This is the time of the year when everyone starts predicting what we'll see as social media trends for the year ahead. It can feel slightly overwhelming to swift through 100s of pages of data, hence why I always like to highlight some of the key findings.
A great example is this report from TalkWalker (which you can download here), in which the team partnered with HubSpot to interview 70 global experts (including yours truly) on their thoughts and predictions for the year ahead.
One of the key takeaways is that being proactive has been a game-changer for successful companies. Smart brands sat back and listened, then won with creative, original ways of fitting into the social conversation to break through the wall of indifference.
Below I summarise my top trends (the ones I personally think would be the most relevant in 2021), as well as some thoughts and predictions coming from me.
A new way of producing content
User-generated content is nothing new, really. However, the way content is created and produced will change drastically.
A variety of businesses (big and small) are planning to increase their Instagram budget, and almost half are planning to do the same for Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Notably, for all the hype of TikTok, it has not increased in importance in the investment stack.
I call this the ‘Money See, Mokey do’ approach, quite common on Tiktok. Instead of constantly initiating trends, we are looking at ways to use something that is already there. Remixing also makes content creation easier, with fewer technical restrictions. With remixing, anyone can take a trend and recreate it into something new.
As Dmitry Shapiro, the CEO and Co-Founder of GoMeta (Koji’s producer) said:
“remixing gives ordinary people the power to layer context and self expression.” (Forbes)
Takeaway: Marketers won’t be focused on creating content, but facilitating it.
New values to emerge due to the global climate
It would be remiss to ignore the big C, the one that completely changed the way we live, work, and even market our own businesses. According to the report, marketing on social media will focus on 4 Cs (very apt).
Community, cleanliness, contactless, and compassion.
Not coincidentally, Facebook has published a new report which looks at evolving consumer behaviors as a result of COVID-19, specifically focusing on 'mindful wellness' and increasingly conservative shopping habits due to the impacts.
The report shows how 50% of consumers have "sought out small indulgences to treat themselves" as a means of dealing with the situation.
This also has changed the way businesses think of ROI. As businesses struggle to recoup lost sales in the wake of the pandemic, marketers turn to social to meet two equally urgent imperatives: deliver short-term ROI with targeted performance marketing tactics while building innovative digital experiences that win long-term loyalty by bringing discovery, connection, and fun back to the customer experience.
Takeaway: Understand where your brand sits within the crisis and make the time to get clear on what your customers want and need from you. This will be key in your communication strategy.
Make your brand more human
”Revealing the human side of the brand: Smart businesses will understand that being transparent, authentic, and even vulnerable is smart marketing in 2021. People connect with people. This means the brand should be personified in a way that reveals who they stand for and what they stand for. Get more faces out there, create more video, and talk about what matters to your core tribe.” - Michael A. Stelzner, CEO & Founder, Social Media Examiner
Sales are no longer top priority for customers. They want to know you as a brand first hand foremost - and from Linkedin Stories to Instagram Live broadcasts, the ways to bring this to life are endless.
Instead of using social as a mouthpiece for empty promises, strong CMOs will use the intelligence gathered by social media teams in 2021 to help the organization adapt to new buyer beliefs, new ways of doing commerce, and the new path to growth that requires balancing the twin demands of building a better business and better world.
Yet again, this does not come as a surprise to me. Brands are more than ever creating a conscious connection between their values, what they stand for, and their products. Focus on information, engagement, and social issues that are driving engagement and future retention.
Takeaway: tap into the ‘social’ aspect of your social media strategy and tap into the human side of your brand by putting yourself out there.
Time to go beyond social
Remember newsletters, podcasts and blogposts? Those good ol’ media that got wiped away by social media? Well, the report highlights how 55% of Americans now listen to podcasts, while newsletter mentions were up 14% during the lockdown.
”Marketers need to be digital first in mindset today. That’s why “old school digital marketing” is as important today as ever. From customer education through blog posts and email marketing to engaging with consumers in webinars, videos, and even podcasting, old school digital marketing is all the rage” - Neal Schaffer, Author, The Age of Influence
This could clearly connect with one of the other trends mentioned, and the need for customers to get educated and inspired before they actually buy from you.
2021 will see continued growth in educational content - as a brand, providing relevant information quickly should become a cornerstone of the strategy.
Takeaway: It’s time to think about how can you position yourself as an expert in your field, especially as a brand. What medium can you use to educate your audience?
When it comes to where I see social media going I see content becoming more engaging, interactive, and diverse than ever.
I can see interactivity rising in 2021. After personalized web experiences, interactive video content is something that has been rising - like Ask Video. Produced as short and engaging, is perfect to engage with younger audiences.
Stereotypes, ageism, and a years-long habit of chasing newness over effectiveness have left marketers underestimating an increasingly digitally savvy and lucrative demographics like minorities and baby boomers.
By using smart segmentation and thoughtful representation, marketers that include a wider audience in their digital strategies can leapfrog those still stuck in stereotypes.
Overall, my key takeaways revolve around the way brands communicate and engage on social media. It’s no more about selling, it’s truly a matter of connections.