At the end of each year I take time to reflect on the year that was and the one that lies ahead. I spend most of my time listening to radio stations, talking to people, and creating content, but gaining knowledge of new technology and business opportunities, developing trends, and areas where the radio business should further invest its energy is equally important to me. I read a ton each day to stay sharp, but there’s no substitute for on-site education. It helps me grow personally, relationships increase, and it serves as a benefit to my clients who can’t always leave their office for industry shows.
One goal I had entering 2019 was to change up where I was spending my time. I’ve been a steady presence at a number of industry conferences over the past few years, many of which are excellent. But I began to find myself more focused on networking and supporting friends because the subject matter wasn’t stuff I hadn’t heard before. That doesn’t mean the content wasn’t good, just that I was probably at too many similar events.
As a result, I decided this year to go to CES instead of NAB Las Vegas. I also decided to trade my attendance at the Podcast Movement conference to see what Social Media Marketing World 2019 was all about. I discovered that CES was interesting, but not vital for me to be at each year. On the other hand, SMMW was tremendous, and an event I will go to again. The fact that it takes place in a gorgeous city like San Diego and provides an opportunity to connect with friends from all three local sports stations is an added bonus.
Unlike past conferences though I didn’t want to rush my recap of the event. There was so much to absorb, and rather than trying to rush out the content, I wanted to step back, process the information, and share what I felt was most valuable from the sessions I attended.
At the 2019 BSM Summit, I hosted a session looking at opportunities for sports radio to grow its business. I talked about the industry needing to take advantage of new categories because the reality is that advertising dollars are projected over the next few years to grow in digital and not much else. We can bitch and moan about it all we want, but this is where dollars are shifting. I urged format folks to get more serious about merchandising and education because there are revenue opportunities in both. Maybe I’ll tackle that further in an upcoming column.
That’s a big part of why I went to Social Media Marketing World 2019. I saw it as an opportunity to gain information in an area that is critical to our business from people who understand and use it better than radio does. Over the course of three days I took a ton of notes and captured nearly two hundred photos from Powerpoint presentations on stage. It was a productive use of my time, but there was one thing missing.
More than five thousand marketers, influencers, social strategists, and business people were present at the event, but guess how many were there from the sports radio industry?
Even worse, I went thru SMMW’s Whova app (which is fantastic) which shows you the profiles of every person attending and allows you to search for people by job title, company, industry, etc.. I looked for people by the name of their radio companies, and with the key words ‘radio, podcast, host, sports, media’, etc. hoping to find others from our industry there. All of that searching resulted in locating 5-6 radio people at the conference, all from other formats and smaller radio groups.
I didn’t expect a room full of hosts and programmers at this show, but I was stunned by the lack of attendance from radio’s digital, marketing, and sales members. We are operating in a digital world. The audience starts and ends their day on social media, and the last time I looked radio wasn’t king of the financial jungle on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. If an event is offering information and access to people who can help you further grow your audience and revenue in the spaces you need help in, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?
Though we all realize that digital is key to the present and future, it changes rapidly. Look at these images below which show the top global brands over an 8 year period. The same thing happens in media. It’s why you constantly have to educate yourself because what exists now, may not tomorrow.
What I loved about this conference is that whether you were a host, programmer, seller, GM, marketing/digital director, there was something for everyone. It was impossible to attend every session since there were 5-6 happening at once, but there were a few that stood out which I want to relay some details from.
For content people, the sessions with Alex Khan and Chris Strub were excellent. Khan shared tips of how to improve content with the apps BIGVU, Shakr and Belive.TV. He also showed how to schedule and promote your live streams on Facebook and Instagram, create split screen conversations, and circumvent algorithms to reach more of your audience using Facebook Live. One particular trick he shared involving the Like button drew a lot of laughs and was very clever.
Strub meanwhile dedicated his focus to Twitter and introduced the room to Twitonomy. The app gives users a deeper dive into their Twitter data which helps with identifying your Alpha’s (Radio’s P1’s), what days and times they talk to you, and the topics they’re most interested in. Strub recommended using Hashtracking to find others who are similar to your most passionate fans. He also cautioned to keep an eye on who’s interacting with you and not be afraid to unfollow those who aren’t adding value to your Twitter experience.
The session with Strub also included strategic tips on how to best utilize Twitter lists and three ways to improve your authority on the platform: Leveling Up Your Circle, The Thank You Economy, and Becoming a ‘Prosumer’ (a person or individual that both consumes and produces media, content, or even goods). Strub gave six tips to improve ‘prosumer’ status and shared a personal story along with examples of how it’s helped him gain business opportunities.
On the business end, Neal Schaffer of Maximize Your Social was excellent. His points on brands being built to advertise not socialize was right on the money. I wrote about this subject two years ago and highlighted how many sports radio brands weren’t actively engaging with their fans. We tend to do the same thing on social media that we do on the radio, push content at people. Except we don’t control the outcome on social channels like we do on our airwaves – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do. There’s nothing ‘social’ about pushing articles and advertiser discounts at the audience.
Schaffer showed some case studies to support his stance on why brands are wiser to build social businesses around influencers rather than thru brand pages. He highlighted the advantage influencers have of forming a personal bond with the audience, engaging more, and being able to tell stories that a brand can’t. The costs are more affordable and clients are made to feel part of something special and intimate rather than lost in the noise. The ROI is also greater over the long-term.
For those interested in data and how to perform better on the web, Dan Shure and Andy Crestodina did a fantastic job. Each of their sessions covered a range of topics including campaign tracking for email and ads, how to rank higher in Google Search, how to improve your click thru optimization, tricks to improving conversions, and how to better use and understand Google Analytics. Crestodina supplied a video link which is worth your time if you’re interested in learning more.
As far as key takeaways are concerned, Shure mentioned that 95% of SEO Success for blogs involves planning topics around ranking gaps. That was very interesting. I was surprised by Crestodina’s comments on 1 in 3 marketers not knowing which tactics have the biggest impact on the success of their campaigns. He also made a great point when he said “it’s not always the best content that wins, it’s the best promoted content that wins.”
There was plenty of big picture analysis provided as well. I specifically enjoyed Michael Stelzner and Mari Smith‘s presentations. Stelzner’s session stressed the importance of making a big difference with a small group of people rather than creating a small impact on a large group. Michael went over why Facebook has been less successful with video than YouTube, reminding the audience that Facebook is a platform that thrives on people connecting, NOT on content. The opposite is true of YouTube.
It was interesting to learn that YouTube has 1.9 BILLION users per month, and 1 billion hours of content watched daily. Instagram Stories has also grown from 100 million to 500 million daily users in less than 3 years. Stats like that further supported Michael’s position that marketers need to make both a bigger part of their business strategy. According to Stelzner, 43% of marketers don’t use YouTube and 62% aren’t using Instagram Stories. Sports radio brands should be thinking about this as well.
Mari’s time on stage covered a ton of ground too starting with the evolution of Facebook. Smith said you can learn and understand the platform’s future direction best by simply paying attention and reading thru the lines. She gave some great examples to support that position.
Like Stelzner, Mari has great confidence in Instagram Stories being a valuable and cost friendly space for marketers. She took time to draw attention to the expected rise of chatbots and messenger marketing and relayed some great information on apps delivering big audiences overseas such as WeChat, which she says Facebook could look to create their own version of in the states. The app TikTok was another one she highlighted which I’ve since been getting familiar with.
The highlight though of her session involved her strategic approach to helping businesses create successful marketing campaigns on Facebook. She shared her ‘Mari Method’ which stresses 70% of content on Facebook being video, 20% images, and 10% a combination of links and text. She explained why it’s best to keep video content between 7-20 minutes, build custom audiences, and necessary to put ad budget against your content. I was stunned to hear how little of our content is seen by those who follow us on Facebook.
Trying to capture all that transpired over the span of 3 days is impossible. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest going on to Twitter and typing in the hashtag #SMMW19. You will have a sea of tweets to navigate but there’s no shortage of great stuff in there.
If there was an overlying message from the event, it was that social media requires human interaction, constant adjusting, and the opportunities for business are endless. This was my first experience at SMMW and I felt they provided a strong group of speakers who covered a ton of subjects that relate to our industry. I walked out of the door smarter than I did when I walked in.
I would encourage my friends in radio to get out there next year. There’s an abundance of information available to help your brand make a bigger impact in the social space, and if digital is where the money is moving, then that should be incentive enough for you to be in San Diego. The sunshine and scenery aren’t bad either!