Social media has enabled companies to remain connected and engaged with audiences during a tumultuous year that has highlighted the necessity and power of digital content and experiences.
Heading into 2021, brands will again be looking to leverage social platforms to deliver the right messages to consumers and achieve important goals, whether that is driving engagement, increasing visibility or converting followers into new leads.
With this in mind, HubSpot teamed up with Talkwalker to offer a few actionable takeaways based on insights from more than 70 global experts to help marketers on the path to success during the next 12 months.
Weary consumers wary of digital disinformation
There were 101m mentions of disinformation on social media during the first six months of 2020, a clear sign that the general public is growing tired of second-guessing news that they see across online platforms. While ‘fake news’ has been a problem for several years now, there finally appears to be some pushback.
The report suggests that COVID-19 has been a trigger for the widespread distaste for disinformation, as high levels of uncertainty have increased the need for accurate and relevant news and resources.
Brands can blaze a trail here by adopting a culture of transparency, ensuring that their content distribution and ad channels meet the highest standards. Brand monitoring can also be practised to reduce the chances of inaccurate news and ads being linked to a brand.
From here, marketers can then focus on creating excellent content-driven experiences that strengthen relationships and build trust. Telum Media managing director Tim Williamson notes: “There is an opportunity for brands and marketing and communications teams to build trust by engaging authentically with their audiences.”
Socially conscious campaigns
Research by Forbes found that 88% of consumers want brands to be social advocates and to align good causes directly with their product and service offerings. While sending the right messages and striking the right tone can be challenging, marketers will benefit from ‘reading the room’ and being socially conscious.
Wellness and food sustainability brand consultant Roha Daud says: “Brands need to realize that they need to go well beyond just lip-service and do the work on creating an honest social impact.”
There have been many social movements that have entered the mainstream consciousness in 2020, and the conversations surrounding these issues are set to continue into next year. Brands have an opportunity to lend their voices and provide support on social media.
The report recommends that brands identify issues that closely align with target audiences in a specific region. Archetype chairman Lee Nugent warned that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, even though there are some topics, such as climate change and gender equality, that are global challenges.
Two-way conversations take precedence
Conversational marketing came to the fore this year as a new method for driving sales through real-time interactions and engagement. This approach relies on personalisation to move someone through the sales funnel. Content plays a major role here, but so does social media as consumers now expect two-way conversations to be part of the experience.
“With a quarter of Millennials and Gen Z users looking to stories for information about brands and products, and with social media platforms exploring more and more ways for users to connect shopping to this experience, I only expect it to grow in 2021,” Social Media Marketing Institute CEO Mireille Ryan says.
She believes that the “biggest challenge” for brands will be creating innovative content that engages audiences in news feeds and stops them scrolling further down the page. As noted, this will be especially important when targeting younger consumers, who bounce from one post to the next very quickly.
Marketers have a few tools at their disposal to build authentic connections though. These include snackable videos, live streaming, chatbots, and personal responses to tweets and messages. Linking to blogs, news and articles will also keep people engaged. All of this will create a more personal, humane touch to brand relations that can really pay off.
‘Old-school’ marketing makes a comeback
While new tech is transforming digital experiences, brands may benefit from pivoting to tried-and-trusted methods next year. More than half of people in the US now regularly listen to podcasts, and many more still read traditional content formats such as written blogs and articles.
The report claims that older schemes are likely to be in vogue during times of uncertainty as everyone is looking for something familiar and comforting. Blending the old school with the new school will probably be the best outlook for brands in 2021, which means being open to mixing and matching formats and channels, depending on what will work best.
This could mean greenlighting a podcast campaign and releasing a series of blogs, while investing in martech and new advances such as artificial intelligence and automation.
Four Cs of COVID-19 content
There are hopes that a vaccine will ease pandemic woes heading into 2021, but consumers will still want content that helps them to navigate personal and professional challenges. More than three quarters say that they want brands to offer them assistance with their daily lives next year.
With this in mind, the report recommends focusing on four Cs, which are community, cleanliness, contactless and compassion. The first and last of those are arguably the most pertinent for social media and general marketing. People will be looking to brands to foster communities that can support them and show compassion, with targeted materials that can help them in some way.
Be aware of memes and when to use them
Finally, the majority (55%) of 13 to 35-year-olds send memes on social platforms every week, according to research. This has heralded a memetic age, according to the report, and brands should be aware of how memetic messaging can be used, both as a force for good and bad.
While memes can highlight the missteps that a company makes, which is detrimental to brand image, they can also be deployed in social media posts to increase visibility. They also have the potential to go viral. Fashion brand Gucci has used a range of funny and absurd memes in its marketing in the past, so it can really work when managed correctly.