Announcing Our 2018 Global Theme: “Closer”



Throughout the year and during our global flagship conferences in New York City, Los Angeles and London, we’ll focus on how three key trends are influencing business, culture and society.


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The rapid pace of technological innovation is a much-discussed topic in business and society alike, but with the impassioned intrigue has come legitimate questions regarding the impact of these changes will have on humanity. As it turns out, the same technologies that inspire us to rethink the way we live our lives and our work, can also confuse and even scare us.

As algorithms and artificially intelligent technologies increasingly dictate our experiences, it can sometimes feel as though we’re drifting further and further away from the core behaviors and experiences that make us human. The new reality in both our personal and professional lives is one in which we must constantly grapple with our desire to form communities and the relentless push toward hyper-individualism.

To commemorate the 10th annual Social Media Week conference in New York, the 2018 global theme, “Closer” will explore the intensifying conflict between community and individualism. The conversation will bring together a diversity of perspectives to discuss the most productive ways to harness these forces to drive innovation, improve consumer experiences and bring people together.

Throughout the year and during our global flagship conference in New York City in April 2018, we’ll focus on how three key trends are influencing business, culture and society:

The You Universe

50% of teenagers admit to being addicted to their smartphones.

Social media has democratized media for the masses, allowing people to instantly reach audiences in ways never before possible. It’s also bred a culture of narcissists through filters that alter our appearance, bots that game our follower counts and the accessibility of instant fame as we saw with the rise of Vine celebrities and the Kardashians. Research has shown that a social media like has a similar effect on the brain as a hit of cocaine.

Personalization has been a boon for business and marketers, who today can deliver valuable, customized experiences to consumers based on their social graphs. But is all of this personalization leading to isolation? How can we reel in the addictive nature of our phones while still reaping the unmistakable benefits they hold when it comes to bringing us closer to our customers and to each other?

The Social Divide

Social platforms have markedly dramatized the ideological distance between people.

Social media promised to expose us to new cultures and communities, but in many ways it has had a reverse effect. A 2016 study, which examined the internet behaviors of 50,000 people in the U.S., found that social networks and search engines are driving a wedge between us, hardening our viewpoints and isolating us from the perspectives of others.

To counter this trend, Mark Zuckerberg recently pivoted his company’s mission to focus on community-building. BuzzFeed has created an entire sub-culture built around its content. Agencies are emerging with the promise of helping marketers build their brands around unity and social good. Given the algorithmically-driven “filter bubbles” that seem to dominate our lives, how can technology be used to bring people closer together, instead of pulling us apart?

AI vs. Humanity

By 2020, 80 percent of consumer interactions will take place without a human.

Bill Gates has called AI the “Holy Grail of Computer Science.” He and fellow optimists praise the future potential of AI to improve lives and unlock new opportunities for humankind, while some concerned onlookers, Elon Musk included, warn that AI could grow to a place of power that’s beyond human control.

AI has become a cornerstone of customer experience and it has helped companies work smarter, not harder, to drive efficiencies and deliver value. How can we ensure that these technologies are not threatening to dehumanize our interactions and instead bring us closer together? What can be done to ensure that AI lifts the quality of life for all humans, and does so in a regulated fashion?

Closer to a new tipping point

Looking back at our first year of Social Media Week in February 2009, the world was a much simpler place. Facebook touted a modest 150 million users. The concepts for Snapchat, Instagram and other popular platforms hadn’t even been scrawled on a whiteboard yet. The terms VR, AR and AI were not a mainstay in the marketing vernacular. Instead, the focus was on community-building and helping brands humanize themselves for a more consumer-centric take on marketing. At the time, this was no small task for an industry that had not changed much since the rise of TV in the 1960s.

Nearing 2018, we find ourselves approaching a similar tipping point, except this time we’re facing questions around an increasingly personalized consumer landscape. What skills will be needed to navigate this increasingly automated world? How can we use technology to bring people closer together instead of driving them apart? How do we balance a democratized media landscape with the rising incidence of narcissistic behavior?

At our flagship conference in New York next spring, and through more than twenty-five SMW conferences taking place around the world, we’ll cast the best and brightest thought leaders to shape a constructive conversation around how technological advances can be leveraged to build stronger brands, more innovative businesses and closer communities.

Want to get involved? Sign up to receive latest updates from my team and information on how to participate in SMW throughout 2018.

We look forward to having you part of this important conversation throughout the next year and hopefully seeing you at one of our conferences during 2018.


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