Back… To The Future? Michael Stelzner and Social Media Marketing World 2023
Is social media dead?
That was the question that Michael Stelzner (Michael A. Stelzner here on Medium) posited to the assembled crowd during the keynote address for the 10th annual Social Media Marketing World, which started today in San Diego. According to several media outlets, it is. Pieces from outlets like The Atlantic, VICE, and others seemed to indicate that social media as it stands now, is dead in the water, and that we are transitioning into a post-social media world.
Stelzner, however, has a different view.
According to data presented by data.ai, total hours spent on social media apps has consistently risen over the years, with almost 2 trillion hours spent in 2022 alone by users. Data shared by Facebook indicates that Facebook alone has 2.93 billion monthly active users alone, the “highest it’s ever been” (Mark Zuckerberg). A recent study published by Hootsuite shows “Out of 5.3 billion global Internet users, 3.71 billion people use at least one Meta app every month: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp. Many use more than one.” (Hootsuite, “42 Facebook Statistics”)
And with this massive number of people utilizing the platform, Stelzner believes that there is a “massive sea change” coming.
Social Media Examiner (the outfit that produces SMMW every year) has conducted a yearly research survey of marketers, and the most recent survey has produced some interesting results:
- Social Media Marketers prioritize Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin as their top 3 platforms for seeking leads
- These same marketers believe that Instagram, Youtube, and Tiktok are the top 3 platforms for increasing exposure
- If they were given the choice to only use 1 platform, marketers chose Facebook first (45%), followed by Instagram (22%) and all others (33%).
It still appears that it’s Facebook’s world, and we all live in it.
Which then brings us to a new problem: if we need to use Facebook as marketers trying to generate leads and exposure, what works and what doesn’t? In Stelzner’s talk, what doesn’t work, is… business as usual.
Normally, brands have been pushing content through normal channels: a Facebook page, a group, etc. Based off of Facebook’s data, content published through a page or group saw -48% and -25% drops respectively in feed views between Q1 and Q4 in 2022. Quite the drop indeed. What has produced an increase in feed views, however, is a “new” category: “unconnected” content (+44%).
“Unconnected” content (referred to by Meta as “unconnected distribution”) comes “through other users sharing and resharing your posts or from our recommendations in our “Suggested for You” sections. (Meta)” This means that recommendations, rather than direct sharing, is producing more exposure and interaction among audiences. Stelzner revealed that this process has been prompted by Facebook’s shift from solely showing you things from people you follow, to recommendations delivered to users from an AI-based recommendation system.
It’s the content that matters. -Michael Stelzner
With this “sea change” at hand, potentially a third of content may be delivered to a user through friend re-sharing of content, or totally “unconnected” content (19% and 17%, respectively). Stelzner shared the example of content creator Austin Armstrong, who re-crafted his personal profile into a content generation “page” and saw an exponential growth among follower counts and content exposure and engagement. This was done through consistent content generation on both Reels and text-based image posts on his profile. Using these two elements, Armstrong utilized Facebook’s Professional Mode and these content strategies to create massive growth.
Facebook is diving head-long into encouraging people to generate content and place it on the platform; it has actually paid outlets to encourage and train people to do this. And with the massive growth in Reels between Facebook and Instagram (Meta has stated that 140 billion reel plays a day are occurring between the two platforms; Meta), marketers are encouraged to get on board.
Video, it seems, is the way to new reach across platforms.
The second half of Stelzner’s talk shifted into an area most marketers are still somewhat hesitant to address: web3, metaverse, and “new” marketing channels and opportunities.
While marketers may believe that this is a somewhat untested field, established field leaders and platform bosses themselves know that “web3 is the future (-Adam Mosseri, Instagram CEO)”. With this shift beginning to happen, more power optimally will be given to creators who can control their content and experiences with fans and users. Power itself, shifting away from platforms and towards creators.
Major brands are embracing elements of web3, mainly showing efforts through NFTs and some metaverse presences.
The other major trend marketers need to know, Stelzner believes, is the immense power and capabilities of generative AI.
The main player in this field, ChatGPT, is (as of this writing) the fastest-growing webapp in history, with 100 million users gained within 60 days. ChatGPT’s capabilities as a generative text platform has already shown its disruptive nature, and Stelzner believes that it has the ability to disrupt several fields, including “low-skill” industries, retail and support fields, older populations, and more.
However, Stelzner states that generative AI can also foster great opportunity, and can (and will) be used in this manner. Generative AI platforms may be used by marketers not necessarily to replace “all” work, but rather to enhance it. Much like the introduction of programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, generative AI won’t totally take over a marketer’s work, but instead will free up time and effort to more productive practices. Embracing AI, Stelzner says, will
- Allow people to do more and take more on with less time
- Agencies can lower rates and become more competitive, taking on more clients
- Content writing and image/graphic generation can improve
- And generative AI can write “exceptionally persuasive” copy in many different formats (emails, ad copy, scripts, etc)
…thus freeing up time for other things, including strategy, content creation, and analyzing. “Embrace it to help your business”, Stelzner says, and the benefits will show. And marketers have indeed shown interest; a recent survey indicates that 68% of marketers want to learn more about AI.
At the end of his presentation, Stelzner shared his call to action: “Opportunity is calling”. The question now is whether or not marketers will answer it.
Jake Woehlke is a content creator and support consultant living the remote work and semi-”digital nomad” life. You can follow him here on Medium, or on Instagram at nomadic_jake