We came across a pretty comprehensive piece of research pushed out by Hootsuite, the Canadian social media management platform. According to Pitchbook, the company has raised more than $300 million in its quest to become a leader in the social media space. Back in January 2019, Hootsuite was on the verge of being acquired for $750 million. But the deal was called off based on the belief that the company was worth a lot more.
The Social Trends Report the company just issued is packed with interesting data points. The report is based on surveys with over 11,000 marketing professionals conducted during Q3 2020. In addition to some useful data nuggets, the report also lists five key social trends for marketers to pursue.
It’s a Facebook World
The report leads off with a view of where the marketer’s money is headed in the coming weeks and months. Not surprisingly Instagram will be the biggest beneficiary of increased budgets in 2021, with just over 60% of the respondents indicating they would be increasing budgets on the Facebook-owned platform. Just under half indicated that Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn would also be getting increased budgets.
With all the conversations swirling around TikTok, just 14% of marketers expect to add budget to the up-and-coming platform. When asked “What social platforms do you consider the most effective for reaching your business goals?” more than 70% of respondents indicated that Facebook (78%) and Instagram (70%) were best at helping them achieve their goals. That’s a pretty compelling view from marketers that the Facebook machine remains extremely important in the marketing landscape and has considerable supplier power in the overall marketing arena.
So what are marketers’ business objectives? The survey posed this question. “In 2021, what are the top three outcomes your organization (or clients) are trying to achieve with social media?” Survey says – driving retention. Nope, of course not. Survey really says, “increased acquisition of new customers” at 73%. Where is retention in their priorities? It’s in fourth place with just 28% citing that as their objective.
Retention Takes a Back Seat
What’s interesting is that last year, customer acquisition stood at just 46%. Speaks to the havoc the pandemic has caused this year. And while much is discussed and talked about regarding improving the customer experience, in this survey it ranked in the fifth spot with 23%. And the authors of the report point out that shoring up short-term revenues is a necessity caused by the pandemic and yet marketers must consider what the “new” normal of customer experience looks like down the road. This paragraph from the report providers some interesting insight.
Livestreaming events on social platforms have been helping fill the void, offering new ways for brands, experts, influencers, and customers to connect. In China, where social commerce has already been widely adopted, a Tommy Hilfiger livestream event attracted 14 million viewers and sold out of 1,300 hoodies in two minutes. In the US, livestream shopping events are predicted to generate $25 billion in sales by 2023, according to Coresight Research. Livestreaming shopping events are basically a fun, community-driven, digital version of home shopping channels on TV like QVC, so this isn’t a radical new concept—it’s an age-old tactic delivered in a new way, under the right conditions.
What that means for local eCommerce is unclear. We can imagine groups of local businesses combining to offer a QVC like experience for their local community. Imagine if, say here in San Anselmo, CA, a cross-section of the downtown merchants got together and orchestrated a virtual Christmas shopping event. By pooling their social followers there could be sufficient scale to deliver a great experience to a sufficiently large audience. Now that would be pretty cool indeed.
The Five Key Trends
As noted, the report also lays out five key trends. We list them here and after each trend, we offer our view of WIFM (what’s in it for me) from a local perspective.
Trend 1: The race to ROI
Social bridges the gap to a new customer experience. As businesses struggle to recoup lost sales in the wake of the pandemic, marketers turn to social to meet two equally urgent imperatives: deliver short-term ROI with targeted performance marketing tactics while building innovative digital experiences that win long-term loyalty. This will happen by bringing discovery, connection, and fun back to the customer experience.
The recommendation? Make sure social drives a clear ROI, not just a feel-good thing anymore. This will require connecting the social team with the customer team.
Trend 2: Silence is Golden
Brands find their place in the conversation. A dramatic uptick in social media uses presented a huge number of new opportunities for brands this year—but many missed the mark by jumping in too soon. Smart brands sat back and listened, then won with creative, original ways of fitting into the social conversation to break through the wall of indifference.
The recommendation? “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” In other words, listening is often the best initial path, then take action.
Trend 3: Way More Than OK
Digital marketers have long ignored the baby boomer generation. Because of social stereotypes, ageism, or a yearslong habit of chasing newness over effectiveness. Whatever the reasons, this neglect has left marketers underestimating— and underrepresenting—an increasingly digitally savvy and lucrative demographic. By using smart segmentation and thoughtful representation, marketers that include baby boomers in their digital strategies can leapfrog those still stuck in stereotypes.
Lots of money in the wallets, and bank accounts, of one of the largest generations. And they are cycling into retirement. Pay attention to the boomers.
Trend 4: Do I Know You?
Tying engagement to identity gives advanced marketers new momentum. For years, linking social media engagement to customer identity has proved an elusive goal for marketers. But with renewed momentum and executive attention on social media’s ability to retain critical connections with customers, now is the time to take steps—big or small—to bridge the gap between engagement and customer identity.
Long-time customers and social followers might very well be the same person. Use technology to know who you’re talking to.
The Perils (and Promise) of Purpose
Bold brands start in the boardroom, not the front lines of social. In a year marked by social upheaval, marketers stumbled under pressure to publicly address issues that their organizations had never focused on, or were only beginning to align with. Instead of using social as a mouthpiece for empty promises, strong CMOs will use the intelligence gathered by social media teams in 2021 to help the organization adapt to new buyer beliefs, new ways of doing commerce, and the new path to growth that requires balancing the twin demands of building a better business and a better world.
Being authentic and transparent is more critical than ever. Make sure you know have squared your core values with the way you operate your company. If you don’t, you’ll be found out soon enough. And it will be game over.
Social is Here to Stay
Social media marketing companies like Hootsuite, SOCi, TigerPistol, Surefire Local, and many others are pushing the best social media and marketing practices from brands down to local communities. These agencies are slowly whittling down small businesses’ natural advantages in organic social media. Nimbleness and authenticity. Pay attention to what these agencies are doing. They’re onto something big. Really big.