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SMT Expert Series: Mari Smith Discusses the Growth of Short-Form Video, Facebook Marketing and Live-Streaming Tips

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SMT Expert Series - Mari Smith

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.

Instagram Reels

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.

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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.

Mari Smith's Social Scoop Facebook group

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.

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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?

MS: Somewhat.

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.

Facebook Reels

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.

See also  Facebook Brings Reels to its Main App as it Seeks to Capitalize on the Short-Form Video Trend

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

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Meta Plans to Establish an NFT Marketplace, Expanding Beyond Profile Pictures

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps


If it’s happening on social media, Meta wants to own it, so it comes as no surprise that the company is currently working on ways to tap into the popularity of NFTs. But Meta actually envisions a bigger future for digital goods, beyond cartoonish profile pictures, which will eventually expand the core functionality of the NFT transaction process to facilitate the transfer of various kinds of digital goods within its planned metaverse.

Sorry, I should say the metaverse, as Meta is keen to underline that it won’t own it, as such (antitrust lawyers take note).

As reported by The Financial Times:

“Teams at Facebook and Instagram are readying a feature that will allow users to display their NFTs on their social media profiles, as well as working on a prototype to help users create – or mint – the collectible tokens, according to several people familiar with the matter. Two of the people said that Meta has also discussed launching a marketplace for users to buy and sell NFTs.”

The first element noted here is already in progress – last June, we reported on Instagram’s initial test of a new ‘Collectibles’ option which would facilitate the display of NFTs in the app (as discovered by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi).

That test also pointed to facilitating the sale of NFTs in the app, with a process for bidding and buying NFT images.

The latest element in this process includes attaching a digital wallet to your account, much like you would on OpenSea or other NFT transaction platforms, so the experiment seems fairly well advanced in this respect.

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That likely points to Instagram making a move on this soon, and where Instagram goes, Facebook tends to follow, so that part is no real revelation versus what we already know.

But what is interesting is how this process could be built into Meta’s broader metaverse plans, and the sale of digital goods, beyond just profile pictures (PFPs). Because really, that’s just the starting point, and there’ll likely be far more value in buying other digital products and services in the next stage of connection.

Which is where much of the confusion about the current state of NFTs lies. Yes, there is major potential in the purchase and ownership of digital goods, as we’ve seen in various game worlds, where users can buy add-on features like skins, weapons, abilities, etc. For many young consumers, this is already second nature – but while much of the value in these items is aesthetic, providing an opportunity to ‘flex’ your latest purchase in each app, there is also a practical value and usage, which is different to PFP projects, the main focal point for current Web3 early adopters and those keen to be at the forefront of the next digital shift.

Overall, PFPs don’t provide much value, and likely won’t remain a key focus for digital ownership. Many of these projects hilariously claim to be ‘metaverse ready’, which is not possible, because not even the metaverse is metaverse ready at this stage, with the schemas and parameters yet to be established that would enable cross-platform transfers and usage of digital goods in the broader space.

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Some PFP projects are working to build out broader community benefits and usage options for owners, which will extend the value beyond their images alone. But really, the true value of NFTs will come in other digital goods and items, which looks to be the true focus of Meta’s NFT push.

Indeed, back in October, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that NFTs could eventually be used to support a new market for digital goods in the metaverse, not just profile images, while Meta’s Head of Metaverse Products Vishal Shah has also noted that the underlying NFT transaction process will eventually make it easier to sell digital products in its apps.

In this sense, PFPs are only the beginning of what could be possible with digital items more broadly, and with Meta also continuing to work on its own cryptocurrency , it does seem likely that, eventually, it will be able to facilitate broader digital transactions through the NFT process.

But those NFTs won’t be limited to PFP images, which is the main criticism of the current NFT market. Why would you pay to own an image that you can view for free? Why would you pay to only own the receipt of a digital image, and not the full copyright and commercial re-use rights (for most projects)?

Legally, there are still some issues to be worked out in this respect, but if you view NFTs as a gateway, of sorts, to broader transactions of all kinds of digital goods, from avatar clothing to skins, to in-game weapons, items, spells, etc. When you consider that NFTs don’t have to just be images of smiling monkeys and cats, you can start to see the broader potential of NFTs as real value items, especially as we increasingly spend more and more time in these digital environments.

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Essentially, early NFT adopters are indeed early, and many are putting far too much stock in PFPs, and getting ripped off as a result. But the broader view is that these digital items will have more use and expanded application in the next stage.

Which is why Meta is looking to move in, and build more tools to capitalize on this initial interest. So while you may view those NFT bros as being a little overzealous, and overexcited about buying JPGs, consider that there will be more to the scope of NFTs in future.

That doesn’t mean that you should care about what image you use for your profile picture, or that you should be looking to buy up a ‘VeeFriends’ NFT drawing (please don’t). But those images are just the start of a new online marketplace.





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Instagram Expands Video Remix Option to All Videos, Not Just Reels Clips

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Instagram Expands Video Remix Option to All Videos, Not Just Reels Clips


Instagram is expanding on its TikTok-like toolset by adding the capacity to remix all videos that people post in the app, not just Reels, increasing your options for creative response and engagement.

As you can see here, now, when you’re viewing any video on Instagram, you’ll be able to tap on the ‘Remix this video’ option to create your own take on it, facilitating more participatory consumption of video content in the app.

Users can also choose to switch off remixes in their video settings.

Instagram video remix

As explained by Instagram:

“Remix gives you ways to respond to and reinvent the creative videos shared on Instagram every day, collaborate with others and get discovered by new audiences. We’re excited about how our community has embraced Remix on Reels and we hope this new feature gives people new ways to collaborate, showcase their creativity and find inspiration in the vibrant diversity of videos shared to Instagram every day.

Instagram added its Reels remix option last March, and this new functionality will greatly expand on the amount of video content that people can use to build upon with their own responses and creative takes, which, again, leans into the core use case of TikTok.

One of the biggest elements of success for TikTok has been participatory content, and essentially letting users contribute to memes, as opposed to merely consuming them.

Memes have become a key communication tool for the younger generation, providing a simple, engaging way to give their take on the various issues of the day. But till TikTok came around, meme usage was limited, as you couldn’t easily remix or re-share a meme for different purpose.

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But TikTok changed that dynamic, essentially making memes participatory, enabling all users to not only consume, but to also iterate each based on the trend. It’s the logical extension of meme culture, though no platform has been able to tap into it the way that TikTok has.

Which is why Instagram’s looking to get into the same. And while providing TikTok-like options is likely helping Instagram to retain some of its audience, and stop them migrating to TikTok instead, it’s still not the best way for the platform to regain its leadership in the space, and re-connect with younger audiences, as per Meta’s stated ambition moving forward.

Because copying features invariably means that you’re a step behind – you can’t copy something unless another platform is already doing it, and if another platform is already doing it, then you’re already missing the trend.

Young users will gravitate to the platforms that lead the latest trends. Snapchat, for example, lead the way on ephemeral content, Instagram was once the place to be for the latest visual tools and displays. TikTok is now the leader on short-form, interactive clips, and if Meta truly wants to win them over once again, it will need to get more original with its additions, providing new, must-see, and must-use ways to interact and engage.

Much of that focus likely comes back to its coming metaverse push, but I’d still prefer to see Instagram zigging when other platforms are zagging, and introducing at least some new tools and options that haven’t been ripped off from another trending app.

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But as noted, it must be working, at least to some degree, because it keeps doing it, with TikTok basically the product development department for Instagram right now.

Maybe its coming NFT display options will change this, or maybe IG has something else in the works for video content. Till then, we have more replicant functions, which may help improve overall engagement, but likely don’t give it much of a boost in terms of credibility and leadership.  





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Instagram Will Now Reduce the Reach of Posts That are ‘Likely’ to Contain Bullying of Hate Speech

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Instagram Will Now Reduce the Reach of Posts That are 'Likely' to Contain Bullying of Hate Speech


Instagram is implementing new measures that will proactively limit the reach of feed posts and stories which ‘likely’ violate its rules around hate speech, bullying and the incitement of violence, as part of its expanding efforts to reduce game and user risk in the app.

As explained by Instagram:

“Previously, we’ve focused on showing posts lower on Feed and Stories if they contain misinformation as identified by independent fact-checkers, or if they are shared from accounts that have repeatedly shared misinformation in the past. Today, we’re announcing some changes to take this effort even further. If our systems detect that a post may contain bullying, hate speech or may incite violence, we’ll show it lower on Feeds and Stories of that person’s followers.”

So how will Instagram determine whether non-reported posts might contain these elements?

“To understand if something may break our rules, we’ll look at things like if a caption is similar to a caption that previously broke our rules.”

Instagram further notes that if its systems predict that an individual user is likely to report a post, based on their past history of reporting content, it will also show that post lower in their personal feed.

Which seems pretty foolproof, right? There’ll be no new influx of ‘shadow ban’ reports or similar as a result of IG putting more reliance on machine learning to determine post reach.

Right?

Yeah, it could be somewhat problematic, and considering the efforts Instagram has gone to in the past to explain away shadow bans, it’s seems inevitable that this will lead to more accusations of censorship, bias and other criticisms of the platform as a result of this shift.

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Which is probably not such a bad payoff, if it works. In theory, this could be another key step towards limiting the spread of bullying and hate speech, both of which have no place in any public forum, and no right to amplification and broadcast via social apps. Instagram is also under pressure to improve its efforts in protecting young users from bullying and abuse, after the Facebook Files leak last year suggested that parent company Meta had ignored research which showed that Instagram can have harmful mental health impacts for teens.

Anything that can be done to stop the spread of such is, at the least, worth an experiment, while Instagram also notes that it has previously avoided implementing automated systems of this type because it wanted to ensure that its technology ‘could be as accurate as possible’ in detection.

Which suggests that it now has the required level of confidence in its processes to ensure good results. So while there will undoubtedly be more reports of mistakes, and more accusations of overreach, invoking some amendment in the constitution (always incorrect), if it works, and reduces instances of harm and mental anguish due to bullying and hate speech, it will be entirely worth it.





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