CJ Zabat received one of our scholarships to attend this year’s Social Media Marketing World event. CJ gives an inside look at the experience.
By: CJ Zabat
This year’s Social Media Marketing World was a mishmash combination of elements: the conference was split between making the most of the platforms we already know and then orienting everyone on what’s to come. As a first-timer to this event, some things felt a bit odd, such as watching a campy reenactment of The Matrix where the hosts compared the conference to taking the red pill, but overall, it was a conference filled with those who are on top of their platforms and know what they want and how to get it. Let’s get into my biggest takeaways from this year’s outing in San Diego.
A Web 3.0 Crash Course
We have to start with Web 3.0, the elephant in the room as this new industry continues its attempted takeover. As someone who came in knowing very little about Web 3.0, here’s a quick primer or how 3.0 compares to its predecessors:
- Web 1.0 meant connecting consumers to brands and to resources, because back in the day, the tools to create were primarily owned by those rich enough to do so; we started buying things online and reading the news. Nike, USA Today, all the big brands that had websites we would visit. Any fellow frequent Cartoon Network website visitors to play flash games back in the early 2000s?
- Web 2.0 meant connecting consumers to each other, since now, we transformed the Internet from a place to visit to a place to meet and greet. Social media meant we could set up our own profiles and find those with similar interests (and products). Think Etsy, Pinterest, any social media channel, Wixsite, and other tools designed to empower individuals.
- Web 3.0 is meant to connect both people and assets in the virtual AND physical world. Rather than setting up an Etsy account for folks to buy your custom bracelets, you’re setting up a Minecraft space for folks to buy your digital goodies, like NFTs. It wants to bridge the gap from online to offline, and make resources such as NFTs and online clothing as valuable as physical stickers and real clothes.
Web 3.0 is the child of gaming, as shown through the entry points of Roblox and Minecraft, and enabled by AR, VR, and mobile devices. It’s meant to transition us from tech that we hold, like phones, to tech that we wear, like headsets, and utilizing the advanced speeds like 5G to load and interact with things in real time while we’re out and about. Keynote speaker Cathy Hackl gave the example of her son’s birthday party on Roblox: he had the whole party online, and was geeking all week about what he wanted his online avatar, NOT his actual physical body, to wear for said party.
If Web 3.0 isn’t your new frontier, video is
SMMW22 was helpful in learning about Web 3.0, but as someone who works in higher ed, nothing quite rang true of how it would be readily applicable in my work. If you’re in the same boat, there was still one unexplored frontier for me that the conference emphasized over and over to utilize: video.
As of March 2022, TikTok was measured to be the world’s biggest website, overtaking Google. Several events were focused on how to get the most out of TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram Reels, which are all essentially the same thing on different platforms, alongside the allure of YouTube in general. To do so, there were formulas and best practices put forth on how to get you and/or your brand its own viral moment.
The big thing for video is to be as efficient and pre-planned as possible. Elise Darma’s session opined that much like creating a batch of cookies that you eat over the course of a few days, you should plan, record, and edit your videos as systematically as possible, finishing your content and pulsing your posts after the fact; her example was that she took only 90 minutes to film 6-7 videos, all in one go, after carefully planning everything about them beforehand. She also recommended an online workspace with cards, such as Trello, to keep things segmented and transparent for the whole team to see, with cards including the following:
- Templates: posts you base your content off of, videos that you want to copy or embody
- Ideas for review: everyone brainstorming on this card for the team lead to sift through
- To film: list out what you’ll need, include any scripts/directions, and anything else someone would need so that all they have to do is read this card and turn the camera on
- To edit: what the finished post would need (title, description, hashtags), anything the video needs to be complete
- Scheduled/posted: monitoring what just went on the channel and how well it’s doing
This recipe can be transferable outside of video content as well! Could be for mass emails, social media platforms, blog content, or more.
Agonizing over the algorithm
Now that you’ve posted your content, you’ve got to keep up with how to get it in front of people and what matters to keep your brand relevant, visible, and likeable. The most shocking thing I took away in this realm is the discouragement on linking directly to something off-website: the algorithm doesn’t want to promote your post if your post is telling people to leave the website! Instead, try commenting (and then pinning that comment) for where folks could go (your website, your subscription link, etc.) right underneath the post.
Social media websites want folks to stay on that website. They’ll promote videos that are watched all the way through and sponsored posts that entice consumers to visit that sponsor’s ACCOUNT, not necessarily their OFF-PLATFORM LOCATION. Use that to your advantage, and promote as necessary. For YouTube, the key analytics aren’t folks clicking to leave YouTube, it’s the folks who are finishing videos and then clicking on more videos afterward. Get them invested to watch your video within the first 30 seconds and then keep them there.
Instead, create engagement and hype on that platform. Michael Stelzner pointed out success in SMMW’s posts asking direct questions and promoting conversation, such as “Name something that a lot of people like, but you can’t stand.” Cue an intense comment section about just that, with tons of engagement and lots of eyes seeing it from their friends commenting on the post. Now, it won’t be as easy to do that with your brand, per se, but the intent is still there on how you can boost it organically.
Content is King
Amidst all these notes about engagement and beating the algorithm, you might be wondering how to do it all just within a few posts and a few days. Fear not: it’s important to know that multiple folks encouraged posting and reposting content to your heart’s content. More than once a day is perfectly acceptable if not the new normal, and reposting content from other channels and your own is a good way to keep folks interested in your brand/channel’s topic. People go online looking for something to gain: a skill to learn, a niche to expand on, a topic to learn about. It’s our job as communicators to feed that desire online, and when they’ve gotten a suitable level out of it, they’ll leave the platform on their own accord to find your off-platform touchpoint, be it a website, a store, or something else.
Keep things on-brand and on-task in your feed, and then save any daily life or off-brand content for your stories, where folks can get to know you and your brand on a more personal level. In one session featuring IG Growth Coach Brock Johnson, Brock said he took a week to ONLY repost high-performing content, without any indication in the copy/post that it was reposted. He ended up having a better-than-normal week with a 115% increase in reach, 159% increase in engagement, and 110% increase in engagement.
With all this content being crunched out, make sure you’re always testing new waters with sizable variations, too. In Molly Pittman’s How to Write Facebook Ads that Work, she emphasized testing different ad sets on the same demographic, and spying on the competitions’ ads via the “page transparency” function on their page; any ads running for more than 4 months were probably working and have something for you to dissect from it.
Lastly, when it comes to saturating your channel and advertisement campaigns, don’t focus too hard on replicating content meant to appease those that don’t like your content or hated your product; there are so many other alternatives to you that they can easily find without you doing a complete makeover. Instead, lean into those that are in what was called the “zone of indifference:” those who follow you, but might not engage with you, or those who bought something once and have yet to come back. Appeal to them and convert them into apostles, rather than just followers, and their constant engagement with your posts/etc. will lead to others finding you through them.