Written by Mark Quadros
Social media is arguably the best thing to happen to humankind since the invention of the telephone. It has wormed its way into every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate to the way we shop and consume content.
Thanks to the influence that social media wields, more and more businesses leverage the channel to reach and engage potential customers. This means that your brand will have to work extra hard to stand out from the crowd.
You must constantly stay on top of the latest fads and adapt your social strategy to fit evolving consumer demands.
This year has probably challenged you to come up with new ideas and tweak your existing social strategy. As we prepare to bid goodbye to 2020, it's time to take the lessons you've learned and start carefully laying plans for the year ahead.
While you may not accurately predict what the future has in store, there are emerging shifts and clear trends that will impact your social media activities in 2021 and beyond.
In this post, I'm going to examine the different trends to look out for and suggest actionable tips that'll help you take your social marketing by storm in the coming year.
Importance of Trend Monitoring for Brands
The Coronavirus pandemic has made the year unpredictable and rocky for many businesses around the world. Since physical interactions have become persona non-grata, consumers and brands were forced to lean heavily on social media to stay connected.
Consumer behavior and industry demands have also shifted, so marketers will need to be more vigilant if they want to market their products and services effectively.
If there's anything this rollercoaster of a year has taught us, it's the value of being prepared. For instance, companies that already had a robust digital and remote work strategy in place didn't struggle as much as their counterparts. They were able to quickly pivot and carry on with their business without losing productivity or revenue.
It's essential that you use consumer trends and data-driven insights to build a map for your social strategy in 2021.
Being aware of emerging trends and the changes the marketing landscape has undergone will help eliminate uncertainty about the future. It'll also enable you to better tailor your brand messaging and content to address your audience's current needs and concerns.
2021’s Upcoming Social Trends
Let's look at the social media trends that will drive the most impact in the months ahead.
Remixing and repurposing content
Due to the lockdown, consumers spent more time on social media. Many of them began using it as a creative outlet to showcase their ideas and personalities and even entertain themselves.
They took existing content and remixed or repurposed it by adding their own unique flair and sharing it on their social profiles for others to see.
In 2021, this trend is expected to continue, and smart businesses will create and take advantage of these opportunities to grow audience engagement and reach.
You'll not only need to create content; you’ll have to help consumers create content for your brand. Provide them with templates, company logos, and other assets they can use for content creation.
Studies show that user-generated content drives 28% more engagement than content brands create themselves.
During the early days of self-quarantine, the Getty Museum created a social media challenge that went viral. They encouraged their followers to recreate works of art using household objects, and tens of thousands of posts poured in, each one more stunning and creative than the last.
Borrow a page from their book and provide outlets for your audience to produce entertaining, thought-provoking, and creative content that interacts with your brand.
Promoting through memetic messaging
Memes are an easy and fun way for people to respond quickly to information or express how they feel about a subject without typing long paragraphs. Meme culture is spreading across social media like wildfire. Research shows that 55% of people aged 13-35 send memes every week, and that figure continues to rise.
You can boost engagement on your posts by adding relevant memes to your message. If a user-generated meme featuring your brand pops up, share it across your social media channels and credit the creator.
Use image recognition to monitor your brand logo and assets, so you know when they’re used in memes. Ensure you understand the meaning behind the memes you post to avoid sending an offensive or wrong message to your audience.
Remember that memes can also be used negatively to manipulate viewer’s mindsets, so you need to be on the lookout for memetic propaganda that could impact your brand and quickly address it before substantial damage is done.
Socially conscious marketing
According to Forbes, 88% of consumers want to support brands that have social causes aligned with their product or service. Consumers are becoming more socially conscious, and they’re looking to engage with businesses that share their values.
They want to buy from companies that take mental health, social justice, inclusivity, politics, and climate change very seriously. Gone are the days when brands could get by on merely paying lip service to these issues. You need to speak up, take a stand, and take action to attract and retain this crop of customers.
For example, Uber launched a widely praised anti-racism campaign across its digital and traditional media assets to commemorate the anniversary of the march on Washington and MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. They also set in motion and supported other initiatives to further this cause.
To strengthen your connection with your audience and avoid getting boycotted in 2021, you need to figure out the most critical issues and throw your weight behind them. Survey your customers, listen to their expectations and needs to gather valuable insight into how best to present your brand and engage them.
Another trend that’s going to be on the rise in 2021 is nostalgia marketing. More brands will share stories that draw on old memories, present content in vintage or old school format, or even reintroduce defunct products into the market.
The events of 2020 left many of us reminiscing about the good old days when the whole world wasn’t grieving at the same time, and we could go out and do the things we loved.
Nostalgia marketing allows brands to help people disconnect from their current struggles and take comfort in positive memories from the past. If you can make your customers feel good, you’ll strengthen their emotional connection with your brand and leave them open to your messages.
As our community tries to heal in the coming months, you can develop fun campaigns to help them remember better days and rekindle a sense of hope. You can only market nostalgia to one generation at a time, so how well you know your audience segments will determine your campaign’s effectiveness.
Social gaming and marketing
Studies show that the number of people who identify as gamers rose from 31.1 million in August 2019 to 41.2 million in July 2020. The gaming community is expanding rapidly, and the lines between it and social media will continue to blur, merge, and evolve in the years ahead.
More forums and groups will be established within and around games for fanbases to share their interests, engage in conversation, and connect with like-minded people.
This creates opportunities for brands to discover new audiences and produce more personalized and interactive content that boosts engagement and revenue.
Warner Bros leveraged social gaming to create a buzz around their upcoming movie, Tenet, by releasing the film's trailer on the Fortnite gaming platform. Nobody had done this before, so the move was wildly successful and effective.
There are many innovative ways to share your content and engage existing and potential customers in gaming communities. You just have to be willing to think outside the box.
Customers can get the products or services they need from anywhere. What matters to them is engagement, social values, and information. This is what will determine the brands they patronize and remain loyal to.
In 2021, there'll be less tolerance for brands who are only interested in selling to their audience. The most successful companies will be those who prioritize having conversations with their customers to build relationships.
You need to connect with your target market on issues that matter to them, share stories they can relate to, offer relevant and helpful content, and showcase the human side of your brand.
Leverage social tools like chatbots, SMS, email, social media channels, live-streaming video platforms, and more to build authentic connections with your audience and make it easier for them to reach you.
The comeback of traditional marketing
Marketing is like popular culture and fashion; trends are always coming, going, and reappearing. In times of uncertainty, like today's pandemic era, marketers tend to return to tested and trusted communication methods rather than adopting new, disruptive strategies.
With more people using voice search, listening to podcasts, sending voice notes, and even voice tweets, voice communication will be making a stronger comeback in 2021.
Newsletters and other traditional methods of sharing, accessing, and consuming information easily will be embraced. Your brand should be more concerned about providing relevant information for your audience quickly in the coming year.
Combine newsletters and podcasts with your Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram content to maximize your message’s reach and impact. Go back to the old ways and look for opportunities to expand engagement, build customer relationships, and help your audience find solutions to their problems.
Growth of digital disinformation
Since February 2020, mentions of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and fake news have become more prominent. The global pandemic created an information void, and non-authoritative sources arose to fill that gap, leading to individual, societal, and economic losses.
When a false video claiming to be a whistleblower from Vodafone confessed that the Coronavirus was caused by 5G, the brand and other telecommunication companies suffered as a result. 5G towers were burnt down or destroyed, causing network delays and significant financial damage.
You can expect brands, public sector institutions, and social media channels to devote themselves to clamping down on disinformation, highlighting the truth, and encouraging transparency in 2021.
Audiences will become more perceptive at detecting and fake news and misinformation, and they'll be more willing to challenge these conversations.
As a brand, you'll want to make sure that you're fact-checking everything you share, properly securing your digital assets, and monitoring brand mentions so you can detect and address fake news quickly.
Train your newsfeed to only showcase content from reputable sites by sharing and engaging with trusted content. If you come across posts that contain fake or misleading information, report them. Lastly, don’t share anything that you suspect is false or sensationalist in the slightest.
The influence of COVID
A survey by Kantar revealed that 78% of consumers want brands to help them in their daily lives. Since Coronavirus has become our new normal, brands will have to keep an eye on the pandemic and figure out ways to help their customers through these turbulent times.
This means that businesses need to consider the 4Cs of COVID—community, cleanliness, contactless, and compassion–when shaping and relaying their messages.
For instance, KFC temporarily suspended its iconic slogan "Finger-lickin’ good" because with the pandemic raging on, finger-lickin’ is not recommended. In doing so, they effectively aligned their branding with current concerns.
If you want to stay ahead of the social media game in 2021, you must focus your strategy on the needs and issues in your community. Prioritize hygiene so people can associate your brand with cleanliness and health consciousness.
Eliminate the need for physical contact as much as possible in your production, distribution, or service process. Remember that the entire world is struggling, and show compassion for all communities, the environment, and competing businesses.
These things will make a massive difference in your marketing and customer relations strategy.
Take a step in the right direction
Now is the time to pay attention to understanding what and how social media trends and cultural shifts affect your brand's audience. As you keep learning and taking things day by day, you'll become a better marketer or comms professional and be more prepared for the challenges ahead.
To achieve brand success in 2021, you don't need to have all the answers. You just need to center your customers, get to know them well, and align your marketing strategy to suit and satisfy them.
Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIN or twitter.