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360i Inspired Speaker Series: What does “authority” mean in the Digital Age?

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On Tuesday, we hosted a special panel session in our New York offices that focused on the new era of online influence. The event was part of 360i’s Inspired Speaker Series, which brings together some of the brightest minds across various industries to discuss trends in the dynamic digital landscape. The goal of the series is to illuminate these topics and provide an opportunity for our employees and clients to enrich their own expertise in digital.

Sarah Hofstetter, SVP of Emerging Media & Brand Strategy at 360i, moderated the panel discussion, called “What does ‘authority’ mean in the Digital Age?” You can watch the complete session and read our highlights in the recap below.

What Does “Authority” Mean in the Digital Age? from 360i on Vimeo.

Thanks to our guest speakers for sharing their insights:

The Importance of Your Online Brand

Jeff Bercovici, author of Forbes’ MIXED MEDIA blog, explained that the reality today is that journalists must often act as “free agents.” Having individual brand recognition and a name that people can recognize and know is important in a way that simply wasn’t ten years ago.

Todd Wasserman, Business & Marketing Editor at Mashable, said that today it’s much more important for journalists to build their own brands. Mashable writers, for example, have headshots placed beside their bylines, creating a more personal connection with readers. Wasserman said he and other Mashable writers read comments on their stories, and respond to them to extend the dialogue.

Beyond the realm of journalism, BuzzFeed’s Jon Steinberg said building a personal brand in social is also important for business development professionals. BuzzFeed encourages its sales force to connect with individuals at brands (i.e. social marketing managers) via social.

Staying On-Brand in Social

Wasserman argued that in social, it’s important to stay true to your brand and think about your brand before social media. He cited Coca-Cola and Pepsi, noting that Coke has stayed more on-brand in its messaging in social (fun and happiness) whereas Pepsi has strayed.

One brand that doesn’t do anything in social is Apple. “I don’t see why more brands don’t emulate them,” said Wasserman. “They’ve built up a lot of shadow by not talking about what they’re doing.”

It’s very important for brands to be responsive and consider both context and content, said Local Response‘s Nihal Mehta. When you speak, say something interesting and worthwhile. In a generation of “digital narcissists,” it’s important to respond quickly – but also make sure that you provide quality messaging that has value.

Does pay-for-placement affect influence?

Mehta said pay-for-placement can be effective as long as it doesn’t appear artificial. To prove his point, he cited the Charlie Sheen social media internship, in which Sheen was paid big bucks to promote internships.com (through Ad.ly). By the way, the link he tweeted has received nearly half a million clicks to date, per bit.ly stats.

BuzzFeed runs its promoted posts in yellow units that are clearly labeled. For “non-traditional” publishing platforms, Steinberg said that appropriate disclosure is enough.

Wasserman agreed, saying that as long as the relationship is disclosed, people are sophisticated enough to know not to deem it as completely unbiased. Online advertising is much different than print – very few people click through banner ads, and sponsored content performs a lot better. “That’s the reality of online media,” he said.

For journalists, Bercovici said pay for placement can “definitely” detract from your influence. For example, Gawker does not allow its real writers to author sponsored posts. Readers are far “too smart and skeptical” to look beyond that.

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Which topics do you think we should cover in at the next Inspired Speaker Series event? Let us know in the comments below.