Dive deep into the fast-evolving world of digital marketing with Lia Haberman, the USA’s leading expert in social media, the creator economy & influencer marketing. 

Join Paul & Verity LIVE from the Social Commerce Summit: New York, as their conversation with Lia uncovers the latest developments across platforms; including how to deal with the significant TikTok ban, evolving features on the likes of Instagram and YouTube, and the strategic implications these have for brands engaging in Social Commerce. 

(Which, in 2024, should be every brand.

You know it. We know it. Your brand fans know it, too.)

Whether you’re looking to refine your digital marketing strategy or to understand the landscape of social media better today, you’ll be armed with the necessary insights to navigate these changes effectively.

Listen up to learn Lia’s advice for…

  1. Quickly Adapting to New Algorithms & Features: Explore recent changes in the social media algorithms (restrategizing for Instagram, anyone?) and the introduction of new platform features. Lia shares tactics for adapting content strategies to align, ensuring your brand remains relevant, engaging, and visible in crowded feeds.
  2. Turning Regulatory Challenges into Opportunities: Stare down the unknown and plan for it, optimize for it, and embrace it – a practice needed often in this industry. Hear the expert’s take on what lies ahead for the apps, and how your brand can uncover new opportunities in the face of perceived chaos. 
  3. Why Creator Agreements are Crucial: In times of uncertainty, creators are a brand’s holy grail. Product-first content from brand accounts can easily cross the line of trust, into the antithesis of authenticity. Who better to shout about your products than creators who love them, with trusting audiences and values well-aligned to your brand’s. Learn how to collaborate to see true conversion.

Whether you're a seasoned marketer or starting out, this discussion is for you. 

Start curious. Leave equipt with the knowledge to future-proof your strategies and maintain a competitive advantage in a Social Commerce landscape that changes at lightning speed. 

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Building Brand Advocacy 063: 


Algorithms in Action: Leveraging New Rules, Insights and Creator Strategies ft. Lia Haberman 

Verity: So I am going to bring up someone who is the top creator expert named by Business Insider. She has taught social media and influencer marketing courses at UCLA for the last five years. And she currently writes a creator economy influencer marketing letter called In Case You Missed It for over 20 ,000 subscribers and Buffer has named that the best marketing newsletter in 2023. If you are not subscribed, you are seriously missing out. Lia, would you like to take the stage… 

Verity: Prior to this, you weren't always in this side of the marketing world. You have been editorial entertainment director. You've been a VP of content and operations and also CMO. I'd love to know what kind of brought you to the education side. 

Lia: So the education side, it's like any kind of fortuitous experience. Somebody quit and UCLA reached out and said, there's a class that starts in four days. They knew of me through a mutual friend and my experience and my background. And they said, can you start in four days? And I jumped at, you know, when life gives you an opportunity, you say yes, you embrace it, you figure out how you're going to get through it. Those four students were kind of guinea pigs that first semester because it was just making it up on the fly. And then it's been, like you said, it's been about five years. 

Verity: Yeah, it is a great newsletter. I absolutely love it those Friday mornings when I get that. So as we know, digital space moves incredibly fast and already some big things happening this year. Let's just take a look back over the last five months. What are the key moments that you think as marketers we need to reflect on in the social commerce and social media world? 

Lia: Yeah, I mean, like we can't be here without talking about the TikTok ban. Had that not happened, we would be talking about TikTok shop, we would be talking about carousels. Biden signed the Peace Through Strength Act last week. ByteDance has said they won't sell. China has said they won't allow the sale of TikTok. TikTok sued the US government yesterday. There's a lot of back and forth. So I think that is probably one of the most important things, I think certainly for beauty brands, fashion brands, a lot of different brands, a lot of creators. A couple of different scenarios, you know, why they're the band goes through and TikTok leaves, you know, they pull out of the US. The, you know, they win the lawsuit and they can stay or by some miracle By Dance reverses its decision, decides to sell. And you have someone like, you know, we've heard a lot of different brands, you know, offer kind of interest in acquiring TikTok. One of them that I thought was really interesting was Walmart, which actually tried to buy TikTok with Oracle in 2020. So there is some chatter that they could be a contender if ByteDance ever decided to sell. But I think whether or not they sell, whatever happens, every brand right now needs a contingency plan. And so you've got to imagine whether it's two weeks, two months, six months a year, what is the future with TikTok going forward? What is the future with TikTok not being around? And I think one of the things that's important is thinking about your creator partnerships and those contracts. If you've got something happening this summer or this fall, this, you know, Black Friday with a creator, you want to have a clause in that contract of if TikTok disappears, like what is going to happen? What do you, are you still on the hook for that contract with somebody who, you know, I think it's fine with a creator who is multi -platform, but if it's somebody that is exclusively on TikTok, what happens to your campaign? if TikTok disappears. So not to be alarmist, you know, I think we don't want to be fear -mongering, but at the same point, I do think you have to be practical and have a plan. 

Verity: Yeah. I think it will be a conversation throughout the day, which I'm sure Rogan from TikTok who is here probably won't want, but obviously I think like you said, it definitely needs addressing. And I think especially for fashion and beauty brands, the power of TikTok that they've had, they've helped them grow and sort of have that growth so much quicker than they've ever had with platforms like Instagram as well. So it'd be really interesting to see. 

Lia: Yes, which is not to say, I mean, listen, there's, you know, Instagram has things going on too. They've kind of come out recently, talked about supporting smaller emerging creators, original content. So I think, you know, Instagram is trying to do all the things. They're really trying to appeal to Gen Z. They've really redirected their focus, I think, from, you know, millennials to Gen Z. Yeah. And YouTube, I mean, YouTube's had some interesting things recently, too. You know, there's their affiliate hub, which kind of puts them in competition with Amazon, LTK, ShopMy. One of the things that I think is really interesting, too, is, you know, Paul was talking about TV. And so as part of YouTube's 2024 priorities, the CEO, Neil Mohan, said, you know, living room experiences is one of their priorities a billion hours of YouTube content, or no, it's a billion people every day watch YouTube content on a TV set. So, you know, smart TV. I find that fascinating. They also recently came out with pause ads, which is anytime you pause it, I was gonna say a show, but I guess it's a video, right, on YouTube, you're gonna get, instead of just the video pause screen, you are gonna get an ad. So it's a really interesting opportunity for brands, I think, to kind of, it's a new surface for you to share your message. I also think it's gonna be a really smart space to have an overlap with creators or with your organic social team, because they're really good at storytelling and creating content in a way that people actually wanna hear versus an ad. Yeah, 100%. I definitely think it's a platform that many brands are sort of starting to alleviate to, because there's so many missed opportunities there.

Verity: We'll talk about Instagram and some of the changes there in a bit, but obviously evaluating these trends, I mean, it seems like something is happening every day right now. How do you do that? 

Lia: Yeah, so I was actually on my phone just before this started because exactly, you could go to the restroom, you could go to lunch, you come back, and things have completely changed. Overnight, Instagram just changed the UX on its carousel design. Anybody who's ever looked at the Instagram carousel and seen the little dots and swiped with the dots, the dots are gone. At least on my device, they're now using threads carousels on Instagram. And that literally just happened overnight, no announcement. But in terms of evaluating, yeah, I go through a lot of information every single week, whether it's for my students, whether it's for my corporate clients, whether it's something that I'm posting online. So I have a… It's called the teen girl hierarchy of needs, kind of like the Maslow hierarchy of needs. But that is essentially the lens through which I look at everything, because nobody will ship or stand or whatever, love something like a teen girl will love something. And a lot of times they get dismissed, but they have huge power, shopping power. If they love something, they really embrace it. I think Harry Styles talked about it, and he was like, teen girls do not lie. If they love you, they will be your ride or die. They will buy your, you know, whatever you're selling. They will tune in. They will watch whatever you're doing. So thinking about it from that perspective, you know, basic needs, I think one is every time I look at a new app or a new feature, I'm thinking, does it spark joy? You know, is it? I mean, it doesn't have to be all like puppies and rainbows, but there has to be some sort of element of like fun or surprise and delight. Right. And. Does it keep them safe? Are they gonna be, does it avoid them getting trolled, doxed, harassed, bullied, whatever? So that's kind of like the basic needs. Psychological needs, we're thinking about two key things. Does it allow them to connect with people and does it allow them to express themselves? So connection, you want, at minimum, whether it's their existing friends or friends that they're gonna be able to make, some sense of community there. And then expression, obviously self -expression. You know, everybody, the reason that we post online or one of the reasons is self -expression and how we're perceived by others. So does this give them the tools to position themselves as they want to be seen? Cool, funny, smart, pretty, whatever it is that they're trying to do. And then at the top, kind of that self -fulfillment is basically being able to do all of these things without having their parents around. So parents will get there eventually. I'm a parent myself, no disrespect to parents, but I think when teen girls look for community, when they look to connect with people, they don't want their parents there. So at the beginning, you want, like teen girls are kind of the early adopters of things, so you want it to be an environment where the teenagers are going without being pushed, without being monitored by parents, without being paid. So when you get them there and you expect them to form community, it's not a paid community. So anytime there's anything like Lemonade, for example, no disrespect to Lemonade, but obviously there are a lot of paid creators. And so you have to take that into account when you're thinking like, how popular is this? You've got to look at, are people showing up organically to connect and communicate with people there? Or are they showing up because there's a financial incentive? 

Verity: Yeah. Going off piece a little bit, but AirChat, I mean, what did you think to that and where has that gone? 

Lia: AirChat kind of came and went. Listen, the trend cycle moves so quickly. I got very excited. Anybody that doesn't know about AirChat, it's a social audio app that transcribes what you're saying. And so as you're scrolling, you're getting both text and audio. You know, it was kind of fun. It was exciting for a couple of hours. I got on. I shared a bunch of invites with people that wanted to join it, because at that stage it was invite only. I wouldn't say that kind of my interest lasted much beyond a weekend. What I will say for AirChat though is their speech to text technology is excellent and probably one of the best speech to text technologies that I've used. So whether or not they become the next social app, which I'm not sure that they necessarily will, they do have like really powerful technology there driving the app. 

Verity: Yeah, it'd be interesting. I mean, I just don't think it's a content format though for particularly fashion and beauty brands? 

Lia: Yeah, I mean, the problem is there's a lot of barriers, right? You need to be in an environment where you can speak into your phone without like a lot of background noise or distraction. You need to be, you have to want to speak out loud versus just, you know, typing or taking a photo or recording yourself. So yeah, I think it's like the barrier to entry there is kind of high. 

Verity: Okay, so what do you think some of the emerging trends are that we should be looking out for when it comes to social commerce? 

Lia: I think one of the things, okay, I'm gonna say two things. Social commerce, the way that I phrase it is actually social first. And that is one of the, not one of, it's the primary question that I'm being asked by all of my clients is how do we present ourselves as social first? I would say social first is really like a big buzzword this year. And social first does not mean, shooting in, you know, vertical format. Social First does not mean being on a certain platform, doing short form video, for example. Social First really is a company initiative. You know, it's everything. It's how you empower your employee advocacy program. It's getting your executives on LinkedIn or doing a podcast or, you know, anything like that. I mean, it's an entire company effort to be Social First. In addition to the output of your social team, the creators that you work with. It's the whole thing. So that's kind of one trend that I see this year that people are starting to realize, okay, it's the entire company needs to get on board, cross department. The other thing is community. And I know community is gonna be said a million times today. I went to a conference, I counted, they said community 78 times throughout the day, more than creators, more than AI. It was the buzzword, I think, more than authenticity, which we all know as marketers, right? Like if something replaces authenticity, like that is the word of the year. But I think, you know, thinking about community, community is also starting to show up in different ways. So there's community because we're seeing people retreat to smaller spaces, DMs, stories, you know, group chats. We're also seeing brands launch Slack channels, Discord servers, smaller spaces where they can create these communities for their super fans. We're seeing community be experiential. So this was the first year Pinterest activated at Coachella. Loved that. I thought that was fascinating and really telling that like, okay, this is really interesting. Pinterest also for anybody, I'm sure everybody's aware of this, but because Pinterest has been singing it from the rafters, Gen Z is their fastest growing, biggest cohort and most engaged cohort on the platform. So if Pinterest goes to Coachella, I think it's like they're really looking to tap into Coachella super fans and then super fans of the singers and the bands that are there. So there's kind of like an experiential element. And then the third way that community is showing up is, I would say it's really loyalty or rewards programs kind of masquerading as community. And if I really I don't know if anybody knows Ty Haney, she was the Outdoor Voices founder, and she has now created a new company called TYB Try Your Best. And so, you know, that is a I would say kind of loyalty. It's a loyalty program masquerading as community, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's essentially, you know, community super fans of the brands, the beauty brands show up. They do challenges. They get rewards. You know, they have to post stuff. I think that's really interesting. I saw something also, the LA Clippers, which is, I'm not a sports person, but I noticed that they did something recently and they have something called being Chuck Mark certified. Again, for any sports fans, I like, I apologize for the way that I might misconstrue this, but I think Chuck Mark is their mascot. And the interesting thing about being part of the LA Clippers community and getting Chuck Mark certified is you have to prove, when you sign up to be part of their community to get discounts, to get tickets to certain areas of the stadium, to get exclusive merch, you have to answer a trivia question about when the mascot was created. And you have to provide a social post you have already put up that shows your allegiance to the LA Clippers. And I thought that that was fascinating because a lot of these community loyalty programs are like, just sign up, give us your name and email. This was like, no, we want proof that you are really ride or die for the LA Clippers. And that also gives, I think, the consumer kind of like or the fan a peace of mind that you really are joining your community, your tribe, because you know that everyone else has gone through the same process and really is a diehard LA Clippers fan. So I thought that was interesting and that people should borrow from that. 

Verity: In terms of those three things that you've mentioned, how do you think that will impact consumer behavior and also kind of like the expectations of social platforms? 

Lia: Yeah. So I think consumer behavior, I think that we are looking, especially when you're talking about Gen Z, they are very price conscious. So I think any program that does give them, whether it's free product, whether it's rewards, whether it's discount codes, I think that is going to be very powerful. I do think we are where things are kind of shifting a little bit where it's less about our efforts as brands or brand marketers or agencies. And it's really more about, I think we're chasing audiences right now across multi -platform, multi -format into these private spaces, into all of these places. And I think there's, you know, the, the consumer has a lot more power now. I would say creators have more power, consumers have more power. And so it's shifting the dynamic a little bit. And it's allowing for certainly like co -creation with creators, with consumers, with employees. So we no longer have a stronghold on the message or on the brand. The brand is really kind of a collaborative effort with your audience, with your consumer, with your employees, with your creators. 

Verity: Yeah, 100%. that it went viral, I think, especially in the UK, the article from Vogue Business, the Gen Z broke the marketing funnel. 

Lia: So good. Everybody, if you haven't read it yet, yes, you need to read that. 

Verity: Yeah, and there's a great quote from it in terms of like brands with the center of the sort of the consumer journey, but it's the people now. And I think, yeah, that's so powerful. Yeah.

Lia: I did not remember that article, but I'm glad that you stitched together what I was saying and even put it in the same sentence as that Vogue article, because it was brilliant. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's also touching what we talked about there about the brands just relinquishing controls to their audience, to their customers, to their fans. And that kind of crossover with the idea of being social first. Those are very similar, right? They are basically the same things. But with these sort of generational shifts, you've got Gen Z and then also Gen Alpha as like real purchasing buyers in the world, like how are these trends affecting them and how they affect in the trends in reverse? Yeah, it's funny. I was looking on TikTok yesterday and there's a kid, I think it's Target and they hired this like influencer that's, I mean, I don't even know if he's alpha, he's like three or four years old. He's a greeter. I think his parent, one of his parents must work at Target or something and they bring him. And so they've just like done an official campaign with a kid that is barely, I mean, he's a toddler basically and I thought like, wow, this is going to be wait for the think the thought pieces around, you know, target partnering with somebody that is essentially like barely out of diapers. But, you know, I hope Gen Z gets their due in the kind of the shift from millennial to Gen Z, because I think we're going to move on to Gen Alpha pretty quickly. You know, I think it kind of ties into everything that we've talked about, like. We know that Gen Z mostly because a lot of them are young. I mean, the oldest Gen Z is probably up like 26, 27. The youngest are 12 years old. So, you know, the 12 to 18, you are price conscious. You are looking for the discounts, the rewards, all of those things, because, you know, you're not earning a salary yet. So you're really price conscious. I think despite everything that we've seen, Gen Z still shops in store. And they actually shop in store more than millennials do. So I think that's really interesting in thinking about the experience in real life or in store and how that translates to online or to social. It's funny, I went out for dinner last night with my in -laws and we went to this restaurant and there was something on the menu, it was called chicken meatball flight. You know, like you get a flight of wine, flight of beer, whatever, and it was a chicken meatball flight. I ordered it because I was like, this is so cute, I love the concept. And the chef came around and was like, how did you like the food? And I was like, I got the chicken meatball flight. So clever. I love it. And he was like, actually the social team told me to do it because we wanted something in the restaurant that would translate really well. It's very aesthetic and just the concept of it very cute. And it translates into being posted on social. So it was kind of this loop between experiential and social where both are feeding into each other. And I was the sucker, obviously, that fell for it. Like, you can mark it to me because I will be like, yes, I'm getting the chicken meatball flight. Adorable. It's all part of the teen girl hierarchy needs, right? It sparked joy, yes.  So what is it that is different about this generation that they want to go back into stores? Probably like my parents always had to shop because they didn't have the internet. Yeah, I think they are very, they're, Gen Z is on track to be one of the most educated generations. I think I saw something about that. And I think like they are, they look for inspiration. They do research. They're really thoughtful consumers, maybe more so than we have been previously. I also think, again, because they're young, like they need to make their dollar stretch further. And so I think the idea of like impulse buys, unless it's like a very inexpensive item, if it's a dollar, you know, that might translate better online. But I think otherwise, they're doing their research, they're going to the store, they want to look at, you know, the quality, they want to understand, they want to see if they can get it somewhere else. I think they're very thoughtful and intentional consumers. And so I think that's part of the experience or the shift. I also think, I mean, the pandemic just upended everything. So I think, you know, being stuck at home for depending on where you were in the world or where you were in the US, you know, you might have been stuck at home for like a year or two years. You weren't going to school. You weren't seeing your friends. And so I think we might not be at this point if it hadn't been for this kind of enforced at home time. And so I think there is that idea of like getting back out, going, being in person. And, you know, I saw somebody on there was a teen on TikTok yesterday who was posting like malls, they're amazing. It's like they're rediscovering malls. They're like, there's all these stores that I can go to and I get my product immediately instead of, you know, waiting for it to ship. They're like, it's right there. I pay for it and it's there. And I'm like, this is this is like charming. They're rediscovering malls and the joy of malls.

Verity: Okay, let's dig into some of the platforms really quickly. What should we be expecting from Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, even Pinterest? And I'm particularly interested in what that means in terms of content formats as well. 

Lia: So I think platform -wise, Instagram I think is really doubling down, like I said, on emerging smaller creators' original content. I think that's worth keeping in mind that Instagram is being supportive of smaller creators, also creators who engage with Gen Z. They've come out and said that this year. So I think it's... 

Verity: I mean, the headline's, Instagram's doing something right for a change. 

Lia: Yeah, I think it depends where you sit, right? If you're a micro to mid to mega influencer, it's actually, I think, really hard for you right now. And if you've been around for a little while. So I think it just depends on what size creator you are. If you're a nano creator who's got like a really, you know, produces original content, has a really strong niche, like this is great for you. It's not great for all creators. So just to kind of balance that out. But I think as brands, it's important for us to know, OK, Instagram is going to be prioritizing nano creators with original content. Right. Like that's where you should be looking. And I think brands are already doing that. Instagram also talked about their testing three minute video for anybody that was around for IGTV is kind of like an irony that they might bring back IGTV. It's like everything comes full circle malls, longer form video. IGTV, I think they said they're testing three minute video. So I don't know that that's long form. That's kind of a mid. I think we're going to see a lot of mid form not short, not long, but like a mid form video. I know TikTok is also testing longer video. In terms of YouTube, I think YouTube's balance right now, Gen Z loves YouTube. It's their number one social platform, always comes out on top in polls. I think the balance for YouTube is gonna be appealing to Gen Z and their need for community and UGC content balanced with, they're very focused on the living room experience the living room experience tends towards more produced content, right? So, and that's fine as a larger creator, as a brand, as a media outlet, for example, that is great. Okay, focus on the living room experience, making longer form video for YouTube. I think it's just gonna be a balance on YouTube's part to like balance the needs of Gen Z with the living room experience. TikTok, I mean, it's a little bit of a wild card, obviously, because we're not quite sure what's gonna happen. But I certainly think, you know, entertainment like TikTok shop, TikTok in terms of being an entertainment platform. But also what I think is interesting is they're going to be launching TikTok notes, which is a photo app, which has already come out in Canada and Australia. They've also added, at least on my version of TikTok, not everybody has this yet, but on my homepage of TikTok, I've got the FYP, the following, the shop, and then I have a new tab called explore. And everything in explore is photo carousels. So I think that really speaks volumes about how much TikTok wants to incorporate, not just video, short, mid and long form, but also photos. So becoming kind of a all format platform so that you can do photo, you can do video of any length that you want, plus the shopping. So really becoming kind of an all things to all people platform. In terms of Pinterest, I think Pinterest again really big with Gen Z. They're really doubling down on obviously you can, you know, shop there, you can do photos, you can do video. They're doing a lot of stuff with AI around inclusivity, different body types, skin colors. So I think that that's where we're going to see coming to Pinterest with, you know, keeping your audience in mind and making sure that you're reflecting, you know, your audience, your consumer on Pinterest and not being too precious or perfect with what you're posting there. 

Verity: I mean, I always feel sorry for Pinterest because it always feels like such an underrated platform. 

Lia: No, no, don't feel sorry for Pinterest. I absolutely love it. 

Verity: I had a social media agency before I joined Duel and honestly, it's such a powerhouse, but not tapped into enough by brands. 

Lia: I agree. And Megan Thee Stallion recently came out, said she had deleted all social apps on her phone except for Pinterest. And so, you know, right away, obviously the CMO of Pinterest was on LinkedIn. They made a campaign about it, you know, but good for them. Megan, I was at a conference, Megan Thee Stallion said she deleted everything but Pinterest and the room cheered. Like everybody wants Pinterest to win. And I think it is really powerful in driving traffic, driving sales. So yeah, don't sleep on Pinterest and don't feel sorry. I feel like Pinterest is the, it's the sleeper hit. Yeah. It's also the most sort of socially commerce app going because all the others are trying to ram commerce into a fun experience. But actually you go to Pinterest, generally around purchase decisions. They are very, very correlated inspiration about what to buy regardless of what that's going to be. So that kind of the joining the dots there is definitely going to be one of the biggest ones. 

Paul: How can brands sort of stay on top of that with regards to we've got constantly evolving algorithms, these various different things we've got, or should we be investing everything in Pinterest or TikTok or whatever? Like, With these various different trends, how can they plan for the next three years? How is that possible? 

Lia: Well, obviously there's my teen girl hierarchy of needs. So you want to apply that in thinking about the platforms and the formats that you're on. But I think you did touch on something, that there are so many updates. You should always have your core brand values, brand message, and you don't want to stray too much from that. But I do think that we are moving to a multi -platform, multi -format world. Teens use up to five social apps. So I think you do have to have a plan. I know nobody's going to be happy to hear this, but it's like, yeah, you do need to be in multiple places. It's the same mess. It's an integrated omni -channel strategy, basically. You know, you're thinking about, OK, this is our core message. This is what we're trying to achieve. We're going to film something, but we might have to film it a couple of different times, or we're going to use Descript or some other AI thing to break it from a long form video into 20 short form videos that we are then going to upload on these different platforms. And we might tweak the text on screen between TikTok and Instagram, for example, you're going to have different captions. So it's kind of taking like a nugget of like an idea or like the core of your campaign. And then essentially thinking about how does it present on TikTok? How does it present on Instagram? How does it present on our close friends on Instagram that we have for our VIP community?

How does it translate into, you know, our advocacy program for our employees? Are we giving them the tools to also be sharing this? So I would say it's not an easy answer. I think, you know, a couple of years ago it was like, great, be on TikTok, do short form video. Like that was it. I could have just sat here four years ago and been like, do that. And now it really is, like I said, it's like omni -channel, it's integrated marketing, it's thinking about every piece and how it all comes together.

Amazing. Well, challenging, but also exciting. I know. I know. I'm sorry.

Paul: Thank you so much. Can we have a massive round of applause for the incredible Lia.