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SMT Expert Series: Matt Navarra Discusses the Latest Trends, and Where Things are Headed

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SMT Expert Matt Navarra

Matt Navarra has been working in social media marketing for over a decade in various high-profile roles, including advising the UK Government on social strategy and managing the global social media presence of The Next Web.

These days, Matt works as an independent advisor, providing guidance to top brands to help them refine and improve their social media marketing approach.

Aside from this, Matt has also established himself as one of the leading voices in the social media space, regularly breaking news about upcoming features and updates. He’s a must-follow for social media managers, and a resource we regularly refer to in our research for SMT.

Which makes him a great candidate for our new SMT Experts’ series – we recently got a chance to put a few questions to Matt about where he sees things headed, the latest platform updates, and what marketers should be planning for in future.

Q: What are three key trends that you would suggest social media marketers should be monitoring at present?

MN: Social shopping, and shopping on social in general, is now a significant element in the growth strategies for a lot of the big platforms, and we’ve seen huge steps forward on, for example, Instagram and Facebook with Shops, and features to do with live shopping, tagging of products, branded content, etc. There’s also been a range of similar developments from Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok.

These tools will offer new potential for brands, but the challenge here is a bit like the question we had a few years back in regards to news publishers, and ceding control – or at least, going ‘all-in’ – on things like Instant Articles, and then losing the ability to track and utilize data on what your users are doing when they’re not visiting your site. You’re then stuck within the world of Facebook, and reliant on the platform’s tools.

But generally, for most small businesses, I think this is a great opportunity, and it’s a significant shift in the way that people consume and buy goods, and also the way they use social media, and what they use social apps for, which will be a large-scale change.

The other big one is AR. AR is still seen by many as the precursor to VR, and we’ve only recently started to see any significant utility for AR tools, through integrations with Google Maps and more advanced AR try-on tools on platforms like Snapchat.

But we’ve largely moved past the ‘gimmick’ phase, and now it’s a question of how the brands and platforms leverage AR to actually become a more meaningful and useful thing, and move beyond simply adding dog ears to your selfies.

We’ve seen some platforms taking a lead on this, with Snapchat, in particular, adding new tools to better facilitate shopping and try-on processes, and I think we’ll see more platforms moving in this direction over the next few years. 

Snapchat AR try on tools

A limitation, however, is that the technical expertise required to create these AR experiences is currently beyond the realm of many businesses, but that’s also changing with the development of new tools that make it far easier and quicker, and cheaper, to build these experiences.

The last key trend of note here is around the evolving ‘creator economy’ tools, whether in the form of subscriptions, tipping, improving collaboration tools to facilitate creator/brand partnerships, etc. The platforms have now realized how they can facilitate more opportunities on this front, which has lead to a new battle to retain the best talent, and provide the strongest incentives to keep them posting to your app, which could have a big influence on growth and development moving forward.

The question now is how much people will be willing to pay to subscribe to certain creators, and whether there’ll be a limit to the amount people will tip and donate in order to fund these processes – while for creators, they also need to choose which platforms they think will offer the most sustainable options over the long term. We’ll see, over the next 12 months I suspect, which platforms are going to win out in this race.”

Q. Which social platform do you personally find the most valuable?

MN: Well for me, it’s Twitter. I live and breathe Twitter, it’s a news platform, and I’m very much interested in the latest breaking news. The access that it gives me to information and individuals, and brands, all around the world, at speed, is still a buzz for me, and there are a lot more features now that Twitter has added in the last 12 months that have really started to transform the platform for the first time in a long while.

For a long time, it had been fairly static, but now, we’re seeing a sudden rush of new product features, which is really exciting to see, as a heavy Twitter user. I don’t ever see Twitter being a 2 billion user platform, or seeing some huge amount of usage growth, but I do think that these new features do offer new opportunities for greater expansion moving forward.

I’m also interested to see how its new monetization features for creators develop, and what the conversion rate might be for people using new features like Super Follow. It’s a somewhat risky strategy, but it will have a fundamental impact on what Twitter is for many users, and I suspect it’ll be a successful addition.

Q: What are your thoughts about the audio social trend, and where it might be headed?

MN: I think it will be a thing in a year from now, and several years from now – though I’m not as bullish or convinced that Clubhouse will be the champion of social audio in a way that TikTok is the champion of short video.

Part of the concern here is that Clubhouse has so many issues that are mounting up, including content moderation problems, limitations with discovery, lack of network capacity for growth, and a whole host of other concerns. That places some big barriers before it, which could restrict its growth, while other platforms like Twitter and Facebook seemingly have more scope for success in this respect, given their existing networks and their experience and tech capabilities.

For the format more generally, it largely comes down to the day-to-day use case for social audio, with things like virtual events, news discussion, TV program discussions, etc., all set to see at least some enhanced value through the option. For marketers, I’m not exactly sure how social audio will best be leveraged by brands. There are various options that you could consider, but whether brands will be able to create content that’s as compelling as that from news publishers, celebrities or even individual creators is another consideration.

But yes, I do think that audio social will be around for some time, and much like Stories, for some platforms, it will fit and make sense, and for others, it won’t.

Q: Do you think that TikTok can become a major challenger to Facebook?

MN: Yes and no. I think in some areas of social that Facebook and TikTok compete in, definitely, but Facebook is such a bigger beast in terms of what it can do for you as a user, that TikTok, by comparison, is very narrow in its toolset.

In terms of what TikTok does, which is short-form video, it’s definitely the leader over alternative options like Instagram Reels, and I suspect it will continue to dominate that space for some time, and its newer experiments like live shopping and eCommerce fit into this.    

Whether TikTok can expand beyond this is central to the question as to whether it can become a true challenger for Facebook, and I’m not sure it will look to branch out, but already, in terms of time spent and engagement, TikTok is a competitor in what it does, and it still has a lot of scope to grow and become a bigger player in the space.

Q: Which social platform do you think is underrated in terms of social media marketing opportunities?

MN: The obvious one here would be TikTok, which may seem odd to note, but I think that if you’re talking about a platform that’s earlier in its life cycle and growth curve, and a platform that’s got real potential to take something from zero to a million miles an hour, really quickly, then TikTok has a lot of potential, and the fact that it’s less understood by the average social media manager or brand means that people are using it less because they’re not quite sure how best to exploit it.

TikTok is also still developing its ad tools and options, which will open up even more opportunity, while it also benefits, in some ways, from being not Facebook, given the reduced sentiment around the Facebook brand in some respects.

I also think that LinkedIn and Pinterest provide great opportunities that are also underrated. The value of Pinterest’s shopping tools is huge, and it’s lesser-used because marketers are often less familiar with it, while LinkedIn offers a different type of audience reach, with new developments within its company pages and events tools also expanding on its potential.

Q: What do you think about Twitter Blue and Twitter’s broader moves into alternate revenue models?

MN: I’m loving it, because my main platform for what I do is geared around Twitter, and up till now, Twitter hasn’t provided any real opportunity for people like me who are content creators or doing things that could be monetized, so to see these new tools arrive is great news for people in my position.

In terms of Twitter Blue, and the platform’s own subscription model for add-on features, I think that for heavy platform users and certain other Twitter user types, including journalists and creators, Twitter Blue is a nice little extra. 

Twitter Blue

For me personally, I think the initial Twitter Blue offering is not particularly enticing or exciting – it doesn’t really add enough useful utility for the money you’re paying. I suspect that they’ll add to the subscription feature set at some point, but till then, I think it’ll only be taken up by that hardcore user base. But do I think the pricing is about right, and some people will find value in it.

For Twitter, it’s also good to have alternative revenue sources, and it could give them the ability to fund, or at least feel more confident in experimenting with other elements. I think there’s a lot of scope for the platform to generate revenue from other aspects too, like, for example, improvements to TweetDeck, but it makes sense for Twitter to start moving into these types of features, and Twitter Blue is a good first step.

Q: Will Donald Trump ever be allowed back on Twitter or Facebook?

MN: I don’t think that he will – and if he is, it will be some time.

Twitter has been very clear with its stance that Trump is totally banned, and they’re not backing down, so I don’t see that changing. Facebook has left itself some wiggle room, but my suspicion would be that we’ll get to the date when he’s potentially allowed to return, and they’ll find another thing to justify his continued suspension.

I think that Trump will always remain a controversial figure, and you’ll never be able to trust his ability to be moderate or tempered, or rational and reasonable, at least in the way that the platforms would expect from the average user. There’s also a level of legacy and history behind Trump’s behavior online now, and I just don’t think that controversy will ever disappear. So I don’t expect to see him allowed back.

Q: What trend do you personally find most interesting in the evolving social space?

MN: Virtual reality. I’m always interested in the most-geeky, ultra-tech end of social, and this is really a very early stage development we’re seeing in virtual reality, and Facebook and Oculus are seemingly leading the charge, with potentially Snapchat snapping at their heels on AR, and Apple also doing things, while Google may also jump into the race. So I think it’s fun because of the competitive nature of it, given the dominance of one platform is still not established, so it’s largely still up for grabs, which always makes things more interesting in terms of innovation.

It’ll also be interesting to see how social media engagement trends translate to VR, and what the new considerations will be in a whole new environment. It’s quite a dramatic shift, and it’ll take some time to evolve, especially if you subscribe to the idea that the smartphone has a limited shelf-life before we move to the next generation of a core device that sits at the center of our connected life.

So for me, VR is the most exciting and interesting prospect over the next few years of development.

You can subscribe to Matt’s ‘Social Media Geekout’ newsletter for a weekly rundown of all that’s going on in the social media world (which regularly includes many Social Media Today links), while you can also follow Matt on Twitter, join his social media marketing Facebook group and check out his website for further contact info and insight.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

While Facebook is no longer the cool app, especially among younger audiences, it remains a key platform for many users, and its capacity to keep people updated on important updates from friends and family is likely to ensure that many continue to return to the app every day for some time yet.

But more than that, Facebook usage is actually increasing, according to internal insights viewed by The Wall Street Journal, which also include some interesting notes on overall Facebook and Instagram usage trends.

As per WSJ:

Data gathered in the middle of the fourth quarter showed that time spent on [Facebook] was up worldwide, including in developed markets, over the course of a year.”

Which seems unusual, given the subsequent rise of TikTok, and short form video more generally. But actually, Facebook has been able to successfully use the short-form video trend to drive more usage – despite much criticism of the platform’s copycat Reels feature.

Indeed, Reels consumption is up 20%, and has become a key element in Meta’s resurgence.  

How is it finding success? Increased investment in AI, which has driven big improvements in the relevance models that fuel both Reels and its ads, which are also now driving better response.

On Reels, Meta’s systems are getting much better at showing users the Reels content that they’re most likely to be interested in. You’ve likely noticed this yourself – what was initially a mess of random clips inserted into your Facebook feed has now become more focused, and you’re probably finding yourself expanding a Reels clip every now and then, just to see what it’s about.

Reels has actually been too successful:

“Because ads in Reels videos don’t currently sell for as much as those sold against regular posts and stories, Reels’ growing share of content consumption was denting ad revenue. To protect the company’s earnings, the company cut back on promoting Reels, which lowered watch time by 12%.

So again, while Meta has been criticized for stealing TikTok’s format, it’s once again shown, just as it did with Stories, that this is a viable and beneficial pathway to keeping users engaged in its apps.

You might not like it, but replication works in this respect.

But for marketers, it’s likely the development of Meta’s AI targeting tools for ads that’s of most interest.

Over time, many performance advertisers have been increasingly recommending that marketers trust Meta’s AI targeting, with newer offerings like Advantage+ driving strong results, with far less manual targeting effort.

Advantage+ puts almost total trust in Meta’s AI targeting systems. You can choose a couple of targeting options for your campaigns, but for the most part, the process is designed to limit manual impact, in order to let Meta’s systems determine the right audience for your ads.

Which may feel like you’re ceding too much control, but according to Meta, its continued AI investment is now driving better results.

Heavy investment in artificial intelligence tools has enabled the company to improve ad-targeting systems to make better predictions based on less data, according to the interviews and documents […] That, along with shifting to forms of advertising less dependent on harvesting user data from off its platforms, are key to the company’s plans to overcome an Apple privacy change that restricted Meta’s capacity to gather information about what its users do outside its platforms’ walls, the documents show.”

That’s likely worth considering in your process, putting more trust in Meta’s targeting systems to drive better results. At the least, it may be worth experimenting with Meta’s evolving AI for ad targeting. 

It’s not all good news. Meta also notes that while time spent in its apps is on the rise, creation and engagement is declining, with fewer people posting to both Facebook and Instagram than they have in the past.

That’s particularly true among younger audiences, while notably, usage of Instagram Stories is also in decline, down 10% on previous levels.

So while Meta is driving more engagement from Reels, which draws on content from across the app, as opposed to the people and Pages you follow, that’s also led to a decline in user posting.

Is that a bad thing? I mean, logically, engagement is important in keeping people interested in the app, and Meta also relies on those signals to help refine its ad targeting. So it does need users to be sharing their own content too, but if it can get more people spending more time in its apps, that will help it maintain advertiser interest.

In essence, despite all of the reports of Facebook’s demise, it remains a key connective platform, in various ways, while Meta’s improving ad targeting systems are also helping to drive better results, which will keep it as a staple for brands moving forward.

If you were thinking of diversifying your social media marketing spend this year, maybe don’t reduce Facebook investment just yet.

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Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

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Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

Will 2023 be the year of personalization? Consumers hope so. For the past two years, shoppers have been craving the personal touch: In 2021, McKinsey & Company noted that 71% of customers expected companies to deliver personalization. In 2022, a Salesforce survey found that 73% of people expected brands to understand their needs and expectations. So, this year is looking like one where personalization can no longer be seen as a “nice to have.”

The problem, of course, is how to get more personalized. Many companies have already started to dabble in this. They greet shoppers by name on landing pages. They rely on CRMs and other tools to use historical information to send shoppers customized recommendations. They offer personalized, real-time discounts to help buyers convert their abandoned shopping cart items to actual purchases.

These are all great ideas. The only problem is that they’ve become widespread. They don’t move the needle on the customer experience anymore. Instead, they’re standard, expected, and kind of forgettable. That doesn’t mean you can afford to stop doing them. It just means you must devise other ways to pepper personalization throughout your consumer interactions.

If you are scratching your head on how to outdo 2022’s personalization in 2023, try implementing the following strategies:

1. Go for full-blown engagement on social media.

One easy way to give the personal touch is through your social media business pages. Social media use just keeps growing. In 2022, there were about 266 million monthly active users (or MUAs) on Facebook, one billion on Instagram, and 755 million on TikTok. Not all these active users will fall into your target audiences, but plenty of them will.

Make engaging with your social followers one of this year’s goals. People spend a lot of time on social media. It’s where many of them “live,” so it only makes sense that it should be a place to drive personalization.

One quick way to ratchet up your company’s personal touch on social media is to personalize all your retargeted ads. Quizzes can also offer a chance for personalization. Simply set up an engaging quiz and allow people to share their results. It’s a fun way to build brand recognition and bond with consumers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going very personal and answering all comments. Depending on your team’s size and the number of comments you receive, this might be a viable option.

2. Leverage AI to go beyond basic demographics.

Most companies rely on customer demographic information to bolster personalization efforts. The only trouble with this tactic is that demographics can’t tell the whole story. It’s impossible to get a lot of context about individual users (such as their lifestyles, personal preferences, and motivators) just from knowing their age, gender, or location. Though demographic data is beneficial, it can cause some significant misses.

Michael Scharff, CEO and cofounder of Evolv AI, explains the workaround for this problem: “The most natural, and therefore productive, personalization efforts use demographics as a foundation and then layer in user likes, dislikes, behaviors, and values.”

You can leverage AI’s predictive and insightful capabilities to uncover real-time user insights. Scharff recommends this technique because it allows you to stay in sync with the fast-moving pace of consumer behavior changes. He adds that AI can be particularly beneficial with the coming limits to third-party cookie access because it can be a first-party data source, allowing you to maintain customer knowledge and connection.

To flesh out your organization’s strategy, look to other companies that have gone beyond demographics. Take Netflix, for example, which constantly tweaks its AI algorithm to help improve personalized content recommendations. Bottom line? Going deeper than surface information makes all the sense in the world if you want to show customers you know them well.

3. Keep your data spotless.

The better your data, the better your personalization efforts. Period. Unfortunately, you are probably sitting on a lot of unstructured or otherwise tricky-to-use (or impossible-to-use) data. One recent Great Expectations survey revealed that 77% of data practitioners have data quality problems, and 91% say that this is wreaking havoc on their companies’ performance.

You can’t personalize anything with corrupt or questionable data. So, do your best to find ways to clean your data promptly and routinely. For example, you might want to invest in a more centralized data system, particularly if the personalization data you rely on is scattered in various places. Having one repository of data truth makes it easier to know if the information on hand is ready to use.

Another way to tame your data is to automate as many data processes as possible. Reducing manual manipulation of data lessens the chance of human error. And you’ll feel more confident with all your personalization efforts if you can trust the reliability and health of your data.

4. Go for nontechnical personalization.

It’s the digital age, but that doesn’t mean every touchpoint has to be digitized. Consumers often react with delight and positivity when they receive personalization in decidedly nontech forms. (Yes, you can use tech to keep track of everything. Just don’t make it part of the actual personalized exchange!)

Consider writing handwritten thank-you notes to customers after they’ve called in for support or emailed your team, for instance. Or send an extra personalized gift to buyers who make a specific number of purchases. These interactions aren’t technical but can differentiate your customer experience from your competitors’ experiences.

A groundbreaking Deloitte snapshot taken right before the pandemic showed that people were hungry for connection. By folding nondigital experiences into your personalization with customers, you’re showing them that you see them first as valued humans. That’s compelling and appealing, making them more apt to give you their loyalty in return.

Putting a personal spin on all your consumer interactions takes a little time. It’s worth your energy, though. You’ll wind up with stronger brand-buyer connections, helping you edge ahead of your competitors even more.

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

January is, for many, a month of reflection, goal-setting, strategizing and planning for the year ahead. 

In line with this, we’ve kicked off the new year with a series of articles covering the latest stats, tips and strategies to help social media marketers build an effective game plan for 2023.

Below, you’ll find links to our 2023 social media planning series, which includes:

  • Content strategy guidelines to help you define your brand’s content mission and set SMART goals
  • Organic posting tips for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest 
  • Explainers on how to research key topics of interest in your niche, understand the competitive landscape, and help you find your audience and connect with them where they’re active
  • A holiday calendar and notes on the best days and times to post to each of the major platforms

 

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