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  • Hannah Wilson

5 Ways 2020 Has Forever Impacted Social Media

It’s no secret that 2020 has drastically changed almost every aspect of our reality. Nobody could’ve predicted the series of events that would unfold this year - the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest, tragic natural disasters and the current political climate are just a few of the things that have rocked our world in just the past 6 months. We’ve all had to adapt in unique ways to personal and professional challenges this year - but the question is, how exactly has 2020 impacted the social media landscape?

A few weeks back, we (virtually) attended Sprout Summit: The Social Marketer’s Map to 2021. During the half-day seminar, we learned so much valuable information about different tools and strategies needed to prioritize, plan, execute and measure impact as we head into 2021. We were especially impacted by the segment about 2020 trends, which inspired this blog post. Here’s a little bit more about how social media marketing has been forever impacted by this roller coaster of a year.

Audiences have higher expectations for brands

55% of consumers expect brands to take a stance on social issues that go further than just their word and 42% would turn elsewhere, to competitors, if a brand doesn’t stay true to their word. Plain and simple - audiences are holding brands accountable on social media.

It’s about providing more depth than simply publishing a statement acknowledging an issue. It’s about what your brand is doing to make a difference. This can manifest in different ways for each brand, whether it be financial donation, providing resources via social media, reevaluating values and goals at a corporate level, or donating time in local communities.

Saying adios to content calendars

It’s become impossible to predict what will happen 30, even 7, days in advance. Get comfortable with shifting to a news cycle format of content development rather than planning weeks and months in advance. Of course content calendars still remain a smart and strategic way to produce content, but it’s important to stay diligent and know it might be necessary to pivot each and every day. We always recommend several planned posts a week to allow time to react and create new content in real-time. And please remember to check-in on scheduled posts when breaking news happens.

Everyone, yes everyone, is an influencer

Influencer marketing has evolved in 2020 more than ever before. As brands shift to 100% virtual marketing campaigns, influencers continue to be a vital piece of the puzzle in creating buzz and awareness. WHO partnered with virtual influencer Knox Frost to help inform younger social media users on COVID-19 best practices. P&G partnered with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio on a #DistanceDance campaign to encourage her 92.8M followers to adhere to social distancing guidelines. We already know that influencers can promote a brand or product with the goal of increasing sales or buzz, but 2020 has proven that they also have the ability to make a real, positive change.

Looking past traditional influencer marketing, 2020 has proven that every single person online is an influencer. Social media has given people who in previous years wouldn’t have had a platform, a platform. No matter the number of followers, it’s proven that the impact of social influence online is a great one. 74% of people trust social networks to guide purchasing decisions - keep that in mind when you’re allocating resources for influencer marketing. Even with minimal resources, pouring them into influencer marketing just might be the smartest way to ensure the greatest impact for your business.

Social listening is important

Each day, monitor what your audience is talking about online (seriously, create reminders in your calendar for social listening if it’s easy for you to neglect.)

What are they saying? What do they care about? What happened in the world today that could impact how your content is perceived? It’s easy for a brand to come across as tone deaf if it’s purely driven by revenue - if the content you have scheduled to go up doesn’t serve a purpose or has the potential to be perceived in a negative way, hold off. There’s always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. Focus on consistently showing up for your audience in an authentic way and adapting to current circumstances rather than having a concrete plan that’s set in stone.

Gut checks are crucial - is this relevant and useful to my audience?

If it doesn't feel right, don’t post it. Your intuition is rarely wrong. Evaluate everything that is currently happening in the online space and in real life that your audience cares about. If you planned out content a month in advance, for example, make sure that as it goes up it’s still relevant and will provide value in the current moment for your audience. There’s an infinite amount of content online and you want to make sure that yours resonates with who you are trying to reach.

It’s (more than) OK to be quiet

And if at the end of the day your gut tells you to stay quiet, stay quiet. During a national or local crisis, oftentimes it’s best for your brand to step back and halt all publishing. The goal in publishing content on social media is to provide value to your audience. If it’s impossible to do so on a certain day, week, or month, stay quiet. Your role as a social media professional allows you to understand your audience better than anyone else - consider their needs and wants during those times and make the decision you see best fit.

This is not to be confused with going dark - as we talked through before, audiences are holding brands accountable for staying true to their word and making a real impact more than ever before. Being quiet could just mean altering your scheduled content to be more relevant to current events and cultural happenings, rather than continuing to post content that’s not critical to your audience.

It’s been a complex year of ups and downs, learning lessons, and major shifts in all areas of our lives. Have grace and be kind (on and offline).

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