A new report released this week by Socialbakers found that ad spend on social media platforms soared by 50% globally during the festive period, as brands used live videos and other forms of content to engage with audiences.
With so much investment in the advertising space and a growing desire to craft more affordable, organic posts for Twitter and Instagram among others, social media will again be a key battleground for brands during the next 12 months.
This is why it is so important to keep pace with the latest trends and understand how key technical and social developments will change what consumers want, and how you can best serve them.
With so much riding on social media success, marketing experts continue to weigh in on what brands should do to update their strategies. Here are five recommendations that you can take on board and potentially weave into your own plans in February and during the rest of 2021.
Two-way communication is key to rising up to the top of user news feeds, according to PDCA Social president Neal Schaffer, who believes that algorithms on social media sites will “always” favour people.
While a few years ago, Facebook appeared to weight its algorithm towards brand updates, this has changed recently and marketers now need to be more personable by investing in value-added relationships. Businesses often find this challenging, but a change in mindset could be key this year.
Schaffer adds: “This is because companies still look at social media as a promotional and advertising channel, rather than as a grand arena to collaborate with social media users, primarily customers and influencers, and work them through a relationship funnel to incite word-of-mouth marketing for your brand in social media.”
Research by HubSpot shows that consumers casually discuss specific brands on social media around 90 times per week. This can be incredibly valuable if your brand is part of that conversation.
An extension of organic relationship building is that it puts people first, and when you do this on social media and other areas of marketing, you are more likely to deliver engaging, relevant content that resonates long after it has first been published.
Organic posts that dominate feeds are more likely to gain more social share signals in the form of likes, comments and shares, which amplifies your content further and broadens its reach. This highlights how a single piece of content on social media that hits the right notes can snowball into a range of positive benefits for your company.
Schaffer also calls for a strategy that is driven purely by the “voice” of employees, customers and influencers. He notes that while some influencers have come in for criticism recently, “embracing nano influencers” closely aligned to your brands can give your campaigns an extra edge.
Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram have been around for over a decade now, so marketers have had a lot of time to get to grips with how these platforms work and some of the format-specific features that can be leveraged for campaigns.
While these tried-and-trusted outlets will be central to social media efforts this year, Regex SEO’s Dmitrii Kustov believes that companies will be looking to invest in things that they may have “stayed away from” in the past.
This is because the pandemic has fundamentally changed customer touchpoints. While previously, brands could rely on traditional channels, they are now having to pivot to digital to reach and engage users in the real world on a regular basis.
This could translate to an effort to start a channel on TikTok, or open an account on an older platform or messaging app that has not previously been explored.
TikTok was downloaded 76m times in March last year, for example, and continues to be popular amid lockdowns, so it may be a good idea to approach the idea of crafting content specifically for the Chinese-owned video sharing service, depending on your objectives.
Yet another recommendation for live content comes in from Brainstorm Digital director Danny Bermant. This is an area that has got a lot of attention during the last nine months or so and it shows no signs of going away just yet.
This is not surprising when you consider that in the US alone, the stream of content spiked by 73% in March 2020. Live streams should be viewed as the new normal for marketers, and they potentially offer a few upsides compared to physical events, not least the ability to serve digital content in different formats.
If you are struggling to come up with ideas for live content this year, you could start with a few Q&A sessions and product launches and announcements. This will allow you to find your feet before embarking on a larger digital conference.
Consider social commerce
Another relatively new concept is social commerce, where customers can buy products directly from a brand in a social media post rather than navigating to a webpage. General ecommerce sales surged last year due to store closures, and 87% of online shoppers say that social media is crucial to their buying journey.
Digital marketing expert Maisie Tomlinson believes that the rise of social commerce is inevitable as it is “easy, functional and streamlined”. Platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook already have shopping formats that enable users to buy products with just a few clicks.
Tomlinson also says that the direct approach reduces the chances of a potential customer navigating elsewhere, as it is possible to convert them straight away. This condensed cycle is more effective and allows marketers to focus on driving reach and engagement.
With social media being such a competitive space for brands in 2021, Tomlinson concludes that “evolution is necessary”. Incorporating new ideas into your strategies could be the difference between success and failure this year, so don’t rest on your laurels and be willing to experiment.