Mia Fileman 0:05
This is Got Marketing? – a fad-free, fluff-free, no-nonsense podcast for marketers looking to work smarter.
I’m your host, Mia Fileman – a marketing strategist with over two decades of experience, and an entrepreneur.
I’m tired of marketers telling you what you want to hear. Instead, I tell you what you need to hear. During the show, I chat with creatives and strategists about all the aspects of marketing, but especially marketing campaigns. Unpacking and dissecting marketing campaigns is what I do for fun.
Got Marketing? is brought to you by Campaign Del Mar – the marketing education platform where marketers and entrepreneurs go to upskill.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Hello! Welcome back to the Got Marketing? Podcast.
I’m your host, Mia.
Joining me today on the show, I have a Darwin friend called Dante St James who I met at a conference recently. Dante is a lead trainer with Meta Australia and New Zealand – formerly Facebook, a digital advisor and trainer for a federal business support program, and the Northern Territories entrepreneurship facilitator on behalf of the Australian Government’s Workforce Australia. He also consults privately for organisations such as Victoria State Opera, Mushroom Records, and New South Wales Health.
Today, we are going to have a very spicy discussion. I know I say this about very episode – that it’s going to be juicy – but this one is called “Stop Blaming Algorithms for Your Content.” Eek! I sense some hard truths and truth bombs in this episode.
Welcome to the show, matey!
Dante St James 1:56
Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to the spice.
Mia Fileman 2:00
Always! Always need to bring the spice!
Attention spans have dwindled, and we need to get right to what people need to hear – not what people want to hear.
Dante St James 2:10
I would say that’s exactly right.
The attention spans – or what we call the TikTokification of social media particularly – has got some people saying that social media is actually dead and it’s a creator media rather than a social media which I guess, when I take a look inside groups on Facebook, or I look inside places like Reddit or Discord, I’m certainly not seeing that.
Mia Fileman 2:35
Totally. However, I say that attention spans have dwindled, but then people will listen to a podcast – a 45-minute episode podcast – almost until the end. Stats show that they listen to at least 75 percent of it. People will binge-watch Game of Thrones which are hour-long episodes. I think it’s just our appetite for shit content has definitely dwindled, but our appetite for content has quadrupled, really.
Dante St James 3:03
Relevance is what makes something premium to us. If it’s relevant to us, we will spend a lot of time on it. I watched my housemate – Gen Z – sits down and plays Overwatch. It’s a game. I don’t know anything about the game or the gaming community, but he will sit there and literally play this game for six or seven hours. That’s from a generation who has no attention span.
It’s not that they don’t have attention span. They just won’t tolerate things that mean nothing to them.
Mia Fileman 3:29
A bit of context – I met you at a conference earlier this year that we were both invited to speak at. I threw some serious shade at social media platforms during my presentation which is not uncommon for me. There’s no denying that I have a love/hate relationship with Meta specifically, but your LinkedIn bio says, “Meta Lead Trainer.”
Is it love all the way for you?
Dante St James 4:00
This is a really hard one to say because I guess I wear a hat as a Meta Lead Trainer – as a contract to them as a trainer – and I also wear the hat as a digital agency owner and a consultant who has to work to unravel the problems that people have with Meta’s different family of apps.
On one hand, I can see so much possibility, so much great use, so many amazing use cases, and case studies of businesses that are doing so well using Instagram, using Facebook, and all the tools in there.
On the other hand, I’m working with people to unravel their business managers and to teach them why their Instagram won’t link with their Facebook in Business Suite, and they’re confused about whether it’s Creator Studio or Business Suite, and “Should I be doing Reels? What are Reels?” and everything changes yet again.
Social media does deserve some of the hate that comes its way. It certainly does.
Mia Fileman 4:50
I think it certainly does, especially when you have a problem like that where your business manager is not talking to your ads manager. How are you supposed to troubleshoot that? It’s not like you can get on the phone, email, chat, anything with Meta.
Dante St James 5:05
It’s really hard to work. Look, sometimes, I can – the people I work with, the Australian office in Sydney – and it’s mostly to do with policy and community rather than business support which happens mostly at the Singapore office. Then, the access to those people is a pay-to-play kind of environment.
The bigger a client you are, you get an account manager, but if you’re not quite a big enough client to get that kind of account manager, then your support options are all handled through the chat that’s in the Ads Manager. That’s where things get a bit funny because what if you don’t actually see that chat in the Ads Manager? Because some people don’t.
What if you go through your different pages experience and you’ve got a completely different layout to what someone else has? You go into Facebook Help, and you see that there’s a certain set of instructions that don’t apply to you because you’ve got a completely different interface.
These are the issues you get when you’ve got three billion people on a platform and only so many people there to support that platform. It’s really hard work.
Mia Fileman 6:05
Mate, you’re making my argument for me. It’s singing exactly my tune!
Fun story – by fun, I mean not so fun – the Darwin Festival. I am running their social media campaign this season. We created a hype reel using a track from one of our artists called The Lazy Eyes.
Of course, we got permission from The Lazy Eyes to use the song, but what did Meta do? They removed the sizzle reel from Meta because of copyright infringement and gave me absolutely no recourse! There was nothing!
You could contest that somebody else was using our copyright so I could say, “So and so is using our copyright,” but I couldn’t say, “I actually legally have the right to use this.” That was a key part of our campaign strategy – this one-minute sizzle reel – and it completely did not appear on social media platforms. It’s a bit devastating.
Dante St James 7:05
We see this happening time and time again across multiple platforms. It certainly is common on Facebook and really common on Instagram. It’s stupidly common on YouTube where they take down requests all the time with no way of you fighting back against it. It’s an instant takedown.
Naturally, you had the permission, but where is the process that tells you how to gain that permission? Even if you do gain that permission and it’s advised through to the platforms, there’s no telling that the algorithm is not going to still take it down anyway simply because the default legally is to recognise a patent, take it down, recognise a patent, take it down.
The only people who seem to be able to get around this is the one platform that’s done the best deal with the record companies and the publishers and distributors. That’s TikTok. This never happens with them simply because they’ve done the deals that I guess a lot of the other social platforms and video platforms didn’t do.
Mia Fileman 8:00
Yes, and I think the only solution to this is not to have all of your eggs in a social media basket. It is literally a borrowed channel. You’ve got to play by their rules. That’s not my kind of style – bending to the whims of the platforms.
I’m a big advocate of building owned channels and earned channels in order to have that multi-channel approach to your marketing rather than everything on socials.
Dante St James 8:25
Even in our first training I ever did with Meta back in 2018 when I first came onboard as a trainer was that we don’t put down other platforms. We don’t talk about us being the only place because, if you find that your success is through radio, by all means, use radio and do a bit of Facebook on the side.
If you’re finding that television or print is really working for you – in some niche cases, it really does – then the advice isn’t dump everything and go for Instagram when we know darn well that every business is different.
Every market is different. Every niche is different. Every audience is different. It’s less a matter of finding one place to do everything. It’s omni-channel marketing which I know that you work a lot in. It’s identifying “where is the audience for this particular product or service?” Identify it and go there.
Go where people already are.
Mia Fileman 9:13
If algorithms aren’t to blame for poor-performing content, what is?
Dante St James 9:20
I have got a theory which is marketers ruin everything.
Every time there’s a great platform that comes out – whether it’s Vine or whether it’s Periscope or Twitter or anything – it only takes a moment for the marketers to go, “Here’s the opportunity! Quick! Spam it with my courses! Spam it with my products! Spam it with my services!” and turn it into a horrible place that’s seriously full of tons and tons of ads and people saying, “Buy my stuff! Buy my stuff!”
We’ve seen some of the pushback of that, particularly back in about 2012 which was when I really think we noticed first that Facebook particularly was taking a “connections-first, brands-second” approach and really showing that we’re being absolutely hammered by all these brands coming in, flooding the market, and filling Facebook feeds.
That’s when we start to see the timeline and the feed come through that was a more algorithmically generated one to show people what they had shown that they’re most interested in which is generally connections with families and friends. By then, Facebook Groups weren’t really a big thing. They came a little bit later.
Then, you fast forward to about 2017 when we really noticed it. That’s when the talk used to be that, if you were reaching with your post about 25 percent of your following – if you’ve got 100 people and you’re reaching 25 – that’s pretty good.
Now, we’re saying these days in 2022, “Well, back in 2017, it was down to about five percent. Now it’s about one percent.” If you’re reaching one, you’re doing pretty well, yet we see so many creator brands that are reaching well beyond that. It seems to be this mismatch.
I come in as someone who’s selling tarot card sets and also selling myself as a tarot reader. I get in there and I have not got a chance in hell of ever getting any sort of momentum simply because I don’t have the following already. If I was coming from another platform and bringing those people with me, then I’ve got something of a chance when I’m first starting.
The problem is, when we first start on any platform, we tend to go in with what we’ve done elsewhere that didn’t work for us elsewhere and do the same thing – the same Canva templates, the same patterns of “it’s Fri-yay!” and “it’s Humpday!” and “it’s Throwback Thursday!”
We go back to all these clichés from 10 to 15 years ago that didn’t really work then either, but we’ve gotten convinced that that’s what we need to do. “Quick! It’s an awareness day tomorrow! Let’s throw up a post in support of it!” when it’s got absolutely no link or no connection to what we’re doing.
What we keep doing is trying to hammer these square pegs into round holes. “Hopefully this thing will make people notice” or “maybe this thing will make people notice” without any real idea or any understanding or any context of who it is you’re actually trying to reach.
If you get to that point where you go, “I finally now understand who it is I’m trying to reach and what I’m trying to do,” it’s like trying to turn the Titanic five metres away from the iceberg. It’s a big ship. It’s going to take a while to turn that around.
Likewise, it’s going to take a while for the algorithm to recognise that you’re doing something better now. That usually – unfortunately, in the Meta case – takes ads, takes boosts, takes those kinds of things to then bring in enough people who are showing an interest and showing some sort of engagement for what you’re doing, and many small brands are definitely not willing to do that because they’re being educated through a lot of really online courses that say, “Go organic! Everything is organic! Do all this organic!” when the reality is they’ve never been able to get any momentum through that.
If you want big change, it requires big actions.
Mia Fileman 12:50
Completely agree! You are definitely singing my tune again!
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What are creators doing differently then that is making them tap into this elusive organic reach which seems to be off-limits for everybody else?
Dante St James 13:45
I think they get onto the new functions when they’re big.
We saw a lot of people hop on the live video thing. When we first saw Periscope and Meerkat and those kinds of things, they got in early to those things, and by the time it hit live video on Facebook, those creators were already in there. They knew what they were doing.
They did it straight away as soon as that was in. They understood – intrinsically, I guess – that when a social platform releases a new feed or a new function or a new way of doing things, that is like the magical golden door that says, “Now I can get so much more reach.” We saw it recently with Reels on Instagram, and even more recently now with Reels on Facebook as well.
But like all things, the party ends at some point, and then it goes back to a bit more of a stable way of doing things. But the advantage of live video back when it was really big was simply because it notified everybody who was following you that you were about to go live. Now, it doesn’t notify everyone.
It just notifies the people who are most likely to be engaging with it because we’ve got five to six years of live video data that now shows that, out of the 2,000 people who might be following you, about 20 people are going to be the ones that ever watch a live video. They might all get notified. They’ll drop in. They’ll watch it for a minute. You’re there rabbiting on about something – some network marketing scheme that they don’t care about – then they’re straight back out again.
What do you think is going to happen next time when you go live and then the notifications go out? Well, 198 people are not going to get that message because they didn’t respond in the first place. The other nearly 1,000 people are not going to even know that it ever happened simply because, when they’ve popped into a live video like this before, they’ve gone, “No, this is not for me,” and popped straight back out again.
Mia Fileman 15:27
How do we balance not being performing monkeys and dancing to the whims of these platforms?
I believe that good marketing takes time, and you shouldn’t jump straight into something. With Reels, I took my time to get geared up for that because it’s like, “All right. Well, I want to do this well. I don’t want to dance and point and lip synch and point to three neat tips on my screen.”
I want to take some time to do it well. But then, by the time I’ve entered the Reels market – which was only about six months after they launched – it’s already past the first mover.
Are we supposed to be sitting there, waiting for the next thing to come up, so that we can jump on it? Or can we be more strategic?
Dante St James 16:15
You can be more strategic with the things that are already there and making good use of what’s already there. A post on a page that’s basically a Canva graphic and a whole lot of words with emojis at every dot point is so out of date and so ridiculously ineffective that it’s not even worth it.
What you do is you experiment with what’s going to work the best. At some point, your small following, for instance, at one point you were getting four reactions to anything you were doing and your reach for that particular post was so small. You got four reactions and you’re like, “Now I need to do something about that!” Then, you start experimenting.
I’ve got a particular writing style that I use. Anyone who is told about that writing style goes, “Oh, my god, I can totally see it in every post you do – what that style is.” There’s five of them. What I do is I vary those five around.
Now, usually, one of the styles I call the “contrarian post” which is probably one of your favourites. You’d love it. It’s a commonly known piece of wisdom that people assume is true and then I tear it down. That’s usually the most popular thing I do.
Mia Fileman 17:25
That’s all I do, mate! That’s it! That’s the whole content strategy!
Dante St James 17:30
When those contrarian posts start dropping a little bit, I go, “Hmm. I’ve had about a 25-percent drop in this. Maybe it’s time to lighten that up a little bit and not just be contrarian by tearing things down but be contrarian with a way of building something up and turning around that mood?”
All the platforms have a sentiment analysis. LinkedIn is quite famous for it now. It’s got a big focus on sentiment and the mood and the tone. You’ve also got the mood and the tone through Facebook also where you’re able to read what is in those posts. This came out of the 2016 election results and all that in the US. They can now read tone and sentiment.
If something is really, really negative, it will be pushed down. But if it’s a little bit more positive and doesn’t bear all the hallmarks of a typically clickbait-ish anger middle-aged white guy with an attitude about being so picked on and being such a fringe minority these days, then it will go better, and I’ve shown that where I tweet things and had these experiments where I go, “Okay. Let’s find a different way of being contrarian without tearing things down. Let’s try something different.”
Then, I’ve got four other kinds of writing styles I use which then vary that around. The other thing I do too is vary around when you’re posting. Meta is already providing through Business Suite some optimal times that it can say, “These are the optimal times that it’s going to be best for you to post.”
I did an experiment. I simply went, “If you think that 6:30 PM is an optimal time for me to be posting something, I’ll believe you. I’ll go and do that.” Sure enough, that was the time when my people were online, and everything picked up by about 40 percent.
Mia Fileman 19:10
Dante St James 19:11
Rather than going through my usual processes I do over on a system called Social Pilot which doesn’t inherit those times, then I go, “Well, I’ll post natively for all the Meta stuff in Meta’s tools. Everything else, I’ll send through here.”
It does involve a lot of experimentation. Like you said, you spent time experimenting and making sure you got to the right point of being able to post reels. I think we need to go back to the basics as well and do those same kinds of experiments and preparing. Go in like we’ve never gone in before.
Probably the other thing to do as well is stop posting for about a week or two. Just stop. Don’t be afraid of silence. Just stop. Let the algorithm notice that you’ve stopped. When you come back in, you get a natural boost which is basically, “Oh! You’ve shown up again! I’m going to put you in front of more people!” because the idea is that something has changed. Something is different. Your routine has changed. Therefore, let me run an experiment.
Mia Fileman 20:05
Amazing. That’s such a good tip!
Dante St James 20:08
Sometimes, we need to shut up.
Mia Fileman 20:10
I’ve often said this to people. “I’m giving you permission to take two weeks off social media. Go out and plan something – a campaign, ideally, please. Plan something really exciting and then actually go and do something interesting.” And then, all the social media content in the world will naturally fall out of that.
I’m hosting a one-day business retreat in Darwin in September. There’s so much content around that – the venue, my collaboration partners, what are we ging to talk about, what is the catering going to be like, who is it for, what are people going to get out of it. There is so much content because we’re actually doing something interesting as opposed to trying to create something interesting by repeating the same messages over and over and over on social media.
Good content will perform anywhere. That is my belief. In that way, the inverse is also true. Terrible content will perform badly everywhere. Just because you’ve moved to TikTok and think you’ve got that first-mover advantage doesn’t mean it’s going to help your performance any better if you are rolling out the same content.
I love what you said about experimenting, about using new features, but also taking a hot minute to make sure that you are not just feeding the algorithm with more content that is going to be scrolled past – Brené Brown quotes and Unsplash images that have been downloaded 550,000 times do not make for great social media content.
Also, I know it’s really tempting because you look at a competitor or someone that you aspire to, you look at their content, and you try to reverse-engineer it. It’s not that simple – really, it’s not! Good luck to anyone that tries to knock off Campaign Del Mar. There’s a lot more that you don’t see behind the scenes.
It’s really important to stay in your own lane and figure out what works for you and your audience.
Dante St James 22:17
We’re all looking for hints and tips and the three ways to do things.
The truth is that the only truth about social media and digital platforms in general is that there is no rule, there is no format, and there is no formula. There is only what your particular followers want to see. That’s the only rule. What do they want to see? Find that.
Mia Fileman 22:37
Here’s an example. Yesterday, I shared a carousel to Instagram which was the different types of marketing campaigns. It has had 40 likes – nothing! Absolutely terrible. It’s also had 40 saves which is incredible, right? Every single person who has liked that post has saved it, but even though the likes show up on Instagram, the saves don’t. They only show up for me.
Somebody looking at Campaign Del Mar content, trying to go, “What works for Mia?” is going to look at that post and go, “Well, that post didn’t work for Mia, so I won’t do that.” It’s like, “Yes, it did. It worked really, really well.” It also has something like 10 website clicks. We need to look beyond those vanity metrics. That’s what we mean when we say to look beyond the vanity metrics.
Good news! There’s more to this chat.
Play the next episode to hear the rest of the conversation.