It goes without saying that social media influence within marketing is huge, almost so that it can be considered immeasurable. The rise of social media as we recognise it (since Andrew Weinreich’s Six Degrees in 1997) ranging from Facebook, through Twitter, Instagram and now even TikTok within all facets of everyday life is akin to the meteoric rise of television. There are now an estimated 3.5 billion social media users across the globe, with that number expected to rise an approximated 10% next year with social media usage becoming a more integral part of people’s lives.
Social media platforms, when compared with television, offer a far wider scope and certainly allow much more personalised and imaginative ways to connect with prospective customers. Today, we live in a world where social platforms give you global access to billions of users, often on a payment free basis. Whether being used for communication, shopping, job searching, photo blogging or any other function – social marketing offers a gateway to unlimited consumers and as such, a consummate social media strategy is a must for any ambitious business.
As a digital marketing specialist, 32BRAINS have used this article to explore what we believe are the key areas to pay notice to for successful marketing in 2021.
1. User Generated Content
The sharing of User Generated Content (UGC) is essentially what social media platforms were created for. Now, UGC in the form of reviews, pictures and associated texts (e.g. hashtagging) can be hugely influential in social media strategies for brands globally. For those brands which harness UGC in the right manner, it’s an excellent way to snowball their marketing efforts with minimum effort. For those who don’t, it can rapidly deteriorate their reputation and have a considerable impact on profits.
It is well known that influencer marketing has been a factor within changing social media trends and social media marketing for some time now. On Instagram in particular, especially in recent years, there has been a considerable rise in the sway that pages with large followings have over the marketing and therefore success of products on the platform. Examples of positively used forms of user generated content (predominantly video content) include stories/reels, Tik Tok reviews and live streams across Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Twitch respectively.
Companies such as Boohoo (including the PrettyLittleThing & MissGuided brands) and Boux Avenue are notable in their successful implementation of influencer content to drive sales. Boohoo group has seen a surge of 29% in gross sales in 2020/21 and expects figures between 28% and 36% in 2021/22. This is despite the uncertainty thrust upon the group by Brexit. Whilst rising overheads, production controversies and transport uncertainties have loomed, the value of shrewd investment in social media marketing has paid dividends.
Partnerships with fashion bloggers and other influential figures as seen below are now commonplace on social media platforms. Instagram is quite literally awash with targeted ads and is the perfect way for many fast fashion brands to showcase their latest lines.
One key thing to note within the influencer sphere currently, is a waning amount of trust from customers in the ‘big influencers’. Brands are more commonly seeking a shift towards social media communities formed of ‘micro-influencers’ who have better relationships with their followers and as such, despite having a smaller reach they tend to possess more credibility in the brands which they endorse. This switch is in the search for better brand loyalty and higher levels of conversion.
It’s not only influencers on a large or small scale who are creating content on social media platforms however. Regular consumers are the lifeblood of many brands, with a huge spike in personal accounts live streaming, and communication via comment sections – word of mouth is back in a big way. In this regard, brands can find reassurance that their products and services will speak for themselves.
Key Takeaways for Social Marketers
Looking in a general sense, the keys to recent success for brands in conquering the war of user generated content in recent times have been centred around three things:
Substance: Campaigns which are linked to causes with a great level of social importance (such as or environmentalism) tend to invoke more passion in their engagement. Humanise your brand by connecting with something larger than yourselves.
Style: Create a brand that people recognise and is worth reposting. Aesthetics are hugely important on platforms which rely so heavily on visual stimulus.
Reputation: There is little hope banking on social media traction through user generated content if the products and services you actually deliver aren’t up to scratch. The representation of your brand on social media is more often than not a pretty accurate mirror.
2. Paid Ad Campaigns
Social media platforms are always keen to exploit new ways to monetise their apps and sites. Thus, whilst it is true that social platforms give access to a mind boggling number of potential customers through followers, connections, subscribers or whatever else you want to call them, it is unlikely that you’ll properly harness this potential without using paid ads at least in some format. Whether you’re an SME or corporate business, there are genuinely useful, scalable options on most formats of social media. According to Statista, paid ad impressions are up 20% year on year and so is paid ad spend. Next year will be key.
Typically, the use of well targeted paid ads is considered the icing on the cake of a full scale marketing strategy, giving brands well needed hits on top of their organic methods. This often means they are paired with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts to generate traffic to websites.
Facebook is arguably the king of paid ads. It allows the targeting and retargeting of certain groups based on their location, age, interests and other demographic defining features whilst giving the opportunity for campaign analysis. 90% of companies on Facebook are said to use some form of paid Facebook advertising. This is done through the creation of custom audiences which are centred around those who have interacted with a brand profile through likes, clicks and views. Latterly, ‘lookalike’ audiences based on the characteristics of similar Facebook users. This allows the exploitation of the demographic user data as provided by the PEW RESEARCH CENTER below. One key benefit to the use of Facebook ads is the platform’s reach in terms of male and females from a range of ages.
Within Facebook’s repertoire of ad options there are:
Photo Ads: These can work incredibly well for the sale of tangible products. A perfect shop window.
Video Ads: Short, medium and long content formats are available. Shorter videos have a higher completion rate.
Carousel Ads: Allow up to 10 images on rotation, creating a story.
Slideshow Ads: The step between static image and video, music can be added.
Story Ads: Can’t be selected individually, but can be placed into a prepopulated campaign.
Collection Ads: Bare similarities to carousel ads, allowing brands to highlight a collection of products. Ideal for retailers.
Playable Ads: Can contain video and a game accessed via a click thru.
Messenger Ads: Can be used to retarget tailed off conversations with prospective customers in the messenger app
Instagram Ads & Shops
Over 500 million use the stories feature on Instagram globally, every single day, with over a third of the most viewed Instagram stories coming from businesses. In particular, short video format stories have been the most effective in engaging those who view them, encouraging a higher ‘tap forward rate’ than picture format stories. Upwards of 50% of brands who use Instagram ads already employ the use of video stories, this is something which will remain vitally important in 2021.
With reference to Instagram, ‘shops’ are the single most important Ecommerce tool which brands can use to integrate their range of products and services into their existing profiles. The shops tool was created in order for brands to display and sell physical products specifically. Instagram now allow an auto-fill checkout process within their app. Having this set up allows a seamless shopping experience which suits retail brands especially well.
Click through rate (CTR) on paid ads was down 30% between 2018 and 2019 due to market saturation. As this variety of ads becomes more common, it’s important to find innovative new ways to improve the engagement and conversion. It’s very easy to end up quickly burning through a lot of budget, and can see a poor return on ad spend (ROAS).
3. Align your Voice
Finding the right voice for a brand is more difficult than ever in 2021. Marketplaces are more crowded than they ever have been with a surplus of digital noise on social platforms. Social media users (customers) are afforded the luxury of being more picky than ever.
The last 12 months also reconfirmed how vital it is that brands are able to create and market proactively in line with media trends. Since the start of 2020, we’ve encountered a global pandemic, the continued rise of environmentalism and the BLM movement, in addition to many other major issues. It’s never been as important to ensure that your content marketing is on point and that social listening is embraced as a cornerstone of social media marketing strategy. There are several tools which allow you to identify different factions of your audience in order to practice ‘social listening’. We aren’t in the business of promoting any specific software for this, but a cursory google search will reveal a few that will help split down the conversations happening within your follower base in order to monitor your brand reputation. This is a help in targeting your social media campaigns and identifying new influencers / influencer groups.
In connection with being agile with regard to social and cultural issues is making sure that these messages are making it into the posts on your brands’ different social media accounts. Social media marketing is about more than piggybacking trends and pushing out fake statements of intent on various platforms. Brands require a coherent voice which correlates with where they stand on key issues.
A great example of a company who has been able to do this is Gillette. They began their #TheBestMenCanBe and #MyBestSelf social media campaigns in 2019 with a pledge to donate to men’s charity organisations over a minimum of 3 years. These campaigns were centred around male behaviour, transgender issues and toxic masculinity. They began with questioning their own slogan ‘The Best a Man Can Get’, asking whether or not male behaviour within society was indeed the best it could be. This example of social media marketing came off the back of the #MeToo movement.
The first video in this campaign (centered around #TheBestMenCanBe) was incredibly unpopular at the time, but represented a brave stance on a socially responsible issue. The brand risked, and potentially lost many customers but they adopted a consistent and genuine stance on a contentious issue. This social media strategy brought about a 150x rise in weekly impressions on their social media accounts in just two days including:
1 Million mentions on Twitter in 24 hours
The #TheBestMenCanBe hashtag was used 185,000 times in one day
533,000 likes on the initial tweet.
4. Know your Audience
If you have established the voice that your brand or company wants to convey through social media posting and general advertising -you should already have an idea who you’re aiming your products and or services at. It is vitally important that within any marketing strategy you know who you are selling to and why. This will allow you to tailor messages towards specific demographics of social media users.
Knowing your audience is particularly pertinent when crafting ads for each variation of social media as with each platform, come new opportunities. What works well on Facebook, is unlikely to have the same impact on Tik Tok where short form video content is used exclusively. Thus, in order to ensure your campaigns are likely to convert as well, the format, graphics and scripting must be tweaked according to where the ad will run.
Central to recognising your key audiences is data management. If you aren’t currently tracking your sales in order to recognise the trends and correlations behind who is buying what and why, this needs to change. Once you have a clear idea of what turns your audience on, it’s the key to creating successfully targeted campaigns.This increases ROI.
Also, Geographical (GEO) Targeting within social media campaigns is vitally important. GEO targeting will gather more momentum in the next year as different global regions start to become more important in marketing brands via social media. We’re recommending that all businesses start to look globally if and where possible, in order to access new customers around the world.
As can be seen above, the most economically developed areas are where the internet users per total population are highest in number. Northern, Western & Southern Europe and Northern America lead the values. These stats are unsurprising and don’t reveal too much other than the bare fact that the more people are connected to the internet, the more will be using social media and therefore the more scope there is . But when you look at this in terms of the number and % population who are as of yet not connected, it gives some insight into where the ‘next billion’ customers could be.
Be a Shark
One notable brand who are have used their audience knowledge to maximum effect is Gymshark (GS). Their social media marketing model uses a highly specific and targeted method via 6 different channels. This allows them to cover many bases in terms of social media trends.
Gymshark’s Instagram is the most powerful form of social media marketing they have, their presence uses three profiles: @gymsharkwomen, @gymshark and @gymsharktrain. Gymsharkwomen is centred around content which embraces body positivity, fitness journeys & transformations and fitness tips aimed more so at women. Gymsharktrain is aimed at serious fitness enthusiasts with more than a base level of knowledge. The regular Gymshark handle (their largest following) is predominantly for general posting. This is a really clever way to ensure the posts they want are reaching the customers they want, with little to no mixed messages. The content on Instagram tends to include brand ambassador fit pictures (seen below), product reveals and tag & respond competitions relying on the types of user generated content and influencer communities previously mentioned. Noel Mack (GS CBO) describes the brand as “aspirational with content that reflects this”. This perfectly embodies why Gymshark and Instagram are such a perfect fit.
On the Gymshark Twitter profile, the focus is more heavily on memes and the customer journey with their products. They post more frequently on the Twitter than on Instagram and recently, the page has embraced the hashtag #gymsharkconfessions – where gym users contribute ready to go content for the brand to retweet. GS also regularly use polls and post actual progress stories, using video content which allows them to become a more relatable proposition than many other fitness brands.
The most clever thing about the GS brand and their use of social media platforms is that they look for long term, genuine relationships with a growing team of high performing influencers, producing a credible influencer community. There is a noticeable wealth of diversity within their ambassadors than many other fitness related brands, no doubt this is deliberate and is an admirable move.
5. In App Ecommerce
Consumers are shopping online more than ever, that is the understatement of the century. It’s common knowledge that in tandem with the demise of the high street, online shopping surged. This has gone into overdrive in the past year or so, catalysed by the Coronavirus pandemic, which left many brick and mortar shopping venues unable to open their doors. Large Ecommerce companies such as Shopify offer out the bag solutions into which brands can ‘slot’ their websites and existing social media structures. Alternatively, some brands opt for bespoke systems paired with those built by social media providers themselves.
Increasingly prevalent in terms of in app format, with approximately 50% of all Ecommerce sales, is Mcommerce. Otherwise known as Mobile Commerce, this can be considered the next evolutionary step when it comes to shopping online. There has been a tendency for shoppers in the past to find some forms of online shopping cumbersome and inconsistent. On that basis, it’s been the aim of those behind social media platforms to make the journey more polished. By making all of the different information available to customers and building in the shopping gateways required to complete a full purchase, this has brought about full scale in app Ecommerce.
Additional to shopping, there have been improvements to online banking commerce, and additional payment gateways. Although these have been more sporadically adopted when it comes to social media.
(AR) is the baby brother of Virtual Reality (VR) and allows brands to encourage interactive engagement. Snapchat and Instagram filters are a great example of how AR has been utilised recently, as well as retailers allowing customers to ‘try on’ products without having to be in-store. With brick and mortar shops facing an uncertain future, this type of marketing is going to be at the forefront of social media marketers minds in the future. There is sure to be a focus on driving innovation which incorporates elements of AR to bring in new audiences.
Digital Storefronts set up through apps such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram are a central asset in every social media strategy. Product tagging in posts, which show purchase details in a tap without slowing the scroll process have been big steps in creating an organic shopping process within the apps themselves.
Key to fully showcasing the full scope of a brand, is and will continue to be an omni-channel presence. Customers are more likely to make a decision regarding purchases if they are reassured that they have all the available information (e.g. pricing comparisons) It’s also a key part of building credibility via consistency to have the level of ability that multiple social media presence brings.
Something key which needs to be factored into any E/Mcommerce solution is the payment methods included. There is a diverse range of popular ways to pay ranging from debit and credit cards, Ewallets such as Paypal, Skrill and Neteller. If a brand is looking to tackle a global market, it is key to ensure that any specific payment gateways are taken into account for the geographical regions they wish to operate within.
Central to voice commerce currently are Amazon products such as the Echo and Google Home. Approximately 70% of households in developed nations are anticipated to have smart speakers by 2025. It’s recommended that you optimise your content to increase the chances of it coming up in voice command searches. Voice navigation of brands websites is also something which will be hugely beneficial, allowing shoppers to flip from page to page via their voice commands. What will be interesting to monitor, is whether social media platforms are able to establish a tangible link between voice search and their Ecommerce efforts. Currently in app Ecommerce via voice isn’t something which is intrinsically linked.
Things to Note
An All Encompassing Approach
Gymshark’s social media marketing model uses a highly specific and targeted method via different channels. Their Instagram presence uses three profiles: @gymsharkwomen, @gymshark and @gymsharktrain. Gymsharkwomen is centered around content which embraces body positivity, fitness journeys + transformations and fitness tips aimed more so at women. Gymshark train is aimed at more experienced athletes who will likely respond more positively to different types of content which are more technically minded than the average aspiring gym-goer.
Many social media users are taking a break from their accounts under the pretence that they are consuming too much media online. Many brands are aware of this and the really successful ones will be ensuring their campaigns are as streamlined as possible, a nod towards digital detoxing is a critical notion to consider in your social media marketing strategies for 2021.