2020 is shaping up to be a year of unexpected change and transformation. As the world rebuilds itself, social media as a way to buy and sell products, communicate, stay connected, even work and go to school has never been more important. Here are some of the biggest social media trends for 2020.
Taking a Hard Look at Metrics
Metrics are what both brands and individuals use to measure their success on social media. If you’re trying to grow your presence in this sphere, you’ve probably worried about some metrics, such as follower count, views on YT, ratio of views to followers, etc. However, recent moves at Facebook and Instagram to temporarily hide likes sent many brands and influencers scrambling for other metrics to rely on. Although likes aren’t permanently going away any time soon, expanding the metrics you use to judge your progress is still a good idea.
Social listening is gaining in importance, as brands pay attention to not just how many people are talking about them, but what they’re saying. How does what they’re saying change with different messages or a well thought-out response? It’s a good idea to dig deeper into all your analytics to make sure you aren’t missing something imortant, like an opportunity to better meet your audience’s needs.
Focusing on Individuals
Although marketing on Facebook and other platforms often means selecting demographics and narrowing down a still-broad group of people to advertise to, in 2020 there is more of a focus on private niche groups found on these sites. For example, if you’re a fashion influencer, you might choose to join a group for a fashion trend or brand you frequently talk about on your Instagram stories. If you’re a food blogger, you might focus on conversations in groups for people interested in French cooking, Thai cooking, microwave cooking, vegan cooking, or whatever fits your target market.
This means thinking about advertising to people as individuals instead of as a broad group. Paid advertisements intersect with your own genuine engagement within these groups—the conversations you have with other members about shared interests. Often these can be more effective than a paid ad.
The Intersection of Social Media and Social Change
Hashtags for social justice causes have flooded social media this year, and big corporations took notice. For example, Citibank studied the gender pay gap in their own company and found that women made 29% less than men in similar roles. They also learned that women made up half their workforce, but only accounted for 37% of senior positions. Using social media, they publicly committed to changing the disparity by posting a video of young women, who turned out to be daughters of Citibank employees, learning of the pay gap.
Other companies were pressured to make changes by their followers on social media. Now, more than ever, companies must explain themselves on social media as fewer people visit stores or other venues in person. As consumers spend more time interacting with brands online, they’re more likely to follow and engage with them on social media instead of just visiting a website. Ignoring customer concerns expressed online is not an option.
For example, back in June the Washington Football team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, participated in the #BlackoutTuesday hashtag campaign for racial justice. They were immediately met with a barrage of replies pointing out that many people found their name offensive. Eventually, they announced they would change the team name.
Responding appropriately isn’t just important when it comes to social justice issues. When consumers call out a brand or influencer over a customer service issue or offer up criticism of a product, a well-planned response can do wonders. This is even true in interactions between companies. Last year Popeye’s and Chick-Fil-A got into a Twitter war about their chicken sandwiches, attracting thousands of replies and comments from consumers on both sides of the divide.
The conversation started when Popeyes launched a new chicken sandwich, and Chick-Fil-A’s social media department felt compelled to tweet about how their sandwich was “the original.” It’s hard to know what response they expected, but it probably wasn’t what happened next. Popeyes retweeted them with the comment “…Ya’ll good?” This kicked off an online argument that led to Popeyes selling out of chicken sandwiches within two weeks from all the publicity. The lesson here is that paying attention to the online environment and taking advantage of opportunities to respond is necessary in 2020.
Collaboration and Conglomeration
In 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company was looking into combining its apps—Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp (a messaging app mostly popular outside the US). Zuckerberg cited consumer interest in more intimate social media experiences. The shift would allow for easier interactions both between individuals and between individuals and companies. As companies combine services and functions, it may be simpler to have conversations while keeping them all in one app.
With more people working from home, simplicity may be the way to stay organized and on track.
Meanwhile, Instagram Threads is a new feature allowing people to control who sees their stories. You might not want to use this all the time if you’re trying to grow your account, but an occasional story just for followers, or your most-engaged fans, can give people the incentive to follow and engage with your content.
Changes in Influencer Marketing
If you’re an influencer, or aspiring to become one, listen up. Many brands and companies are rethinking how they work with influencers. They’re not giving up on this strategy entirely, as influencers are still an excellent way to reach their target markets. However, many companies are focusing less on likes and more on other forms of engagement. Some are looking for micro-influencers who have a narrow but impressive influence in a certain niche. Others want influencers with a highly-engaged audience, or who spend a lot of time engaging with their audience. In other words, it’s great to have a lot of replies, but do you reply to and interact with those comments? If you don’t, you probably should.
What else can you do? What you don’t want to do is abandon the quest for more likes or followers entirely. These metrics are still important for influencing how the platform’s algorithms rank you and your content. Essentially, if you stop working at growing your thumbs-ups and fans, you may find fewer people see your content in the first place. So it’s important to continue growing these metrics.
However, you should also spend more time engaging with your audience, and with others on social media. You may want to collaborate with other influencers, appearing in their Insta story, for example. Use the time you spend interacting on social media to learn more about your audience and the kinds of content they might appreciate in the future. As an example, you might find your YT comments section full of posts from people who want you to do an unboxing video of a specific product. Or your food blog followers may want you to attempt to cook a certain dish. You don’t have to respond to every request, but taking the time to react to at least the more common or popular comments will help you form a more intimate bond with your community—and that will attract brands, in addition to having overall good numbers.
Make Your Stories Interactive
Facebook and Instagram Stories remain popular in that vein, but there’s a renewed focus on making these interactive for the audience. Ask for feedback at the end. Polls are one fun idea. You can also suggest picture or video responses if you post a funny video of your latest kitchen mishap. Ask to see what incidents your viewers have had with spaghetti sauce! If you’re on TikTok, you can even make it a challenge.
Again, people who are spending more time at home and less time outside in social settings are craving a feeling of connection. Stories allow them to not only experience your story, but to interact with it. Take advantage of this by making sure each audience member feels seen and centered in your story.
2020 has been a wild ride, and it’s not likely to let up soon. But with a renewed focus on online interactions, you’ve never had a better opportunity to grow your sphere of influence than right now. These trends will help you improve your online following, inviting attention for you, your business, or your creative work.