Social Media in 2021: What We’ve Learnt From 2020

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Rollercoaster

I won’t bore you with all the cliches about how 2020 was an ‘unprecedented year’ etc. However, what I will say is that it has been an absolute rollercoaster and massively changed the social media landscape. Brands that never saw the need for a social media presence are now dependent on the exposure to keep their business going. Businesses have had to use social media to inform their customers of new procedures, closures, opening times, and so much more. On the other side, existing online brands and big players now have even more competition and the ‘shop small’ movement has never been as prominent. All things considered, what have we learnt from 2020 in regards to social media? Let’s take a look.

Physical Store to Online Store: Adapt to Survive

During the past year, brands have had to adapt their strategies. Whether that means creating a Facebook page, making website edits to up conversion rates, or switching to a takeout offering. However, what a huge amount of business will have done is put an immense level of pressure on social media to drive sales. With physical stores closed, who can blame them? One thing that is hugely overlooked, and I hold my hands up as someone who creates a lot of eCommerce social media ads, is that transactions alone don’t create memorable brands or long-term growth.

With the introduction of lockdown, you may have had to take your business online, as opposed to in-store. That’s fine and a smart business move. But, what you can’t do as a business is to see that as a temporary solution. The likelihood is that your business probably won’t go back to normal (at least for a very long time). Social distancing is here to stay, let’s be honest. This will affect the number of people in your store, the kind of experience that you can provide. Buying in-store isn’t about convenience, it’s about the experience.

So, when you’re ‘temporarily’ advertising your products online, you need to be considering more aspects. How can you still make this a memorable experience? How can you make sure that your brand stands out from the huge competition? How can you still engage with your customers on the personal level that you would in-store? Sales are hugely important. But, without a loyal customer base or a reason for people to come to your website instead of that multimillion-pound competitor with next day delivery and low prices, you need to be memorable.

Social media is the perfect tool for this. Play around with Q&As, Facebook Lives, casual and chatty Instagram stories, give your opinion on new products and stylings. There are so many incredible functions available to you if you move your focus slightly away from pure sales. With the rise of the ‘shop small’ movement, there is an important lesson to be learnt:

Customers don’t want small businesses to act like big businesses.

If a customer wanted to have a completely impersonal shopping experience, but with super-fast delivery and convenience, they would shop at Amazon. With that, you don’t expect a handwritten note from Jeff Bezos thanking you for custom. So, with the shoe on the other foot, the strength and power of small businesses are in their personality and individuality. Every piece of content doesn’t need to be polished and squeaky clean, as you would expect from Amazon. We want to see the owner, the designer, how things are made, and we love being taken on the journey of your growth. Don’t feel like your local florist has to act exactly like Interflora just to compete. It’s the complete opposite. All your focus should be on the customer’s experience.

The Rise of the Boomer

We all have that middle-aged or above relative who overshares on Facebook and comments on everything, but also doesn’t even know how to do a Google search (sorry Mum, but that’s you). Due to their expected technical ineptness, the Baby Boomer category is largely overlooked in digital marketing strategies. After 2020, that has to change. Hootsuite’s 2021 Trends document explicitly states that “in 2021, marketers cannot afford to overlook older generations on social media.”

Those relatives that once asked you to show them how to screenshot are now having to learn how to order things online. This has shifted the dynamic massively. 70% of internet users aged 55-64 say they’ve bought something online in the past month. As the majority of that age group is buying products online, they really can’t be overlooked anymore. If you haven’t factored the Boomer age group into your marketing strategy for 2021 then you’re doing something wrong.

From personal experience with campaigns that I’ve run in the past, this age group is actually the most receptive to ads and are most likely to click on promotions. You’ve seen it yourself when your relative orders something from some website you’ve never heard of before because they saw it on Facebook. But, ads aside, the Boomer audience is absolutely crucial to community building.

According to Hootsuite’s data, the average Facebook user has only shared one post in the last 30 days. Now, I don’t have the stats for it but I can definitely tell you that the Boomer age group posts a lot more than that. If your product/service lends itself to the slightly older age category, use that to your advantage. An incredible example of this is Tillett’s. Their one-size-fits-all fashion is aimed at 45+ women. They have done an incredible job of building an online community by utilising Facebook Groups and Facebook Lives. Tillett’s aren’t a huge brand and is actually a family run business. But, they have over 13,000 members of their VIP group on Facebook. The activity level in this group is insane, with members posting daily pictures and videos of their clothing and just general life. The Tillett’s owners that run the group give the members exclusive access to discounts, new lines and sneak peeks. This is how you utilise the rise of the Boomers to your advantage.

With this increase in older purchases, the key is also the ease of online checkout. If your website is too complicated or doesn’t load properly when the text size is increased three times (another shoutout to my mum), then you’re going to lose this audience. Utilise social media to build your personal connection and enhance the experience, but keep your checkout process as simple as possible.

Learning Curves

I could keep going on and on about what we’ve learnt from 2020, but the two above are definitely key. With that being said, here are some other learning curves that definitely deserve a mention.

  • Stand up for matters that are important to you as a brand, but also practice what you preach.

The increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020 became an absolute minefield for a lot of brands who didn’t quite know how to navigate the movement. Some brands said absolutely nothing and received criticism. Some brands said a lot and received criticism. Some brands stayed true to their values and could demonstrate how they practice equality in everything they do. A lot of brands missed the mark on this. People love seeing brands operating according to their values and principles, not talking the talking without walking the walk. Definitely a learning experience for many brands.

  • You can’t predict anything at all, so don’t be disheartened if you’re behind on your target.

In an average year, you will have set quarterly targets based on year on year performance and your goals for the end of the year. A lot of performance that you track will be in comparison to the previous month, quarter or year. I hate to tell you but that must go completely out the window. Life in a pandemic is like the Valhalla ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. You can’t see a single thing, there are ups and downs and surprise waterfalls and you’re absolutely petrified the whole way round. (I do have to say though that I absolutely love that ride and always want to do it again. The pandemic, not so much). Everyone’s marketing plan has completely fallen apart, let’s be honest. Instead of comparing your YoY performance, try to factor in everything that is currently going on at the moment.

Keep adapting your strategy, keep being nimble and you’re doing a great job. You may have huge pressure from higher-ups to increase revenue by 200% YoY from social ads, but social media advertising has also never been as competitive and never been as tricky to navigate. Give yourself a break!

Analyse, Analyse and Analyse Again

If you take anything from this blog or from your marketing efforts in 2020, please remember that you need to analyse everything. The past year has been crazy and scattered every strategy into a thousand pieces, that’s for sure, but what you can do is gather all those pieces and see what you can put together. Keep experimenting, keep trying new things, keep seeing what works and what doesn’t. You tried a new type of ad that you thought would resonate but it didn’t because Boris announced he’d ended the furlough scheme? That’s ok. Keep calm, keep going, keep adapting.

In a nutshell, we’ve learnt that social media has become a lifeline to a lot of businesses, particularly small businesses. It’s very competitive and changes rapidly on social media, but if you focus on your brand identity, you could be onto a winner.