“With great influence comes great responsibility” was the theme at this year’s Social Media Week (SMW) New York. With more than 2.7 billion people using social media worldwide (according to Statista), there’s no doubt it is the world’s most influential storytelling channel. From trust and data to influencer and video marketing, this SMW week covered a lot of ground. Here are three key takeaways for the year ahead:

1. Join the Purpose Revolution in an Authentic Way

Many of the presenters at SMW discussed the importance of establishing trust in the fake news era. Dana Wade of Viacom Velocity noted that with three-quarters of people reporting that they want brands to show awareness of cultural issues, consumers and employees are looking to their CEOs and senior leadership to take stances on important issues.

The previous mentality of “saying as little as possible” is unsustainable, as people expect brands to communicate their perspectives on topics and issues in an authentic way, empowering consumers in the process. This is also supported by the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, which found that 71 percent of people feel that it is critically important for their CEO to respond to industry issues, political events, national crises and employee-driven issues.

Failing to take a stance on issues will not only lower brand perception but will also negatively impact a brand’s bottom line. According to the 2019 Edelman Earned Brand report, 60 percent of people believe brands should make it easier for them to see what their values and positions on important issues are when making a purchase. People are pushing for and expecting spokespeople, influencers and brands to live their mission and stand up for what they believe in.

As Terry Rice of Entrepreneur magazine remarked, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

2. Know and Understand Your Customer

Historically, marketing has focused on talking at people. Thanks to social media, we have learned that successful marketing comes from connecting with people. When you connect with their emotions, consumers are three times more likely to purchase your products. Consumers are on the lookout for authentic stories that demonstrate that not only do you understand what they experience every day, but also that you’re here to help and make a positive impact on their lives.

The modern customer trusts people over brands, so don’t discount the value of collaborating with influencers to tell your story and build trust with target audiences in an authentic, genuine way. Today’s customers seek strong connections. Forge these relationships by allowing people they trust to represent and advocate for their favorite brands.

Go beyond simply evaluating data — dig deeper to determine what motivates people to buy products. This will provide insight into how you will convert them to continue buying your product and becoming a brand advocate.

3. Get Personal

A 2017 study by Monetate found that 79 percent of the companies that exceeded revenue goals had a documented personalization strategy in place. Consumers are rejecting content that feels derivative and are instead gravitating to content that is unique and special to them. Consumers should never be asking: “Why is this ad targeting me?”

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less,” Grad Conn of Sprinklr said. Lean into the rise of video marketing, making use of features like Instagram Stories and Facebook Live. In the multi-channel universe, it’s important to figure out the right channel for the right message.

Presenters at SMW also suggested testing sound as a new method of message dissemination. People are increasingly turning to podcasts as their go-to media consumption platform. According to Statista, it’s estimated that podcast listening will grow to 132 million people in the U.S. by 2022.

Today’s customers want to develop stronger connections with their favorite brands, and influencer marketing can help accomplish that. However, it is important to think of influencers as partners rather than looking at them as an extension of a marketing campaign.

All content should be relevant, authentic and transparent.

Stefanie Anderson is assistant account executive, Healthcare, New York
D’Anthony Jackson is account executive, Digital Healthcare, New York