If you've spent any time researching or working in social media marketing, you've heard the name Mari Smith.
A leading voice in the industry, Mari has been speaking at digital marketing events all around the world since 2007, and has worked with a broad range of well-known businesses to help them develop effective approaches to digital marketing, live-streaming, Facebook and Instagram ads and more.
Mari has written books on the topic, has built a large online community around her tips and advice, and was even hired by Facebook at one stage to lead its 'Boost Your Business' events series, which was designed to help SMBs learn key Facebook marketing approaches.
These experiences have given Mari unique insight into key best practices and trends of note. We recently had a chance to ask Mari a few questions about the evolving digital marketing space.
Q: What do you think has been the most significant trend in social media marketing over the last few years?
MS: Short-form video, a la Stories, across Instagram and Facebook (and Messenger), and now Instagram Reels (which is also being rolled out on Facebook).
In 2016, Facebook said that it was running out of ad inventory in News Feed, which forced the company to look for additional content streams in which to place ads. That same year, the timing was ideal for Instagram to copy Snapchat’s popular ephemeral Stories content format.
As a marketer, it’s never really made sense to me to put effort into creating content that vanishes within twenty-four hours, however, we’ve all had to embrace this format, and it can indeed work extremely well to fuel “top of feed top of mind” awareness.
In addition, Stories can also be an even more intimate content format, as getting your audience to subsequently engage via DMs from Stories content is relatively easy.
Q: Which platforms and/or features have produced the best results for your clients over the last 12 months?
MS: It’s a combo of Facebook Live and chatbots.
Facebook live-streaming videos get the best organic reach and engagement - but the key here is to be consistent. We have to ‘train’ the algorithms by broadcasting live on a regular basis - for example, once a week for a month – and then the organic reach will start to increase significantly.
So, you share some of your best content, education, tips, etc. via Facebook Live, but also combine that with calls-to-action that get your audience into the DMs, where you can implement chatbot sequences to maximize your opportunities.
Q: Which feature/s do you believe are underrated from a marketing perspective?
MS: Facebook Groups. This is not necessarily a fit for all types of businesses, but groups can be incredibly powerful for building a fiercely loyal community. Definitely link your group to your Facebook Page, and have a clear purpose and ongoing reason for people to join.
For example, I’ve been running my own Social Scoop group on Facebook for many years, and over the past couple of years, it’s really taken on a life of its own. Members provide tremendous peer support, and my team and I contribute valuable tips, news, and updates.
My group acts as my top of funnel lead magnet, while deepening bonds with my audience.
Q: What's the key, in your opinion, to an effective Facebook marketing strategy?
MS: I designed an evergreen model for generating measurable results on Facebook which stand the test of time, no matter what changes, updates and new features Mark Zuckerberg and his team introduce.
The basic approach here is simple: Content + Engagement + Conversion. Rinse. Repeat.
It all starts with excellent content that your audience craves, that they find tremendously valuable, and that they feel compelled to share with their own audiences. Then, engage regularly by replying to comments, acknowledging those shares, and embracing Facebook Live.
However, the key piece in the formula is always conversion. It’s vital to get your social media activity to ultimately generate traffic, leads and sales, and to do this, you need to be adding those all-important CTAs, and making it clear and obvious what you sell, where to find out more, how to buy, etc.
Q: What's a key lesson you've learned that's helped improve your approach to live-streaming?
MS: Using the right hardware and software.
Some years back, I switched from the usual webcam set up to a DSLR camera in my home studio, and it’s made a world of difference. In addition, you also need the right lighting, and a good microphone.
During my career so far, I’ve been hired by a wide variety of brands to lead live-streaming educational seminars, as well as appearing as a guest on the likes of BBC Newsnight and other TV shows. The hosts of these events and programs always remark on how my on-camera appearance is professional.
Of course, there’s definitely a place for less-polished live-streams through our mobile devices, but investing just a bit more budget into creating a simple, but high-end studio setup can literally put you head and shoulders above the competition, and enable you to generate more revenue as a result.
Q: Do you think Apple's new ATT update will have a major impact on Facebook and Instagram advertisers?
The thing is, the cookie is crumbling, and I’ve been rather amused by Facebook’s head-on attack of Apple over this issue.
Personally, I’m very much #TeamApple, much as I evangelize Facebook. I’m a big advocate of giving users a choice, and for each of us being able to protect our privacy. I definitely understand why many advertisers have been freaking out over the impending impact of Apple’s ATT update, but the writing has been on the wall for a while, and we’re essentially going through a sea change of online marketing and ad tracking.
Google also announced last year that it would stop supporting cookies in its Chrome browser by 2022. The opportunity now is for marketers to get creative with using first-party data.
Q: What are your thoughts on Instagram Reels and the potential it holds for marketers?
MS: Instagram is currently favoring Reels the most in terms of organic reach and discovery, so now is a great time for marketers to embrace this content format as best they can while the reach is so good.
However, now that ads have just been rolled out in Reels globally, even if a marketer prefers not to take the time and effort to create organic Reels, then there’s a powerful opportunity to reach more of their audiences through paid placement. Facebook is also testing the ability to share Instagram Reels to Facebook, which was just expanded this week.
Much like Instagram Stories in 2016, Reels is only going to continue growing. Remember, it’s ultimately about creating more ad inventory, and, of course, staying as competitive as possible.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, recently stated that TikTok is one of the most formidable competitors that the platform has seen.
Q: What coming developments do you think will have the biggest impact on Facebook marketing over the next five years?
MS: The complete eCommerce experience across the entire Facebook family of apps and services.
In early 2019, Mark Zuckerberg announced his plan to facilitate interoperability between the three main messaging platforms that his company owns: Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp. Initially, the drive was to make it easy for users to communicate on the platform of their choice, however the main driver here is to provide a robust multi-platform shop product for retailers of all sizes - and perhaps, eventually, for service-based and information product-based businesses as well.
Now that Messenger and Instagram Direct have been fused together, and the API is open - along with Facebook’s acquisition of CRM platform, Kustomer - the ability to offer a seamless in-app, end-to-end purchasing experience will soon be unrivaled. And, let's not forget that the more Facebook’s apps can be baked together, the less likely they will be to get ‘unbaked.’
Three other key areas that will impact marketers over the coming five years are AR/VR (building the ‘next computing platform,’ as Zuckerberg keeps saying), payments via Facebook Pay, and Facebook’s digital coin, Diem.
You can join Mari Smith’s Social Scoop Facebook Group for more of her insights and tips, as well as support from Mari’s social media marketing community, while you can also follow Mari on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.