Ideas in the Instagram Era: A Panel at Soho

I’ll admit it — I don’t take full advantage of my membership to Soho House.

It’s a bougie splurge of mine, and although I love the rooftop pool, the gym, the U27 discounts, the screening room, the community, the events, oh, and the rooftop pool, I don’t go there enough as I would like. I often book a spot in the really cool events and end up canceling, either for another really cool event or because I’m too lazy to be in West Loop later in the evening.

Last week, there was one event I knew I couldn’t miss — Ideas in the Instagram Era: In Conversation with Andrew Keller. Keller, the Global Creative Director of Facebook, would be speaking on a panel of other powerhouse creative leaders, like Daniel Habashi (Chief Marketing Officer, Soho House), Tereasa Surratt (Global Creative Director, Ogilvy), Toygar Bazarkaya (Chief Creative Officer, We Are Unlimited), and Liz Taylor (Chief Creative Officer, FCB Chicago).

Okay, enough name dropping. I had to go.

I brought one of my best friends, Ema, who was my classmate at Loyola in the BBA/MBA program, and we were shocked at how packed it was. We had to sit on a bar in the back, and I was typing all the nuggets of insight into my phone.

“Mobile phones sparked a maker mentality. When the passion is there, then you can hone the craft and create what you want.”

“How do you innovate creatively? Ditch the preconceived notions of how to get shit done.”

“Creativity is sparked by knowing someone is going to see it.”

How do you go viral? “Don’t do it to make money. Do it to express yourself. The amount of followers you have does not express passion. What do you stand for? What do you believe in? Be consistent and you’ll grow your brand that way. Find an opportunity, be bold, and stay true to yourself.”

Is social media dead? Do we need schedules or cadence for posts? Are digital, social, and mobile all morphing into one greater being? “If you’re not connecting… what are you doing? If it’s not social, does it belong? Any idea must be inherently social. If you’re physically there for an experience, okay. But how do you create that opportunity that can be shared out to the rest of the world? Social is everything.”

Then, the panelists started discussing AR and VR. There were mixed feelings, and I felt they were just skimming the surface, talking about how they think it’s going to be revolutionary but they don’t know how. They were also talking about how important it is to unplug to truly connect. Hmmm. Dissonance. Let’s unpack this.

Facebook Spaces, while still in beta, is a combination of AR and VR (otherwise known as XR, extended reality). My team at work has used it to explore virtual workshops, and it’s truly unique in that you can join others in a virtual room, whether you’re on your iPhone or using an Oculus.

I had to ask, “If you think about XR, how do you feel morally about changing the definition of social? Do you take into account the degree to which people are connecting?”

Keller, the GCD of Facebook, basically said that it’s “not my problem. The business leads with its values, and if the products/services align with the values, they will continue to pursue them.”

Hmmmmmmm. Quite the cop out.

As they all agreed, companies are made of people, and at the end of the day, ideas come first. They’re going to tell their stories and build their brands with different media and platforms. No one knows what they’re doing, and it’s all an experiment into unknown territory. That being said, I wish these leading creatives would think a little more intentionally with how creative expression is directly influencing the way people connect or disconnect.

While the panel was a super interesting take on immersive storytelling and social media, Ema and I left wanting more. These are some deep conversations we need to have, and I can only imagine what is being discussed behind closed doors amidst all the recent scandals.

Regardless, my favorite nugget of the night came from Keller:

“If you’re not on the Internet, you probably also use high fructose corn syrup.”

Here’s to being bold on social media!

++ Mary K


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