While social media continues to be one of the best marketing channels, it's important to understand exactly how it's changing in order to leverage it properly.
Social media has become an important, if not the most important, component of digital marketing strategies for brands and businesses of all sizes. Leveraging the power of social media requires that you stay up to date with its ever-changing landscape.
The strategies that were effective a couple of months ago won't necessarily generate the same results today. Why? Consumer behavior changes, social media platforms change, and new platforms evolve and become more popular.
As consumers change how they use and engage with social media, marketers must adjust in order to reach their target audience. Remaining at the forefront of social media ensures your strategy is always current and provides you with a competitive advantage.
How has social media marketing changed?
A brand can no longer cross-post generic content across all of their social media channels and expect it to produce results. Furthermore, social media content cannot be blatant advertisements – consumers are immune to this type of marketing.
You need to stand out and be memorable on social media. Today, a results-driven social media marketing strategy must include the following:
Campaigns on the platforms where your target consumers' attention is present
Highly creative content specifically created for each platform
Unique ways to encourage UGC (user-generated content)
Let's dive into a half-dozen ways that new-age social media is changing and what you need to focus on to drive the best results for your business or brand.
Video content is providing the best brand engagement opportunities
Video content is preferred by social media users. As a brand, you have to create content in the format your audience prefers.
While you might think traditional Instagram image posts are more fit for your business, you have to go where the engagement opportunity is. Currently, that is established social media channels that have specific functionality for video content (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube), as well as video-focused social networks like TikTok and Triller, which are newer.
E-commerce in-app opportunities continue to evolve
In 2021 look for e-commerce to become even more prevalent on social media, and more in-app purchase options becoming available. Instagram's latest app update placed its "Shop" feature icon where users previously accessed their notifications.
While it was a move that many considered a bit sneaky, it's a clear sign that Instagram is full steam ahead when it comes to expanding its Shops feature. Watch for TikTok to also roll out in-app e-commerce shortly as well.
Earlier in the year, TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify, the world's largest e-commerce platform, to allows its merchants to seamlessly advertise on TikTok. The most interesting piece of information from that announcement was the mention of the two companies working to release new in-app features down the line.
Influencer marketing must now be on-brand and authentic
In the early days of influencer marketing, before it was even referred to as "influencer marketing," you could drive insanely high volume simply by having an account with a large following promote your product or service in a post.
Social media audiences had never been exposed to this type of marketing, so it converted at high rates. So high that it quickly became the preferred marketing channel for many brands. Several direct-to-consumer brands launched and scaled wildly only using influencer marketing. Fashion Nova is a great example -- a now half a billion-dollar brand that quickly went from obscurity a few years ago, to now having nearly 20 million Instagram followers. They achieved this massive growth by simply outspending any other brand on influencer marketing.
Times have changed, though, and follower count alone is irrelevant. Microinfluencers who have a highly engaged following perfectly matched to your target audience is the way to go. The way they promote your brand needs to be natural and authentic – holding a product and smiling simply doesn't cut it any longer.
Long-term brand partnerships with creators who value your brand are by far the most valuable form of influencer marketing. It allows the relationship to evolve, and for the influencer's audience to be introduced to your brand naturally.
No longer can you simply force your brand down the throat of consumers through any influencer with a big following. Authentic content featuring your brand, promoted by specific influencers who value product or service, is by far the most effective method for results.
User-generated content is outperforming traditional advertisements
According to Jon Simpson in this article, digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. If you take a minute to scroll through all of your social media feeds, you will undoubtedly come in contact with advertisements, several of them on each platform.
Multiply this by the number of times you open these apps, and you can see how that estimate is spot-on. Consumers are becoming more immune to traditional advertising every day. They can smell a hard sell from a mile away, and if you are running campaigns that are too salesy, the results are going to be dismal at best.
UGC, or user-generated content, is a great way to attract brand awareness while also giving you highly effective social proof. A marketing message that features an actual user of a product or service sells better than a creative ad consisting of professional photography and high production-value video.
Incentivize your customers to create UGC for your brand. Create a campaign utilizing a brand-specific hashtag that awards customers with free products, discounts or other special offers. Document the standouts on your social media accounts– it's a quick way to create a UGC snowball effect.
Social media is now a customer service branch
Don't think of your social media accounts as just a selling platform; they have evolved into much more than that. Now, social media is a customer service channel as much as it is a marketing channel.
When a consumer has a question or a complaint, where do they turn? Social media. From Instagram and Twitter DMs to Facebook messages, a large percentage of customer service inquiries originate on social media.
Your commitment to customer service on social media plays a huge role in your brand's success. Consumers love to voice their opinion of brands, both positive and negative, on social media.
Taking the time to make sure all of your inbound customer service requests are handled quickly and satisfactorily can create an army of loyal supporters who will shout you out, tag your profiles and refer business your way. Most CRM platforms have social integrations, making it easy for your customer service team to monitor messages sent in via your social media accounts.
There is now more legalities and regulatory control
Social media isn't the free-for-all it once was. Now, there is increased regulatory control, and brands need to also be well aware of legalities regarding influencer and partnership disclosures. Simply put, you have to be extremely transparent when marketing on social media.
The Federal Trade Commission has specific disclosures for social media influencers. If you are hiring influencers, you need to make sure they follow them, as their failure to do so can come back to bite you. Also, as the FTC probes into the collection and use of consumer data, it is likely to change how many data points you can use in the future for targeting paid ads.
The reach and effectiveness of paid ads in terms of the ability to laser-target audiences could be changing very soon. Facebook has already addressed how Apple's iOS 14 update may impact its advertisers. If paid ads on Facebook and Instagram are a major piece of your marketing pie, I highly recommend that you spend time testing and perfecting different organic strategies.