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Hootsuite appears to have been correct in its predicted social media trends for 2019, at least according to speakers at SMCNZ19.

For the sixth year running, marketers, business people, and agencies from around New Zealand, but also as far afield as the USA and Australia, converged for the country’s biggest and best-recognised social media conference.

Held at SKYCITY Convention Centre, it was a warm, welcoming and superbly-catered two day event with a high calibre lineup of speakers delivering a well balanced mix of keynote and specialised breakout sessions.

The DNA of Storytelling

Park Howell, the first International keynote speaker for the Conference, set a high standard for the two day event. Success in social media marketing, he told the audience, is about stories. Stories are as old as humanity itself; stories are how we create relevance, how we teach and how we remember, and how we relate.

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Jordan Watson and Park Howell Photo: SMCNZ Facebook

It was probably little surprise to many that Park and others often echoed Hootsuite’s recent predictions for social media. From storytelling, to issues of trust; from the rise of video to the retreat into private messaging, to upping the ads game. The message from industry was consistent.

Howell broke storytelling into some simple, effective formulae for stories, focusing on the “A, B, T” (And, But, Therefore …) that sets context, conflict, and solution, in sequence. As the foundation for everything from a simple tweet to the Gettysburg Address, it gave a compelling logic to the art of writing for social.

Howell’s return for a practical workshop on Day Two of the conference gave attendees an opportunity to practice the formulae and experiment with the structure of storytelling.

The Business of Video

Following Park was the world-famous-in New Zealand Jordan Watson of How to Dad. In telling his own story of (literal) overnight fame, one key takeaway was that number of views alone, the vanity metric of video, does not equal income. For Watson, the success was in creating content that was highly relevant to a particularly sought-after audience: the household-shopper-with-young-children.

This led, unsurprisingly, to his working with brands hungry for his kind of realness. The surprise, to Watson, was often how little the big brands wanted to change in his videos – although he maintained his own integrity by being willing to walk away from a deal if it didn’t fit his personal brand.

Former TV producer and director Michelle Sokolich reinforced Jordan Watson’s emphasis on staying real, with her practical “let’s try it now” tutorials on creating shareable videos for business simply on a smartphone. Her mnemonic “lead with the bleed” – open with your strongest, most compelling moment – made absolute sense in the scroll-by shark tank of social content.

Chatbots On The Rise

It was our own Chief Conversologist Jam Mayer who reminded audiences that in social media for business, much of the battle is being taken off the streets.

Picking up on another Hootsuite report, Jam, having been in social media since the early 2000s, described the trending move from timelines to private message spaces, along with a shift in trust from traditional platforms and paid influencer marketing, to the personal recommendations of intimate social circles.

This corresponds to a growing demand for direct chat communication with business. To meet this need for scalable, personalised marketing and communication, especially for the medium-sized enterprise, nothing equals the chatbot

Jam showed how chatbots, seen by some as little more than a “rocket ship to generate sales” should instead become a brand ambassador, building customer loyalty and trust for long term success and goodwill.

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Michelle Sokolich, Jam Mayer, Rochelle Sheldon, Bea Pole-Bokor Photo SMCNZ Facebook

The fine-tuning needed to create a bot personality that sits well with the target persona, represents a business memorably and engagingly, is beyond the scope of most developers. She gave examples of how, with the input of marketing and communication specialists, as well as professional scriptwriters, chatbots can satisfy customer demand more effectively in many different environments.

The Ads Game: The Stakes are Raised.

There was something of a consensus among those speaking about Facebook Ads that the days of social advertising being a Wild West are over. The price of poor planning and execution in Facebook ads, now, is not just bad ROI, but the risk of being downgraded in Facebook’s algorithm for delivering poor quality and an indifference to audiences.

With using the greatest digital advertising platform – and its incredibly sophisticated audience targeting capability – comes great responsibility. Ads need to be relevant and engaging, and audiences need to be properly researched and tuned.

Facebook Ads’ specialist Cat Howell talked about the importance of testing audiences prior to any campaign, along with installing tracking pixels at every stage of the process to maximise effectiveness and response. The ability to optimise relevance and the user experience, and to build that into a measurable ROI objective, is the win-win-win; an all-round high-five to Facebook, the client, and the user.

The Human Audience

Probably the most poignant and thought-provoking speaker of the Conference was Cathy Mellett, who gave a reminder that the social space is an intimately human space. While some speakers talked of formulae for success and riding the algorithms to riches, Cathy’s focus, bringing the thinking back to Park Howell’s theme of stories, was on the stresses and pressures social media can put on individuals, particularly digital natives, for whom the online environment is their natural home.

Cathy’s warning was that particularly the leaders and influences in social media should have a duty of care to their audiences – the people they depend on for the success of their profession – and should be setting the standard of moral accountability.

Photo: Cathy Mellett Facebook

Hosted by a team of accomplished MCs led by Andrew Baird, 2019’s Social Media Conference NZ was well received by its attendees. It offered a chance to learn, to polish skills and update working knowledge, and the opportunity to network and connect with many highly respected people in the social media industry. Thanks to founder Wanita Z and The Online Business Academy for setting up yet another successful conference.


Conversologie was responsible for building and deploying Jenda, SMCNZ’s chatbot, including a pre-sales flow, and to-the-minute announcements, updates, and question responses during the two day event.

Visit our page for more about our options for chatbot building or fine-tuning.

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