Thursday, March 29, 2018

4 Biggest SMB Social Media Takeaways from the Industry’s Largest Conference

SMMW18 photo

Social Media Marketing World 2018 conference

As you’ve probably heard, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been in the hot seat recently after a major data breach was linked to his platform. Is this the demise of Facebook and social media as we know it? I hope not! For many small and mid-sized businesses, social media outlets like Facebook and LinkedIn are vital to building brand awareness and fostering brand advocates.

Two months before the announcement of the Facebook breach, Zuckerberg was in the news for a very different reason. On January 11, the social media giant announced a major policy shift in the algorithm it uses to determine what content we see in our Facebook feeds. Many social media marketers quaked in their boots, quickly proclaiming it the “Facebook Apocalypse.” The change effectively means that those who rely heavily on Facebook and organic posts to generate awareness are in trouble. (Business owners, are you listening?)

So, what does the future hold for small businesses that rely on Facebook and social media marketing? I attended the Social Media Marketing World conference to find out. And I wasn’t alone. Approximately 5,000 marketing and social media comrades joined me at the three-day event in San Diego, California.

With more than 120 workshops and sessions to attend – and world-renowned keynote speakers at every turn, it was difficult to decide which presentations to attend. Leveraging influencers was a hot topic, as were Facebook’s Messenger bots technology and Watch platform. There were countless workshops on writing, podcasting, corporate social media and how to use video and visual content to get your message across. I quickly realized I have a lot more to learn.

I heard Jay Baer, bestselling author of Hug Your Haters, speak about talk triggers and word-of-mouth tactics. I heard Shama Hyder, dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing,” explain the power of a frictionless customer experience and how to attract, convert and transform customers. I learned visual content tricks and found out there is WAY more to LinkedIn advertising than I ever knew!

Although the social media landscape has changed greatly in the last few weeks — thanks to the Facebook scandal, I find that my FOUR biggest lessons and takeaways from the conference remain true. My hope is that these high-level points will help you understand how to use social media as the owner of a small or medium-size business.

Please leave a comment and share away if you find this content useful. If I get a lot of feedback, it could mean a follow-up post!



SMMW18 room

Social media attendees choose from over 120 workshops

Although the future of Facebook remains to be seen — and I can’t believe I just wrote that — one thing is sure:  where Facebook goes, other social media follows.

On January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced a major policy change, effectively stating that content that Facebook has deemed “more relevant” and/or offering more “meaningful social interactions” will stay at the top of your customers’ and prospects’ News Feed. I firmly believe LinkedIn will follow suit in this type of policy.

To be more specific, only posts that garner multiple AND longer comments will get top billing, making it even harder for small businesses to get in front of their customers. The policy change is slated to make its way through all its products, including Facebook Groups, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp.

This effectively means that those who rely heavily on Facebook and organic posts to generate awareness are in trouble. Think there aren’t a lot of businesses and marketers who fall into that category? Data suggests you’re wrong.

Research shows that two-thirds of marketers say Facebook is the MOST important social platform they use. Of those, 89 percent say they use it for exposure, 81 percent use it for traffic generation, and 66 percent plan on increasing organic activities.*

BIG TAKEAWAY: Plan on developing a larger social media budget, and be prepared to pay to play  even more as the supply of Facebook ad space decreases and demand for Facebook advertising increases. Also, don’t be surprised if LinkedIn follows this new policy lead.

LESSON 2: VIDEO. VIDEO. VIDEO. (in the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” voice)

We addressed the importance of video marketing in a previous post, but I’m sounding the alarm again for those who aren’t listening or are camera shy.

Viral video star “Chewbacca Mom” makes an appearance

According to Cisco research**, “By the year 2019, 80 percent of all content consumed online will be video.”

It wasn’t a coincidence that Brian Fanzo’s “Facebook Strategy in Light of the Facebook Apocalypse” presentation was almost entirely about video. Fanzo’s research found that Facebook Live videos get six times more interactions than native videos.

His message to marketers and business owners? “In order to make this work, we must embrace Live video and two concepts: Perfection is a fairytale, and control is an illusion. Perfection gets in the way of having authentic conversations. You can’t control where your content goes or what people say, but you can develop value. You can work together and allow them into your content.”

Not sure you want to be on Facebook now? LinkedIn will soon allow native video posts on Company feeds. And guess what? Those posts will rank highest on your followers feeds!

BIG TAKEAWAY: When it comes to content — video or not, design it with intent and with repeat viewership in mind. Think shows and episodes!


For the longest time, social media marketing has been about social proof and numbers: how many fans, how many followers, which posts get the most clicks or shares. Now, if you want to grow your audience, it’s about really zeroing in on the right segment and engaging them consistently and frequently with relevant content (preferably with video!).

“Now it’s more important that we think about who are the right people we should be targeting,” said Michael Stelzner, the man behind the Social Media World conference. “We need to be ok with smaller, highly relevant, engaged audiences that are a perfect fit of who our customers and prospects ought to be. Small is the new big from here on out.”

BIG TAKEAWAY: Find your perfect audience and keep them engaged. Worry less about casting a wide net. Again, think episodic content.


This was probably the most important message I heard at the conference, and it was repeated verbatim or in essence in just about every presentation I attended.

JayBaer at SMMW18

Jay Baer, bestselling author of Hug Your Haters.

The phrase “When marketers move in, members move out” was presented by well-known Facebook expert Mari Smith back in 2009, during the first-ever Social Media Marketing World conference. The message rings true today, now more than ever.

In 2009, social media was new, and it WAS about being social. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, things changed: the bad marketers moved in, and brands distanced themselves from their true identities, their true selves. As Brian Fanzo put it, “We put out there how we wanted our customers to see us.”

Today, consumers want authenticity and transparency. They want to do business with the people they like behind the brand.

BIG TAKEAWAY: Fanzo’s message was about getting back to being authentic and creating content that’s likable and relatable, as he told the large crowd, “I firmly believe that relatability is the future of marketing. We buy from people we can relate to. Relatability is how we shrink the distance [between the brand and the consumer].”

In fact, one of my favorite moments captured from the conference came from Fanzo, who said:

“We have the ability to connect with people who might not know us or like us, but if we provide value – if we show that we care about them BEFORE we want them to care about us – the power of social media will turn those people into customers, customers into advocates, fans into evangelists.”

Which leads me to my BIGGEST TAKEAWAY …

In an age where technology is taking over and we’re all about text and email  automation, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, it’s time to get back to being human. Let’s be funny, flawed, and fearless! And let’s find ways to be more genuine and authentic in the way we connect with others. In short, let’s bring the social BACK to “social media.” Who’s with me?

-Kat Hurst
Your Social Media World Conference Reporter


* Source: Michael Stelzner, “Social Media Marketing Trends: What the Newest Research Reveals,” Social Media Marketing World 2018. (Note: Research before Facebook breach.)

**Source: Marcus Sheridan, “Sexy Content: Understand What Truly Moves the Sales Needle,” Social Media Marketing World 2018.

Posted by Staff at 9:08 am
  1. Thank you Kat – well written and something I’ll refer our emerging growth and lower mid-market clients to for your insights.

    Thanks to Scot McGregor for posting!

    1. Great!

  2. Deborah Usry – April 4, 2018 @ 11:20 am

    Good information. Thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks Deborah!

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