What do you get when top social media strategists and thought leaders gather in one room? SOCi Summit 2019.

The recent leading localized digital marketing gathering, Nov. 4-6 in Austin at the iconic South Congress Hotel, featured more than a dozen sessions packed with insights and key tactics to connect authentically in our fast-changing hyper-connected world.

The invite-only event was sold out, but don’t despair. We’ve got your highlights and top takeaways below:

Communication Needs to Benefit the User

Pioneering tech ethicist and writer David Ryan Polgar kicked off the high-powered speaker lineup with the keynote, “Humanizing Your Brand: Tech Ethics, Digital Citizenship & Digital Wellness.” Polgar’s All Tech is Human initiative aims to promote the use of technology for good in the midst of often muddled media messages.

“Although we like to call social media a public square, it is a public square subsidized by advertising” says Polgar, a creator and co-host of the New York-based Funny as Tech podcast.

The future of social media is intentional, active interaction versus passive scrolling using the following elements of humanized branding:

  • Has identifiable personality traits
  • Converses instead of shouts 
  • Ages appropriately 
  • Showcases empathy 
  • Doesn’t act omnipresent
  • Is Self-Aware

The takeaway: People long for positive interaction and relate to brands as individuals. The challenge and ultimate goal are to add value to the social media experience.

Zero Friction

Conference-goers cozied up for “A Fireside Chat” with Facebook technology veteran Phillip Rather and SOCi’s Vice President of Business Development, Richard Lumsden on the hot topic of friction—social media’s buzzword to describe anything that holds a shopper up as they move through the buyer’s journey. Rather, Facebook’s Head of Local, shared this staggering statistic: four in 10 people leave a mobile site after just three seconds of delay. His solution: be mobile obsessed.

“The mobile commerce dress rehearsal is over,” notes Rather. “Every department–be it marketing, sales or technology–should have mobile as the North Star.” 

Time is the new commodity, and speed is a uniform need. People have higher expectations when they reach for their smartphones. Marketers must live up to those beliefs with mobile and can get the job with Facebook Messenger Marketing—particularly for the mid to lower funnel business objectives of consideration, purchase, and reengagement.

Consider these stats:

  •  74 percent expect messaging to enable better customer experiences.
  • Over 50 percent of people say that they’re more likely to shop with a business they can message. 
  •  More than 61 percent say messaging is the easiest, most convenient way to contact a business.

Rather recommends leveraging Facebook’s family of apps to drive discovery of the messaging experience. This could be Stories ads linking from Facebook or Instagram, or Facebook feed ads that click to Messenger.

The takeaway: Building for the consumers of today will take time and company-wide support. But the rewards will far outweigh the costs. Create opportunities for conversation at every stage of the customer’s journey.

Everyone Loves a Good Story

Brand-driven storytelling is a “creative canvas” to connect with customers at the local level. Instagram Business Marketing pro, Travis Tan shared how in “The Essentials of Visual Storytelling.” Stories drive interest and action through the customer journey. Great stories are 100 percent interactive.

Consider these stats:

  • 56 percent of people say they use Stories on three or more platforms at least once a week. 
  • 1 billion – that’s the number of Instagram Stories that are posted by users every day.
  • 65 percent of users agree that Stories help them feel closer and more up-to-date with friends.
  • 57 percent of users agree that Stories make them feel a part of a larger community. 

The takeaway: In today’s visual world, Instagram Stories have empowered users to show up in creative ways that were previously non-existent. Therefore, it is imperative for businesses to speak the same visual language as your customers: Play more. Use native tools to tell your story and connect with people in new and unexpected ways.

Google My Business: It Matters

After looking at 20,000-plus Google My Business (GMB) Profiles digital marketing specialist David Mihm can prove the power of GMB. Mihm, ThriveHive’s Vice President of Product Strategy, talked about the opportunities and shared how business and consumers are using GMB in “Google My Business: What National Brands Can Learn from SMBs.”

  • A surprising percentage of small businesses select just a single GMB category, even in highly competitive industries. Secondary categories on GMB are local SEO 101.
  • The feature improvements announced by the GMB team around business photos earlier this summer seem to be having a real impact.
  • As we would expect, there is a powerful correlation between review volume and GMB performance. The strength of the association, however, is surprising. 

The takeaway: GMB should be your starting point for digital marketing. There is a huge opportunity for national brands to capture lots of low-hanging fruit. There are marketers that are not fully realizing the potential of GMB, so those that do are ahead of their competitors. 

  • Google Post value: jury still out…the value seems minimal right now, however, marketers should still utilize this feature as another touchpoint with consumers. Only 35 percent of SMBs have poted on GMB.
  • Google Q&A: 91 percent of questions from prospective customers on GMB have yet to be answered by business owners. Marketers must recognize the value of this customer curated Q&A feature. 
  • Owner-supplied photos: Increasingly visible/important. 
  • Zero-click SERPs: 50 percent of local searches in Google are zero-click searches. They are directionally accurate, but websites are still relevant. 
  • Reviews: Central to visibility and conversion – ranking factors two – 15 have something to do with reviews. Reviews are critical to helping your GMB profile showing up more frequently.
  • Google Maps: Underappreciated as a discovery portal. Where are impressions happening on GMB? 30 percent on search and 70 percent on Maps – that is huge for businesses. 

Use Technology for Good

Inspiration overflowed during “The Power of Social Causes Influence and Inclusion,” presented by best friends and Only Human founders Crissy Saint-Massey and Bree Pear. 

What started as a personal blog and story sharing on Instagram, now has become a global platform for good. The pair use technology and social channels to unite humans of all kinds through story-sharing, cause campaigns, give-back trips, and more — both online and in real life. 

The takeaway: Strive to make an impact with income. Humanize your brand. Make real-life connections. Focus on social responsibility. Align with brands that share your values. 

Local Reigns Supreme

Local social is here to stay. Mindstream, SOCi and other social pros addressed trends and strategies to harness local at scale to build on-brand equity, generate leads and market share, and discover valuable insights at every level of the company.

A local search is the first thing a consumer does to find or uncover more information about a business near them – with the best options pre-sorted based on hundreds and thousands of online consumer comments and reviews. At the end of the day — platforms like Google and Facebook know that consumers want convenience (i.e. something nearby), and quality and the top players in this stack earn the conversion. Ratings and reviews have become not only a top local search ranking factor – but the top factor consumers use to determine where they want to do business.

The future is messaging to drive personal connections.

  • 87 percent of the global smartphone population messages.
  • 64 percent of people would choose messaging over picking up the phone or sending an email.
  • 67 percent of people prefer the messaging app to interact with businesses around the world.

Top Trends for 2020

Consumers have gone digital. 98 percent of digital users are reached through social media and one out of three digital minutes is spent on a social platform. And social has gone local. Seventy-five percent of brand engagements are happening on local pages. Experiences that consumers are sharing on social are local, recommendations that consumers post are local, and digital conversations that customers are having with your brand are local. To prepare your strategy, you must be aware of the following trends: 

  • The line between search and social is continuously becoming more blurred. 
  • Maps and navigation are the new search engine. 
  • The rise of zero-click searches.
  • Local reviews have become the real social influencer. 
  • Real-time conversations are the new conversion.

The takeaways: Brands should have 100 percent of locations pages claimed and built out with accurate content and images. Develop a local content strategy focused on increasing high-valued engagements. Monitor and respond to reviews: critical reviews should be addressed in 24 hours. To help improve conversions ensure you are managing your reviews and actively testing messenger and chatbots to cut down the time consumers have to wait on a response.

When done right, local social can help you reach 98 percent of your digital consumers. Having a presence in localized search and social ensures your business can be found where your consumers are already actively looking.

Phew! We told you, lots of insight packed into one event and these are just a few takeaways.

If you’re a current customer suffering from a little FOMO in not being able to attend, contact your Customer Success Manager on how we can implement some of these insights for your account. And if you’d like to see a quick recap of the event, check out our video:

If you’re still a future SOCi user, let’s change that. Click here to request a demo today.

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