“Be Your Freaking Self”: 11 Experts Have Their Say on the Future of Social at Social Media Marketing World 2019

The world of social media marketing can often feel like a daunting and uncertain place. It’s an ever-changing landscape that’s full of twists and turns. So, how do you stay ahead of the curve in an industry that demands fluidity and adaptability at all times? You take the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest by attending events like Social Media Marketing World, which is exactly what we did!

In March, Team Sendible made the pilgrimage to San Diego along with 4000 other marketers for the world’s biggest social media marketing conference. As first timers at SMMW, we didn’t quite know what to expect. But after three intense days of networking and attending talks about social media trends, techniques and content, we came away better informed and eager to share what we had learned.

While at the conference, we couldn’t resist taking to the floor with a microphone in hand to interview Sendible customers, influencers and social media personalities to get a handle on the future of social.

And because sharing is caring, here are five of the most powerful takeaways that we garnered from those we spoke to – a.k.a the most influential people in the industry! If you’d like to hear what our insiders had to say and fancy some handy takeaway tips that you can use to inform your own marketing strategy, then you’ve come to the right place. Enjoy!

1. Stop trying to appeal to the masses. Instead, find your tribe and focus on building a community

Although having mass appeal might seem like a solid aspiration for your brand, according to the experts at SMMW19, it’s not what you should be chasing after. In the wake of the privacy scandals that have rocked Facebook, consumers trust in social media platforms is dwindling. This, unfortunately, makes marketers jobs much harder.

In order to restore an equilibrium of loyalty and trust, marketers like Social Media Examiner’s CEO Michael Selzner have suggested that forging deeper, more personal relationships with consumers is the key. In his keynote speech at SMMW19, Selzner said that instead of relying on content to influence the buying decisions of potential customers, alternatively “we must connect with people.”

We caught up with Social Media Author, Speaker and Educator Neal Schaffer, who spoke about how marketers often use social media to push content, which isn’t what people want to see. Neal acknowledged that organic reach is declining on all platforms, and offered some interesting insights into using influencers to further your brand’s reach:

neal schafferUltimately, people want to do business with brands they like, know and trust. That’s why we should look at social media less as a marketing platform and more as a collaboration platform – that’s where its power is unlocked.”

Neal suggests that a better way to gain influence would be to “work with micro or nano influencers – people who might already be following you and build a tribe. You could be reaching out to these followers and offering them free subscriptions in exchange for their views on your product.”

Leading Instagram Educator Sue B Zimmerman also highlighted to us the importance of communication and engagement on social media. Sue explained that making yourself available to answer questions and messages on social is vital to building personal relationships with your followers:

sue b zimmermanI make time for people who message me because one-to-one relationships are everything and they lead to one-to-many. The more of an impact you can make on just one person, the more likely they are to talk about you at networking events. Your online social presence can grow from making an impact on just one person.”

2. Telling stories on social gives your brand a human edge

As a marketer, what do you do when your audience refuses to listen to your message? It’s the million dollar marketing question of the moment, particularly as 64% of ad blocker users admitted to using the technology because they find ad’s annoying and disruptive. As a result, there is real pressure on marketers to humanize their advertising strategies and find authentic ways to connect with consumers. The solution? Telling stories.

The subject of storytelling was a hot topic at SMMW19. It was a theme that was threaded through the conference, with Speaker, Founder and CEO of the Distinction Institute Scott Mckain calling for delegates to “make the customer the hero of your storytelling in marketing” in order to help their brands stand out in a crowded marketplace.

When we interviewed Keynote Speaker and Founder of The Business of Story, Park Howell, he was excited about the power of story and its effectiveness as a marketing technique. Park’s mission is to create more personal, powerful brand stories for leaders, employees and customers by getting them to think in narrative and storytelling frameworks. Park’s solution relies on putting your marketing message in story structure:

park howellStory makes meaning out of the madness of human beings. In order to connect with people, you have to employ narrative and narrative frameworks that have been around since the beginning of time.

The And, But, Therefore Technique is a simple narrative framework that uses a three-act structure. You set up with the ‘and’, insert a problem or complication using a ‘but’ and then solve it using the ‘therefore’ – you could apply this easily to a tweet. Ultimately, the anecdote is the antidote to the massive amounts of content that we are bombarded with.” 

As a Strategic Storyteller, Content Producer and Co-Founder of My Alzheimers Story Project, Zach Jordan is also invested in the impact of story on social media. Zach is currently building the world’s largest collection of Alzheimer’s videos and supporting local Alzheimer’s organizations. Through this work, he’s is on a mission to show how difficult moments can be empowered with the use of story.

zach jordanZach “loves story, believes in the power of story and is hoping that he can impact the world of scientific research for Alzheimer’s using story.’’

To create a great story, Zach says it’s important to:

For Marketing Student and Sendible customer Crystal Price, crafting stories is also an essential part of her social media marketing strategy.

crystal priceIn fact, Crystal listed “providing stories that are engaging, heartfelt and relatable to your clientele” as her top social media marketing tip.

3. Be authentic and be transparent

In the wake of the fake news scandals that have plagued Facebook and Twitter over the past couple of years, there has been a real shift towards the expectation of transparency and authenticity from brands on social media.

neal schafferConsumers want to be able to trust marketers, and for Neal Schaffer, the secret to this is being original and distinctive with your brand. Finding your unique selling point might be tricky, but it’s what will set you apart from the rest – “be cheeky, be edgy, be you.”

sue b zimmermanSimilarly, for Sue B Zimmerman, all you have to do is “be your f***ing self! Growing an authentic community on social, no matter where you hang out is the gold. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. If you wear hats, wear hats. If you wear bright colours, wear bright colours.”

Sue urges marketers to consider which parts of their persona, branding and core values resonate with customers and make them feel connected to you, your business, your product and your service. These are important considerations if you want people to connect with your brand, because, as Sue says, “we all need more of that real authenticity.

4. You don’t need to be present on every platform. Find out where your audience is and focus your time there

There is often huge pressure on social media marketers to be present on every platform. And with the average person now owning 7 social media accounts each, it’s no wonder that the social media landscape can be a noisy place.

However, according to the speakers at Social Media Marketing World 2019, this needn’t be the case. In the words of Creative Content Marketing duo Andrew Pickering and Pete Gartland, “to reach everyone, we don’t need to be on everything.” Instead, it’s much more important to consider which channels can provide you with the most value and focus on them to avoid burnout.

For Author and Business Coach Jeanet Bathoorn, the most crucial thing to consider when choosing a social media platform is being able to find her audience.

jeanet bathoorneJeanet advises any social media marketer to identify “who they are working for, who their target audience is, where they are, and what brings them fun.” For Jeanet, it’s essential to regularly evaluate your presence on each social media channel to make sure that it’s worth your investment of time.

Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategist Ellis Mbeh also emphasized the significance of understanding the audience that you’re trying to target. Ellis recognizes that there’s always room for improvement: 

ellis mbeh“If you’re putting content out and it’s getting no engagement, take a deeper look and do some research into who your audience really is. Find out what they’re saying, how they’re consuming content, where they’re going to consume content and who the top people are in that space.

Equally for Social Media and Digital Content Strategist Vincent Driscoll, finding out which platforms he should be using has been about trial and error.

vincent driscollVincent advises that before you set up any more social accounts for your business, you should always ‘‘figure out your demographic and educate yourself on the network” first. However, for him “Facebook is a no brainer. Everyone should be on Facebook, even if it’s just a business page.”

Sue B Zimmerman says, that with anything to do with posting on social, you should always ask yourself “what is the reason you’re doing what you’re doing?

sue b zimmermanShe urges marketers not to simply post to fulfil a quota without a strategy or a clear intention. Instead, Sue encourages everybody on social to “do what you do with purpose.

5. The popularity of video is rising

From Facebook Live to Instagram Stories, video has seen a huge surge in popularity on social media, and was a real sticking point at SMMW19. The fact is, Facebook users find videos five times more engaging than images, so marketers need to embrace them sooner, rather than later.

In fact, according to SMMW19 Keynote Speaker Mari Smith, this is how you should be breaking down your content to accommodate video: 

My Facebook Content Marketing Recommendation:

🎥 70% Video
📸 20% Images
🔗 10% Links/Status Updates#SMMW19

— Mari Smith Ⓜ️ Top Facebook Marketing Expert (@MariSmith)

Lumen 5’s Product Manager and Product Marketer Kaegan Donnelly, had some fantastic advice about creating videos to share on social. Kaegan acknowledged that starting out with video might seem daunting, but he emphasized that you shouldn’t worry about creating the next masterpiece. Instead, simply holding your phone up and addressing your audience in the form of a story is a fantastic way to engage and add a personal touch. His advice for better performing videos:

kaegan donnellyAny time you can work your face or someone else’s face into a video helps. We know that people love seeing other people and they connect a lot better as a result. When you’re trying to create thumb-stopping content, if you can get your own mug in the shot, that tends to stand out. Be on graphics and visuals and those sorts of things.

ted prodromouVideo is also making waves on Linkedin. While leading LinkedIn Business Coach Ted Prodromou acknowledges that users still view the platform as more of a sterile and formal “library” where people fear posting because they might “upset their boss“, he has seen tremendous success by experimenting with native video since it was rolled out.

In fact, from publishing just one 59 second video on LinkedIn, Ted got 104,000 views, almost 3000 comments and gained about 800 leads!

Ted advises that when posting video, as with any content, your focus should always be on quality and consistency. To ensure this, he uses tools of automation like Sendible – Ted has been a customer of ours for over four years!

Any last tips for social media marketers to make their brands stand out on social?

neal schafferNeal Schaffer – “You need to have a robust social media dashboard that allows you to handle multiple clients, not just for the publishing of content but also for engagement and automation, timely notifications and creating reports etc.”

jeanet bathoorneJeanet Bathoorn – “If you do nothing, nothing will happen. Always try to improve and exceed your own goals and expectations.”

ellis mbehEllis Mbeh – “As we’re on a journey to find out what the ROI of social is, be aware that what you thought was important yesterday may not be important today. Keep an open mind, be open to change and be flexible – you’re part of a larger scope.”

ted prodromouTed Prodromou – “Social media isn’t about you – it’s about them. Always think ‘how can you help your customers‘?”

park howellPark Howell – “Don’t get hung up with the channels – they are nothing but a delivery system. Start with your story. Try to understand why people do what they do and why your audience should care.”

nick gandara Nick Gandara – Try to automate as much as you can. Don’t waste valuable time doing the little things like posting. Get a software that will do this for you.”

vincent driscollVincent Driscoll – Be as consistent as you can and always have a plan going in.”

kaegan donnellyKaegan Donnelly – Jump in and start making mistakes. Hold up your phone and just start talking to your audience.”

sue b zimmermanSue B Zimmerman – Do what you enjoy, go where your target audience is and go deep on that platform.”

crystal priceCrystal Price – “Continue to learn and stay up to date with social media. Tech is always advancing, so it’s important to follow influencers and companies like Sendible to be a part of the world of social.”

zach jordanZach Jordan – “The way that you communicate your stories will vary from platform to platform. Learn which one helps you to convey your message most effectively.”

Wrapping up

It’s incredibly interesting to watch social media mature, and it’s clear that marketers are keen to grow with it. Ultimately, social media can be a place of chaos, but events like SMMW can help to provide clarity and insight for marketers who are eager for their next challenge. The best advice we can give is to get out there and experiment – that all important engagement is there for the taking!

Attending Social Media Marketing World 2019 was a fantastic learning experience for our team, and we’ll be back next year for sure! Thanks to all of our experts for sharing their tips and advice.

Are you ready to go out there and put these lessons into practice?

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