The Digital Lowdown



Ben Smithee encourages retailers to focus on social during session at JCK Las Vegas

New York City–based marketing expert Ben Smithee, CEO of The Smithee Group, doled out straight-talking advice on social media marketing and online brand-building at an educational session entitled “The Next Big Thing in Digital” Thursday afternoon at JCK Las Vegas.

First on Smithee’s list: “Stop paying so much damn money for SEO!” he implored. “When you Google something today, you’re searching for an answer to a question. You’re not searching for a new product or what’s next or cool. You find new products on Instagram or Facebook or Snapchat. So why are you still paying a significant amount of money to rank high on search?”

Instead, Smithee said, retailers should be moving their search engine optimization budget over to social media strategy and advertising. “Put your content in the places where the eyeballs are actually going,” he said. “If you’re not producing branded content, you’re doing it wrong.”

The importance of producing good—or “epic”—content colored all of his suggestions. We live in what Smithee calls a “content-rich society. And content is the lifeblood of the socialized web.” The socialized web, by the way, is the idea that everything on the web is now inherently social.

Facebook ads, which when targeted correctly can drill down on a demographic with precision, “should be your number-one conversion effort, your cheapest conversion effort, and your most effective conversion effort,” said Smithee, explaining that doing A/B testing on your ads will ensure your messaging is on point.

He also advised spending more time on social strategy—specifically, creating a monthly content plan for social media—than on the creation of the content itself.

The idea of influence also needs to be reevaluated in the online age, Smithee said, citing the recent goofy YouTube clip where a mom dons a talking Chewbacca mask that spread like Kardashian selfies all over the web.

“It took Adele—pop star queen Adele—five days to earn 100 -million views for [hit song] ‘Hello,’” Smithee said. “The lady with the Chewbacca mask got to 100 million views in something like two hours. You need to change the way you think about influence.”