In an ever evolving industry like social media, it is crucial to stay-up-to date on the constant changes and the implications of those changes for marketers and business owners. One of my most valuable assets in my toolkit for staying up-to-date with these changes is attending Social Media Marketing World, the largest social media conference in the world.
Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) consistently delivers quality education, networking & professional development opportunities. The conference is hosted by Social Media Examiner, my go-to resource for social media marketing education and training. I am lucky enough that this conference is right in my backyard in sunny San Diego, and it is an event I look forward to every year.
The big questions this year walking into the conference were “What is the future of social media marketing? What the heck is going on with Facebook? And are chatbots here to stay?” I sat down with my good friend, Roger Edwards, and we answered these questions and more on his Marketing & Finance Podcast. Take a listen below as I reveal the 3 key takeaways from Social Media Marketing World 2018.
P.S. if you're more of a reader than a listener (like me), don't worry! I have you covered. I provided a transcript of the podcast episode for you to easily read below. I start at minute mark 12:53 of the podcast because that's where we dive into the key takeaways from the conference. =)
So Alex, talk me through some of the main takeaways from Social Media Marketing World 2018.
First we have to address the big blue elephant and that elephant is Facebook which was the largest topic of conversation that was addressed at the conference. This goes back to January 11, 2018, which for many marketers will be a day that will go down in history for a lot of social media speakers and marketers and business owners. That was the focus of this year's conference because it has such a huge impact on a marketing for marketers, brands & small businesses. It's affecting everyone.
What's this big announcement that Facebook made? What's the big deal?
What it comes down to is Facebook noticed for a while now that their users have not been happy with the content that they see on Facebook. They've been over-saturated with business ads, business content that's not relevant or not valuable to them. There have been studies out there that say people who spend so much time on Facebook are becoming depressed or getting disconnected from people. Facebook chose to take a stand and respond in a big way. And so on January 11, 2018 they announced they were going to start changing the algorithm, changing the newsfeed so that it was prioritizing relevant, meaningful interactions.
And that's when the marketing world stopped and said, "What the heck does this mean? What does this mean for our metrics? What does this mean for our users? What does this mean for engagement? " It opened up a lot of questions that were addressed during the conference.
I'm going to use a direct quote from him (Michael Stelzner). He said, if you're willing to connect with smaller, more relevant audiences, you can survive and thrive in this changing world. The reason being that with this change, Facebook is emphasizing meaningful content that encourages meaningful interactions. One of the things that they clearly outlined was that they are going to stop showing as much business content in the newsfeed. They explicitly said, you know, we're coming out and saying we're going to be showing less content from pages, and that's what made a lot of people upset. That's what made a lot of marketers upset because they're like, OK, what the heck am I going to do then? If they're not going to show any business content and they're only going to show meaningful interactions, what does that actually mean?
What type of content is going to drive those meaningful interactions?
Live video gets six times engagement than any other type of content. Facebook also stated they're going to prioritize longer form comments over short form comments, meaning that they don't want to see content where people are just tagging friends in the comments. They want to see conversations and discussions happening in those comment threads. Mike Stelzner talked about releasing episodic content, very similar to television shows. The social media examiner team launched their own episodic TV show called The Journey where Mike Stelzner takes his audience behind the scenes. He's very authentic with his audience and said, Hey, you know, what, we have this big conference coming up and these are the challenges that we experienced with launching a 5,000 person conference, this is how we mess up and this is how we make things better.
And it was going behind the scenes into what it takes to plan a conference like this and really diving into the human aspect of this team. Mike came out the first couple of episodes and said, "Hey, the reason why this is not working is because of me and I need to do a better job." That's very scary and that requires people to be vulnerable, but that's what's going to stimulate conversations because people want to interact with other human beings. They don't want to interact with people who are being superficial or fake or inauthentic. They're really craving authentic conversation in live video, and episodic content is a great way of doing that.
Putting the social back into social media, you need to have deeper conversations with people and what I'm presuming there is the video might be the start of the conversation, but what Facebook is expecting with video is substantial conversations happening, almost like a breakdown of what they thought of that video and then somebody else will respond and give their view so that it becomes a genuine, proper engaging conversation as opposed to a lot of people saying, yeah, great stuff.
Exactly. It has to generate conversation because again, Facebook wants to make sure that their users are happy. If they're engaged in conversation, ideally that's going to be deemed valuable to them.
What we're going to start seeing less of is those types of content that just have external links. For example, if I post a link to my blog, that's not gonna work anymore because that's not going to stimulate conversation. It has to go back to, "Is my content going to provide meaningful interactions to my audience?" And if it isn't, then it's not going to work anymore. That's one of the things that I really respected about Facebook is that they weren't mysterious about this big update. They were very clear, they were very detailed about exactly what their plans were. And even as a marketer, you can argue that that at least was a respectable thing to do. That was the very authentic, transparent, professional way to go about this was to be very clear about what they met and they were very, very clear in their announcement about what's no longer working, what's going to work, what's going to show up in the newsfeed. So really how can you complain if Facebook is giving you the answers??
So moving on from Facebook, what was your next big takeaway from the conference, Alex?
Another aspect of that was discussed a lot with chatbots, the world of robots, the conversation between humans and robots. What does that look like in the world of social media marketing? Naturally, what came from that conversation was the discussion of chat bots on Facebook Messenger. We're already starting to see businesses use chatbots in order to automate some of their conversations that they have with their customers and from a user perspective, what we're starting to see is that people are really split about using bots in their marketing. There are some people think that bots are horrible and they don't replace the human touch and they're not that smart anyways, and then you have some other users and marketers who are like Chat Bots are amazing. They help to automate a lot of the same conversations that we're having over and over. We can automate those conversations and still bring in that human touch.
The marketing world is very split though over whether or not chat bots are the future. 10-15 years ago, a lot of companies outsourced conversations like that to places like India and the Philippines and the obviously created these gigantic call centers in these countries where they could get relatively cheap labor and whilst saved these companies a lot of money in terms of customer service costs. The actual customer service took a nose dive because these people in these countries were working mainly off scripts. English wasn't their first language. They got taken off the script and all sorts of horrible things happened. Customers got really upset about it and they all almost like came full circle and certainly in the United Kingdom a lot of companies started bringing their call center operations back into the UK. Almost saying this was a failed experiment in poor customer service. I just wonder whether the same sort of things are happening today and often as marketers we can get excited about things like chat bots, but we aren't the customer and often the customer doesn't think like a marketer and sometimes people might think, I don't want to talk to a Chat Bot.
I want to talk to a real person, or at least the appearance of a real person. Now I appreciate the Chat Bot can simulate a human, but it's still effectively running from a script in the background.
So do you think that there will be a bit of a backlash against them?
There already is and it's interesting what you were talking about from 10 years ago, because I feel like we're in the same place right now. It's just a different type of technology, and we're not putting it in terms of telephone. We're now bringing it onto the online space and incorporating these chat bots into websites and Facebook Messenger, but I think we're still in the same place where people still want to interact with humans. When I get on the phone with AT&T, which is a telephone company over here in the states, I get really frustrated talking to a robot and I know I'm talking to a robot. We're still in experimentation mode here. There's still a lot of learning to do and a lot of training that needs to happen around chatbots.
I think the advantage again, is that it automates some of the same conversations that we tend to have with people. You know, "when are you open?", "what are your business hours?" I think something like a robot can answer that. However, when it comes down to customer care, there still needs to be that human touch in my opinion. Nothing can replace human to human interactions, no matter how much we can train bots to be like humans. I don't think it's going to replace it. I think it needs to be a combination or a hybrid of both chat bots with still that human experience.
Definitely agree with that as well.
The next thing that was discussed was influencer marketing, which has been around for many years now, even if it hasn't been with social media marketing. We're talking about the idea of celebrities endorsing certain products or services which has been around for many, many years now. This is one way that people can cope with their fear of video, their fear of live video, which again, if we know that live video is getting six times the engagement and we want that engagement, but then we have a CEO who says, "You know, I'm not getting on camera. I'm not going to go admit to the world that the reason why we're having issues with our companies because of me (Like Mike Stelzner did in his series, the Journey). I don't want to be that authentic."
So what is the solution to a team? It doesn't have to be the CEO, but to a marketing team that is resistant to using live video or creating television like episodes because they don't want to be behind the camera. And this is where you can bring in influencers, meaning that you can pay influencers in your industry who can essentially be your spokesperson for you. You don't have to be the person on video. These are people who have experience with building communities on video, on Youtube, etc. They love being in front of the camera. They're very comfortable around the camera. They're great with video production. You can incorporate that into your marketing strategy if you don't want to be the person in front of the camera.
It's an interesting one. And again, it's not for everybody. Certainly influencer the marketing needs to fit into your overall strategy. But again, I think that we are placing such a great emphasis on video these days and we do have to remember that a lot of people are just not comfortable behind the camera, the video cameras, and there's even something about smartphones. You point them to somebody and they just turn into quivering messes. So I can see why that would be an advantage if you have the budget and it fits your strategy, get an influencer in, allow them to effectively be the spokesperson for your brand. And in reality, we've been doing it for years, as you've said, I've run campaigns in the past where we've had a TV celebrity. So it's really just an extension of stuff that we've been doing for years, isn't it?
Exactly. It's just taking it into the social media world. And you know, influencers don't have to be celebrities. It's more about quality than quantity. There are tons of influencers in your industry that you can tap into. And one of the best ways to look for an influencer is go to their social media platforms and see is there audience engaging with them? Right? It's not just the fact that they may have a couple of thousand or even a million followers. Are Those followers engaged and loyal? If you have that, it doesn't matter if there's only a hundred of those engaged, loyal followers. The important part is that they are loyal, that they're engaged, that they really know, like and trust this person, and so you can leverage that as a marketer, as a business owner, especially if you aren't comfortable on the camera or you are comfortable in my video, you can leverage these people who love doing that and have a great audience to your advantage.
I mean it's a great strategy if you have the budget and of course there are influencers out there who, for example, I met a lady at a conference last year who specializes in in hotels in luxurious locations like Dubai in the Caribbean and stuff like that. Whereas they'll be other influencers out there who probably talk about healthy food and healthy healthy meals and keep fit and exercise and that sort of thing. So most industries can find somebody who could be the face of the brand for a marketing campaign of that nature.
Absolutely. I think it's a lot easier now because you don't have to rely on celebrities, which when you add celebrities and the mix, those are million dollar budgets, you know, and not everybody has those, so I think we have actually more opportunities now in terms of influencer marketing because of social media.