EP - 065

How AI is Changing Facebook

With Guest Mari Smith

How to leverage Meta's evolving advertising capabilities for improved ad targeting and customer engagement

The How To Sell More Podcast


May 3, 2024

How do you remain competitive while creating a sense of community and personal connection in a world increasingly driven by technology?

In this episode of “How to Sell More,” host Mark Drager is joined by Mari Smith, often referred to as "the Queen of Facebook." An expert in Facebook marketing, Mari is known for her ability to merge cutting-edge social media technologies with the human touch. She has helped SMBs, major brands, and direct sales organizations leverage Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger to dramatically increase their online presence and impact. In this episode, she shares her insights on creating meaningful, profitable online engagements that harmonize technology with genuine human interaction.

Leverage Future AI Enhancements: With steady and future enhancements in AI by Meta, Mari suggests businesses should stay informed and ready to integrate new AI capabilities into their marketing strategies to maintain a competitive edge.

Responsive Engagement as Key to Success: Actively managing and responding to comments and messages, both in organic and paid contexts, is essential for nurturing relationships. This engagement demonstrates your commitment to your customers and helps identify buying signals for direct marketing opportunities.

Building a Community Beyond the Platforms: Mari encourages brands to create communities outside traditional social media options, such as through email lists or other community platforms. This strategy not only diversifies your brand's touchpoints with customers but also reinforces its commitment to creating meaningful, lasting relationships beyond the constraints of algorithm changes and platform policies.

“Authenticity is making a comeback and you can do that in your paid campaigns … being more personal, more transparent, showing the people behind the brand.”  Mari Smith

Links to This Episode

Key Takeaways

  • Adapting to Meta’s AI-driven Targeting - Meta's AI advancements in advertising, particularly the Advantage Plus targeting features, means the platform's AI can handle audience targeting, and businesses can achieve more efficient and effective ad campaigns, even as traditional targeting options become less accessible due to privacy regulations.
  • Blending Organic and Paid Strategy - Balancing organic content with paid advertising ensures broader reach and engagement, leveraging organic content for brand storytelling and community building while using paid ads for targeted lead generation and sales conversions.
  • Authenticity and Trust in Digital Marketing - In an era where consumers are increasingly skeptical of advertising and corporate motives, authenticity stands out as a critical factor for success. Presenting the genuine people behind the brand and their values can significantly enhance trust and loyalty among the audience

Top 3 Reasons to Listen

Discover the Future of AI in Advertising: Mari discusses how artificial intelligence is transforming Meta advertising, making it more intuitive and effective for businesses.

Learn to Blend Organic and Paid Strategies: Understand the importance of balancing organic content with paid advertisements to foster genuine connections and enhance brand visibility.

Embrace Authenticity in Your Marketing: Hear why being authentic and transparent in your marketing efforts is more crucial than ever for building trust and loyalty among your audience.

Follow Mari Smith on Social

Website: https://www.marismith.com/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/mari_smith/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marismith

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/facebookmari

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marismith/

More About Today's Guest, Mari Smith

Premier Facebook Marketing Expert ▪︎ Social Media Thought Leader ▪︎ Keynote Speaker ▪︎ Course Creator ▪︎ Brand Ambassador ▪︎ Human Design Enthusiast

Mari Smith is widely celebrated as "the Queen of Facebook" and is recognized globally as a leading expert in Facebook marketing and social media strategies. She holds the title of a Forbes' Top Social Media Power Influencer and has authored prominent works including "The New Relationship Marketing" and co-authored "Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day." Forbes has hailed her as the ultimate Facebook authority, noting, "Even Facebook asks for her help."

A designated Facebook Partner, Mari was personally recruited by Facebook to spearhead the "Boost Your Business" live event series throughout the US, and she contributes her expertise to Facebook's Blueprint Certification programs.

As a sought-after speaker, Mari travels internationally to deliver keynotes and training sessions at significant events. Her digital marketing agency offers specialized services in professional speaking, training, and consulting, focusing on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, small and medium businesses, and direct sales organizations. Mari also excels as a webinar and live video broadcast host and collaborates with numerous prominent global companies as a Brand Ambassador.

Mari's reputation as a credible, trusted influencer with a dedicated following allows her corporate clients to benefit from her role as a Brand Ambassador, Evangelist, or Spokesperson, bringing a positive, passionate, and enthusiastic presence to their products, campaigns, or services.

Each year, Mari is featured as a keynote speaker and trainer at top industry events including Social Media Marketing World, Traffic & Conversion, HubSpot's INBOUND, Content Marketing World, MarketingProfs B2B Forum, and Marketo's Marketing Nation, among others. She is consistently recognized as a top influencer and highly-rated speaker at these gatherings.

A Transcription of The Talk

Mark Drager: Mari Smith, I am so excited to speak with you. I was just mentioning off camera before we hit record that I saw you speak at Inbound in 2019. And I was blown away by your presentation. I've been watching what you do, you know, you're known as the Facebook queen for a reason. Now, since I saw you speak last in 2019, Meta has gone through a few changes. Like we've lost some targeting abilities. We've gone through some privacy challenges as Apple decides to pick a fight with Facebook or Meta and with Google, we're losing third-party cookies this year. The costs of advertising are rising as overseas retailers seem to be snatching up all of the inventory. Is Facebook, Meta, still the place to be for businesses from a lead generation point of view?

Mari Smith: Oh, 100%. And here's the cool thing. We were just briefly talking off camera there about AI and, you know, AI is basically impacting pretty much everybody on the planet, certainly every business, and then personal too. But one of the things that Zuckerberg and the team are doing is really ramping up the ad targeting. We're talking about targeting, but like their whole Advantage Plus, so it's like the more kind of almost hands-off you can be. Yeah, come up with great creative. Yeah, have a great compelling offer, whether a lead magnet or you're going straight for the sale, then allow Facebook's Advantage Plus audience parameters to do the hard work for you. And sometimes that can be tricky because we want to get it really narrowed down.

And *we've heard for years, "Oh, you have to know your ICA or your ideal customer avatar; you've got to have exactly dialed in, and the more detailed targeting the better." And it's like, "Oh, what if the machines know more than I do? And I can just surrender and allow Meta's ad targeting to do it for us." And actually, as of the time of this recording, I do know I'm under NDA, so can't say exactly what's coming, but they are bringing out some significantly improved updates to the whole Advantage Plus and the targeting thing, and you can bet it's only going to get better and better. You might have heard an extraordinary amount of money that Meta is investing in their GPUs. And they're working on artificial general intelligence. Everybody, I know we're gonna get into this in a minute. But just to set the tone, everybody is going to have a world-class AI assistant. And part of what that will be able to do for you is crunch some data, is to be able to take your best customers, of course, we've got things like lookalike audiences. My prediction is that it's going to get so much more powerful. And they've got the money, you know, Mark, they've got so much a trillion-dollar company. So, long-winded answer to your question: don't go anywhere. If you're in business, stay with Facebook and the Meta platforms for sure.*

Mark Drager: And you're not just saying that though. Because you've dedicated your life to it, right? Like,

Mari Smith: Listen, I'm like, just the same as most people out there. They infuriate me, they frustrate me, they just try my patience, and they keep me on my toes at the same time. It's like the pros and cons, you gotta weigh them up. It's like, "Ah, so frustrating. I can't believe they took that away. Now, oh, they're deprecating the group's API. We can't stream using third parties into... Alright, just simple things like that." But it's like, "Okay, what else are they working on? What do they have up their sleeve?" And? Yeah, so it is definitely the place to communicate and connect with loved ones as well as loved customers.

Mark Drager: So I spend my day hanging out with a bunch of direct-response type of people. No, I am not a media buyer. And I don't have any experience in that. I mean, we've dabbled a bit in performance marketing. But all in all, you know, I'm a strategist at the end of the day. But the direct response guys that I hang out with, seem to be caught up in the idea that I find that people are caught up in the good old days. You know, when I first joined internet marketing, and I first started my career in 2005, people were talking about the fact that Google AdWords PPC at the time, that you could generate a lead for six cents, that yeah, you could go ahead and get all of this return on investment. And then they complained that you know, pay-per-click or AdWords became too expensive. And then, when Facebook jumped in here, there was just so much inventory and direct-to-consumer brands were built off of this cheap traffic and high conversions. And obviously, the platforms have matured. And so do you find that people just get caught up in the good old days, and they need to rethink what advertising and lead gen look like on Meta in 2024?

Mari Smith: Yeah, and I'm a great proponent of doing a combo of organic and paid, and oftentimes when I look at, like, when I'm teaching my classes and whatnot, I love to call these hot seats, and I just take somebody's Facebook page, and I just start critiquing it and providing some great strategic changes that could really make a difference and start collecting some low-hanging fruit. You and like, for example, putting calls to action in their organic posts. It's astonishing to me how many folks think, "Oh, no, you can't do that," or "The algorithms don't like links." Yeah, they don't. But put the link in the comment, for example, on Instagram, put your links in your stories, and max out your stories. You can never overwhelm people with too many stories there.

*The user, the end user in the driver's seat, can choose how many stories they want to consume or not. So if you're not really optimizing stories on the Instagram and Facebook platforms, you could potentially be losing out on the organic side. And the good old days I see people doing, even though I joke about it being so 2005, is push marketing, where it's like, "Okay, we got our content done for the day check." And it's a whole bunch of like posts, or it's just some silly meme that doesn't really drive the business. And then they got all these comments and DMs, and they're not even noticing it's just one-way push marketing. No, no, no, no, no, the old days, those are gone. It's social media. I've been preaching this for 17 years now, as long as I've been doing this Facebook thing, is how critical it is to, in essence, befriend your audience, use people's first names, make them feel important and heard, monitor your comments like crazy on both the paid and organic side. I'm always blown away by how many times I see ads in my feed, where the advertiser is totally asleep at the wheel. And you're all kinds of like, "Oh, what do they call those things, like carbuncles on the bottom of a boat," that people are pitching their own stuff or their spam, or there's all kinds of heinous things in there. You gotta clean that up. This is your brand, your reputation. You gotta keep it really tight, and maximize the fact that it is two-way; it's multi-way, you know, get these conversations going and pull people in to engage with you.*

Mark Drager: It's such a funny point, though, because I remember having a conversation with, we were an agency of record for a very, very large pension plan in the past. And we were having conversations about their move, and they wanted more engagement. And I kept seeing more engagement. And when we were looking at how they were going to resource their social media team from ad placement and organic point of view, we noticed that there was no real strategy for comment management, you know, respond, how would respond, who's in charge of this? Are you or is there a staff member? Or is this outsourced? Like, how are we gonna resource it? They said, "No, no, we don't respond to any. What kind of engagement are we looking for?" Because they want engagement. And we realized, oh, they want to talk, and they want people to listen. Yeah, actually want engagement from a conversation point of view, a social point of view, like, "Hey, there's a back and forth here?" No, no, no, no, they're not, they're not interested in hearing the criticism, which would naturally come or any of the people like really tearing you down or anything like that, because it is hard to deal with, it's hard to manage. And it becomes almost at that point, reputation management or PR, depending on the size of the organization. So how do you respond to that? What do you suggest that organizations do? Because in my mind, if you're going to jump into this, if you're going to invest in the content creation, and the advertising campaigns and everything else, you can't then not resource, you know, comment management, or whatever we want to call it.

Mari Smith: Yeah, exactly. I totally agree now. So for the longest time, I've taught a three-part model, which just makes it simple and doable. Terms of no matter what is happening in the crazy world of social media, you're gonna keep coming back to these three parts, these three components, and it's simply content. Yeah, content is king. I think for the longest time, content is going to be king because nobody's engaging with a blank channel, right? You don't come into "Oh, nobody's posted here for a year, I'm not going to, you know, engage with that." So content, then connection. I used to say engagement, I changed it to connection because connection can actually happen in the DMs. Encourage people to respond to you privately. Go ahead and deploy a chatbot. Get one of those wonderful comment triggers, comment below with the word whatever, you know, "free white paper," and whatever the trigger word might be. And then they're going to send them a link. That works great on Instagram in particular. The third component is the conversion.

Now, *people start and have it backward and try to convert, convert, convert, convert, and they're missing that connection part.* I've said for the longest time, you're talking about HubSpot inbound earlier, this became popular maybe in 2008-2009, with having a pointing a CLO, a Chief Listening Officer. Because you're not paying attention to what your customers are seeing and your prospects. It's like saying you're asleep at the wheel. There's some beautiful potential, you know, data in there that you could capitalize on as well as obviously nurturing these relationships. *To me, it's all relationship marketing, whether you're B2B or B2C. To me, it's always P to P; it's people to people. And so deploying a good tool is the first thing for sure. And that my favorite is AgoraPulse.* Use them for years because there are many others out there like it. You can do Meta Business Suite will obviously synthesize yours, or integrate your to, you know, Facebook and Instagram and multiple accounts if you have them. But with a third-party tool like AgoraPulse, you're going to put all your socials in there. *And now you have a combined unified inbox, and somebody, one or more people, are in charge of that. But you're not just responding to questions. Your CLO or your Chief Moderator or Community Manager is one of the most critical people in the member of your team because they're public-facing as they are, should be trained, and how to spot buying signals. So, somebody is going to chit-chat, chit-chat, and the person responding goes, "Hey, have you thought about our data program, or we've got this special offer over here? I'm going to DM you a coupon code you can use now." It's like, whoa, you can monetize your connection officer. Right?* Yeah, so that’s what I recommend.

Mark Drager: And so it's interesting that I came into this conversation thinking we were going to speak mostly about paid placement, and we've kind of taken the direction more towards organic. So, if you were to think about consulting, let's say that you're a professional services firm, and you're in B2B. And you're going to go ahead and try to turn your, again, I consider advertising-based campaigns, but let's say you're going to turn your Facebook Meta approach into a lead generation approach. Obviously, there's a place for paid and there's a place for organic or capacity building. Yeah, how would you, like, what would be your quick framework? Where should we be investing? What should we be doing? How would you recommend we consider these two different things? Or are they no longer two different things?

Mari Smith: They are two different things. And the first thing is going to depend on the size of the audience. If you already have built a reasonable size, and I think reasonable, that's going to be contextual. Some people might have 1,000 followers, some people, 100,000. But it's like trying to spark engagement and driving sales, or certainly leads, like you said. I am typically more in favor of organic. Sometimes we're so amazed at what we do, we don't always know it's like, I don't know, it was like 2008, or something, it was Fast Company. They dubbed me the Pied Piper of the internet, because I just get my little whistle out, and just like people follow me, like, you know, whatever, I'm an authority in the industry. So people follow what I say. So I tend to favor organic first.

However, to your point, *let's say someone is completely plateaued in the growth of their social channels, Facebook, and Instagram, in particular, we're talking about today. And they have pretty low engagement, they're basically doing a little bit of organic, I would go straight for the ad, and I would go lead generation ads. They are so powerful because when Facebook first brought them out, that little moniker was tap, tap, done because those platforms have all the data under the sun about you. So go ahead and let Facebook do the Advantage Plus targeting, obviously, you can put some parameters in there, make absolutely the best use of your custom audiences, especially your top customers, uploading your segmentations, the different segments of your database. And then you're going to go straight for the lead ads. There are different kinds, there are ones where they can just fill the form in, and there are ones where they can come over to your website and fill the form. And that's still totally integrated and pulls the data in from Facebook.

And there are ones where they can have a call, if you're the kind of person you want, you've got people manning the phone for sure, then have them call you, or you can go straight to Messenger. And that's where for sure, depending on the volume, I wouldn't drive a lot of traffic to Messenger unless you have a chatbot set up. Because people like instant gratification. It's like you gotta say, okay, yeah, we got your message. Here's the thing, blah, blah, blah, you're in this conversation. And especially, I would say maybe this time next year, we're going to have those AI assistants in there, you've programmed it all with your knowledge base, your FAQs. That's the way of the future where imagine you're deploying a paid campaign, you have run all the data so it's crunched to the point where you're laser targeting thanks to the API and leaving it up to Meta's machines, and then your offer's compelling. Always, we always come back to that. I know you know that Mark and your listeners do too, preaching to the choir here, that people go whoa, we call it some stopping power, right? Scroll, scroll, scroll. Whoa, that's for me, stop. I can't tell you how many impulse purchases I've made on Instagram and...

Mark Drager: How many I've made.

Mari Smith: I really need that. Oh my God, a Faraday bag to protect my brain from EMF? Sure, give me a hat. Anyway, so then you could drive significant traffic to your Messenger with a hint, then introduce a little bit, a glimpse into the future, but right now for sure, you can do the whole chatbot and the interaction just the way they are. But imagine adding AI personalization on top of that, and being able to deploy significant pre- and post-sales. I mean, I think this will be incredibly impactful on a lot of direct sales and sales organizations. But right now, you can 100% take advantage of all that I mentioned. Just the coming part is the kind of the more than AI chatbot, chat assistant thing. Zuckerberg calls them world-class, he says.*

Mark Drager: And so we've been talking a little bit about the idea of obviously building our following through organic, having a call to action included within the comments so that we can move people kind of off-channel or maybe even advertising based, we're going to advertise directly to the sale. You mentioned a little bit earlier about a lead magnet. And one thing that I've noticed is that often people look at Meta, or they look at Facebook, from a lead gen point of view with advertising, or an organic audience building point of view. But I mean, it's a great platform to hijack to build your email list too. I believe that Facebook just released new event advertising style pieces where you can actually, I think, drop the budget behind the events that you're running. So there's all these extra dynamics as well that I just think people overlook. What are a few of your favorites for people and organizations to focus on?

Mari Smith: Well, we are definitely in a video-centric world with social media marketing, right? So you've got the reels on Facebook and Instagram. Back in the day, they brought out Instagram like IGTV, and then they had the live and the reels. And it was just so it was like I call it feature bloat, right? Feature bloat, too many video options. And besides, it's like a 99.9% mobile app, nobody really goes to Instagram on a desktop, even though it's there. So then, of course, it was Adam Mosseri who said in 2019 or 2020 that TikTok is the most formidable competitor that Meta has ever seen. Therefore, of course, pedal to the metal is a major focus of these vertical videos. So that organic and paid in terms of content media format, doing your short-form videos, and even though you can do up to 90 seconds, I would still keep it to maybe 15 to 30, experiment, a test, you know, split test, and you can use those in both organic and paid, as I mentioned. Capitalizing on the stories for sure, I have seen a lot of folks, specifically on Instagram, kind of like really slow down on their feed, maybe posting once or twice a week on the feed, if that. And again, because if you're doing daily or multiple times a day, and you're getting great reach and engagement, keep doing that.

But there are many marketers and influencers and creators, business owners, who just dial it back on the feed and go all in on the stories because of the fact that you can put that little link sticker on there. And you can have that engagement and the engagement is always in the DMs, so not just like, bam, bam, bam, do nothing but lead gen, lead gen, lead gen, nurturing to maybe do like three stories in a row, "Hey, I got this great tip for you. And then here's how to apply it. If you want more, the third thing is like, 'Go, go, go, get my lead magnet.'" And so Facebook, well, Meta is really pushing pretty much every single user into the belief that they can all be creators, right? "Be a creator. You monetize your content here. We'll dangle all these carrots. We'll incentivize you. We'll give these bonuses." And people will fall for that, right? Money talks, and like, "Oh my god, I could make some money for free just by getting on camera or whatever." But what they're doing, they're coming. Of course, they need the content, they need the content in order to always have plenty of ad inventory. And so it's a bit of both, you know, whether you're going to just keep cranking out a lot of organic content, or just going for the ads. The other thing when I say video-centric is here we are, we're doing it. I know this is your podcast. And I think you use the video too.

Any opportunity you have to do, do it on camera, not just on your phone. But to do some live streaming, live streaming used to be so much more prevalent on Facebook and Instagram. I think I see people do that a little bit more, I think it's just low entry, you can just turn your phone on, you can bring a guest on, or whatever. But the reason I bring that up specifically on Instagram is you know how I love the stories. I always say the stories of these circles at the top are top of mind and top of feed awareness. And if you happen to be live right now on your Instagram, it is going to put you first place among your followers. So looking to see how you might integrate a little bit of live broadcasting into your strategy. You know, and you can always repurpose that. We get so many apps these days. I'm loving that, the Descript or there's Opus clip and there's all these great AI tools that break up your video and repurpose and make lots more good stuff with it.

Mark Drager: And that comes back to of course what you said earlier, content is king. So as we look forward to the rest of 2024, of course, it's an election year. Theoretically, I mean, everyone I've heard, and I've experienced this in the past, that you know, costs will increase as you move through the years, as people snatch up inventory. But what else should we be worried about? What should we be focused on? I mean, there's a lot of opportunity, but I'm more concerned with how we turn Facebook into something that is profitable. How do we keep campaigns being ROI positive, because a lot of the stuff I'm hearing is just like, people are pulling a budget, and they're moving to steel, to YouTube, they're going over to TikTok, TikTok Shop, or they're just moving away from the platform. And I do not think that's the case across the board. But I am hearing a lot of it.

Mari Smith: Yeah. Well, I think in terms of cost increase, there's just no way around that. So if you're, if budget's a concern, and you want to diversify, I don't do TikTok, but I've heard a lot of people saying that TikTok ads are relatively effective, they basically kind of copied Facebook's ad platform, I understand. But the thing is, maybe your leads are as good over there or not as good. And again, you're gonna test that. But it's interesting. What's coming up for me is this whole thing of, we, some schools, I'm supposed to homeschool, we're looking for content that resonates with us. *My deep concern with AI being so prevalent is what's happening is this flood, this firehose of synthetic media. And there right now is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, of an erosion of trust, because I felt in my own gut the other week, they're preparing for a keynote. And I'm like thumbing through, and my thumb is hovering over the like, or the love, or the hug, or whatever. And I'm like, wait a minute, you get that sinking feeling going, "This isn't even real. This is a fake image or whatever, synthetic, you know," and God forbid, all those deep fakes are coming. And this, as you say, around election year, so caveat emptor, please everybody be on your guard as consumers to mindfully, you know, to me like it's an endorsement. And the way the algorithms work is going to show my name to other people who are friends with me, "Mari likes this." And so, coming back to your question, I had this in my keynote the other week there for Social Media Marketing World, that the word authenticity was bandied about in the early days, right, or 2007. I got on Facebook. So 2007, I would say all the way up to maybe 2011, 2012. And then it just became so saturated, that the meaning of the word became completely diluted. Well, I'm here to tell you in 2024, the good news is authenticity is making a comeback. And you can do that in your paid campaigns. Being more personal, more transparent, showing the people behind the brand.*

I am just such a proponent of relationship marketing. If I'm going to go and check out a new company, I go to their website, one of the first things I do is gonna look at the about section, and the team who's behind it. If I can't find it, I'm gonna go to Google, or DuckDuckGo, or wherever, GPT-4, I want to know, who are the founders? Can I trust these people? Where's this company based? And that's me, I'm this investigator, I go deep down the rabbit hole to create a solid foundation and security for myself before I go out there and be a loudspeaker for others. So all that to say, long-winded answer, I just feel no matter what the strategy going forward, paid or organic, a blend of both, building a community, going off-platform, lots of third-party apps are becoming more popular for having a community because these are all rented land. We don't own our audience on Facebook or Instagram.

And so you mentioned earlier, Mark, how critical it is to use these platforms to generate email addresses. I started two years ago, a separate community using Mighty Networks. I love Mighty Networks. And it's not to me, it's not either/or, it's both. And I'm like, "Hey, you want to connect with me over here? I got a new community, 2000 folks over there, great. Otherwise, I got my social group, Facebook group." And so yeah, just coming back to just being real, being honest, being clear, being transparent. The big thing right now is how important it is to have a generative AI policy publicly on your website. I gotta get going with putting mine up. How are you using AI in your business? When you use AI to craft your ads, is it clear? You know, are you putting disclosures in, or can I go to your website and find where your disclosures are? So anyway, everything you can do to build trust. That's the bottom line to me. We have to build trust back, solid, solid trust with people.