Socialbakers, a marketing platform for social media marketers, has put together its top five social media predictions for 2021.
Based on social data it has collected throughout the year and President Yuval Ben-Itzhak’s industry experience, the company forecasts upward swings across a number of areas, including social commerce, social ad spend, and the use of micro-influencers. It also predicts that with so many consumers continuing to turn to digital channels, social networks will become a crucial component of the customer experience.
“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that massive disruptions can happen overnight across industries, with customer communication responsibilities from marketing to care often falling to the social media marketing team,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“The trends we’ve seen take shape this year — from increased usage of social messaging to recruiting niche influencers to help expand social reach — are likely to grow in the coming year as more and more customer interactions happen online.”
1. Social platforms will play a bigger role in CX programs.
As CMOs own more CX programs, Socialbakers predicts there will continue to be a rise in the number of brands adopting a hybrid model of human-agents and AI-powered social and website chatbots.
The use of these to flag customer inquiries, respond to frequently asked questions, and escalate critical customer issues to agents will grow regardless of inquiry volume, time of day or language.
“Customer conversations are moving away from traditional call centers and emails as brands shift to meet the customer on their preferred channels.”
Facebook’s recent acquisition of Kustomer, a startup CRM platform, underscores just how important customer service features are to the SMBs that advertise on the social platform. By integrating more customer service tools and expanded customer experience capabilities, Facebook is positioning itself to own even more of the customer journey.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on the way consumers engage with brands,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“One area where this is most obvious is the rise in conversational messaging happening across social and chat applications. Customer conversations are moving away from traditional call centers and emails as brands shift to meet the customer on their preferred channels. Consumers are online and they expect brands to be where they are, responding to their questions and providing feedback in real-time.”
2. Social commerce will take a bigger bite of the e-commerce pie.
“Social commerce isn’t a new topic by any means. In fact, this time last year, Socialbakers predicted it would lift off in 2020, as it did for brands like Estee Lauder, but many brands still aren’t leveraging the full benefits social commerce has to offer,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“Now that social media platforms are building more features to manage everything from product discovery to in-app purchasing, post-purchase customer care, and customer management, it’s a no-brainer for businesses to take advantage of the reach and infrastructure offered by social media platforms.”
Socialbakers’ forecast around social commerce growth is directly connected to the accelerated digital transformation initiatives we’ve witnessed this year. Shopify reported the number of new stores on its e-commerce platform jumped 62% between March and April compared to the six weeks prior.
“Not only are consumers more receptive to buying products via a brand’s social channel, social platforms are getting more savvy when it comes to designing tools that accelerate the path to purchase.”
The massive surges in digital programs by brands combined with in-app purchasing and shopping features launched by social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest translates to more purchases happening across the social landscape.
“Not only are consumers more receptive to buying products via a brand’s social channel, social platforms are getting more savvy when it comes to designing tools that accelerate the path to purchase,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“In a time when more and more consumers are shopping online, businesses that build social commerce into the customer journey will safeguard their earning potential.”
3. Micro-influencers will deliver more “bang for the buck” across social platforms.
“Earlier this year, Socialbakers published a State of Influencer Marketing report that examined how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the influencer industry during the first half of the year,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“Among the key findings, we saw a clear pivot toward influencers with smaller, more niche followings that could offer greater value to brands with tighter marketing budgets. Nano and micro-influencers emerged as high-value resources, bringing high impact without the high-dollar price tag of macro and mega influencers.”
Socialbakers’ influencer marketing report backed-up an Econsultancy survey that found nearly 61% of 18- to 34-year-olds say digital influencers have swayed their decision-making at some point. Socialbakers’ own data showed more than 60% of brand-influencer collaborations on social in 2020 were happening with influencers that had less than 50,000 followers.
Brands are paying attention to the power of niche influencers: Hanes’ enlisted multiple influencers to help amplify its #MaskAround campaign this year, an effort that used the hashtag #MaskAround to encourage more people to wear masks and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The U.S. clothing brand turned to niche influencers on TikTok and Instagram to extend its reach among younger consumers whose opinions are more likely to be informed by social media personalities.
4. Social ad spend will continue to climb throughout 2021.
“Socialbakers’ ad spend reports for Q3 2020 showed that savvy brands were doubling down on their Facebook and Instagram investments, demonstrating a healthy trust in campaign performance as social media advertisers planned for the end of the year. During Q3, Socialbakers saw ad spend up by as much as 61% over Q2,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“We account these major lifts in ad spend to brands gaining elevated confidence in social ad campaigns with consumers spending more time on their social feeds and more money online. Socialbakers expects this trend will continue into 2021.”
Despite the disruptions and turbulent events caused by COVID-19 throughout 2020, social media ad spend rose sharply in Q3, reaching pre-pandemic levels. These jumps in ad spend were led by increased investments in e-commerce ads. Cost-per-clicks were up as well, with worldwide CPCs up by 42.4% in Q3 compared to the end of June 2020.
“The pandemic has accelerated online shopping, which in turn will continue to drive ad spend across social networks even as we head toward post-pandemic conditions,” said Ben-Itzhak.
5. The responsibility to reduce misinformation across social platforms will fall not only to social sites but also to governments and regulators.
“In light of the surge in misinformation campaigns connected to the 2020 election cycle and false news related to COVID-19, social platforms will continue to devote their time and efforts to reduce the spread of misinformation in order to maintain consumer trust in social networks,” said Ben-Itzhak.
“But the question going forward is: What new efforts will take shape to help reduce widespread misinformation campaigns plaguing social platforms? In order to keep platforms clean and safe, there will need to be a shared responsibility between the platforms, governments, and regulators, and the users on the platforms. We believe, for this to happen, governments will need to collaborate with social platforms to find a happy medium.”
Social media marketing has a positive impact on businesses in countless ways, but no brand wants that engagement at the cost of brand reputation, customer loyalty, or worse.
“Brands want to be sure that they are investing their ad budgets on safe and trustworthy platforms, which are free from harm and toxicity,” writes Ben-Itzhak in his column. If social platforms are unable to ensure safe environments for their users, the responsibility will fall to outside forces that can enact policies designed to eliminate toxic environments plagued with misinformation.
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