Highlights from my #SMMW16 keynote speech


keynote speech

By Mark W. Schaefer

This week I had the honor of giving the closing keynote address at Social Media Marketing World, the biggest social media marketing gathering in the world. What a great event. The Social Media Examiner team out-did themselves this year in every way — content, networking and flawless organization.

This was a challenging talk — my audience was going to be exhausted and in information overload. So I know I needed to deliver a talk with high energy from beginning to end.

The theme of my talk was “Reach Higher.” I challenged the audience to be bold and use the ideas and inspiration from the conference to do more when they get back to their workplace. But there are typically three things holding us back: ROI and measurement, RESOURCES to get things done, and REACH in a noisy world.

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.


How do we measure social media marketing? This is a topic we have been debating for more than a decade!

I challenged the audience to consider qualitative measures in addition to things they could easily count. I told a story about a Twitter connection that resulted in important benefits like new sources of content, and collaborative relationships — but these tangible, legitimate benefits cannot be accounted for on a spreadsheet!

I also explained how it’s important to consider WHEN we are measuring, not just WHAT we’re measuring. Research shows the 80 percent of marketers realize benefits in business awareness even in the first year of their effort. Yet just 35 percent find financial gains in the first year.

If we know that financial gains are improbable early on, making that our goal seems to set us up for failure. I said that adjusting measures year-by-year is a more useful way to check your progress in a more realistic way. This blog post explains the idea of changing your marketing goals in detail.

Finally, I used the example of Rand McNally, a company that produced road atlases for many years. In essence, they owned 100 percent share of getting you from one place to another in America. But they didn’t establish a digital presence and now they are obsolete.

What’s the ROI of bankrupt? Sometimes the most important measure isn’t ROI, it’s relevance.

keynote speech


I started this section of my speech by telling a story of a young man who created an effective social media marketing campaign with no budget. By tapping into user-generated content he was able to generate significant awareness and even sales for his B2B company.

My point was, the entry barrier for great content today is near zero, or can be. We have more opportunities to create great work — with less money and effort — than even a few years ago.

The problem, I said, is that out view is too narrow. I suggested that we’re merely creating “taco content” — it all looks the same. By comparison, I told a funny story (and true!) of how Taco Bell launches a continuous stream of new products with just 14 basic ingredients. Surely, with all the resources at our disposal we could do better?

keynote speech 3

I showed how several small and large businesses are doing content mash-ups to create new and compelling content. #ChalupaContent became the Twitter theme which was pretty funny. Somehow people even came up with taco emojis for their tweets.

My last point on this topic is that too many of us are preoccupied by chasing the latest technology. Think of the last few “shiny red balls” in our industry — Meerkat, Ello, and Path to name a few. They are not mainstream channels, despite the initial social media feeding frenzy. Remember when people were selling invitations to Ello on eBay in 2014? And where is it now?

In fact over the last three years, 98 percent of all marketing dollars have gone to just seven platforms — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Will Snapchat edge into that elite group? Perhaps, but even that platform has already been around for five years. Platforms change slowly. Strategies within the platforms shift quickly.

To succeed, marketers need to focus on those shifts occurring in mainstream platforms instead of being owned by FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)!


This is a topic near to my heart as I have studied this for the past three years and of course wrote I extensively on the topic in The Content Code. How do we cut through in a noisy world?

Some of the key points in this part of my speech:

  • The world is being flooded with content, making it more difficult and expensive to be in marketing. This is a predictable consequence of historical patterns.
  • The economic value of content is zero unless it is seen and shared. This suggests we need to develop a core competency focused on content ignition, in addition to content creation and audience building.
  • We need to find and nurture our Alpha Audience, the elite group of people who share our content the most. Too many marketers are focused on building “traffic” instead of the “trust” that truly builds economic value to the business.

Screenshot 2016-04-19 20.59.43

I started working on this speech three months ago and rehearsed it countless times so it was great to see tweets like this to see all the effort paid off.

It was a lot of fun and a tremendous honor presenting to the big crowd at Social Media Marketing World. The best part of my job is meeting fans of the blog and my books in real life and that’s why I love this event so much. I hope I’ll get to meet you soon, too!


SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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