How 2020 has changed the way brands engage on social media forever

In a year that's redefined socia media, how have brands coped?

2020 has challenged – and changed – how brands and marketers use social media. Some have scrambled to make a rapid move to the digital environment, while others have followed users as they’ve embraced and altered the ways they use social media.  

Hootsuite’s Social Trends Report, now in its fifth year, has revealed the shifts Australian marketers must make as the world becomes more digital after a year that redefined social media. The platform has found brands that excelled on social in 2020 understood their audience and used social media to contribute meaning to a wider conversation, with the aim of building a better business and a better world. And with 4.1 billion people now using social worldwide, it also predicts this landscape will only expand into 2021.

The stats from social media usage during COVID showed increased engagement across all demographics. Of interest to brands in particular, is the number of social media ‘brand followers and ‘brand interactors’ have increased, according to Audience Precision data. COVID has also given a lot of people the opportunity to use different social media platforms for the first time and to also use social media for alternate outcomes.

“When we look at key online brand purchase drivers, just over 1.1 million Australians [up from 596,000 people during the same time last year] want brands to ‘provide an option to buy button’ on their favourite social media network,” said Audience Precision head of business development, John La Rosa.

“Our relationship with social media has improved, especially as a news source. So it will be interesting to see if our trust levels of social media will improve, especially as we consume more of it and know what to look for, such as awareness of fake news and influencers." 

Five social media trends of 2020

Hootsuite has identified the five key trends of social media during 2020.

  1. Race to ROI.     
  2. Listen first, before engaging. Know the conversation.
  3. The comeback of Boomers.
  4. Do you know the customer?
  5. Purpose. How do engage on social issues?

1. The race to ROI
Social media is bridging the gap to a new customer experience. For brands, the key is to deliver short-term return on investment with targeted performance marketing tactics while building innovative digital experiences that win long-term loyalty by bringing discovery, connection and fun back to the customer experience.

2. Silence is golden
Brands need to listen first in order to find their place in the conversation. Hootsuite's research found smart brands sit back and listen, then win with creative, finding original ways of fitting into the social conversation to break through the wall of indifference.

3. Way more than OK
The Boomer generation has been overlooked by digital marketers but this is changing. By using smart segmentation and thoughtful representation, marketers who include baby boomers in their digital strategies can leapfrog those still stuck in stereotypes.

4. Do I know you?

Tying engagement data to identity gives advanced brands new momentum, Hootsuite stated. And with renewed momentum and executive attention on social media’s ability to retain critical connections with customers, the vendor said now is the time to take steps - big or small - to bridge the gap between engagement and customer identity.

5. The perils (and promise) of purpose 

Bold brands start in the boardroom, not the front lines of social. Hootsuite advised that instead of using social as a mouthpiece for empty promises, strong CMOs will use the intelligence gathered by social media teams in 2021 to help the organisation adapt to new buyer beliefs, new ways of doing commerce and the new path to growth. 

Hootsuite VP of corporate marketing and head of CSR, Henk Campher, noted key trends from this year that have changed the way organisations engage on social media. “As much as 2020 has been a year to forget for many reasons, it has reshaped our world, especially the social media and business landscape,” said Campher.

“Amid physical distancing across the globe, the need for brands to pivot, adapt and overhaul to keep up with complex consumer lifestyle shifts and expectations has only increased.”

Adapting to the new rules of social media

Brands that understand this year has driven social media usage to an all-time high and will likely remain that way, can make the most of people’s changing digital habits.

Old habits die hard and the rhythm consumers have developed during COVID will remain,” head of organic search at performance agency Next & Co, John Vlasakakis, told CMO. The advice to brands is they need to invest in high-quality content that people will engage with but also can lead to taking consumers on a brand's customer journey in a way that increasing customer lifetime value. 

“Engagement across content, particularly on LinkedIn, has seen an uptick in activity and engagement. People are spending more time on social media and are consuming more content across all social media channels,” Vlasakakis said. 

“With the right creative, message and targeting, we are expecting it to increase in 2021 and beyond. Social media advertising will see a continued increase in the amount of budget spent and also the number of advertisers in a category across social media."  

Finding quick wins on social 

Hootsuite’s guide to navigating social in 2021 is based on a survey of 11,189 marketers in Q3 2020 and industry insights. It found customer acquisition is social marketers’ top goal, with 73 per cent of all marketers ranking increased acquisition of new customers as their top outcome for social in 2021, compared to only 46 per cent last year, marking a 58 per cent year-over-year increase. 

Instagram reigns, with more than half of all businesses (60 per cent) planning to increase their Instagram budget. And though Instagram leads the charge in attracting marketing spend, almost half are planning to do the same for Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. 

Further, social data builds confidence, with 85 per cent of organisations that integrate social data into other systems stating they have confidence in their ability to accurately quantify the ROI of social media. 

It’s clear this year has seen many touchpoints in the purchase cycle move online.COVID forced a barrier to break for many consumers who were previously unsure or afraid to research or purchase online," iNC Digital Media CEO, Loan Morris, told CMO.

“The pandemic forced these new behaviours on all consumers during lockdown. And for many consumers, these changed behaviours will persist.”

Morris said marketers have been responding to these behaviour changes across platforms. We've seen our clients change their marketing mix and channel mix based on how we believe the Aussie population are now consuming media," he said.

"We've also seen advertisers try to move as much of their business and engagement online if they hadn't done-so previously with many brands investing more heavily in e-commerce and shopping in recent times."

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