The biggest business-related takeaway from 2020 is that you have to be flexible if you want to stay relevant. Having a good marketing strategy under your belt doesn’t cut it anymore. You must adjust your business strategy and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of social media by keeping up with the trends that will benefit your customers. 

Did you know that in 2020, over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide? That’s roughly half of the world’s population. This number is projected to rise by at least 0.81 in the next five years. No wonder companies are going digital and investing more than ever to build a solid social media presence.

And while this year has been no different in terms of digital platforms still being used to attract and retain customers, the COVID-19 pandemic did bring about significant changes in customer behavior. Trapped inside four walls, people’s purchasing habits naturally changed, and companies had to meet the new demand.

Is this digitalization also going to be prevalent in the next year? What should social media marketers be expected to deliver differently in the roaring twenties of this century?

1. Virtual events aren’t going anywhere, so join the movement

Since the beginning of the pandemic, virtual events have grown by 1000%. People are finding replacements for their beloved offline activities by signing up for a variety of live streams and workshops that can either teach or entertain them. 

Take a look at what Old Town Books has come up with. Having realized the inevitability of putting their in-person writing classes on the back burner, they have moved them online. They now work on the ‘pay what you can’ basis, ensuring that as many people as possible join the classes. 

The Cincinnati Zoo took a similar approach to virtual events hosting. Instead of welcoming the public in real life, they started holding online classes for kids where they could learn more about animals and participate in fun activities at the same time.  

2. Spike in creative visuals are prompting companies to invest in video production 

Since everyone is spending even more time at home glued to their screens, there are more opportunities for companies to shine with their visual content production. So why not use this time to level up your video-making skills and wow your audience with the never-seen-before b-rolls and l-cuts that will give your company an edge? 

According to Zenith, people are forecasted to spend around 100 minutes per day watching videos in 2021. 

“The consumption of online video is growing rapidly, and the average person will spend half as much time viewing online video as they spend viewing conventional television this year”, says the head of forecasting at Zenith Media Jonathan Barnard. 

The result? Hungry audiences will demand marketers to increase their advertising budgets for video production

Take TikTok as a case study. It has earned the title of the most downloaded app of the year and has quickly acquired the ‘It’ factor that made it an equally perfect platform for entertainment and digital activism. Followed by Instagram Reels, it leaves no doubts for marketers that this is where the biggest amount of organic traffic will be coming from. 

3. ‘Authenticity over perfection’ is the new standard companies will be held to 

Sure enough, authenticity has always been in vogue. But this time around, it’s perceived more so as a competitive advantage used to differentiate one business from another. People nowadays are more inclined to support companies that make an effort to show the raw, unedited realities of running a business and don’t hesitate to demonstrate their stance on social issues.

Millennials, the generation that dictates the market’s direction 9/10 times,  are reported as being a brand-loyal generation. Any brand would do well to earn their business. And while millennials don’t expect companies to be perfect, they demand them not to be tone-deaf to the present-day issues.

Whether through active listening, involving followers in generating content for socials, or going on a social media sabbatical as a demonstration of the political rebuke, brands have no deficit of ways to show their commitment to staying true to their values.  

4. AI tools will help automate social media 

Running successful social media channels isn’t an easy task. From the outside, it might look like you’re just posting pretty pictures every so often, but there’s a lot more that goes behind the scenes. It takes time to not only draft and analyze content but also evaluate reports, create campaigns, and engage with customers—Enter AI software.

Designed to help you automate mundane social media tasks like scheduling, posting, monitoring performance, and optimizing ads, AI social media tools are a godsend for marketers. 

Such tools free up time for creating profitable strategies and letting your creative juices flow.  Just a few examples of these tools are Lately, Cortex, and Pattern89, among others. 

The best part is that you don’t need to be a data scientist to incorporate these tools into practice. What you need is the dedication to learn and automate what can be automated so that you can focus on connecting with your audience on a deeper emotional level. 

4 Tips for Designing a Sustainable Post-COVID Social Media Strategy

Now that you know what trends the pandemic is kicking off, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon and incorporate them into your social media strategy. Here’s how you can do it:

Shift focus from ROI to engagement metrics

Along with listening to the customers and connecting with them emotionally, you should also rethink your approach to business metrics. This doesn’t mean ditching those KPIs and ROI that keep you in the loop about how well the company is performing. 

Instead, add reach, impressions, shares, likes, comments, followers, link clicks, social referral traffic, and conversions to the list of metrics to monitor regularly. Adopting these indicators will help you better gauge what your audience cares about the most.   

Play and experiment with new social media features

Social media is constantly evolving, and it can be hard to keep up with it if you’re not willing to dip your toes in the hot and new platforms with features that your customers are using.

Instagram Reels and TikTok for Business are just some examples of the latest launches that are currently all the rage. Companies that aren’t afraid of taking calculated risks have the biggest likelihood of remaining relevant for customers that will associate their products with these new platform features.   

Harness the influence of digital creators

Leveraging influencers to promote your products in a digital marketing campaign can drive 16x more engagement than the mainstream media. This makes influencer marketing one of the most cost-efficient advertising methods for acquiring customers. 

Today, there are digital creators of every niche imaginable, so finding an influencer is not a problem. You simply have to ensure that you hire and build relationships with those whose values align with yours. Do your due diligence, identify the influencers that are a good fit for your brand, schedule frequent video meetings with them, and reap the benefits of a mutually advantageous collaboration. Don’t forget to ask for their feedback on trends they see in the industry — it will help you always stay in the know.   

Adapt your content to the customer demands and expectations  

In the event of a tragedy or controversy, it is best to think twice before posting content that might be perceived as insensitive. Posting about a large indoor gathering during a pandemic is an example of a no-go.  Doing so is likely to bring about negative emotions and cause customers to ‘cancel’ your brand and make it irrelevant.

Consider taking the focus off of the virus and centering your content around topics that elevate the mood instead. It could be a chance to win an all-inclusive stay at the resort in the fall of this year or a discount for an online course that will help hone a new skill.        

The takeaway

Physical isolation shouldn’t come at the expense of losing a real connection. Instead, it should reinforce the belief in the possibility to leverage the power of social media and use it to elevate business performance, one post at a time.   

So, scan through the trends that have the potential to only traction in the upcoming months and adjust your social media strategy accordingly. You don’t have to do it all. The decision to start posting behind-the-scenes content to remain authentic or lifting the spirits of your followers by inviting them to a free masterclass in a video format to build strong relationships is sufficient to retain the interest of your customers in your brand post-pandemic.

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