Keeping up to speed with the ever changing pace of social media can be challenging. So when the leave pass was granted to attend 2019 Social Media Marketing World (along with 6000 fellow marketers) to refine my skills and keep up to speed with latest trends, I jumped at the opportunity with much excitement. Set in the beautiful city of San Diego, featuring thought leading speakers from the best in the industry, with hands-on tactics being shared to make sense of the ever changing nature of social media marketing, you could say it was like Disneyland for a social media marketer!

This was a conference like few others I’ve ever attended. As a team we follow the podcasts of Social Media Examiner and many of the speakers present are thought leaders I’ve long followed, read their books and admired; Mari Smith, Jay Baer, Michael Stelzner, just to name a few. But apart from the great speaker line up, this was a conference with an emphasis very much was about being social, with plenty of time to network, meet with others with similar interests and question the current marketing approaches.

The keynote speeches by Michael Stelzner, Mari Smith, Mark Shaefer, Andrew Pickering and Pete Garland all echoed a similar theme about the evolution of social media and the need to step back and remember to be social. Times have changed and marketers need to constantly evolve and be nimble in their approach. Focusing back on what the platforms are really intended for in building relationships, being personal and not seeing them as just a vehicle for sales seemed to be the key sentiment that was echoed by the speakers – choosing a new way and stop thinking that bigger is better.

Some sessions, like the one from Duncan Wardle around innovation and Justin Brown from Prival Video were particularly practical, giving new tools and processes to adopt in the execution of social media planning. For example, being able to capture and edit video through your phone through tools like Inshot and Adobe Premiere Rush CC showed how simple it is to create and edit great video on the fly via your iphone to produce fabulous content. It’s a real evolution of thinking from the days where video was seen in a cinema graphic format, emulating that of a great TVC or short film.

With over 100 different sessions of recordings to make our way through the Mastermind team and I are still wrapping our head around some of the content that was absorbed, but there were a few key themes as takeaways to consider.


Platforms continue to evolve

Let’s face it, social media platforms are all major listed companies and they need to continue to evolve to deliver shareholder returns. So in an era where there’s been much cynicism from consumers, privacy breaches and new platforms emerging, there has to be evolution for the consumers to continue to use them. Platforms like Facebook are changing quickly to meet keep users engaged and delivering new features like live video and stories which are being prioritised in algorithms. Messenger and facilitating one on one conversations are in the spotlight as this is how consumers are wanting to engage. What worked two years ago simply won’t cut it now, and you need to be nimble and keep testing new platforms and approaches to survive.

Mari Smith highlighted how this is a major pivot point in the history of Facebook and Instagram and we definitely saw this from March 6 when privacy was tightened. Multiple senior executives left following this point (especially after a 10 hour outage!) and if there’s this level of change, we as marketers need to take attention and note that change is apparent. Listening to the power of WeChat in China and seeing how Mark Zuckerberg might take inspiration from the power of this platform certainly gave pause for thought, of where some of the platforms might be heading. Take a moment to just watch this video from New York Times and watch how the internet continues to evolve…

Michael Stelzner pointed to the fact that Facebook is a platform that thrives on people connecting and not on content. The Atlantic even forecasting that by 2020 the Facebook that we know of today could be unrecognizable.

For brands this means that you need to be able to move with the times and adapt new features and ways of producing content. You have to think differently in order to stand out from the crowd! Doing things the way that you did five years ago just won’t cut it.

Authenticity matters, as do stories

The rise of Facebook and Instagram stories very much talks to the trend in authenticity – consumers want to see more behind the scenes content. This has very much fuelled the growth of Instagram and Facebook stories, where people can see snippets of ephemeral content.

Stories are often growing 15 times faster than the news feed content and need to be factored into the content mix. In February 2019, 500 million people were watching stories daily, but most marketers are not leveraging this new feature. This is an opportunity to be able to show experiences that fans don’t necessarily get to see, going behind the scenes and meet the people. Remember that these pieces of content disappear, so they do not have to be perfect.

The trend also is very much emerging that the authentic stories from brands is what consumers want to hear – they want to understand the people, the values, the leadership visions and when this happens it facilitates trust. Getting your CEO and executive team on board with this approach to be transparent in communications is fundamental to long term survival.

Don’t try and do everything

Michael Stelzner noted that “It’s far more important to make a big impact on a small number of individuals than to make no impact on a large number of individuals. We have to get better at developing influence.” Bigger is not always better. This was echoed loudly by Andrew Pickering and Pete Garland reminded people to use the data and see what is working to re-allocate your efforts, focusing on those things you enjoy most. If you don’t enjoy creating the content then how will anyone enjoy listening to it?

As marketers we’re always looking for the next big thing, but sometimes we need to adopt the 90/10 rule, enjoy the content and find the fun and then you will create content that your customers also enjoy. Create more remarkable content – rather than being everywhere.

Shift to more personalisation

Human’s fundamentally want to know that they matter and people want to know that businesses love and respond to them. Community management is more important than ever and brands need to recognise that there’s no easy way to amplify this approach.

Rather than focusing on vanity metrics like the number of fans and followers that you have take a step back and think about how you can nurture the community that you have. Go deeper to get to hear and listen to the people who are following you. Jasmine Star rightly pointed out that to get big without having an understanding of what you are doing is doing your business a disservice, encouraging brand to think more about how they can add value, provide benefits and think about the content that you are posting rather than just putting content up for the sake of it.

To grow your brand on Instagram don’t look like a bot, genuinely put aside time to be able to give 4-6 word comments based on what you are seeing. Search hashtags that are relevant and then send a direct message to engage. Yes, it’s true that scaling with this approach requires a lot of time and potentially resources, but without it there’s no point on having a presence on social if that’s not what you’re prepared to do!

Get your consumers talking for you

There trend to get customers doing your marketing for you and generating word of mouth referrals also continues to grow. Jay Baer addressed the concept of ‘Talk Triggers’ noting that for customers to be sharing your story your content needs to be

  1. Remarkable
  2. Repeatable
  3. Reasonable
  4. Relevant

The same sentiment was echoed by Tyler Anderson in his presentation about how to get customers to create endless amounts of content for your business. He encouraged brands to think about their secret source to embrace user generated content which will in turn create raving fans, citing examples like Yeti drink holders (search the #yetidrinks hastag and you’ll see the power!) and The Donut Bar, the Flower Hill and even Super Dentists in Southern California.

The very best way to grow your business is for your customers to tell your story. If your customers aren’t telling it, your story will not be heard on social unless you pay for it.

Video, video and more video

Youtube continues to be the king of video, with 1.9 billion monthly users and 1 billion hours of video content of watched daily. But there’s other opportunities, even video on LinkedIn is evolving, with the introduction of LinkedIn Live.

Facebook in particularly want to create shared experiences and a sense of belonging through video. Creating emotional video, often in a square format this is highly sharable will be key. Michael Stelzner noted that truly interactive facebook live presents an awesome opportunity to connect with and influence people because it’s raw and intimate. It’s a chance to humanise your brand.

Remember that each platform has their own algorithms wanting to keep you on the platform, so use your video content strategically and adapt to the platform of focus. This could mean using captions for facebook, natively uploading to Youtube and tagging content differently or thinking about the way that you ask for commentary via LinkedIn. The future of social is all about video – so there’s a real need to think about how you’ll utilise this type of content in your marketing mix.

Take a break

One of the most thought provoking, and hard hitting sessions was presented by the legendary Brian Solis. For those of you not familiar with Brian he’s a futurist, and someone we’ve long admired for his insights into consumer behaviour and business trends. In a very raw session, Brian talked openly about how social media has stifled creativity, killed real life conversations and the constant juggle of distractions is causing a lack of productivity.

Living our best lives on social media is not really living at all, we’re faking ourselves into an ideal of ourselves. Digital has rewired our brains and our body – and it’s designed to create an intoxicating feedback loop of rewards. The average person spends over 4 hours a day on their device!

It was a poignant reminder to take a break, detox from time to time and to make sure that there’s time to unwind to keep the creativity coming. Something that we also need to be teaching our children and helping them to navigate their way through this digital jungle.

Overall it was an amazing conference, and my brain is still spinning with the possibilities and things we’ll start to adopt differently for our Mastermind clients. I’ve already signed back up to attend in 2010 and can’t wait to get back, reconnect with the new friends that have been made and explore some more!

Still confused and want to learn more? Sign up for our webinar on Thursday 16 May and we’ll delve into more detail about managing social media on a budget.