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SMT Expert Series: Mari Smith Speaks of the Short-Form Video Progress, Facebook Marketing and Live-S

Mari Smith is a name you've probably heard if you've done any research or work in social media marketing.

Mari has been appearing at digital marketing events all over the world since 2007, and has collaborated with a wide range of well-known companies to help them establish efficient digital marketing, live-streaming, Facebook and Instagram ads, and other strategies.

Mari has authored books on the subject, developed a significant online community around her advice, and was even hired by Facebook to lead its 'Boost Your Business' events series, which was aimed to help small businesses master crucial Facebook marketing techniques.

Mari has gained unique insight into essential best practices and noteworthy trends as a result of her experiences. Mari recently answered a few questions regarding the changing digital marketing landscape.

Q: In the last few years, what do you believe has been the most significant trend in social media marketing?

MS: Short-form video, such as Stories, on Instagram, Facebook (and Messenger), and soon Instagram Reels (which is also being rolled out on Facebook).

Facebook announced in 2016 that it had run out of ad inventory in the News Feed, forcing the company to hunt for new content channels to put advertising in. The circumstances were perfect for Instagram to mimic Snapchat's popular transient Stories content format that same year.

As a marketer, it never made sense to me to invest time and effort into developing content that would evaporate in less than 24 hours; yet, we've all had to adopt this format, and it may truly perform exceptionally well to support "top of feed top of mind" awareness.

Furthermore, Stories could be a far more engaging content format, as it's pretty simple to persuade your audience to interact via DMs after seeing Stories material.

Q: Over the previous 12 months, which platforms and/or features have yielded the best outcomes for your clients?

MS: It's a mix of Facebook Live and chatbots, to be precise.

The most organic reach and engagement come from Facebook live-streaming videos, but consistency is crucial. We must ‘train' the algorithms by broadcasting live on a regular basis – for example, once a week for a month – before the organic reach begins to considerably increase.

So you use Facebook Live to give some of your finest content, education, advice, and so on, but you also use calls-to-action to pull your audience into the DMs, where you can use chatbot sequences to optimize your opportunities.

Q: Which feature(s) do you believe are underappreciated in terms of marketing?

MS: Groups on Facebook. Although this may not be appropriate for all sorts of businesses, groups can be quite effective in fostering a fiercely loyal following. Connect your group to your Facebook page, and give individuals a clear incentive to join.

For example, I've been running my own Social Scoop group on Facebook for several years, and it's really taken off in the last few years. My team and I provide helpful suggestions, news, and updates, and members provide amazing peer support.

My group serves as a lead magnet at the top of the funnel, while also strengthening ties with my audience.

Q: What, in your opinion, is the key to a successful Facebook marketing strategy?

MS: I created an evergreen strategy for creating measurable outcomes on Facebook that would outlast any changes, updates, or new features introduced by Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues.

The formula is straightforward: Content + Engagement + Conversion. Rinse. Repeat.

Everything starts with high-quality content that your audience wants, finds extremely valuable, and feels motivated to share with their own audiences. Then, respond to comments, acknowledge shares, and embrace Facebook Live on a daily basis.

However, conversion is always the most important part of the equation. It's critical to get your social media activity to produce traffic, leads, and purchases, and the best way to accomplish so is to include those all-important CTAs and make it clear and evident what you sell, where to learn more, and how to buy, among other things.

Q: What is a crucial lesson you've learned that has helped you enhance your live-streaming approach?

MS: By utilizing the appropriate hardware and software.

In my home studio, I changed from a webcam to a DSLR camera a few years ago, and it's made a huge difference. You'll also need the proper lighting and a good microphone.

I've been engaged by a variety of brands to deliver live-streaming instructional seminars, and also appearing as a guest on BBC Newsnight and other TV programs during my career. The hosts of these programs and events usually compliment me on how professional I look on camera.

Certainly, less-polished live-streams via our mobile devices have their place, but spending a little more money on a simple, high-end studio setup can actually put you way ahead above the competition, allowing you to make more revenue as a result.

Q: Do you believe Apple's new ATT upgrade will have a significant influence on Facebook and Instagram ads?

MS: To some extent.

The problem is that the cookie is collapsing, and I've been amused by Facebook's direct attack on Apple on this subject.

Personally, I'm particularly fond of #TeamApple, just like I'm a big supporter of Facebook. I believe in giving users a choice and allowing each of us to secure our personal information. I get why many marketers are concerned about the impact of Apple's ATT update, but there's already been signs of it for some time, and we're in the midst of a major shift in online marketing and ad tracking.

Last year, Google stated that the Chrome browser would no longer support cookies by 2022. Now is the time for marketers to be innovative with first-party data.

Q: What are your thoughts on Instagram Reels and their marketing potential?

MS: In terms of organic reach and discovery, Instagram now favors Reels the most, so now is a wonderful moment for marketers to adopt this content format as much as possible while the reach is still so great.

Even if a marketer doesn't want to take the time and effort to build organic Reels, now that advertisements have recently been launched worldwide in Reels, there's a significant chance to reach more of their audiences through sponsored placement. Facebook is also experimenting with the option to share Instagram Reels to Facebook, which was recently expanded.

Reels, similar to Instagram Stories in 2016, is only going to get bigger. Remember, it's all about increasing ad inventory and, of course, being as competitive as possible.

Instagram's CEO, Adam Mosseri, recently remarked that TikTok is one of the most formidable adversaries the company has ever faced.

Q: In the next five years, what developments do you believe will have the most impact on Facebook marketing?

MS: The comprehensive eCommerce experience across the entire Facebook family of applications and services.

Mark Zuckerberg stated his goal to improve interoperability between his company's three primary messaging systems, Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp, in early 2019. At first, the goal was to make it simple for users to connect on their preferred platform, but the major goal now is to deliver a comprehensive multi-platform store product for retailers of all types - and possibly, in the future, for service and information-based enterprises as well.

With the integration of Messenger and Instagram Direct, as well as Facebook's ownership of CRM platform Kustomer, the capability to provide a seamless in-app, end-to-end purchasing experience will eventually be unmatched. Also, keep in mind that the more Facebook apps that can be baked together, the less likely they are to get "unbaked."

AR/VR (creating the "next computing platform," as Zuckerberg calls it), payments via Facebook Pay, and Facebook's digital token, Diem, are three more major areas that will have an impact on marketers over the next five years.

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