As we near the end of 2020, one thing is certain: We’ve spent a lot of time on social media this year. But, our increased connection to social media isn’t at all shocking considering the year we’ve had.
In March, many countries implemented stay-at-home orders due to the global pandemic and Statista reported a 21% uptick in monthly social media usage during this period. Since then, consumers have not only continued to use social channels to catch up with loved ones, but they’ve also embraced them for product research, the latest news coverage, hours of mindless entertainment, and even online shopping.
Now, as the world hits 3.6 billion social media users and continues to deal with the pandemic, organisations aren’t just wondering how they’ll engage huge social media audiences next year. They’re also asking, “What social media marketing trends should I expect in this constantly changing landscape?”
2021 planning will look a little different than in previous years. While it is true that change is constant in marketing, 2020 shook up the field so dramatically that many marketers are revisiting everything from personas and buyer journeys to brand purpose.
Let’s take a look at 8 key trends and predictions for social media marketing in 2021.
1) Traditional Social Platforms Will Continue to Perform Well
Facebook and Instagram have long dominated social media as the largest and most popular platforms. In recent years, several other niche social media platforms emerged and significantly rose to fame.
However, the newcomers have encountered difficulties in their expansion. TikTok, for example, launched in 2016 and immediately gained popularity with the younger audience. It grew to be one of the most popular apps in both the Android and Apple app stores. However, to an extent, TikTok has been a victim of its own success. Its popularity with the world’s youth and its Chinese ownership has come to the world’s regulators’ attention. The US didn’t want it to operate in the USA unless it changed to having American ownership in that market. A sizable market of India was also banned from accessing TikTok in June 2020.
But, TikTok wasn’t the only platform facing issues this year. Facebook and Instagram had their own issues in 2020 and are still currently facing several court challenges worldwide. Despite this, Facebook and Instagram continue to be popular with its users in 2020.
Hootsuite surveyed businesses about where they intended to increase their social budgets in 2021. These are the findings:
- 60% stated that they intend to increase their Instagram budget in 2021
- 46% plan to increase their Facebook budget
- Only 14% of the surveyed firms intend to raise their TikTok marketing
The same survey asked respondents which platforms they saw as being most effective for their goals. Again the more traditional social networks stayed popular: Facebook 78%, Instagram 70%, LinkedIn 42%, and Twitter 33% led the pack.
2) Live Streaming Will Become the New Norm
In 2019, one in five Facebook videos were live and YouTube users cumulatively spent 284 hours watching live video. In the following year, 2020, many brands were forced to take conferences, events, and other marketing experiences online, it’s not shocking to think that 2020 live stream numbers could be higher.
At the moment, many brands are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Twitter to live stream events, Q&As, tutorials and other types of content. These types of content keep your followers engaged with your brand by bringing an event they otherwise might not be able to attend directly to their screens.
Even if the COVID-19 situation improves in 2021, live streaming is here to stay. People are now used to being able to interact with brands in real-time online. They can examine a product without even leaving their home.
Although the traditional social platforms have performed best in 2020, live streaming media have also had stratospheric increases in popularity, which is likely to continue into 2021.
3) Video Content Will Dominate
Video content is one of the most engaging forms of content and has already dominated social media, a clear winner over all other content types. Whether it is short-form videos like those popular on TikTok or Stories or long-form content on YouTube, videos are the future of social media marketing content.
These numbers show the importance of incorporating video into your digital marketing strategy in 2021:
- 70% of consumers say that they have shared a brand’s video
- 72% of businesses say that video has improved their conversion rate
- 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions
- 65% of executives visit the marketer’s website and 39% call a vendor after viewing a video
Additionally, according to a Cisco study, by 2022, 82% of all online content will be video content. This clearly shows how important it is to start utilising video content to stay relevant in the social media domain.
If you’re not currently creating videos, it is time that you include them in your content strategy. In the near future, videos will dominate social media and anyone who doesn’t realise that will have a tough time adapting.
You can start by using features like Stories both for your social media content and for advertisements. You can also add videos to your social media posts, even on platforms traditionally dominated by image or text content.
And don’t just think of YouTube. There are plenty of ways to drive higher engagement with your video marketing, as you can make a video post or start a live broadcast on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.
If your site includes video, it’s 50X more likely (50 times!) to drive organic search results compared to text. Why? Because people find video content more compelling, so Google pushes pages that include videos higher in the rankings.
One of the best things about video marketing is that it makes it easy to reformat your content. Imagine that you’ve recorded a video for your YouTube channel. Instead of just publishing it on YouTube, you could also:
- Get it transcribed so you have a text version of the video
- Publish the transcription on your blog under an embedded YouTube video for better rankings
- Upload the raw video with the transcription as subtitles to Facebook (native Facebook videos get a much higher impression share and engagement than shared YouTube videos)
- Turn the transcription into a standalone blog article with a short rewrite and addition of relevant stats and images
- Rip the audio alone and use it as a podcast episode
- Use video thumbnails in your email marketing campaigns and the word “video” in subject lines to increase open rates by 19%
Here are some other video marketing trends that are gaining more and more traction:
- Live video – it’s particularly popular with a large number of businesses who use it for interviews, product demos and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the brand, such as life in the office, how products are made, company events, etc.
- 360-degree video content – This trend leans towards a more interactive experience.
4) Conversational Marketing
The pandemic has also brought the need for brands to connect with consumers to the forefront. Brands now can no longer shout their messages into the void and hope for the best. Instead, it is all about conversations and connections. Having conversations with consumers to build those relationships, and create sales. Brands can also open up themselves to active consumer conversations by combining it with a more conversational tone in its messaging, one that brings a human voice to social media.
Many brands made the mistake of trying to capitalise on the increased social media activity during the pandemic, completely overlooking the fact that people primarily wanted to connect with each other, not brands. For the most part, these brands saw the error of their ways early and pulled back on advertising spend, redirecting focus to crisis response, social customer care, and engagement. In 2021, marketers will strive to place more value on content over engagement because passive audiences are still consuming your content.
With conversational marketing, sales is no longer the top priority for customers. Instead, it is information, engagement, and social issues that are driving engagement and future retention.
Now, for those of you wondering, no, conversational marketing is not a new trend. In fact, most of the big brands we know and love allow you to connect with them via social media messaging channels at any time. Conversational marketing is a method of engaging customers through conversations, using chatbots, social messaging, calls, and more. It is about building relationships through personalised, one-to-one content.
Although a relatively new marketing methodology, conversational marketing is highly adaptable, so brands can alter their messaging quickly to meet varying situations or consumers. Additionally, technology is starting to catch up with the conversational marketing potential, with more AI-powered solutions, and omnichannel conversations with chatbots. This means that brands can have personalised contacts on an enterprise scale.
5) Social Commerce Will Continue to Expand
As many brands learned how to do business completely online, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok raced to develop more online business marketing solutions.
While TikTok and Snapchat expanded business marketing offerings in 2020, Facebook and Instagram actually brought shopping capabilities directly to their apps. With Facebook Shops, Instagram Shoppable posts, consumers can buy a product seen in a post without even leaving the app they’re on.
For consumers, this adds convenience. For brands that couldn’t build their own eCommerce store, the online shopping tools noted above are providing new opportunities to effectively sell products online.
As we become accustomed to the “new normal,” businesses need to pivot to ensure sales keep coming in and numbers exceed previous years. This shift toward contactless shopping will allow eCommerce stores to thrive even further in 2021. With social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook already beginning to integrate in-app purchasing, the steps traditionally required to convert a user to a customer will be reduced and the gap between ‘scrolling’ and ‘shopping’ will be significantly blurred.
To take advantage of these changes, your local business will need to:
- Survey your audience to determine their true wants & needs from an online offering
- Research & test multiple video platforms to find one that supports your new offerings
- Collect contact information from customers to ensure you can be in touch at any time
- Sign up for Instagram and Facebook shopping to link products to your social posts
6) Facebook Ad Creative Becomes Less Static, Favors Positivity
One thing’s for sure: Advertising on Facebook (and Instagram) will see more ingenuity than ever before in 2021. Following are four Facebook ad creative trends that are predicted to be in trend:
- GIFs – They have proven themselves to be a staple among intermediate and advanced advertisers, and they’re incredibly easy to produce. Simply take 3–15 seconds of any video and create your own GIF on a site such as Giphy.com. Remember, while GIFs are short and sweet, they’re still counted as video views so you can retarget them, too.
- User-generated content (UGC): Sometimes your most creative and persuasive content comes directly from your actual customers and clients. More and more marketers are recognising the power of UGC and finding clever ways to incentivise it among their customer base for use in their marketing. UGC content can range from testimonials to fun and snappy Reels-style edits of how to actually use your product or service. Smart advertisers make sure they have permission to use this UGC, of course, and then use it in their ads. This will become increasingly central to many advertising campaigns moving forward as companies recognise the ROI.
- Collages: Collages are making a comeback in a big way right now. They’re eye-catching and encourage people to pause their scroll to check it out. That pause can be all that’s needed to float the eye through the remainder of the ad (from copy to headline) and cause the click. So try your hand at some on-brand collages for your company and see how they do.
- More text-heavy ads: Now that Facebook has removed the 20% rule from its platform (though this is an unspoken rule removal; there’s been nothing official from Facebook itself), you see more advertisers playing with larger, bolder text ads. Think about how popular quote cards have been on Instagram for many content creators.
7) LinkedIn Culture Shifts Toward Conversational Transparency
2020 was a massive year for LinkedIn. The platform rolled out LinkedIn Live, Events, Polls, and Stories. In the coming year, marketers need to embrace not only these new features and content formats but also the shift in the culture created by the rise in remote working from home.
Professionals working remotely are engaging with conversational content because it mimics the team environment they’re missing. On the personal brand side of LinkedIn, you’ll want to focus on mastering conversational marketing. Create polls that your audience will want to vote on, ask irresistible open-ended questions in updates, share candid photos from your workday in stories, or post about celebrating career milestones.
On the LinkedIn page side of things (for businesses), 2021 will be a game-changer for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who are hyper-focused on their LinkedIn pages. The LinkedIn team is looking for ways to appeal to SMBs like never before with the rollout of upcoming features that will help SMBs build a community of raving fans around products or services. Many businesses are already taking full advantage of the interactive new features available.
Here’s where it gets interesting on both the personal and corporate brand sides of things. Conversations on LinkedIn, typically a place where conversation centers around business, have been focused on public, political, social, and economic issues. Why does this matter? Because this shift is forcing professionals and brands alike to speak up and share their values.
If you want to be successful on LinkedIn in 2021, be prepared to adopt transparency into your marketing efforts.
8) LinkedIn Networking Behavior Changes
LinkedIn is currently plagued by mass-outreach spam, which is making people more hesitant and skeptical about connecting and more easily offended by a sales pitch. Outreach spam ruins relationships and reputations but real relationships build them.
In 2021, marketers should focus on building relationships rather than collecting connections whose sole purpose is to drop a sales pitch after two interactions. Real 1:1 connections begin when the connection request is customised for the recipient, making them feel valued.
The sophisticated social media marketer will put effort into building meaningful, long-term relationships on LinkedIn that aren’t perceived as transactional. The effect will be not only stronger relationships. A more sizable cohort of one’s ideal target audience will see and interact with your posts and those relationships will continue to add value to your career for far longer than a current campaign.
Today, the world around us is constantly changing. And, although we think we know what to expect with social media marketing, this list of trends is likely not exhaustive of what we’ll see in 2021.
As a social media marketer, the best thing you can do is to continue to research trends, online consumer behaviours, and your team’s social media data to determine which trends or strategies to lean into or how to navigate unprecedented online scenarios. Leverage these trends to your advantage and stay ahead of your competitors. Social media is a dynamic and competitive space, and these trends can help you ace your social media game. So, keep abreast of the latest developments around these themes and use these for your social media initiatives.
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How Digital Marketing Will Change in 2021 – Neil Patel