In-Ear Insights: Lessons Learned from Social Media Marketing World 2024

In-Ear Insights: Lessons Learned from Social Media Marketing World 2024

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris reflect on lessons learned from Social Media Marketing World 2024. With generative AI taking center stage both literally and figuratively, what does that mean for social media marketers? Tune in to find out!

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In-Ear Insights: Lessons Learned from Social Media Marketing World 2024

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:00

In this week’s In-Ear Insights we are back from days and days and days upon the road.

Katie, you were at Social Media Marketing World 2024 with me and I just finished the world tour going all over the place.

And we wanted to take some time to revisit some of the key takeaways and things that we experienced at Social Media Marketing World, particularly as the the landscape has changed so much.

The one thing that I noted that Social Media Marketing World, this is should be is and should be no surprise to anyone was like every other session was had something to do with generative AI huge surprise, right.


Katie Robbert 0:33

it was.

It was interesting.

I was.

I don’t know why I was surprised by that.

I think I was surprised.

Because you and I, Chris were in what was considered the AI track.

So there were speakers brought into the event specifically to talk about AI.

And then there was supposed to be the rest of the speakers talking about, you know, all of the different aspects of social media marketing.

And what I noticed instead was that every talk was about generative AI.

So then I almost kind of felt like, well, why are we here? And the reason we were there was to go deeper into generative AI and not sort of surface level it like the other speakers were going to do, because their focus was more of the social media tools and the tactics.

But I was a little concerned because of the potential conflicting messages, because of the overlap of sessions.

And because of how overwhelming it was, as an attendee, you had no breath, no break from hearing about generative AI, you walked out the door and somebody brought up generative AI, you went to a separate off site event? And oh, my god, somebody brought up generative AI? And can we please just stop talking about generative AI? It is nine o’clock at night and the karaoke band has started, why are we still talking about generative AI? There was, but there was no break from it.

And it was.

So it was such a focus.

And what that says to me, as someone who is in it every day, is that the amount of concern, and panic.

And desire for education is so strong right now, that our job, Chris, you and I, as people who understand generative AI is to continue to create useful content, but in different contexts.

Christopher Penn 2:35

I think that’s a really good way of putting it.

And the other thing that I want to emphasize that was sort of an internal takeaway for me is that of all the general AI content there wasn’t I sampled a lot of it.

And of course, I’ve been in other places, too.

It’s all very, your words are exactly at surface level.

There’s very little principles based content around generative AI around how these models work.

So that if you understand the Met the mechanics of it, you know what the tools can and can’t do.

And you don’t need as much oh, here’s a template for this.

And here’s a prompt for this.

And here’s the thing for this, if you understand the principles, you can say, Okay, I know generally how this model works.

I know generally, what’s good and what’s bad.

And I know generally how to structure a prompt to get good results out of it.

And thus, when a new version comes out a new change, because a new tool comes out, you can evaluate it very quickly, and get up to speed very quickly, because you understand the foundation principles.

And that’s what’s missing from a lot of the gender of AI content right now.

It’s, here’s 48 tips on how to use this for Instagram.

Here’s how to use this image generator and stuff like that.

And it’s not, here’s what a diffuser does, and why you still have nine fingers on someone’s head.

Right? Here’s, here’s what Gemini is like Gemini 1.5.

It’s a mixture of experts model, here’s what that means, and what it’s going to do.

So you understand, okay, for my prompts, I should do x instead of y.

And that I feel like is the missing piece from all the general AI conversations in marketing right now is there’s very little focus on the principles.

Katie Robbert 4:13

Well, let me let me push back a little bit and ask you this question, though.

So I could argue or even just sort of state the fact that my session on how to assess your AI readiness was surface level, because I didn’t get into how the models work.

I didn’t get into how the tools work.

And so, you know, I My goal was to provide a framework to help companies to help teams say, Is this even the right solution? So I didn’t get into the principles the way that you’re describing them.

And my question to you is, is that needed? Is this the right audience? Do they need to know how it works? Or they just need to know what buttons to push to make it do something? And I say that because if we think it’s You know, we talk about generative AI, like it’s this like new, crazy thing, but it’s just an I talk about it like it’s another piece of software.

And the same, you know, principles use your word apply when integrating when assessing when, you know, considering when learning.

How deep have we as a marketing industry gone? And understanding how, you know, SEO tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs work? Or do we just use them? How deep do we go in understanding how Google Tag Manager actually fires? Or are we just using it at surface level? So why is generative AI? A different case?

Christopher Penn 5:40

Really good question.

First, I would argue your talk was a principles based talk, because if there was a foundational principles that you’ve come even before the use of generative AI, right, you have to have those down the people the process, the purpose, the performance, right, generative AI is the platform, but it’s 1/5 of the puzzle, it’s the least important piece.

So yours was not a surface talk, yours was a, you need to do this before you you start using generative AI, or you will always get suboptimal results.

Yeah, when it comes to other tools.

I mean, think about it.

Even in 2024, we are still having to explain to people the difference between a user of visit a session and an event in Google Analytics, right? Those are foundational principles.

For example, if you’re doing marketing, the general best scope of measurement is the session because you want to know what got someone to do something that day, the person is more of a revenue, measure the unique visitor because you want to see what that human being has done.

And the event we used to call it the page for the event is a UX UI thing to see what you know, that’s, that’s the best scope for UI UX, because you want to see what individual behaviors on a piece of content occurred, so that you can make better judgments about your design and your flow, that those foundational principles of analytics are still missing.

And we’ve had Google Analytics now for 20 years, and people still don’t understand that.

So it’s not that generative AI is something profoundly different than these other tools, it is that we never took the time as an industry to explore the foundation principles of all of our other martec.

And as a result, you do have people spending absurd amounts of money on martech tools that and getting sub optimal results, because they don’t understand the principles.

Generative AI, I hope is different in that if we can get people to think about foundation principles, first, they won’t have to spend 10 years wasting time to get maximum performance from it.

Katie Robbert 7:35

So I wonder.

I mean, and this is really more of a rhetorical question.

So I don’t know that you need to try to find a real answer for it.

But if we’ve spent the last, you know, 1520 years trying to educate people on the foundations of Google Analytics, and it hasn’t stuck, what makes you think that educating this industry on the foundational principles of generative AI is going to be any different? So this is why it’s rhetorical.

I know

Christopher Penn 8:02

it’s rhetorical, but I think it deserves a serious answer.


For the majority people, it won’t be different.

The difference is that generative AI is evolving much, much faster and more capably than other tools.

Google Analytics in 20 years has gotten what five major upgrades to the current version, but Google Analytics is not going to do your job for you.

So it was a we used to say that janitor AI would would not take the job, but a person capable of using AI will take the jobs with people who are not, that’s been the mantra for a while.

However, the tools are evolving at such an incredible rate these days that they are starting to take on significant tasks, complex tasks, that if your job is one task or series of relatively repetitive tasks, yeah, your job is in peril from the machine itself.

Because, you know, if you were just drafting Instagram posts, you’re just making Instagram creative, or any of the things that were discussed in social media market world, a lot of that is very repetitive work.

Conceptually, right, the individual tasks may have variations, like what copy Am I gonna write today for this Instagram post, but the task is highly repetitive.

And it is very possible now for those tools to do substantial chunks of your job, which in turn means if you don’t get a handle on principles based gender, AI and how to use it, if you’re just copying, pasting prompts and things.

What will happen is the tools evolve past you, and then your job is gone.

Right at the if you work in an agency with 100 people and 80 are doing staff work, you may be down to five.

And so those 75 people now need to find other employment, because the tools are so capable and evolving so fast.

So to you know, I know your point was rhetorical.

But there’s a very real aspect of these tools are evolving really, really fast.

And you need to get your hands on hands around them conceptually, so that you can evolve with them.

And that’s the important point you you We the People have to evolve with the tools if we just close our eyes and you So we’ll just sort of copy your samples.

You’re in peril.

Katie Robbert 10:06

So when we think about, you know, all of the different sessions at Social Media Marketing World, this past week, it sounds like maybe then the event coordinators were onto something where they were really doubling down on more sessions than not talking about generative AI, but they were talking about them in different contexts.

And so now I’m looking at the agenda through a different lens, saying, okay, sessions like mine, and yours, and Paul’s, and Andrew Davis, like, where we were really talking about the principles in the tech, not so much social media marketing.

That’s necessary, because you need to have that foundational education of, here’s what the thing is, here’s how you navigate it.

And then all of the other sessions were Facebook ads, and generative AI or, you know, social listening and generative AI.

And then you had folks like Ann Handley, who was that breath of fresh air who came in and said, Forget generative AI for a second, yes, it’s there, you still need to be authentic, you still need to build trust, in order for these tools to be effective for you.

And so, you know, it was I was talking with her.

And she is concerned about her role in all in sort of this new world of marketing events where everything is very technology and generative AI, and you know, that kind of focus.

And she was questioning where she fits into it.

Because she doesn’t talk about that stuff.

And anyone who knows her, anyone who’s seen her speak knows, like, she absolutely has a place in it.

But she as a person was questioning it.

Wondering, is my message still resonating? And I would say at least from my perspective, the answer is yes.

Because at the end of the day, she’s talking about the things that generative AI won’t be doing for you.

And so you can, you know, automate your job, you can, you know, get the repetitive tasks, you can, you know, let generative AI write first drafts for you.

But, you know, so, you know, Ann is really wondering where she fits into this whole narrative about generative AI, because she doesn’t talk a lot about the tech and the tools.

You know, she talks about storytelling and content marketing.

And that’s something that is just as important as understanding the principles of generative AI is, what the tools aren’t going to be doing for you.

And that’s where an speakers like and who talk about the less technical aspects and more of the fundamentals of storytelling, are really needed right now.

Because you’re still trying to make human to human connections, the tools are supportive, the tools are not meant to replace that aspect of relationship building of business, you know, of trust, building of audience, community, those are all the things that generative AI won’t be doing for you.

So you need to make sure that you as the human, understand those pieces and how you can further refine your skills.

And that’s where speakers like her are going to be, they’re going to find their place in the narrative around generative AI.

And so it’s just as important to have the non technical sessions as it is to have the principles and the fundamentals and the tools and all of those things around generative AI.

Christopher Penn 13:45

I mean, it makes sense if you think about it, if if you’re someone like and think about the five P’s right purpose, people process platform performance, if everyone’s talking about gendered AI, the platform and the technology and maybe some of the process for using it.

The other parts is still largely unaddressed, right, people who talk about Pinterest, and gendered AI.

Are they talking still about the people or the purpose of what you’re doing? And so yeah, there’s absolutely room for everyone to still have a point of view.

The other thing is that there comes a point where, you know, to what you were saying, people are so oversaturated on a particular topic that literally anything else is an improvement because it just gets muddled up in your brain, right? If you heard about generative AI for Pinterest, and gendered AI for Facebook and generative AI for Instagram agenda today, I have two threads you like what am I doing? As opposed to saying, here’s how you do this.

Here’s one of the the most effective on Instagram and gendered AI as part of that process.

But in some ways, leading with generative AI is still just leading with platform and not leading with purpose, which is if you want, again, optimum results, you’ve got to start at the beginning of the five P’s.

Katie Robbert 14:54


And so I think, you know, for attendees of social media, Be a marketing world and really any event over the next couple of years, you should expect that a lot of the conversation is going to be around generative AI, you as an attendee, your responsibility is to seek out those sessions that aren’t leading with platform but are leading with purpose.

They’re out there, they completely exist.

And I think that, you know, for event coordinators of events, like Social Media Marketing World and others, you know, I would hope that you’re looking for speakers that are really talking through holistically the whole 360 of where generative AI fits in and not just, Hey, generative AI, let’s slap you know, a context on it like Facebook, generative AI for Facebook, generative AI for Pinterest, generative AI for content marketing, generative AI for email marketing, that’s not enough.

Attendees and audience members and marketers need more, they need more of the full picture of where this tool fits in to everything else, not, here’s a tool fit your life around it, that’s the wrong way to be approaching it.

And so, you know, I think that social media marketing world having that separate AI track, knowing that the other conversations would be around generative AI was a good move, because it gave attendees more of that foundational education.

Christopher Penn 16:31

I agree.

And I think your point about it being integrated into a different into a context is really important.

I did another talk a couple weeks ago called Building the data driven customer journey.

And one of the challenges of that talk, because I’ve given it for years now was, okay, you’ve built the data driven customer journey.

Now what? And that’s where the answer to that second half was, okay, now, here’s how to use generative AI capabilities to take the data from your data driven customer journey, and make changes, make decisions take action on it, and the fact that the tools exist now that allow you to do that without having to be, you know, a statistics expert, or without having to be an artist or having to be, you know, a Pulitzer Prize winning author enables you to turn those those questions into answers, and then turn those answers into action.

And I think that’s where, again, was some of the things that we heard at Social Media Marketing World, some of the discussions were very tactical, and like, here’s how you use this, which is a great individual recipe.

Right? But the difference between principles driven use of general AI versus sort of, you know, one off cases is the difference between knowing how to cook, and just being able to follow recipe be able to follow recipes, good, it’s important, you should absolutely do it.

But if you understand the concepts behind broiling versus frying, then when you read a recipe, you look at God, that that doesn’t seem right, like you’re making a classic British fry up breakfast, and it tells you to to boil the tomatoes instead of fry them like, Should I do that? Because for this, maybe it’s there’s some limitations you have, you would want you could use a different method.

But you’d only know that if you knew the principles.

And the same is true of generative AI.

Katie Robbert 18:19

Well, and I think in your example, another way to state it is, you know, so I’m, I’m really good at following recipes.

You know, I am someone who relies on recipes, because I just don’t do it often enough, you know, I don’t cook often enough.

My husband, on the other hand, he doesn’t need a recipe because he knows the foundations, and he can look at a series of ingredients and turn it into something that I could never do.

And I think about that a lot.

Because I’m like, I wish I could do that.

And the answer is I would just need more practice, I would just need more experimentation, I would just need to know what a fried tomato versus a boiled tomato tastes like? And do I prefer a boiled versus a fried or, you know, a sauteed? Or, you know, whatever.

And, you know, where does it fit into the overall big picture? Like, maybe it’s fine.

Maybe for some people, that version of a tomato is perfectly acceptable, you know, or to your point, Chris, maybe there’s a limitation in the equipment and that’s your only option.

So how do you adjust all of the other things, but if you were only ever rely on a recipe to tell you how to do that, you may not be able to problem solve and figure it out because that’s not what the recipe says to do.

Christopher Penn 19:41

That is exactly it.

When we were at social media marketer what I was doing some of the table talks and of your other things and I was running some prompts in real time for people.

And the feedback I got from folks was your prompting is way different than mine.

Like I it’s clear that you’re you know something by prompting I don’t like that’s not true.

What is Different is exactly what you’re talking about, which is I’ve just had so much time because I’ve been working with these tools.

Since like, 2020, when the first GPT two model came out, right, you know, it was like dumb as a bag of hammers.

But when you been working with these long enough and doing things up with them, eventually, you get those implicit skills that are very hard to describe.

But they make the tools work better, if you understand yet elucidate on how you know, to navigate latent space in a model, you just do it, but it it becomes apparent when you’re doing the thing.

So when you’re when you know, when your husband is cooking, pork ribs, or something like that, it’s very, he doesn’t have to think about because the steps are, are inherent, they’re in it just part of the process.

And so for social media, marketers who want to use generative AI, it really comes down to using it an awful lot.

And following the recipes in the beginning, then seeing variation of the recipes, right? Here’s a recipe for Instagram looks like here’s what a recipe for Instagram reels looks like and how is this different than Instagram stories until you can say okay, now I understand the principles, the power, the recipes that can transcend the recipe because you don’t need it anymore.

It’s that’s actually something very, very old.

So the martial arts is like you do the technique perfectly.

You learn variations technique, eventually, you could leave the technique behind because you understand the principles behind it.

Katie Robbert 21:25

It makes me think of and maybe this will resonate with some of our audience members a little bit better.

I think there’s a scene in the Harry Potter movies, I haven’t read the books, please don’t be mad at me.

I’m not a super fan.

But it always sort of struck me like so it’s in, I want to say it’s in the Half Blood Prince where Harry found the old book, you know, and they’re in like, their version of like, the chemistry, their potions, and everybody else in the class is struggling, they’re reading this recipe exactly.

And this book that Harry has found, has those variations written, it’s like, you know, the recipe calls for 12, you know, walnuts or something.

And in like the notes, somebody has written us 13.

And that makes the difference.

And it’s like, it’s, it strikes me like there’s this room for variation, when you know, you’ve mastered the principles, and that, to me was a very clear example of someone doing that is like, Yes, this is good, but here’s how to make it better.

And so it’s, so I guess the point, you know, that we are both making over and over and over again, is, you know, learn the foundation.

That’s what these events are forced to give you.

You know, here’s the resources, here’s the education that you need to go do on your own.

I think that’s the other thing about events is you’re not going to get everything you need.

In that time and space, what they are doing is basically saying, here’s the path you need to go down.

Now you need to continue to walk that path to get to your destination.

And a really great example of that is so Chris and I both gave the foundations and principles of generative AI.

But to get the full picture, we would encourage you to take our course, which you can get at trust course, which is a deeper dive more in depth to how to actually use effectively generative AI, including the principles that we gave you, including the foundational material.

And so the key takeaway from Social Media Marketing World should have been for attendees.

Okay, here’s a bunch of things I now need to go do.

But I know what direction I’m going in.

Christopher Penn 23:38


And for more advanced practitioners, the the key takeaway was here is how people perceive general AI today.

And if you know where the technology is going, which, you know, again, if you follow what’s happening with the big models and things, then it becomes fairly straightforward to predict what people are going to need in the near future, an understanding of those foundational principles so that as models change, your prompts and your your use of these tools can change with them, and require not a whole lot of rework and reinvention to to make them adapt.

Anytime a model.

Under the hood changes, prompts that used to work great yesterday may not work as well today.

But if you know what the changes are, and you know how that model is interpreting those changes, then you can update things to make them work.

Perhaps even better than before, but if particularly the new model has capabilities, the older one doesn’t, but the only way you get to that is by understanding those fundamentals.

So I would encourage you again yes, take absolutely take the course be sure you are also part of our Slack community go to trust for marketers, and were you in over 3000 on the marketers are asking answering each other’s questions about analytics and AI all day every day, along with fun things like music, track lists and stuff in the in the music chain.

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Thanks for tuning in.

We’ll talk to you next time.

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Trust Insights ( is one of the world's leading management consulting firms in artificial intelligence/AI, especially in the use of generative AI and AI in marketing. Trust Insights provides custom AI consultation, training, education, implementation, and deployment of classical regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI, especially large language models such as ChatGPT's GPT-4-omni, Google Gemini, and Anthropic Claude. Trust Insights provides analytics consulting, data science consulting, and AI consulting.

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