thought leadership event and conference that we aspire to turn into a festival. At this point in time, what we are not is a large scale trade show or a large scale exhibition. We have certainly touched on some of those elements, but for us, in short order and in that very generous intro that I received from Green Buzz at the top, getting to that point of prestige quickly was built on top of our reputation for high quality thought leadership and programming. Now that we’re transitioning, we find ourselves in a situation where everything is much more virtual than it is in the real world, at least for the time being, you’re competing against different entities for that attention.

Anthony Caponiti:

But in general, just knowing what your event type is, what you’re building, what you’re going to do, obviously that’s paramount. What are the strengths and weaknesses ultimately for the type of event, event series that you’re trying to build? For example, again, really if content and program is what you’re known for, well, there’s a lot more of that out there right now. Is that really what you want to lean into, or do you want to take this opportunity to be a time to maybe experiment with other elements of your event or even your event strategy for that matter? Maybe you haven’t been doing a lot of webinars, and now the world is coming to life, and that’s the mainstay and expectation. Maybe now is the time to dip into it, but whatever it is in terms of what your value proposition is to your attendee and your growing audience, you obviously have to keep that in mind, and that clearly goes hand in hand with what you’re selling.

Anthony Caponiti:

In terms of knowing your audience again, addressable market becomes very key. Perhaps, and in some situations I would argue with this current time that we find ourselves in, in terms of COVID-19 and restrictions on where we can spend our time in the real world and with live events, of course, it’s not one size fits all as far as what’s available to us as event organizers, or marketers, or content creators, but perhaps your addressable market has an opportunity to grow. Maybe there are complimentary audiences that you can now reach easier through, we will touch on it a tiny bit if we can move quickly, as far as the different type of event experiences you’re creating virtually. Then maybe it would be a little more difficult for whatever reason to mesh together in your live event experience.

Anthony Caponiti:

Again, take Hashtag Sports, we’re an ecosystem event annual gathering, meaning we have a top objective of seven, eight, maybe even more key stakeholders in this ecosystem that are not necessarily used to being in the room together, and it’s taken us multiple years to set the stage in terms of having the event component parts to make all these stakeholder, or put these stakeholders, I guess should say, in a position where they’re going to have a great experience. It very well could be that, in a virtual setting, that’s easier to do because you can do things in piecemeal parts or whatever it may be. The value proposition, again, obviously at the end of the day, the attendee experience and the experience of your sponsors and partners are what really is going to drive your success. You can never move away from that. We all know that that’s paramount.

Anthony Caponiti:

In terms of, again, your attendees, just doing your very best at a stage to understand what a potential target attendee and your addressable market may have experienced. In the lead up to our event next week, we thought a lot about, all right, in the early stages of many events and event organizers and marketers creating these virtual experiences, are people getting more of one type of experience or another? Maybe certain platforms are used and technologies were used more than the next one. Maybe they were presented in a certain format. Just keep it in mind, like just being very candid about it. There could be exhausted at certain levels.

Anthony Caponiti:

Maybe it’s an opportunity to just analyze that and think to date, over the last three months, especially in this COVID-19 environment, what potentially has your attendees had the opportunity to experience? I think here, in terms of what we’re talking about today, clearly for anybody that’s interested in how you are transitioning your event strategy, in particular from the real world, and you may have already been thinking, and that was the case of us. Interestingly, as I might have, or probably should have mentioned up front, we were planning a large scale virtual event as part of an evolution of our platform’s business model for October. Ironically, the good news for us was we just flipped our calendar through a postponement strategy with our real world event, and now our virtual event was fast tracked.

Anthony Caponiti:

We were already thinking in those terms. We’ve had the hypothesis and the thought process that I think most of us who have been active in some capacity of producing events, B2B or B2C, otherwise, especially B2B, that I think the reality is to be a 365 day value proposition to your attendees and your audience. They’re naturally, is most likely you’re going to want to have virtual elements to what you do, I think it just makes sense. Certainly, it has an impact on, I think, ultimately the long-term sustainability, especially of the event organizer industry. Revenue is paramount, of course. Especially if this is the first event that you’re producing in terms of a larger scale event or something that is a big piece of your event strategy, so i.e., more attendees than less, what does it mean for your revenue stream?

Anthony Caponiti:

I think for some event organizers and some companies, we’re all in different spectrums. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones that revenue is doing really well, it’s obviously going to give you an opportunity to probably be more experimental and really push the envelope. Naturally, if for whatever reason, because of timing or other things that might’ve been out of your control, or just your industry and vertical, you might really have to press the needle on revenue and thinking about how you’re going to ask your, either existing attendees and addressable market that, whether they’re year over year retention or that you’re trying to draw who maybe didn’t have an opportunity to buy a pass or a ticket to your event, to ask them to now do it in the virtual world, or are you trying to reach new customers?

Anthony Caponiti:

Obviously, from a revenue perspective, that’s going to shape it quite a bit. Also, just your relationship with sponsors and partners. I can’t stress how much that needs to be an open conversation and dialogue. I think it’s very difficult, just being realistic about it, how much we have on our plates, but the more that you can have, even at this stage, three months in, an open conversation about each other’s goals and just what they’re experiencing, that’s going to make a huge difference and put you in a position to ultimately succeed. To do so, again, that’s going to take elements that are listed on the slide, like great production, thought leadership is important. It was already at a premium, I think it clearly becomes more to premium, and just more emphasis perhaps on layers that maybe in the real world you didn’t need for whatever reason, whether it was because it was necessitated by size or venue providing it, or just the natural infrastructure that you may need to now do to give a little bit extra level of satisfaction and delivery of value to your sponsors or your partners.

Anthony Caponiti:

And thinking long-term as best as possible. As I said before, we were already thinking of some of these elements in our strategy, they now became fast tracked. You have to always solve the goal at hand, or the problem at hand, if there’s an issue, and meet those goals. But being long-term is always, in your thinking, going to be helpful for something that I think isn’t going away tomorrow in some shape, form or fashion. We already live in a difficult attention economy, and as I alluded to before, anything you’re doing from your event strategy perspective, but especially a large scale or a larger scale event like Hashtag Sports where we have a couple thousand people that attend, let alone something like VidCon or Collision or larger events, whatever it may be, now when you’re going into this virtual arena, big and small, you don’t have a captive audience in the way that you did before.

Anthony Caponiti:

That’s just the rules of engagement. That’s the way that the playbook goes. It’s paramount, as we thought about, in our position, we’re creating an event three months after really the beginning of this shift. I would say we’re lucky in a sense to have the luxury of being able to sit back and watch a little bit. At the end of the day, your attendees, your audience, your customers, any of the stakeholders, and any stakeholder is going to be multitasking. Attention is scarce right now. We all know that for a variety of reasons. You will need to, I believe embrace that as part of your strategy and delivery in event, and just understand that that’s the case, and think about, how are you going to be able to create the best experience for the attendee that you’re trying to reach?

Anthony Caponiti:

In that capacity, there’s already a lot of amazing content out there. Look at everything we just talked about. TikTok, I probably watch that all day long. Whether it’s just content itself from social media platforms, incredible law informed documentaries that are capturing our attention, whatever it is, there’s more out there, let alone the fact that barriers to entry to create really great thought leadership has been lowered to a certain extent. You may now be competing against other thought leadership experiences at a larger scale than you weren’t before, and it’s important to keep in mind, sponsors already most likely create their own events, but it becomes a little bit easier in theory, or perhaps you might have some partners and sponsors that are going to be more ambitious about creating event experiences of their own. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Anthony Caponiti:

If anything, I think it offers complimentary opportunities to enhance value with your sponsors and partners, but it’s just important to keep that in mind. Technology is a tricky one. It’s important. Anybody that’s thinking about how to deploy, especially a larger scale event, is likely not going to find a one size fits all by any means. If you do know that answer, please reach out to me after this webinar, and I would love to know what it is. There are some really large scale events that are out there, I think like Collision, for example, Patty Cosgrove for years with web summit is building his own technology internally to a certain degree, at least, whatever it is or isn’t, and they’re attempting to deliver that experience through their own technology. That’s not the reality for 99% of those of us that are creating virtual events, big, medium, and small.

Anthony Caponiti:

Your technology is going to be important. I think the reality is for most in talking to other executives and other event organizers, and also just our team’s observation, is that a technology stack is likely going to be the best way that you can deploy any experience, especially a larger one. In our case, I think we’re going to be relying on, for sure, two technologies and maybe even three. Partially that’s because in order to going back to the upfront part of identifying the component parts of your event, in particular, in the value that you’re trying to drive, there’s just certain elements that realistically a software technology is really built to do.

Anthony Caponiti:

It might be built to replicate what really feels like you’re stepping into a stage in a big ballroom or whatever it is, to feel like you’re listening to that keynote or that speaking session, but it might not be as good at networking, or vice versa. In our case, we picked a networking led platform because for us that’s a more sustainable strategy. We were planning to use this technology for our real world event for the foreseeable future, and hopefully, sustainably, so that became more natural for us. I think that that’s just a reality. Production is paramount. Clearly, right now we have a fantastic webinar that’s going down. Green Buzz Agency does an amazing job with production and all elements. It goes off without a hitch, and that’s easier said than done.

Anthony Caponiti:

We have observed some major players, and the industry have to cancel or call off their event even the morning of. There’s just so many little things for a more complex virtual event when you’re moving from the real world space as a conference or trade show, or whatever it may be, to replicate. The more ambitious or the more holistic that experience is like, there are some events that are trying to replicate incredible scale in terms of speaking and programming, alongside buyer or seller markets, trade shows. It’s a lot to do, especially if it’s the first time. Honestly, it’s just Murphy’s law, the more that you’re executing, the more that can go wrong per se, but that’s not a reason not to do it.

Anthony Caponiti:

But there’s all kinds of issues that can come in play if you’re not thinking ahead of the curve, from time zones, to just the simulation itself, the communication of your team, and even little things like the technologies you’re deploying as far as some people find out the hard way that they can’t embed a YouTube livestream, because they’re not a part of YPP, they’re not a program partner. Just little things that sound like they’re not significant, but can easily trip you up at the last second. Again, your sponsors and your partners are paramount in all aspects. From our experience, in particular, and the sports industry has had some very difficult challenges. Not all industries and verticals are the same obviously, but just making that an open and transparent conversation to … and doing your homework, no matter what your role is as an event producer and an organizer and marketer.

Anthony Caponiti:

To the best of your ability, you should always have a pulse on what your sponsors and partners are doing in the marketplace, but obviously knowing that at this point and moving forward, how the marketplace has affected them. To a certain degree, does, in all honesty, affect how you’re approaching those partners and sponsors about whatever new experience you might be taking virtually, creating, and just the longevity and sustainability of that strategy. It’s very important. Again, like the slide says, your sponsor mix might look very different than what it is for a live event, and might be very similar. That goes back to how you’re deploying that strategy. But at the end of the day, the majority of us, there are some lucky few out there beyond just platforms like [inaudible 00:29:33] and Zoom that are going through the roof.

Anthony Caponiti:

Some people can’t answer the phones, but that’s not the majority. Lead generation is at a premium, and at the end of the day, no matter what you’re doing with your event or your event strategy and your media, if you can generate leads, you probably have a customer that wants to find you in terms of sponsorship.

Andrew Whipp:

Well, thank you both so much for your amazing insights. I think now would be an awesome time to transition over to an audience led Q&A. I have a question just to kind of kick things off for Gregory, which is, is there anything about creating content during this COVID-19 environment that we’re in, that you wish you had known before COVID-19 had started?

Gregory Littley:

The truth is, is that when this all started to happen, and so this is … the world has been forever changed since March, 2020, let’s just say that. I would say that for me and the team that I was working with, one of the greatest aspects of the dynamic and the talent that we were, not only working with, but also trying to lead, was that we were already used to pivoting. Digital and social is a living, breathing entity. We are already so used to pivoting quickly, playing catch up with change of algorithms, new features that are being exposed and released. The only real difference was having to finitely add in a layer of Uber sensitivity and Uber health and wellbeing.

Gregory Littley:

Where the strategies may have changed a little, the drive and the intention remained the same, and it was heightened in terms of, you had that added extra layer of really having to consider, when you’re creating a campaign, when you’re creating messaging, when you’re creating content, you have a responsibility as a brand, as a marketer, as a content creator that has perhaps a large following. You have to keep safety in mind, especially when everything from the CDC to the WHO were changing so much of their guidelines and their requests of regional guidelines and global guidelines.

Gregory Littley:

I don’t necessarily wish I knew something before, but what I am thankful for was the ability to take already how we approached work and content, and people as well, and added that hyper layer of sensitivity, wellbeing, and safety measures.

DJ Jamiel:

That’s awesome, Gregory. We do have an audience question here. It’s from Heather, and Anthony, this is for you. Heather wants to know, can you share some of the technology companies being used for events?

Anthony Caponiti:

There are some bigger names that service the event space. I mentioned one, for example, I think I’ve seen used with fair frequency, 6Connex has been around for a while. A software like 6Connex attempts to really bring more of a virtual emulation of what’s happening in your real world event, versus, for example, the platform that we’re using is a networking led platform called Brella, Braintree. There’s a couple different software technologies in that area, but the reality is pretty much any company that’s in the event registration space has now deployed some type of virtual experience.

Anthony Caponiti:

We use Bizzabo for typically our registration and event management. Bizzabo has created multiple integrations and has a live product. There’s a lot out there. Honestly, it’s very comprehensive, but again, it comes down to … or even using just a stack itself, like trying to … We’re deploying a simulcast strategy. Obviously, we’re building on top of things like YouTube Live and others, but I think what you’re really asking is from an event perspective, and all the big reg players have some type of solution, and there’s new ones coming up. There’s one called Airmeet that’s trying to simulate more like tables and that type of conversation, so some very interesting ones. But yeah, a lot of the big C. All of those are players at this point offering some type of live virtual experience for events.

Andrew Whipp:

I have another question for Gregory. Gregory, when you guys are trying to create these kind of challenges, I’m sure this isn’t the first one that you guys have tried. I’m not sure where it ranks in terms of how successful it was compared to other trend challenges that you’ve done on other platforms, or even on TikTok, but why do you think that this one was so successful, and what things about it did you learn along the way that helped you prepare for the next one that you might do?

Gregory Littley:

That’s a good question. I think what set this specific activation and homegrown campaign apart from even past work that I’ve been involved in, in my entire career was never before have we had such a tuned in captive audience. That’s the truth. Across all social platforms, you’re seeing 45%, 55% uptick in users, people that are onboarding specifically to TikTok just exploded really. It was the perfect moment to take advantage of what we were seeing in user behavior, and also take advantage of how people were digesting content in confines of creating a relevant narrative. We knew, at the time, practically everyone across, not only our country, but the world, was really being instructed to social distance and to be mindful of staying in your home or your living space. So, sparking creativity from that, like, what would you do?

Gregory Littley:

A lot of the talent was open to working, and they were getting a little stir crazy, which was understandable. It’s a healthy reaction to being asked to stay in one place when you’re used to traveling all over the world multiple times a month. I do think that it was taking all of that knowledge, recognizing what was happening in the world, and then creating a solution and an answer and content vehicle so that people could not only, or talent could take part in it, but it is an easier low barrier moment for people to join in. That’s why it was born directly. It was created directly to be consumed and to trend on TikTok.

DJ Jamiel:

Anthony, we have another question from the audience, and it is for you. It’s something that you actually just alluded to before in your previous answer when you were talking about tables, and this has to do with replicating breakout groups. [Lexi 00:37:06] asks, how can you make virtual events interactive without breakouts groups only?

Anthony Caponiti:

I think it’s a good question. I may be able to ask or answer Heather’s question a little bit too, thinking about some of the other platform softwares and technology you might’ve considered, but yeah, for sure. Because to that point, given that there is more competition and multitasking it happening, having that attendee lean in more and not just sitting back and watching content is naturally a challenge. In our case, again, as I mentioned, because it was very cohesive with our existing live event strategy, we opted to select a technology partner in software that utilizes one-on-one matchmaking as the backbone.

Anthony Caponiti:

In of itself, one-on-one matchmaking, no matter how it’s deployed, even if the end result is only that you’re introduced to somebody that you might not have otherwise discovered yourself, that’s a form of being interactive, obviously. I guess it depends, if Lexi’s question is more so interactive with your program, and your content, and your broadcast, or just interactive between attendees. We’re using Slack as well as a complimentary channel, because when you just think about it often, again, in terms of like no one size fits all. So we use Bizzabo, for our real world event, we’re using Brella, as I mentioned, we’re using Slack. We’re even using, I think, one other technology out there, or considering it.

Anthony Caponiti:

It’s difficult, but if you have that ability to do some matchmaking, to generate the conversation, to do it in parallel, our software allows for chat during the event. You can turn it on and off. We’re doing, in terms of broadcast, that’s obviously another element. We’re using some more expensive technology in order to make the broadcast itself more interactive. We’re trying to have more of a professional touch of that. Not everybody can necessarily do that, but it’s been democratized. Q&As and polls and live social feeds into your broadcast of your keynotes or sessions, that certainly helps too. There’s a myriad of different ways to attack it, but again, that’s where just knowing your audience really, really, really helps. But personally, I’m a huge, huge proponent of the networking portion, because I think that’s, at the end of the day, that’s why most people are tuning in, or a good majority.

Anthony Caponiti:

If you can give them a great networking experience, and do that through some type of matchmaking introductions, facilitation, that’s going to be a strong strategy.

DJ Jamiel:

Gregory, the next question is for you, and it pertains to tick talk and just how unique of a culture it has. My question is mainly, what advice would you give to the participants right now during this webinar who are thinking about jumping into a social platform like TikTok, but they’re a little intimidated by how unique that culture is? What advice would you give them about jumping in and making sure whatever they create [inaudible 00:40:19] with the culture on there?

Gregory Littley:

That’s a really good question. Honestly, it comes up so much. I think that there was this popular belief that hasn’t really held true. It’s not real, but there’s a popular belief that, specifically to TikTok, there’s this age gate, that you have to be a certain age, or you have to have certain types of abilities, whether you’re prolific and dancing or comedy and all these different things. Honestly, what rings true on TikTok, rings true for any other platform when you’re looking to onboard and you’re looking to utilize and dive in to user behavior. You do have to take a moment and study whether it’s foreign to you or not, you do have to take the steps to understand, to really explore what the different content trends are per platform, per user, per narrative. I think, one of the most exciting things about TikTok right now is, yes, they certainly exist right now.

Gregory Littley:

There’s popular narratives, there’s popular dances, there’s comedy bits. There’s a ton of right now Black Lives Matters of videos that are doing an amazing job to address and to educate a wide audience about real life issues that are happening now. I think it’s some of the most impressive content work that’s coming out of the movement that I’m seeing, it’s taking place on TikTok. There’s a wide breadth of various ways to take part and get into it. But like every other platform, it’s important, from a brand safety, from a company safety, to understand the platform, to dive in, to take the time, to partner with someone who has taken the time, to really understand what that environment is, what does the user behavior dictate, and then to make sure that you’re creating content that’s relevant to join the conversations that you’re looking to be a part of.

Gregory Littley:

With anything else, that upfront, that studying, that foundational knowledge, it’s not different from any other time you’ve been asked to learn, study and understand a social platform. TikTok isn’t different in that respect. What makes it so different right now in comparison to, whether it’s Twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook, I never talk about Facebook, but what makes TikTok stand out right now is, not only it’s mass adoption, it’s the age of the primary user base, even though that’s changing, like I had said. It’s the ability to really go viral and to position your content in front of so many different and new people’s feeds. That’s just really how the actual interface is devised.

Gregory Littley:

You have the section, it’s a dual path. You have your feed split into two, where you have the people that you’re following, and then in addition, you have the ability to be exposed to new users with the For You section, or you have new people that can be exposed to you that you’re not following.

DJ Jamiel:

Yeah, that’s extremely fascinating.

Gregory Littley:

It is. I find it to be the most exciting platform right now for all of the reasons that I just described, but I love any time that in the infancy of a platform, the creators are really in power, because they have the ability to dictate so much of popular cultures conversations. What I’m just so impressed and inspired by is all of the videos that are really taking hold of that power and talking about so much of the ideas and frustration and mental wellness about isolation from COVID, to discussing the current social injustice and the BLM movement right now. It’s a very exciting time for creators to use their voice and to be heard.

Andrew Whipp:

Absolutely. Well, I have a question for both of you about … there’s kind of, and both of you have alluded to this. There’s no going back after COVID-19 in a lot of organizations. It sounds like you guys as well have pivoted and done your best to adjust and adapt to the new world that we’re living in. We’re curious if there’s anything that you think, when things return back to normal, whenever that is, are there things that you’re going to keep around or things that you learned along the way that you think will survive the quarantine, things that you’ll continue doing that you learned during the quarantine?

Gregory Littley:

I’d really ask that, I think the safest route forward is to really let go of the idea or the mental or the business construct of normal, because our entire world has been changed since March, 2020. If we’re speaking to marketers, if we’re speaking to people that are able to put brand policy in place, able to really affect change on the diversity element of their employee base, I lean in and I celebrate the idea that this is uncharted territory and we’re able to really go forward in a positive, helpful, equal direction. The things that we would take away from this moment is really that awakening almost, and that transparency, that so many through … Whether you think that your company or brand handled COVID well, if you think that your company has been handling the social injustice conversation and the reaction to protests and Black Lives Matters, if you think that they’ve been doing a good job, that’s such a wonderful place to keep moving in that direction.

Gregory Littley:

Right now, the things that people are learning and holding onto most, and really holding people accountable, whether it’s a company, a brand, a creator, a person, a celebrity, whomever, the NFL even, it’s that idea of transparency and not allowing people to regress. There’s only progress going forward. When you’re arming yourself with all of these quick, fast lessons that we’ve been forced to learn in the last 90, 100 days that we’ve been awakened to, I’m so excited for what’s going to happen next in terms of company makeups, employee transparency, and emotional intelligence that companies can now guide through based on their reaction to COVID, and how they’re dealing with social injustice conversations right now.

Andrew Whipp:

Anthony, how about you?

Anthony Caponiti:

Yeah. I certainly agreed as well said, echo Gregory’s sentiments in terms of what he’s speaking to, in that component of businesses and purpose has been gaining increasing traction in the everyday operation of, I’d say, even the Fortune 500 now, it’s not where it needs to be. But it’s not a new concept, even when I was in school a gajillion years ago, which I could tell you it was like two years ago. Sustainability and purpose was talked about often. It’s just continuing to gain more and more traction, and then, inflection points certainly, always help in a positive manner to accelerate. Accelerate change, accelerate innovation. I think he’s right about the areas that he touched on. From the perspective of the question of, like you said, the now versus a later, there’s two quick component parts to the way that I think about that question.

Anthony Caponiti:

In general, I am an optimist. In general, I also believe in the power of humanity to innovate and to create change in broad strokes. It’s not saying it’s right or wrong, but pendulum swing. Generally, life is built on balance. You have a pendulum, it swings one way, swings another. I think much of what’s happening now in terms of what the net effect to the way that businesses operate is not going to come and go. There’s going to clearly be some lasting effects. I think what Gregory said that’s very powerful is, just thinking in terms of a new normal in the sense of most likely many of the strategies that you’re employing, if you weren’t before, holistically across the board areas. He touched on just your business were probably very sustainable strategies. From our perspective, as I alluded to, we were already thinking about what can and should be done in a virtual capacity.

Anthony Caponiti:

We were born out of that. In fact, we’ve been sitting around thinking like, what a gold mine we weren’t leaning into. We were thinking in that way, and the good news for us is we were ahead. Ultimately, my belief is live events are not going away. Like I just, I just don’t think that’s realistic. You can debate what the impact is or isn’t, but human beings are still going to gather in live forums. I personally believe there’s still going to gather in large forums. It’s simply a matter of time, then maybe the way that you do that and you interact will certainly change. I think from a marketer’s perspective and an event organizers perspective, what I would say is that, much of what is happening is here to stay.

Anthony Caponiti:

The reason is, think about the business models of event producers, event organizers and media companies. Media companies make a lot of revenue or a good share of revenue, often B2B or B2C, otherwise through experiential, through events. There’s kind of a race to the middle. A lot of ways, media companies, especially B2B ones have started to look more like event organizers and vice versa. Each has a competitive advantage. I think, as more sponsors and partners and others create events, as the walls of access is democratized through technology, you’re going to see more and more people creating events. The reality is you need to be holistic in your strategy, and these strategies in the virtual component and space are here to stay.

Anthony Caponiti:

The question is, how synergistic is it not only with your go-to-market strategy, but your business model? What becomes truly advantageous to your attendee to open up their virtual wallet and to spend on a pass to come to your event, or provide value that’s really 365 days, if your model isn’t 50, 60 events all across the calendar? That’s the key to it. My belief is, sooner than later, you’re going to see some really smart event organizers and marketers putting together some plus models, if you will, that are going to emulate what you’re seeing more so on the media side of the equation.

DJ Jamiel:

That’s awesome. Thanks Anthony for that. I know we’re getting close on time, and we’re going to try to end right exactly at 1:00. Personally, I just have one final question. This is for Gregory. It alludes to what you were talking to before in your previous answer, where you were talking about these moments and movements that are happening. I know there’s a lot of detail that goes into this answer, but can you give us like a 30,000 foot look about how you go about developing content for your brand when it is attached to a movement or a moment that’s happening culturally?

Gregory Littley:

Yeah. Really quickly, there’s two ways to really approach it. If you have then operating in a transparent landscape, then you’re fully prepared for this moment. You don’t need any guidance, you know exactly what you’re doing. If you’re not, it’s a watershed moment, and it’s a time to come to the table. There’s multiple different hashtags that are calling out companies and brands asking them to be transparent in terms of the breakdown of their employees and how their employees identify, whether it be gender or race, or even as getting as detailed as sexuality as well. I think that, like I said, if you’ve been transparent, you’ve been leading in a blended workplace in a way that promotes talent and people and humans, then you’re fine. You’re set.

Gregory Littley:

You’ve been prepared, and you can make these statements and stand behind it and call out culture isn’t going to cancel you. But if you’re not, it’s an amazing opportunity to step up to the plate, say what you want to do, say what you have not been able to do, take responsibility, and then allow your consumers, your employees to work with you to hold you accountable. I think that we’re seeing some brands that are doing it really well and that are leaning into it, and they’re owning up for the blind spots that they’ve had in their past. I think we’re also being exposed right now to brands and companies that are not as educated and aware, and they’re taking the time to do the work, to put in that work, and to make sure that they’re providing a workspace, a company, an employee dynamic that fits the face and the culture of our country and our world.

Gregory Littley:

I look at brands like Glossier, immediately, I think it was possibly June 1st, they released a huge statement saying that they were going to make sure that they were giving a million dollars of their own money, Emily Weiss, the founder of Glossier, of their own money to women of color and black-owned beauty brands and startups. Putting your money where your intention is, is making the difference. People right now, of course, are focused on looking because we care about where we spend our money, and that the money that we spend is reflective of our personal ideals and who we stand for as people. This is the moment to really stand up and be proud that you have done the work, or to admit that you haven’t and that you will do better.

Anthony Caponiti:

Yeah, and can I just make one quick point, because I think it’s critical with the 30 seconds we have to echo what Gregory said?

Andrew Whipp:

Absolutely.

Anthony Caponiti:

We have a big initiative that we’re very proud of that we’ve been working on for more than six months behind the scene with a top Fortune 100 company who’s a big partner of ours in terms of diversity and inclusion. But I think what’s key, as well to what Gregory said is, and I know it’s easier said than done, 100% when it comes to competition, but we also have an opportunity to be, I think, collaborative in these efforts. Part of what we’re proud of and what we hope we’ve started with our announcement on Monday, building on top of what we started a year and a half ago, is using our platform to invite other movements, organizations nonprofits, whatever it may be to be more cohesive.

Anthony Caponiti:

Because I think, often outside of the really biggest ones that are a part of the conversation, it’s very fractional. Anything you can do to collaborate is frankly, just good business. I know there’s limitations to it, but if you can be a catalyst and you can be cohesive for your niche, for your industry, for our case, the convergence of industries, it’s going to bring about a lot of positive change, and I think ultimately, business for your business.

Andrew Whipp:

Well, you guys rock. I think there was a lot of really valuable information in there and a great dialogue and discussion that we were able to have at the end that I’m really happy we were able to have. I think that’s all the time we have for today’s webinar.


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