I think we can all agree that we’d like to put 2020 behind us and look forward to 2021 as soon as we can. The global COVID-19 pandemic have forced us marketers to work in an environment where physical contact and even general socializing are minimized. For that reason alone, we have been forced to redo our marketing strategies. Looking ahead into 2021, how should we plan for this new normal? What social media trends should we be aware of for 2021?
My friends at the leading social listening technology company Talkwalker have put together a comprehensive ebook that listens to the opinions of 70+ marketing experts and influencers, including my own input, to help define the trends for brand survival in 2021.
You can download the ebook in its entirety by clicking here.
Out of all of the trends that the ebook talks about, I want to focus on what I see are the three top social media trends that I believe you should adhere to for a successful social media strategy in 2021.
Address COVID-related customer pain points
This point should be a no-brainer, but as Jay Baer said on my podcast recently, you need to reset your marketing because the new normal requires it. This is because what began as a pandemic has radically changed the way we shop, work, go to school, socialize, and consume information.
All of this stems from the one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic, which is the ongoing concern about spreading germs from one person to another. While COVID is the most serious major threat right now, our emphasis on public health has never been higher. To that end, officials worldwide have limited many commonplace activities. Resulting declines in business have forced many corporations into bankruptcy. Ordering products online has become more common than ever, forcing many retail shops to close their doors.
How can your business deal with these challenges? I believe that these 4 “C”s that are outlined in greater depth in Talkwalker’s ebook will help your company stay ahead with your social media strategy in 2021.
If there’s one thing that the lockdowns have taught us, it’s how important our personal relationships are. Before the pandemic, people often took those personal connections with friends, relatives, and coworkers for granted. After all, we could often just drop by a coworker’s desk and say hi any time. Asking friends over for dinner typically meant little more than making sure that the kids had their homework done early. Families didn’t hesitate to gather for a weekend dinner or fly to grandma’s house to throw a holiday party. Nowadays, these everyday events are severely limited. In some places, they’re banned.
Perhaps that’s one reason why one of the biggest consumer pain points is community involvement. Community has become a huge theme on every type of social media and business websites worldwide. For instance, there is a craft store that encouraged people to make millions of masks to donate to hospitals during a time when commercial ones were unavailable. Later, they sold premade masks with the promise that they’d donate some to schools.
Other businesses have spearheaded different community-based initiatives or provided necessary products that were in short supply. For instance, distilleries have used their alcohol to make hand sanitizer. This kind of concerted community effort was repeated all over the world. For all the differences we have during ordinary times, there’s nothing like a crisis to bring us together. On social media, businesses everywhere have sought to emphasize their community spirit. Sometimes it’s even funny. No matter how they’ve approached the problem, business emphasis on community is one of today’s biggest social media trends. And social media is the perfect place to build and support your community.
One of the saving graces for us marketers during this difficult time is the fact that people still need things. While everyone agrees that food and medicine are everyday requirements for most of us, purchasing other things can’t always wait for the crisis to end. This is especially true as the pandemic has dragged on. Combined with a need for the medically vulnerable to stay healthy, contactless delivery of goods and contactless payments have become an everyday solutions to the problem.
Fortunately, business has once again stepped up. Some non-essential businesses were able to maintain a degree of operations during the lockdowns by allowing for curbside pickup. Here, items are placed in the trunk or backseat of the customer’s car. Businesses have spread the word through social media posts and advertising.
Another area of contactless commerce is contactless payments. Many modern payment cards have chips that allow the card to be read without touching the payment terminal. In addition, there’s Apple pay, Walmart Pay, Google Wallet, and more. Each of these allow a customer to pay for goods and services without touching anything besides their purchases. On social media, business has made it clear which contactless payment methods they can take. We expect these social media trends to continue, as well.
Perhaps the biggest trend driving contactless transactions is the massive increase in ecommerce, whether its directly shipping product to your house, buying things for pickup at the store later, or using a delivery service to bring you dinner, the increase in contactless goes hand in hand with the explosive growth of ecommerce that your company should hopefully have a strategy to capitalize on.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has created a lot of pain worldwide. This pain includes sickness, lost jobs, anxiety, social isolation, inability to pay for life’s necessities, and much more. For essential businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, this has meant dealing with a lot of scared frontline workers. These people have faced a wide variety of obstacles, such as aggressive customers and a generalized fear of getting sick. Fortunately, businesses have managed to show some compassion for the situation, which has become one of the biggest social media trends for 2021 as well.
Here’s one example. When most businesses were first shut down in March of 2020, there was a rush to show social responsibility during tough times. Many businesses sought to show how compassionate they were while shut down. For instance, some retailers paid their associates for a limited time, allowing them to avoid missed paychecks. Many of them even paid health insurance premiums for affected employees.
The pandemic has brought unrest and uncertainty to many. Showing compassion with your customers and the general public is something that will continue to set your company apart and win passionate fans into 2021 and beyond.
Arguably, cleanliness is the biggest of all social media trends, and it will probably continue for a long time. Starting with the panic buying of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and cleaning products back in March, everyone is working hard to achieve a clean environment.
Businesses have dealt with this a number of ways. For instance, a lot of stores have posted extensively about how they keep the place clean enough. If you walked into any pharmacy during the early days of the pandemic, there were often signs everywhere. Likewise, reopening stores put a lot of information about their sanitation policies on social media. This info is often added to websites and storefronts, as well. Overall, the goal is simple: making people feel comfortable enough to return. Don’t expect this to end until well into 2021.
Talk to your customers
One of the challenges brought on by the pandemic is the reduced availability of live customer service. In addition, people have pivoted from being sale oriented to an increased emphasis on getting the right information from brands. In order to address this issue, brands have turned to the latest of social media trends: AI-based messaging. This is often accompanied by customer service chat, and more.
Why is this advantageous for customers?
One of the great things about AI messaging is that it can work 24-7 without a break. In other words, these chatbots can provide some basic customer service tasks on the customer’s time schedule. Even when everything is running normally, using a chatbot allows the customer to bypass the concept of business hours. Want to get your questions answered at 2 AM? Just log onto Facebook and use a Messenger bot. While these apps can’t cover everything, they sure provide some convenience.
Another way that talking to customers is advantageous for them is that they can get questions answered in a timely manner. Some social media chat actually involves live humans, even if it isn’t in real time. For instance, many people enjoy using Twitter as a customer service module. A few companies are easier to reach this way than by any other method. From a consumer standpoint, leaving a message allows them to walk away and check for an answer later. While it may seem slower than calling in, this method means a customer doesn’t have to stay on hold by the hour.
Businesses reap the rewards, too.
Luckily, using messenger bots and other tech toys for business isn’t only advantageous for customers. Rather, businesses can benefit as well. Probably the biggest advantage of messenger bots is that they have a very high open rate. Unlike email, which can be shoved into the promotions tab or spam folder, Messenger notifications pop up where the customer can’t miss them. This includes Messenger pushing the conversation onto a smartphone and the window popping up in Facebook. Overall, this results in an open rate of around 80%, which is an astounding success rate among social media trends.
Another advantage is the cost savings over manned customer service. While most businesses will want to have customer service personnel available, chatbots can deal with some of the more common inquiries. This means that, generally speaking, you will need fewer customer service reps to handle customers.
Messenger bots and similar tools also allow a business to put on a human face. Unlike leaving a phone message or sending an email, chatting with a bot allows real time interaction. Even when it’s quite obviously a bot, these applications make customers feel more valued with the individual “attention.” Being a nameless, faceless corporation is quite the liability these days, and bots, when programmed right, actually let your company seem more human.
Facebook clearly believes that this trend will only continue as they just recently announced that they will be opening their Messenger API to Instagram messaging for businesses.
What’s old is new again
The new normal doesn’t have to be complicated. Because every business needs to have a digital first mindset, it means that they need not only revamped strategies for social media marketing, but also for the “mundane” search engine optimization and even email marketing in order to meet today’s customers where they are all of the time: online.
In some ways, influencer marketing is one of the social media trends that mixes old and new. That’s because in the days before social media influencers there were celebrity endorsements. While endorsements haven’t, and probably won’t, go away, influencers are doing more of the heavy lifting. With that said, influencer marketing isn’t the only example of this trend. Other techniques are making a comeback, and these haven’t changed as much. Here are some examples.
While it can be argued that newsletters have never really gone away, they are more relevant in 2020-21 than they were pre-pandemic. Think about it: How else can you best keep in touch with customers that you can’t physically meet? Not all of your customers are following you on social media or visiting your website. It’s no wonder that perhaps, like my own experience, we are suddenly receiving more and more email from companies that have never emailed us before. I expect this trend to continue as email marketing undergoes somewhat of a renaissance in this new normal.
In digital marketing there are four main types of content: text, photo, video, and audio. Of all of the content formats where there is the most potential because of growing demand with limited competition, podcasts fit the bill.
Did you know that 51% of Americans listened to a podcast in 2019? Now how many of your competitors have created their own podcast?
There are a lot of factors that make podcasting such a compelling and attractive marketing medium today, and it is the force driving me to spend more time on my own Maximize Your Social Influence podcast as well as launching a second podcast later this year.
Going into 2021, podcasting should continue to be among the major social media trends.
In this case, the seminars are being delivered digitally rather than in person. Like podcasts, seminars allow users to learn about the latest things in their industry without it seeming too salesy. These can be both live and prerecorded, or a mixture of both. One of the great things about this format is that it is relatively flexible. Perhaps you can watch for a while, then put it down to help the kids with their remote learning. Later, when things are quiet, these can be picked up again.
Overall, 2021 has a lot of promise. Lockdowns and uncertainty are reducing by the day, and people are starting to buy things again. Nonetheless, concerns about issues like cleanliness and social responsibility aren’t going away soon. By capitalizing on these social media trends, your business can profit even in tough times.
Make sure you click here to download the ebook for much more advice on these and more social media trends for 2021.
What do you think of the above social media trends? Are there any others that are equally important? Please chime in in the comments below.
This is a contributed post submitted from one of my marketing partners.
Hero photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash