This post on 2021 social media best practices is the first of a 3-part blog series in which we explore digital marketing trends for this year. Be sure to check out our other blogs on search engine optimization and email marketing.
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Social media took on a whole new weight in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted people to small groups and away from indoor venues. That meant a switch to more social media activity online, and a shift in behaviors — some expected and some unexpected. If you manage a social media account, you may certainly feel like your social media game was off from the expected outcome of last year.
The below content will help you to refocus on the right initiatives that are pandemic-proof and how to best prepare and apply best practices. While these discussions will largely remain high-level, the applications you’ll find will ring true in the details. We are excited to dive into social media in hopes that you enter this brand new decade well-informed and prepared for whatever might come your way.
Back in 2017, nearly 1 million new people joined social networks every single day. This growth will only continue as more and more individuals acquire smart devices and adapt to working and interacting remotely. As more people have hopped online for both social and personal reasons, we can expect that the traditional platforms will increase and adapt to new user behavior.
People spend more time on Instagram than any other social media platform. On average, Instagram traffic stays on site 192 seconds, which amounts to over 40% longer than on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, according to a study by Yotpo.
Through improved ads, more groups and a large (and very vocal) audience, Facebook can still hold its own among social media networks. Due to its vast and diverse audience, many brands still heavily rely on Facebook marketing when they plan their annual strategy. However, there are some strategic moves that need to happen moving into 2021:
Twitter might not be the best platform in terms of engagement, but it is the go-to network to find and discuss information. Because it’s more informational and not as visual as Instagram, it’s more important than ever to understand how to write a great tweet, and what can make it stand out from all the noise.
A big part of meaningful experiences on social media is the way that brands engage with their audience. Social media communities are groups created by brands to provide a networking platform for their customers. These are usually private groups where like-minded people can join to talk about their shared interests.
This past year saw many businesses suffer from a lack of organic reach in social media. However, consumers are gravitating toward smaller, more intimate topical communities. Simultaneously, 2020 saw a big move in the direct-to-consumer space, both in terms of e-commerce and content.
In 2021, we’ll see these trends converge and brands will begin to adopt fee-based communities that give superfans exclusive access to content, products, and more. This is the post-modern version of the Membership Club, and will give smart brands the ability to build advocacy and word-of-mouth among core customers who are willing to pay a small monthly fee.
Building social media communities away from your profiles is just the start. You also need to create content that gets people talking, encourages conversations and cultivates the feeling of community. If you’re hoping to leverage the fee-based model, you need to ensure the fee is worth what followers get out of it. If you only ever offer a monthly e-book, they won’t subscribe. You need to make the VIP membership worth their time and value.
It’s easy to see the ongoing growth potential of video. According to GlobalWebIndex’s latest data on social video adoption, audience demand continues to grow:
A great example of this was with TikTok, peaking in March 2020 with almost 76 million downloads. Tiktok is a popular short-form video sharing social platform where celebrity and amateur creators alike share user-generated content from dance, cooking demos and makeovers to animal videos and social media challenges. This content is proving extremely popular with the audience base of Tiktok, of which 41% are aged 16-24.
Later, in August, Instagram rolled out its Reels, offering influencers, brands and fans alike the opportunity to create short 15 second videos.
Video is a much easier medium than text to learn about products/services and communicate online. Video is also becoming a passive way to network. People like to kill time watching videos and sharing them with friends and family. It’s a quick and entertaining way to learn and it isn’t going away.
Marketers will need to adapt to these highly personal uses of video. Social video will need to become more social—an experience that builds a customer community rather than broadcast-style content and product teasers. Businesses would be wise to consider adding video to their content library and tweaking it to best fit with their target audience.
Live social media has soared in terms of its uptake this year, and it’s not difficult to pinpoint that growth to a particular period earlier this year. Using live streaming to fill the physical void has become the new normal for so many consumers, but how are marketers using this opportunity to meet their customers live online?
Buffer lists 5 ideas for live content which will boost your live offering and delight your audience.
Many marketers who previously relied on events marketing have gone back to the drawing board this year. Embracing live social media innovation has enabled them to achieve their goals in a completely different way. This is also something to consider integrating with Fee-based communities as VIP members don’t have to pay to attend some of these live sessions. The possibilities are endless when it comes to professional lives events.
According to the 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report from CMI/MarketingProfs, 89% of B2B marketers use social media for content distribution, but only 24% used Media/Influencer relations. It’s no surprise that in the last decade, social media has become a noisy place, and therefore, brands both in B2B and B2C will find that their dollars go further when they collaborate with individuals whom their audience trusts. Whether these are macro-influencers or micro-influencers, co-creating content that comes from these trusted voices will help brands to break through the noise AND reach broader audiences.
Investing in influencers is much cheaper than running paid ad campaigns and delivers favorable results. Marketers are not just collaborating with 1-2 influencers, but are working with a whole network of small, relevant, niche, and even local influencers. This surge in influencer engagement comes with a warning though. Online consumers are getting better at sniffing out fake influencers or promotions and will avoid engagement if they believe the information to be disingenuous. Marketers and businesses would be wise to seek out “brand ambassadors” or people who love the brand and believe in the power it holds.
Consider re-allocating some advertising funds to focus on finding influencers with reach and authority. Ensure they are trusted voices in the community/market, as well as through social media channels, and seek their partnership to gain reach. The results might be surprising.
A growing focus on political, environmental, and social issues throughout the year means increased social media conversations about the issues close to your customers’ hearts. 2020 was no exception as political and social unrest drove many to take a stand and speak out for what they believed to be right.
Businesses that are able to speak appropriately and empathetically to issues that are currently plaguing the nation will stand out as trustworthy and thoughtful. Of course, businesses shouldn’t do this just for the sake of social media. This type of voicing needs to align with the company’s current messaging and should reflect an attitude that already exists.
Merkle’s Q4 2020 Media Insights Report found that 56% of consumers say they have no respect for businesses that remain silent on important issues. So now’s the time for businesses to leverage social platform to inform and reassure customers.
In 2021, consumers will be looking for more meaningful content that they can share to educate others. Brands that have a defined opinion on matters like equality, but don’t do anything about it, will be criticized for their lack of action. Consumers will be expecting a more human approach from brands.
Social commerce is not new but it IS incredibly important for businesses to get on board with for 2021. 87% of e-commerce shoppers believe social media helps them make a shopping decision. With half the world’s population on social media, social commerce is the next logical step for online shopping.
Data from the US Department of Commerce, shared by Sprout Social, demonstrates social media’s share of total US retail sales rocketing up in 2020, and this trend is set to continue. This may come as no shock to those who were actively shopping online from home and ordering more essentials like food, staples, and office supplies.
Using social media, where consumers spend a large chunk of their day, improves the shopping experience, and shortens the process. As humans we’re always looking for simpler ways to get what we want. Brands should convert customers as soon as possible instead of wasting time sending them to their website, which may lead to usability and time-out issues. Reduce drop-offs by selling directly from your social media post. Marketers will want to focus more on their social media reach, engagement and the effectiveness.
We conclude our 2021 social media trends and best practices with a more sobering outlook. While there are numerous benefits of social media, there are certain negatives that have come to light as many platforms are now being regulated. This is necessary with the load of fake news, data privacy, and online hackers. As eMarketer notes, digital marketers will face stricter regulation and the market will be filled with tech vendors to protect and store first-party data. We’re already seeing the impact of regulation. Social media platforms will soon require marketers to confirm they have user consent for Custom Audiences. Government and consumers will look to better guard personal data and rather than being impressed by journalism or clever personalization.
As frustrating as it is to move away from the Wild West mentality associated with social media, companies need to do their homework to understand what they can and can’t do with user information being gleaned. A great first step is creating a company guideline resource that outlines approved behaviors. Marketers really should be focused on ethical behavior from the start by ensuring subscribers opt-in to receiving promotional or marketing messaging in an unambiguous way. They also need to explicitly state what information they’re collecting and the intended use for this information. Companies would also be wise to create a plan for data security and communication surrounding data breaches.
Looking for more best practices on social media trends for 2021? Contact our team today to find out how we can help!