15 Takeaways from 15 International Markets: Social Media Week Around the World in 2015



Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.

As we wrap up 2015, we want to revisit some of the highlights, takeaways, and key moments from Social Media Week over the past 12 months. SMW takes place across six continents, and each of our 20+ cities brings together leading brands and individuals for a week of ideas, innovations and insights into how social media and technology change business, society and culture.

1. Hamburg, Germany: hitchBot and Transformative Trends

At SMW Hamburg, a special guest visited attendees to share it’s story traveling around the world. hitchBOT, a performative and participatory arts and science project, along with its creators, discussed how hitchBOT became a reality and international sensation, journeying from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the mainstage at Social Media Week Hamburg.

With more than 35,000 followers on Twitter, and 48,000 Likes on Facebook, and 12,000 followers on Instagram, hitchBOT was the one hitch-hiker people around the world were looking to hang out with across the globe. You can hear hitchBOT and its creators speak at SMW Hamburg about the media strategy put behind an actual hitch-hiking robot.

WIRED Germany’s Editor-in-Chief, Nikolaus Röttger, also joined us in Hamburg to look at the transformative trends for the future of social media across technology, human behavior, and business. You can watch the video from this talk, and hear about the various trends that WIRED Germany sees on the horizon for social media and technology.

Speakers at Conference
Panelists at Conference

2. Jakarta, Indonesia: BuzzFeed and Twitter’s Global Expansion

BuzzFeed’s VP of International, Scott Lamb, spoke at SMW Jakarta this year on how brands can better understand the elements of creating content that actually gets shared across the web. BuzzFeed started as a tiny publication in New York, and eventually grew to a global media site with over 200 million unique monthly visitors. Lamb discussed the power of sharing to create a news and entertainment media company dedicated and meaningful in the digital and social age.

We also heard from Rick Mulia, Business Head of Twitter for Indonesia, at SMW Jakarta. He joined us on stage to share Twitter’s story beginning in 2006, to what it is today, where 140 character-Tweets are creating brands, saving people’s lives, changing public policy, and even causing revolutions online. There are more than half a billion users on Twitter in 2015, and Mulia explained some of the best case studies for brands to be successful on the platform.

3. Lagos, Nigeria:  Civic Engagement and Political Accountability

Politics and governance reign supreme on Nigerian social media these days. A quick study of Twitter trends over the past year will reveal nothing is more widely discussed and debated then the future of governance via technology.

At SMW Lagos in 2015, the week kicked off with a powerful keynote forum between citizens and representation from the three tiers of government that focuses on how government uses technology to engage citizens, and vice-versa. Omobola Johnson, the Honorable Minister of Communication Technology (Federal Government), headlined this session alongside Yemi Keri, MD Edo State Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), and Former Chairman, Amuwo Odofin, Local Government Area, Lagos State.

This session was one of many to discuss technology’s role as a means of increasing government efficiency and accountability. We asked, answered, and will continue to think about (in 2016) the following questions from this event:

  • Does technology really make it easier or more appealing for citizens to engage government and demand accountability?
  • What are the gaps in how citizens engage government?
  • How can technology fill those gaps?

4. New York, US:  Diversity in Tech, 10 Years of Mashable and Drones as a New Frontier in DIY

Reverend Jesse Jackson, one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures, and Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, delivered a compelling presentation on diversity in the tech industry. Currently, diversity in the tech industry is falling short. Not because of a talent deficit, but an opportunity deficit. Silicon Valley holds the key to creating opportunities for more diversity in the technology industry by investing in campaigns to teach coding at a young age and advocate technological learning in schools. You can watch the full video of the session here.

SMW New York welcomed Pete Cashmore, Founder and CEO of Mashable, for a fireside chat with Toby Daniels, Founder of Social Media Week. Ever since Cashmore created Mashable a decade ago, its goal has been to document the digital revolution, and how it empowers and inspires people around the globe. From the start, Mashable followed the rise of Web 2.0 and the way it reimagined how people communicate, collaborate, and share ideas and information. Fast-forward to today, and technology impacts nearly every facet of our daily lives, from the way we do business to the way we interact with media and entertainment. You can watch the full video of the session here.

Martha Stewart’s drone-joust and discussion on how technology has enabled a new field of DIY. Referred to by Fast Company as “one of the most disruptive new trends in the entire economy”, the Maker Movement has created a collaborative world where hobbyists, technologists and tinkerers can access powerful tools and technologies to prototype, create and iterate faster than ever before. In a one-on-one conversation between the definitive maker, Martha Stewart, and Sophie Kelly, CEO of The Barbarian Group, they discussed what drives maker culture in general, and the creative opportunities that technology can expose for the next generation of inventors and learners. Following the session was a thrilling drone-jousting competition featuring Martha Stewart!

Speakers at Conference
Panelists at Conference
Panelists at Conference

5. Los Angeles, US: Social Media Celebrity, Forbes 30 Under 30 and Livestreaming as the Next Disruption in Online Video

The future of social media celebrities, Millennials, and livestreaming
Marianna Hewitt, TV Host and Founder of, encourages aspiring social media tastemakers and influencers to create content specifically for each channel. Combine organic, consistent posting with cross-platform promotion(to gain followers and build community.


It used to be the case that large amounts of capital and resources were required to start a company. No other time in our history was it possible for a few people in a room with computers to create a million or billion dollar company. Today’s Millennials are asking “why not” instead of “why” to each other, to their communities, and to the passion projects created each day. Steve Bertoni, Journalist and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 curator, joined #SMWLA to discuss.


Matt Gielen, Director of Audience Development at Frederator Studios, believes livestreaming and live-programming will disrupt the media and entertainment space. Matt expects more networks (social and traditional) will invest in livestreaming within the next few years.

6. Mexico City, Mexico: YouTube Creators and Buzzfeed’s Impact on the Mexican Millennial

In it’s inaugural year, SMW Mexico reached 50 million people on Twitter through the #SMWMexico hashtag. Mariana Hernandez, Creative Solution Manager at Google & YouTube, said, “Social Media Week Mexico was a creative and innovative space for our market. Opening a live conversation with YouTubers was such a great experience, able to show the audience how strong their influence is and how much we can learn from them as brand managers and creators.”

Javier Aceves (Founding Editor, BuzzFeed México), participated at SMW Mexico in June to share BuzzFeed’s expertise on Millennials’ lack of desire to watch television, listen to the radio, or buy magazines to learn what happens every day in the world. Instead, they look to influential websites and publishers that walk the walk and talk the talk of Millennials to inform, inspire, entertain, and deliver value 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.

7. Milan, Italy: Spotify’s Continued Dominance in Europe and Brand Attitude as the New Factor in Being Successful

Veronica Diquattro, Spotify’s New Market Lead Italy, joined SMW Milan to examine how the world of music is different today, where individuals can immediately access their favorite songs and artists whenever they please. The music industry has experienced a profound change since the arrival and explosion of the digital era, and existing business models are suddenly challenged to meet the increasingly demanding needs of the “new” consumer in the digital age. Our shift is going further away from the possession of music, and closer to the concept of access and diversity of music.

Paul Iabichino, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Group Italy, spoke at SMW Milan on how the Internet and social networks have forced marketers and digital professionals to re-think innovation within the industry. As more leaders struggle to coin new words, optimize revenue streams, take advantage of data, and change the way people think and behave, there is a new paradigm coming closer that suggests the attitude your company and partners have is fundamental for growth and success.

8. London, England: Speaking in Emoji’s and our Thirst for Online Learning

Jonathan Davies (Director of Brand Partnerships, BuzzFeed) presented a masterclass called “How to Speak Emoji” at SMW London, where he revealed the secrets that BuzzFeed uses to create, distribute, and analyze short form content. He laid out three pillars of sharing that impacts BuzzFeed’s content: 1) identity and things people associate themselves with, 2) emotions and eliciting specific ones through content, and 3) information because we as humans desire to learn each day.

Jonathan also discussed the current state of distribution, and explained how 75% of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes via social. His team is dedicated to track where people are spending time online, why they interact with BuzzFeed’s content, and how to customize that experience for each individual social platform.

9. Miami, US:  Integrating Brands into the Live Video Experience

Shanda Maloney, Director of Digital and Social at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), led the conversation on livestreaming, in Miami, and its current and future impact on television, social media, and branded integration. Livestreaming is gaining popularity every day, with services such as Periscope, Twitch, Meerkat, and now Facebook and YouTube entering the space. This video format will only continue to usher in a new era of visual social media that is live, raw and authentic. To younger generations, it’s the new live “television” that is also multidimensional, collaborative and naturally social.

10. Mumbai, India:  How Social Media Platforms Helped to Launch Huffington Post in India and the Role of Paid Media and Influencers in Building Audience Online

Sruthijith KK is the Editor-In-Chief at Huffington Post India and he spoke at SMW Mumbai on the changing landscape of journalism in social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and the many social networks changed the the way publishers and news outlets operate. What used to be distributing information that individuals would either read, or not read, is now a over-crowded fight-for-first ecosystem of publishers, individuals, lists, branded content, and everything in between.

We also heard from Neha Ahuja (General Manager & Head of Branded Activation at Vodafone India) and Ashwath Ganesan (National Strategy Director, Social@Ogilvy) on the topic of creating content that trends online, spreads beyond your community, and reaches the right people that have influence over others. Brands and agencies work feverishly with paid media and influencers to ensure these goals are met for their clients.

11. São Paulo, Brazil: The Uber Affect in Brazil and the Role of Government in Scaling the World’s Fastest Growing Startup

Gui Telles, General Manager of Uber Brazil, came to SMW São Paulo to discuss how Uber continues to grow as one of the largest startups in the world. Uber’s impact on the world is impossible to ignore. From automobile manufacturing and safety, to improving our carbon footprint and public transportation, the Uber affect is an important study of technology, culture, employment, and international policy. Brazilian government also recently announced that Uber’s entrance into the country did not significantly affect the local taxi market, marking a huge victory for Ubers global expansion.

Speakers at Conference
Panelists at Conference

12. Chicago, US: How a 17 and a 91 Year-Olds Use of Technology Compare and Which Platforms they Prefer to Use

“Generation Mashup: How 17 to 91-Year-Olds Use Technology and Consume Social Media”… In a fascinating, educational, hilarious, and unique session at SMW Chicago, six speakers spanning several generations (ages 18, 21, 25, 34, 61, and 91), discussed how they each use technology, social media, and what role it plays in their lives, respectively. We learned three key insights from this talk:

  • Create Cool Content Not Annoying Ads: All six panelists say brands need to create truly engaging, conversational content, and if brands promote a product or service in that great content, they’ve done their job to make me interested and excited about the offer or call-to-action.
  • Privacy Is Critical: Each panelist was really concerned about privacy, but for very different reasons. Kate (34) was concerned about posting her kids photos online. Alex (21) was concerned about her peers sharing for validation. All ages are aware and thinking about it.
  • Technology Should Save Us Time: Kate (34) uses a grocery-shopping delivery app to have more quality time with her children. Max sets alerts on his ESPN app so he doesn’t need to constantly check the score of a game. If you’re designing technology, your goal should be to free up people to spend time on the things they love.

13. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Protecting the Reputation of McDonalds, a Global Brand in Transition

Building the reputation of McDonald’s. Protecting the reputation of McDonald’s. This is impossible, if not futile, without the desire and ability to respond to guests, the public, stakeholders and employees. Debbie de Wagenaar, Chief Corporate Communications of McDonald’s, is responsible for the McDonald’s reputation in The Netherlands.

Ranging from financial and crisis PR, to conversation with fans, issue management and CEO building. Her approach is assertive, responsive and personal. Debbie shared with SMW Rotterdam attendees how McDonald’s – abroad and in The Netherlands – works every day 24/7 to integrate digital opportunities in the sometimes challenging reality of reputation management. You can watch the full video of the session here.

14. Santiago, Chile: Treating Instagram Followers as a Loyal Friends and Using Hyperlapse to Achieve Higher Levels of Engagement

Velen Diaz is a strategist, advertiser, and digital marketing instructor in Chile. She empowers brands to live and breathe in our new digital era, and encourages marketers to take advantage of the tools and knowledge around them. For example, she shared four Instagram tips at SMW Santiago inaugural event this past November:

  • Understand that one follow in Instagram is worth more than other social network. Each follow represents a new potential customer, and with this philosophy, every question or comment, every like, and every new follower must be treated as a loyal friend.
  • Many Instagram accounts choose a specific format and that repeats over time. For example, the beautiful photographs of #FollowMeTo.
  • Innovation in video is unique and stands out, such as timelapse, slow motion, hyperlapse, and content filmed with a GoPro camera.
  • 35% of users checked their Instagram more than once per day, and spends an average of 21 minutes on Instagram daily.

15. Sydney, Australia: The Future of Publishing with VICE, Facebook, BuzzFeed, and MTV

In 2014, SMW Sydney welcomed leaders from VICE, Facebook, BuzzFeed, MTV, LinkedIn, Salesforce and other leading brands and organizations in the digital media space. One session looked at the future of publishing, and what our online world might be like in 2020. Between native advertising, self-publishing, and mobile-first content, there are several shifts that are changing the content ecosystem today, and in the future. You can watch the video of the full session here, featuring speakers from BuzzFeed, VICE, The Wall Street Journal, Sound Alliance, and more.

Join us in 2016!

Social Media Week returns this February 22-26, 2016 in Hamburg, Jakarta, Lagos, and New York. Through engaging, entertaining, educational and diverse content and conversations, we will once again explore how technology, social media and mobile devices helps us work smarter and live more productive lives.

The Invisible Hand: Hidden Forces of Technology (and How We Can Harness it for Good) will serve as our unifying theme throughout 2016 and will be unpacked and explored across our 15 SMW cities. Our examination will look at four attributes of “The Invisible Hand”:

  1. Smart devices: Including mobile phones, connected devices and networks including Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 4G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously
  2. Networked connectivity: The means by which these devices and networks are able to connect to each other through routers, switches and gateways
  3. Data: Including the capture, analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, and visualization of information
  4. Machine learning: The study and the construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data

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