Social Media Highlights From the 2017 World Economic Forum

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The opening of the World Economic Forum 2017.
The opening of the World Economic Forum 2017. Credit: .S. Embassy Bern/ Eric Bridiers via Creative Commons
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Where else can you see an English Duke sipping coffee with a 30-year-old tech entrepreneur from Georgia? One place: Davos, the Swiss getaway that hosts the annual World Economic Forum (WEF). As an important global organization, WEF brings together a mix of leaders from business, government, academia and innovation to spend four days seeking to do good in the world help create a better future. Joining this gathering of elites are a swarm of journalists, producers, public relations professionals, support staff, entrepreneurs and others making for a very eclectic mix of interesting people from around the globe.

The concentration of this much power in one place also sets the stage for business leaders to meet and make deals. WEF membership includes nearly every leading consulting firm, media holding company, global bank and global corporation. As a result, what happens in Davos doesn't stay in Davos -- in fact, Credit Suisse's official tagline was, "What Happens in Davos Shouldn't Stay in Davos." Many companies supplement their leadership's attendance with a well orchestrated, integrated media program that's meant to showcase their participation, demonstrate their thought-leadership and expertise and, ultimately, show what the company can do.

Like any other event, an official hashtag links the digital dialogue and lets interested parties follow along and engage in the conversation. And, like other conferences, the hashtag mixes content from event sessions, thoughts from attendees and media leaders, as well as communications from companies and organizations looking for exposure.

If last year's leaders were exclusively in the professional services sector, this year it was the banks, broadcasters and global organizations. The best brands found smart ways to use live video to drive their programs, while others offered space and intellectual capital to facilitate dialogue and participation on #WEF17. Here are a few key ways the leaders broke through:

Owning an issue

For the second year, Mercer sought to own the issue of gender equality with a mix of original content, participation and live video. The firm used a series of panels that included journalists, c-suite executives and academics to report on this important topic that accounted for roughly 20% of the digital conversation. During the week, the company used live video to bring their audience an inside view of many important conversations. The company also fueled their #WEF17 presence with the release of several original studies that focus on the impact of a gender-diverse workforce and the need for economic opportunity for women.

Answering key questions for audiences

A Bank of America tweet from WEF2017.
A Bank of America tweet from WEF2017. Credit: Bank of America via Twitter

Bank of America used a highly visible presence to showcase their role in the global economy, commitment to issues and access to high-profile, influential people. This year, their CEO was one of the five WEF co-chairs, which brought more media attention and mentions than past years, resulting in more awareness online. Throughout the week, the company released a series of videos that showcased the activities of their executives and connected audiences to important conversations taking place in Davos. They also solicited responses to understand what audiences were interested in hearing more about. BofA's programming answered key questions to clients on both sides of their business. Retail customers got detail about the meaning of the WEF and their bank's role, while current and potential clients of their corporate and investment bank saw that the bank has access to important influencers through live participation from academics, executives and thought leaders.

Going beyond the corporate brand

CNBC came to Davos with the goal of being more than just a broadcaster. It wanted to be a contributor to the conversation, and provide a place where people could experience the WEF without being inside the Congress Centre. CNBC created a space in a local chapel and called it the Sanctuary. There, over the course of the week, they held a series of panels and fireside chats featuring individuals like Matt Damon, Will.I.AM and leaders of companies like Citi, AB InBev and others. This space gave non-delegates in Davos an opportunity to engage in important conversations around topics like the economy and the future of work, while audiences outside of Davos were able to watch interesting dialogue in real-time on TV and online. Standing room only for most sessions, this effort served as the origin of a significant portion of the #WEF17 dialogue.

Keeping commitments top of mind

This year, for the first time, an organization came to the Davos digital table with a program aimed at publically reminding the important leaders in attendance that they are accountable to something larger. The UN Foundation used the #WEF17 as a platform to amplify the sustainable development goals set at its Climate Change Conference in Paris to be top-of-mind among the Davos audience. Each day, the group live-streamed a series of panels and discussions that mixed world leaders, academics and conversation. They used a secondary hashtag, #SDGLive, to broadcast the conversation beyond the WEF -- and to be used at future events. To further extend the reach, a number of UN leaders and panel participants continuously promoted their activities. This program was not only interesting, it was one of the most talked and tweeted about digital destinations of #WEF17.

This was my fourth time in Davos, and if there's one thing I've noticed it's that the digital dialogue has become competitive. Organizations and companies that normally stay quiet and use social media for business-as-usual leveraged #WEF17 as an opportunity to be seen on a global stage. They came to the table with smart strategies and interesting content that made the act of breaking though commonplace. Anyone who's ever been to Davos will tell you the day WEF ends, they're already thinking about the following year.