I’m back from Social Media Marketing World 2019, the “go to” conference for those of us who care about all of social media, and especially the free or organic stuff on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (well, not Google+ any more, rest in peace), LinkedIn and the gang. It’s a MUST ATTEND conference if you’re a digital marketer, and I highly recommend it. It occurs each year in San Diego; in 2020, it will be March 1 – March 3. And, of course, the earlier you buy your tickets, the cheaper they are.
Here’s my summary of what was what at the conference: trends, tips, and musings about the past, present, and future of social media marketing.
Every conference has its themes, and Social Media Marketing World 2019 had some themes or trends from past shows and some new ones, namely:
- The decline of “organic reach” on Facebook. Mari Smith gave the 2nd-day keynote on Facebook and explained (or confirmed) that the direction of Facebook is towards “private networking,” more like WeChat in China, or a combination of Amazon, Paypal, Uber, Twitter, and eBay here in the USA. She follows Zuckerberg like a hawk and analyzes his vision as moving Facebook towards more “engaging” social interactions among users, private networks, and eCommerce / pay features. Notably, Wall Street analysts are also very concerned about the direction of the company and whether it can pull of this transition. Take-aways for us marketers are: 1) the decline of “organic reach,” 2) the rise of video (especially videos that are engaging), 3) the importance of advertising on Facebook. It’s pretty grim for organic reach on the platform, to be blunt, outside of video. (You can get a free video kit from Mari Smith, here). And she singled out Hubspot on Facebook as an example of a big brand doing a great job with Facebook native video, here.
- The rise of chatbots. Bots, bots, bots. This was the first time at Social Media Marketing World that I really “got” what the fuss was about about bots. ManyChat was the hottest vendor at the conference, as they blend an easy-to-use format of if/then statements to help you create your first AI-like “bot” for Facebook chat. Mary K. Johnson, a.k.a., “ChatMom” of Messenger Funnels gave a detailed presentation on how to use ChatBots. The long and short of it is to think of them like DRIP email campaigns (full of if/then scenarios), but shorter like Face Tweets (Facebook and Twitter combined). OK, thank you Mary, now I get it! (Mary also turned me on to RightMessage which personalizes your website based on user behavior, as well as the concept of “Backwards Mapping” (Thinking with the “end in mind” as in the 7 Habits), so you have – Subscribe > Nurture > Pitch > Decide > Buy (the forward path), being explained “backwards” as Buy > Decide > Pitch > Nurture > Subscribe (and I would add discover) as you chart out how you want your ChatBot to work.
- Video, video, video! Everyone realizes that video is the future, and everyone is a bit perplexed on how to efficiently create engaging videos. So the ROI of video production is hard, just as the conceptualization of what makes a good video is hard, too. There are key differences among the platforms as well, with Facebook wanting short videos that are “interactive” or “engaging,” and YouTube being a bit more agnostic, more OK with you watch passively sorts of videos. And then there’s the three formats: wide (YouTube), square (Facebook), and vertical (Instagram). Owen Video gave an excellent summary of video editing tips promoting Camtasia as the platform of choice. Among his tips were how to easily create “jump shots” (zooming in or out in Camtasia from your cut edits), captions use Rev.com, and using Camtasia to import / reimport and create all three formats (wide, square, vertical). Owen’s training can also be found at TheVideoMarketingSchool.com and his G.R.E.A.T. video methodology. Grab Attention / Re-state problem / Explain Your Solution / Actual Proof / Tell Em What to do. He also pointed out that TechSmith has a FREE library of video clips for Camtasia users at https://library.techsmith.com/. Oh and there was a lot of buzz about TikTok (out of China) as a potential new video network that might survive. Of course this reminds me of Kesha’s Tik Tok video, so maybe they can do some sort of brand collab on YouTube, but I digress.
- Story. Storytelling is the written word lurking behind all the fuss about video. Videos don’t work unless they tell a story, just as a good movie needs a script, so a good video needs a story. The way to write a story is to think about the readers / viewers and what THEY need and what THEY want, not so much about your brand projecting its message. Melissa Cassera gave a talk about the “three act structure” to writing better scripts (more on this below). She shared some inspirational videos such as The Mirnavator by REI, which creates empathy and shows the human spirit of their customers in an inspiring way; a “soft sell” to the lifestyle brand that is REI. She also showcased Manhattan Mini Storage with their stories.
- Odds and Ends. The SMMW show is always greats for odds and ends and technical tips. For example, Donna Moritz gave a run down of video tools, here. The one with the most buzz was probably Wave.video, which allows you to use video templates to easily create branded videos. There was also a lot of buzz about the Hero’s Journey as a template for better storytelling (more on this below).
The Rise of Storytelling in All Its Forms
Lurking behind nearly every presentation at Social Media Marketing World was the rise of storytelling. The keynote speakers, for example, continually hinted at the importance of “Content Marketing,” meaning the death of YOU BROADCAST and they LISTEN PASSIVELY and the rise of engagement and interactive content. So, not just creating good stories but stories that engage users and get them to a) like, b) comment, and c) share plus the rise of UGC (User Generated Content) in which as argued by Mark Schaeffer in his new book, Marketing Rebellion: the Most Human Company Wins.
That was the hype, at least. But digging into the details, three presenters really got into what we can do to be better storytellers and better writers. First and foremost, there was Melissa Cassera. A screenwriter by training, she gave a very beefy presentation on the art of storytelling in three acts and also explained some “paradigms” or “plot lines” into which you can fit your story. These would be storylines such as “overcoming the monster,” “rebirth,” “rags to riches,” or just using “humor” for your brand. She hinted at how Hollywood uses formulaic techniques in all the major productions; and the difference between a one-time shot vs. an episodic show. Think about “Game of Thrones” for instance, in which each “episode” tends to leave you hanging so that you want to come back for the next one. As brands, we want to create stories that are not just “one offs” but rather parts of larger narratives, so that people “stay tuned” for the next time. This also fits with how “content that disappears” such as Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook stories… because the content “disappears,” users feel compelled to catch it while they can.
Mike Kim also spoke about story, but he zeroed into just the “hook,” the kind of writing in emails and posts that “hooks” a reader into taking the next step. He gave examples such as “Not sure if this is for you, but…,” As you may know,” “You’re never too young to be a great ___________, you’re never too old to be a better one,” and ““What do you really know about?” His main concept was to use quick, quirky little phrases that engage users without insulting their intelligence.
Finally, Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes, got into the basics of email newsletters. She advocated having a defined “persona” to whom you are writing, putting the needs / interests of that “persona” first. She also had some interesting ideas about not just personalizing your email newsletters but “asking” for feedback, so that it becomes a two-way conversation. After all, email is the “original” social media network and still going quite strong despite all the buzz about the newcomers like Snapchat or TikTok.