In what was the biggest gathering yet for the seventh annual Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego, the key takeaway was clear - it’s time to put the “social” back into “social media”, on every platform.
The trend of top speakers focusing on customer listening and engagement to create the best marketing experience was started at 2017’s event, and grew further at last year’s conference, but hit a crescendo in 2019.
"The best way to grow your business is to have your customers do it for you," said author and founder of Convince & Convert Jay Baer. He recommends creating “talk triggers” for a business to encourage sharing online and IRL (in real life), focusing on experiences that are “remarkable, repeatable, reasonable [and] relevant.”
Casual Fridays founder and CEO Tyler Anderson concurred, urging the audience to “make your customers successful” by “creating sharable experiences.” He added that “ads don’t inspire people to buy - seeing other people using and enjoying the product” is what moves the needle.
“Make the customer the hero of your storytelling in marketing,” advised founder and CEO of Distinction Institute Scott McKain. “The connection that we make with customers significantly transcends any individual transaction.” McKain added that in order to create distinctive social media marketing, companies must possess four C’s - Clarity, Creativity, Communication and Customer Experience.
Brian Fanzo, the CEO of iSocialFanz, LLC, added: “If you don’t have time for your current customers, your current customers won’t have time for you.”
The bottom line is that marketers can’t expect to own the entire conversation on social media anymore.
“Content is king, but engagement is queen and she rules the house,” said Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith.
Speakers who focused on specific social media platforms had similar insights.
Social Media Examiner CEO Michael Stelzner focused on the #1 social network in his opening keynote.
“Facebook is a platform that thrives on people connecting, not on content,” he said. “In order to influence, we must connect with people.”
Nowhere is this connection stronger than in video, which was a secondary theme of the event. Stelzner noted that people are now watching a billion hours of video every day on YouTube, while Smith noted in her keynote presentation that “the best-performing content on Facebook – by far – is video.”
Facebook is also strongly focused on messaging as a connection point for users. “Messaging is a key part of Facebook’s strategy,” Smith said, reminding attendees of Facebook’s forthcoming merger of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. She further believes that “Instagram is Facebook’s next Facebook.”
Dan Knowlton, co-founder of U.K.-based KPS Digital Marketing, focused on Twitter in his presentation, and likewise said that the key to higher engagement is to “be more human.”
“Talk like your customers talk, share how you feel [and] demonstrate passion,” Knowlton advised. “Be more human and less robot.”
Social good pioneer, and CEO of I Am Here, LLC, Chris Strub agreed.
“It doesn't matter how many followers you have, it's how you make people feel,” he said, adding that “your top two words on Twitter should be ‘thank you,’ before you start complicating everything with your content strategy.”
Fanzo recounted a story of one Twitter user achieving outsized engagement simply by doing what Twitter was built for. “What did he do? He replied to a tweet,” he explained.
John Nemo, the founder of Nemo Media Group, led a session entitled “How to Generate Leads and Sell on LinkedIn (Without Being Sales-y or Spammy)” - and, perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was to engage with others.
“All the money on LinkedIn is in the mailbox,” Nemo said. “One-to-one messages. Ignore everything else.” He added: “The key to LinkedIn is one-on-one personalized engagement. Treat it like a coffee meeting.”
Nemo suggested that great LinkedIn profiles don’t just include what the person does, but also why they do it, and how they can help others. Telling stories via LinkedIn content, and evoking curiosity while requesting a response from individual messages, are also hints for greater engagement on the professional networking platform.
Finally, in their hilarious keynote session, “Creative Content Marketing Duo” Andrew & Pete implored the audience to “find the fun,” yet another good way to connect with prospects and customers.
“If you don’t enjoy creating your marketing, people aren’t likely to enjoy seeing it,” they said.
As always, there was a heap of knowledge and insight shared at Social Media Marketing World 2019, and the focus on human connection, on all platforms, was absolutely clear. Worth noting in your strategy.