Social Commerce Days 2018 in Review

Written by Katherine Arts
Published on March 14, 2018
Maria Russell and Otto the Orange pose

People always say time flies when you are having fun and after having just celebrated its fifth anniversary, the Center for Social Commerce can certainly attest to that. In the digital age, time has the tendency to become even more elusive as technology, social media and now AI push the pace of life to new extremes. Luckily for the students of Newhouse, a group of esteemed communications professionals took some time out of their busy schedules to visit campus and host the Spring 2018 edition of Social Commerce Days.


Over the course of two days, and many cups of coffee, students, special guests and six members of the W2O Group staff engaged in actionable talks, workshops and class visits focused on the role data and analytics play in shaping the future of communications.

While class visits gave students in the public relations program the opportunity to draw on the knowledge of professionals working in the field, Wednesday night’s workshop, lead by Naimul Huq, provided an insider’s view of actual client work. Taking a look at how a leading marketing and communications agency leverages analytics and big data to build successful campaigns allowed students to raise questions and develop ideas that could apply to real business challenges today. Ideas that even made members of the W2O team ask, why didn’t we think of that?

Naimul challenged students to abide by the rules of storytelling…

  1. Simplicity- avoid jargon
  2. Humanity- brands are people too
  3. Purpose- but why?

And identify the factors that motivate publics online…

  1. Social interactions
  2. Personal identity
  3. Information gathering
  4. Entertainment

(Incentivizing with pizza and free swag helps too.)


Social Commerce Days culminated on Thursday night with a keynote talk featuring some of the best and brightest discussing the changing digital landscape, among them Jim Weiss, Alberto Canal and Jennifer Gottlieb. The discussion was moderated by Gary Grates, a principal at W2O Group whose industry knowledge provided an additional layer of insight and expertise.


Among the number of applicable lessons delivered by the speakers, Jim Weiss made a point to touch upon the seven characteristics for a highly effective entrepreneurial employee, a concept he feels has held true in building a successful firm like W2O.

  1. Fear is a Motivator You Don’t Fear.
  2. Yes Means Yes.
  3. You Choose to be in and Always Seize the Moment.
  4. You Pick up the Trash . . . and See it as an Opportunity, Not a Burden.
  5. Thrive in Ambiguity.
  6. No is Never No.
  7. You’re Never Done.

IBM’s Director of Corporate Communications, Alberto Canal’s taught attendees how to “Usher in a Brave New World” by discussing how artificial intelligence is reshaping careers in communications and beyond. As unsettling as it may seem, Canal assures us that while AI’s role will only continue to grow, there is no replacement for human interaction. None of us will be out of a job just yet, but the skills that will be needed are changing.

In the final moments of the talk, with all the experts assembled on stage, Jennifer Gottlieb summarized what it truly means to be living and working in a changing digital age in saying, “One common threat within the industry is speed. We are moving at a more rapid speed than ever before, news is breaking at a speed we have never seen, so we have to innovate at a speed we never had to before. We have to keep learning and keep moving and follow that pace, or we will get left behind.”

While time may always be of the essence in this fast-paced era of social technology and impending artificial intelligence, the Center for Social Commerce is grateful to all those who chose to spend their time teaching and sharing with the Newhouse community.

We can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Did you miss this year’s keynote or just want to relive it all over again? Be sure to check out the live stream, now available on our Twitter page!