The New Social Scene

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Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina

Top social media trends to watch in 2021.

There are now more than 3.5 billion people that use social media around the world. So it’s no wonder that brands and companies everywhere are wondering whether social media can help deliver a new and improved customer experience. But as businesses struggle to make up losses following a very difficult year, marketers find themselves balancing a double-edged sword on very unstable ground. How do you deliver short-term sales returns that also deliver long-term brand loyalty?

It’s not surprising that focus often shifts to performance-based marketing tactics during difficult times. Recovery must be calculated and strategic, and the highly measurable world of digital can remove a lot of stress and ambiguity when higher-ups are calling for results. But the brands that usually see the most success during these difficult periods are the ones led by teams who never, not even for a minute, take their eye off of key brand health metrics like awareness, consideration and loyalty. They’re also usually the ones that take the time to listen to and connect with their customers so they always have a tight grip on the customer experience. And there is genuinely no better place for that to happen than on social media channels.

Here are some top trends to keep an eye on in 2021 if you’re interested in leveraging social media to drive traffic, deliver sales and attract new customers to your business.

Content is still king – and now even more important than production quality.
2020 forced a lot of marketers to get creative with their content development.  The days of expensive production shoots in studios with large teams disappeared overnight, and marketers had to figure out how to round-out their content calendars without the luxury of banked content.

Many companies found new and creative ways to tell their stories via iPhones and GoPros and quickly learned that their customers didn’t mind one bit.  As all of us became more comfortable with virtual chats, video streaming on mobile and quirky social apps like Tik Tok, authenticity suddenly trumped over-produced perfection on social. People started to get real. And that is now the new comfort zone.

2021 will continue to deliver scaled-back production, and customers will continue to appreciate the stories being told over the way brands choose to tell them.

Consumers will demand more from online conversations.
Community management isn’t anything new. Customers have gotten used to connecting with their favourite brands online – whether it’s to ask them a question, leave a great review or participate in an online event.  However, a growing dependence on social channels by companies is driving a need for automation in order to keep up with all of these customer interactions.

As technology plays a greater role in managing customer conversations, it will become increasingly important for brands to demonstrate their human side. Striking the right balance between AI and live interactions will make the difference between a conversation that feels empty and commercial, and one that creates a lasting connection with a customer.

Boomers will continue to join the party.
In the past, marketers haven’t typically included Baby Boomers in their audience targeting on social channels, but the last few years have changed all of that.  66% of Boomers have discovered a new product or service on social media in the past four years.

With lots of spending power (Baby Boomers hold 70% of the disposable income in the U.S.), marketers will miss a big opportunity if they don’t start connecting with this highly sought-after customer audience online.

Augmented reality will become a staple.
Experiential marketing, once a significant piece of the marketing toolkit, was almost non-existent in 2020.  This upcoming year will likely continue to limit in-person interactions, and as a result, marketers will have to continue looking for new ways to engage with their customers.  Augmented reality (also known as AR) could help bridge that gap.

Because AR doesn’t require any new hardware (customers can simply use their smartphone), this tactic within the social space continues to grow. And the latest research shows that customers are more than ready for it. 70% say they’re more likely to be loyal to brands that incorporate AR in the shopping experience. AR gives customers a chance to interact with product in a virtual world, driving engagement and entertainment in a climate where experiences are starting to feel a little stifled.

Live streaming is here to stay.
With the lockdown limiting in-person interactions, live streaming quickly became a quick and cost-effective way for brands and companies to deliver engaging content.

Social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter, didn’t skip a beat when it came to encouraging users to jump on their platforms and connect with their audiences. With Sprout Social reporting, 40% of consumers say they want to see more live videos from brands.

This new trend has gotten customers used to interacting in real-time with the brands they love without leaving their homes. Because live streaming is so interactive, it’s a great way to build a new audience and grow loyalty among your existing ones. Companies should continue to build on the momentum they’ve built with live streaming in 2020.

Tik Tok continues to grow.
In 2020, TikTok was the 7th most used social platform globally, with 60% of its users between 10 and 19. This means that the majority of TikTok’s audience is made up of Generation Z. So why should marketers care? Next year, 74 million people in the United States will be part of Generation Z, and that means they will be the largest generation in the country.

Marketers can no longer afford to overlook their customers of tomorrow and need to understand (and quickly) how this generation interacts on social. And if 2020 is any indicator, a huge part of that interaction will live on TikTok in 2021.

Voice messaging will help make things more personal.
Instagram’s voice messaging feature in its Direct Messages allows brands to communicate via minute-long voice notes that enable them to connect with their customers on a more personal level. With the growth of voice-enabled devices, it was only a matter of time before brands started to leverage this new feature. And with human interaction now considered a rare luxury, voice messaging could add that personal touch that customers are craving.

Companies will need to get real.
Customers want the companies they buy from to be honest and straightforward. People are more than willing to give companies the benefit of the doubt, but it has to be earned.

It’s no longer good enough for companies to skate around the issues or provide excuses for their mistakes. According to recent research, transparency and engagement are the top two factors in making a brand’s social media best in class. This will be paramount in the coming year. Companies will need to be highly accountable for everything they do and willing to talk about it in real-time with their customers.

People will continue to open their wallets on social.
It’s no surprise that a lot of retail traffic was re-directed online with the temporary forced closures of brick-and-mortar stores. With more and more people now comfortable making purchases from the comfort of their home, 2021 will continue to see an increase in social commerce activity. As a result, this new sales channel is expected to grow to $39 billion in the United States in 2021.

Because we know that 54% of customers will research a product or service on social before buying it, social commerce can be a hard-working tool for marketers looking to grow sales during the pandemic and beyond.

Are you ready to turn these trends into strategies that will grow your business? Get in touch with us today.

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