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What You Missed at SOCi Summit 2023


We recently held our fifth annual SOCi Summit! This two-day event was filled with knowledgeable speakers who addressed multi-location marketing in the era of artificial intelligence (AI). They focused on local search, social, and reputation management sectors. If you couldn’t attend the event or follow along on our social channels for updates, this blog is for you! 


We’ll break down some of the key takeaways from the event and share some of the essential updates your multi-location enterprise can implement to level up its localized marketing strategy. 


Day 1


The World in Sight: AI and the Transformation of Digital Marketing


An image of our keynote speaker, Dex Hunter-Torricke, speaking at SOCi Summit



SOCi Summit kicked off with our keynote speaker, Dex Hunter-Torricke, head of communications and marketing at Google DeepMind. Hunter-Torricke has a unique perspective on some of the most significant technological advancements of our generation. 


During his presentation, Hunter-Torricke shared his vision for how AI and emerging technologies are transforming the world and what this means for brands and consumers.


He also highlighted the profound shift from an industrial to an information-powered economy, an era characterized by the unprecedented speed of technological advancements. The statistics he shared were telling. 


For instance, the average attention span for online content has dwindled to just four seconds, with the average American checking their smartphone 344 times daily. Hunter-Torricke emphasized the transition into the intelligence-powered economy, citing examples of AI’s impact across industries, from AI lawyers reviewing NDAs to healthcare AI accelerating disease research. 


He asked what generative AI means for businesses, especially in marketing. For example, he highlighted the current use of AI for finding restaurants and trip itineraries and the explosive popularity of video content. He introduced the concept of AI-powered video creation to feed this content demand.  


Similarly, Hunter-Torricke discussed the notion of the metaverse as an immersive internet experience and urged attendees to think about metaverse experiences now. Is your business providing potential consumers with immersive experiences? Is video content being leveraged to its fullest potential? These are questions to ask your brand.  


The presentation concluded with a snapshot of the upcoming disruptions, including AI’s impact on healthcare, the emergence of the metaverse, and the exponential growth in immersive content through AR and VR.


SGE, New AI Features in Google Search & How to Respond


Up next was Lily Ray, Senior Director, SEO and Head of Organic Research, Amsive Digital, whose presentation was titled “SGE, New AI Features in Google Search & How to Respond.” The conversation delved into the significant advancements in search technology witnessed this year. 


Highlighting the emergence of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), Ray explained how this transformative tool enables users to opt into seeing synthesized web content presented in conversational results, bridging information from various sources like Google Business Profiles (GBPs), maps, and photos in one place as seen in the example below. 

An image showing SGE for the search "Where can I buy new sneakers?"


SGE allows users to engage with results by liking or disliking them and even offers definition overlays for complex or unfamiliar terms. Ray discussed the benefits of SGE, which include real-time content summarization and the ability to look at multiple types of search results in one place. 


Despite these advancements, Ray outlined several ongoing challenges, including:

  • Inaccuracies
  • Source link issues
  • Bias concerns
  • Potential for spamming, particularly in local results 


While SGE does have challenges, it’s still worth exploring. Ray encouraged attendees to sign up for trials to use Google’s SGE, monitor their pages in SGE, and ensure consistent, reliable information across external sites by including updated and accurate information in local listings, local landing pages, and store locators. 


To conclude, Ray emphasized that when adopted more widely, SGE will provide broader and deeper sources of information. 


Unlocking Success: How AI is Reshaping Social Media Marketing for Multi-Location Enterprises


Erik Reyes, Product Marketing Manager at Meta, discussed how AI is reshaping social media marketing for multi-location enterprises. He highlighted the significant impact of AI on advertising conversions, citing a 20 percent year-over-year increase. To support this increase, Reyes emphasized Meta’s investment in processing vast amounts of data to optimize ad delivery and mentioned the company’s commitment to responsible AI use.


Diving further into AI, Reyes introduced Meta’s new AI features, including the AI Sandbox, which offers text variation, background generation, and image outcropping to enhance ad creatives. He stressed the importance of hybrid shopping experiences, where the online-to-in-store journey is increasingly common, and social media plays a pivotal role in driving in-store traffic and purchases.


To provide hybrid shopping experiences, Meta is committed to omnichannel solutions, including the Conversions API for Offline, to help businesses connect their online, app, and in-store data for better ad targeting and measurement. If your business isn’t providing local customers with these omnichannel experiences, you may fall behind competitors. 


Client Panel: AI and the Customer Journey: Exploring the Transformative Impact on Customer Experience


During SOCi Summit’s “AI and the Customer Journey: Exploring the Transformative Impact on Customer Experience,” moderated by SOCi CPO Falk Gottlob, marketing leaders from Ace Hardware, SPB Hospitality, and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) discussed how they’re leveraging AI to enhance customer experiences and engagement in digital channels. 


They emphasized the need to approach AI enthusiastically and pragmatically, focusing on areas where it can improve processes. 


The panelists stressed the importance of staying true to their brand promises while incorporating AI innovations into their strategies. Additionally, they discussed the transformative role of AI in shaping the future of customer service and digital engagement at the local level.


If your multi-location enterprise is unsure where to start when it comes to AI, check out our recent webinar recording CMO Masterclass: Transforming Localized Marketing With Generative AI


A black and green CTA for the webinar on transforming localized marketing through generative AI


How Walmart Leverages Search to Drive Retail Conversions


An image of SOCi's Bobby Ferla and Walmart's Brian Moore speaking together on stage at SOCi Summit


In a fireside chat entitled “How Walmart Leverages Search to Drive Retail Conversions,” with SOCi’s Bobby Ferla, Director, Sales, and Brian Moore, Senior Product Manager at Walmart, we gained insights into Walmart’s highly advanced localized marketing strategy. 


The conversation focused on the pivotal role of search. Moore discussed Walmart’s approach to digital marketing for retail, emphasizing the use of onsite SEO and GBPs to boost product availability and stimulate both online and offline conversions. 


Moore also touched on the challenges and nuances of leveraging AI tools like ChatGPT for scalable content creation and highlighted the importance of thorough testing and staying ahead of emerging trends in the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.



Ask the Experts: The Localized Marketing Wheel of Fortune


In our final day one session, we had a panel of experts hosted by our very own Damian Rollison, Director of Marketing Insights. In “Ask the Experts: The Localized Marketing Wheel of Fortune,” the panel emphasized that AI isn’t replacing existing marketing strategies but rather enhancing and optimizing them. 


When speaking about AI, the experts stressed the importance of authenticity in content, emphasizing that people prefer real-life experiences over polished branded materials. While AI can help with content creation, a human touch is often still needed. 


Regarding localized marketing best practices, they recommended placing short-form videos that focus on infotainment, at the top of the marketing funnel and conversion-oriented content at the bottom. They also advised businesses to pay attention to customers’ questions and inquiries through various channels like Google Q&A, direct messages, reviews, or phone calls to stores and let these insights inform their video content creation efforts.


If your business already leverages some of these tactics, you’re off to a good start! If not, these are essential to consider. 


Day 2


AI and The Future of Multi-Location Marketing


An image of SOCi CEO Afif Khoury speaking on stage at SOCi Summit


After an insightful first day, day two started with another keynote from SOCi CEO Afif Khoury. In the presentation “AI and The Future of Multi-Location Marketing,” Khoury focused on the transformative role of AI in multi-location marketing


During his presentation, he highlighted the challenges of managing digital marketing across numerous locations and emphasized that traditional methods lead to suboptimal results. 


Khoury discussed the importance of adopting AI effectively, cautioning against siloed data and emphasizing the need for consolidating data across all channels and locations. In addition to data consolidation, multi-location businesses should consider adopting a platform with tools across major channels and choose a platform partnered with major AI solutions and experienced in training AI models. 


That’s where SOCi comes in! SOCi answers this data-driven challenge, with AI playing a central role in its vision. The talk concluded with a glimpse into SOCi Genius, highlighting its potential as a game-changer in the multi-location marketing landscape. You can learn more about SOCi Genius here


The High Cost of Invisibility for Multi-Location Enterprises


Next up, in the presentation titled “The High Cost of Invisibility for Multi-Location Enterprises,” SOCi CMO Monica Ho and Director of Market Insights Damian Rollison shared key findings from SOCi’s research report also titled The High Cost of Invisibility for Multi-Location Enterprises. 


The report reveals that the lack of local visibility in digital channels is costing multi-location businesses millions. These costs include an average of: 

  • $17.7 million for retail brands due to invisibility and lack of engagement in search
  • $5.3 million from unaddressed reviews
  • $1.1 million from poor social media engagement.


 As you can see, brands aren’t meeting consumers’ digital needs. The session emphasized the necessity of strategic localized marketing efforts beyond paid advertising, advocating for a combination of optimized ranking factors across search, social media, and top review sites. 


The success of the top 10 Local Visibility Index (LVI) performers, who grow twice as fast as the average multi-location business, highlighted the potential for substantial gains when addressing local visibility effectively.


Download the full report to learn more about what it takes to dominate your brand’s local visibility. 


A green and black CTA encouraging users to download The High Cost of Invisibility for Multi-Location Enterprises



Nurturing Local Visibility: A Brand Case Study


In the SOCi Summit presentation titled “Nurturing Local Visibility: A Brand Case Study,” Dmitri Pivtorak, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Pet Supplies Plus, and Chad Jordan, Director of Sales from SOCi, shed light on the localized marketing practices that have catapulted Pet Supplies Plus to the forefront of their industry. Pet Supplies Plus is the most improved brand in LVI history! From 2022 to 2023, the brand increased its overall local visibility rank from 44 to 5 — an impressive 39 points


Notably, Pet Supplies Plus has significantly improved its local ranking on Google, with a 1.7 average ranking for listings related to pet supplies near their locations and an impressive 96 percent of their locations appearing in the coveted Google 3-pack. 


Their success was attributed to strategic approaches like leveraging Google Posts to promote offers, enhancing profile completeness, optimizing local landing pages, and prioritizing well-optimized Google profiles focusing on local photos. Pet Supplies Plus also explained their focused strategies on review response and social media engagement. 


Pet Supplies Plus is an excellent example of a brand that has seen actual results by optimizing its localized marketing efforts through a partnership with SOCi. 


Top Tactics for Connecting with Local Consumers


For our final session of SOCi Summit, we heard once more from Google! Lisa Landsman, Head of Business Development for Local Vertical Partnerships at Google, led the session “Top Tactics for Connecting with Local Consumers.” 


Landsman emphasized the evolving landscape of Google search, which has increasingly emphasized the importance of visual elements. She underscored the significance of this shift for local search and highlighted Google’s role in driving billions of free direct connections for American businesses. 


Landsman then delved into five key tactics businesses can leverage to connect effectively with local consumers:


1. Be There When Customers Are Looking for You: This involves claiming and verifying your business on Google Maps and ensuring your core business information is up to date, significantly boosting your credibility and attracting more customers.


2. Be Relevant By Showcasing Your Offerings: Your business profile is vital, and labels, badges, photos, and videos make it appealing. The presentation stressed the importance of updating your offerings and attributes, especially in industries like food and beverage, where 84 percent of users look up menus online before deciding on a restaurant.


3. Be Ready When Users Are Looking to Take Action: Google aims to create a rich discovery experience for users to engage with businesses. This includes offering online booking and ordering features, which customers increasingly expect and are necessary for businesses in relevant industries.


4. Be Engaged with Your Customers: Connecting with customers through local channels, showcasing and responding to feedback and reviews, and keeping customers informed about events and deals through business posts are all vital for fostering customer engagement.


5. Insights Drive Actions: The presentation also emphasized the importance of tracking Google Business Profile performance through insights reporting to drive actionable strategies based on customer interactions and behaviors. 


As you can see, our 2023 SOCi Summit covered an incredible number of insights and learnings.


Those who attended had a lot of insightful thoughts and comments! From the quality of the speakers to calling it a worthwhile investment, those who attended the event had a lot of great things to say. 


We’re already looking forward to next year’s SOCi Summit and learning more about the world of AI in multi-location marketing! 


If your multi-location enterprise needs help managing anything from local social to reputation management to local listings, social listening, and beyond, SOCi Genius has you covered. 


To learn more about how SOCi can help your multi-location business crush its localized marketing efforts, request a demo today!



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Darcy Bickham

As SOCi’s Content Marketing Manager, Darcy Bickham specializes in creating the strategy and developing the content around both localized and digital marketing trends for the SOCi brand. Through her content writing, Darcy has helped to position SOCi as the marketing platform for multi-location brands.

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