For the last three years, there has been one must-attend event for anyone involved in social media marketing... which is anyone with a business. Social Media Marketing World exploded onto the scene in 2013 with 1,200 people. This year's event at the San Diego Convention Center had 3,000 people in attendance with another 1,100 watching online.
They weren't disappointed.
What they heard, in between the karaoke and the networking and the selfies on USS Midway, was incredibly entertaining and informative. It was also vital.
Social media is changing. It used to be about smart tweets and customer service, and a willingness to engage in comments. Then marketers noticed that images won bigger reach and more engagement than text, and video did best of all.
Now we're entering a new era. As Snapchat has shrugged off its early teen image and become a real alternative entertainment channel, live video has become the most important form of content. For many social media marketers, that's a big a puzzle as Twitter was when it launched. It's a completely new way of thinking and an entirely different approach to content marketing. It's now essential.
"The role of the social marketer now includes more than just posting updates and commenting," Michael Stelzner, founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, the event's organizer, told me. "It involves audio, video, live video and image creation."
Attendees, who included the heads of social media teams at companies such as BMW, Canon USA, Dell, Intel, State Farm, Verizon, and Walmart, have already noticed. One presentation noted that 14 percent of marketers are already using live video but 50 percent planned to use or increase their use of live video this year.
So workshops at the conference focused on video production, speaking skills and visual design. There were keynotes and sessions about live video and especially about Snapchat, a company that Facebook had tried and failed to buy for $3 billion in 2013. It was the brand mentioned most often by attendees in the social media posts they sent from the conference.
That focus on Snapchat might sound like a huge waste. The app's content is temporary; after 24 hours it's gone. But what marketers have found in practice is that it creates urgency. Users understand that if they fail to come back every day, they've lost their chance. There's no catch-up on Snapchat.
So audiences were told to keep their snaps short so that people can't consume all their content, to keep snapping to ensure that their snaps remained at the top of story flows, and not to ask people to use the Snapchat code but to give them a reason to follow. As Gary Vaynerchuk put it in his presentation: "Snapchat is the reality TV for everyone."
if you're still shooting social media videos in landscape mode and uploading them then you needed to be at Social Media Marketing World to find out what you're missing.
Social media marketing is now a mature industry. It's staffed by professionals with giant marketing budgets and years of experience. But it's changing direction and at Social Media Marketing World this year, we found out where it's going.