BPR’s social and digital media team recently ventured to San Diego to join nearly 4,500 other content marketing and data-analysis professionals at Social Media Marketing World, a three-day conference focusing on the past, present and future of social media. Offering more than 100 sessions geared towards social media strategy, ROI, emerging platforms, advertising tactics, trends and more, it was the perfect place for our resident social media mavens to geek out over the current state of the industry – and all the exciting things to come – with social media peers.

Despite recent headlines claiming digital marketers are in the midst of experiencing a Facebook apocalypse, the “Book” is likely not going anywhere anytime soon: Yes, the algorithms continue to make it increasingly difficult for businesses to get their messages in front of their target audience, but no, businesses should not throw in the towel and give up on the channel entirely. Instead, businesses and their social media teams need to invest in building a strategy that works alongside the (ever-changing) algorithm. If you’re worried about investing money on a platform that your target audience may be jumping ship from, think again.

We’ve laid out some key learnings about Facebook’s latest changes, why the platform is shifting its focus to promote meaningful interactions and how brands can make the most of the updated user experience without wasting valuable time (or money!):

  • Facebook is still experiencing major growth; in 2009, it had 200 million active monthly users, compared to more than 2.13 billion at the end of 2017. With the number of daily users continuing to rise, Facebook has identified the need to return to their roots and focus on why the platform was so successful in the first place: connecting people (not businesses). Whether this is a PR spin to reframe why companies will have to pay more and more to show up on their followers feeds (and thus put more money in Facebook’s pockets) is yet to be seen.
  • Don’t give up on organic content just because the algorithm is making it harder to be seen among your followers. While you may not post as frequently following recent changes, we encourage you to focus on posting content that encourages meaningful interaction, such as long comments and conversations, or users sharing a post from a business on their personal feed. When a post does perform well among your audience, try supporting it with a small $10-$20 boost for added reach and engagement.
  • Share content that tells your brand’s story rather than sharing only what you sell. Most consumers can’t decipher a big difference between you and your competition; the only unique thing is you and your story and the people behind your company.
  • A smaller, more relevant and engaged audience is more valuable than a larger, less engaged one. Engaged users turn into loyal customers and brand ambassadors who actively recommend you to their network(s).
  • While businesses will need to invest more money in paid advertising on Facebook moving forward, the platform remains one of the cheapest places to advertise online while providing advertisers with the ability to radically target desired demographics.
  • Over the next three years, you’ll want to shift your video content from general, pre-taped segments to live, in-the-moment and real-time videos (and video series). Live videos receive 6x more interactions than regular video, and according to Mark Zuckerberg, Stories (short video and photo snippets of a business’ – or individual’s – daily activities) are on track to overtake permanent posts in feeds as the most common way people share across apps. So, if you’re not currently comfortable in front of the camera, now is the perfect time to begin experimenting with what types of video content your audience engages with most, so you can get ahead of the social media game.
  • Influencer marketing – creating strategic partnerships with industry and social media tastemakers – is here to stay and provides many benefits for brands. In addition to reaching these influencers’ loyal followers, who listen to suggestions and engage in meaningful conversation with the tastemakers, influencers are a great way to accelerate a brand’s social media growth. In 2018, we’re putting more of an emphasis on creating long-lasting influencer partnerships for clients, providing brands with multiple opportunities to be featured on influencer feeds that best align with their product (or with an opportunity market), and in turn, result in positive third-party endorsement from the same influencer to this target group of followers on not just one, but multiple occasions. This is a shared principal with traditional advertising: research shows a consumer will be able to identify a brand only after seeing an ad three times.

Experts predict there will be more changes to the world of digital marketing in the next two years than there have been in the last 20, with the largest impact stemming from the use of messenger Chatbots. So, what are bots and why are they important?

  • The bot software is able to interact with humans through natural language queries or multiple-choice selections. Current technology through Facebook Messenger quickly answers questions at point of sale online, speeds support response times and stores database of mobile numbers for future communications. Unbeknownst to many, the Facebook Messenger software is used across many different websites, not just Facebook.
  • Eighty-five percent of marketers are not currently using bots, but more than 50% plan to in the next 12 months.
  • Once a consumer interacts with a bot, it logs an individual identification number for the user, allowing the bot to reconnect with their archived contacts at any time, similar to an email database. Bots are 4-5x more effective than emails, and with an open rate of 80-90%, they are on track to become the number one way people will communicate with businesses in coming years.
  • In the next five years, advancement of bots will lead to more personalization, sponsored messages as a new form of advertising and more.

Until next year’s Social Media Marketing World, we invite you to stay up to date on the ever-changing social media algorithm patterns, best practices and more by following some of our favorite resources: