Knights of the Social Media Roundtable: How Social Media Is Changing in 2020

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Between events like COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and other social causes, we’ve seen a lot of changes in our social landscape this year. And just as our social landscape changes, so does the social media landscape. To better understand a few of these changes, we gathered together some of the all-star team of social media marketing experts here at TA to discuss what’s changing and how marketers can capitalize on these opportunities.

Social Media Users Are Online More  

It goes without saying, COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives, including how we use and communicate on social media. Social media usage grew significantly in the spring of 2020, as social distancing forced Americans to find new ways to entertain themselves at home and use other communication channels to connect with each other. This boost in time spent on social media platforms is an opportunity for many brands. For example, The CMO Survey found 84.2% of marketers were using social media marketing for brand building and 54.3% for customer retention, leading to a 24% increase in social media contributions in the first quarter of 2020 alone.

Jarica Befus, a social media marketer at TA, sees this increase in social media usage as a great opportunity for brands to experiment. “I think before COVID, a lot of brands were kind of scared to do something new because they thought it would fail,” explained Jarica. “But now, audiences are a lot more open and hungry for something new. So it’s a great time to try new content like memes, new platforms like TikTok, and experiment with the new capabilities many of the platforms have launched.”

Social Media Platforms Updating Their Capabilities

Many platforms have enhanced their offerings and launched new capabilities to help brands connect with their audiences better. For example, Instagram launched Reels, a new product similar to TikTok, focused on short-form video. “Reels is a great addition to Instagram because it allows brands to get more creative with video and it is a killer resource for creating more entertaining and fresh content for followers.” Jarica said. 

Another new feature we’re experimenting with is Facebook Messenger Rooms, which provides an alternative to Zoom or other conference-calling services. This may be particularly useful for audiences who are less tech savvy or for brands that already have a good following on Facebook. “Keeping people on one platform is going to help boost attendance to any virtual events,” said Jarica. “So we’re excited to test Messenger Rooms and see how it performs.” 

Companies Promoting Values to Connect With Audiences

Social media has been an important communication channel for many social justice causes around the world, and we don’t see that stopping anytime soon. But content strategist, April Lisonbee, noticed something different with the surge in Black Lives Matter social content, starting with Blackout Tuesday.  “We’ve always seen companies posting about social issues, but Blackout Tuesday and other BLM posts brought out a vulnerable side of brands that we hardly ever see,” April said. “The tone and language of the posts were more human. The comments were more directed toward holding companies accountable. People noticed which brands spoke out, and which didn’t. This is important because as many as 71% of customers want to buy from brands aligned to their values. So this moment was a rare opportunity to connect with customers in a unique way.”

Audiences don’t want brands to simply talk about things that matter to them; they expect brands to put their money where their mouth is. From BLM-related causes, to LGBTQ+ organizations and women’s empowerment initiatives, many companies (including ThomasArts) publicly donated to various social justice organizations during the summer of 2020 and made clear policy changes. “Of course, it’s a lot easier to join a conversation about social issues if you have a clear brand where it makes sense,” April said. “Otherwise it may come off as phoney, which can do more harm than good.

While some companies might be riding the tide of popularity, most understand the value in building emotional connections with their customers and how taking a position can be a powerful and effective way to do that. So our social media experts advise brands to think about social issues when they are making their social media marketing strategies and filling their social content calendars. 

Here are some of the questions to consider when communicating about your social justice efforts on social media:

  • In what unique way can our brand help with this social issue?
  • What do our consumers want to hear from us during this time?
  • Is there another organization we can support?

Plan for the 2020 Presidential Election

Since the 2008 election, social media has had a big impact on presidential elections. So it’s crucial for social media marketing managers to plan for the surge in political content and ads as they lay out their social media content. Emily Baker, a social media marketing coordinator, believes now could be a good time for brands to join the conversation. “I see a lot of social conversations right now focused on educating people on how to register and encouraging them to vote. From celebrities to brands on both sides of the aisle,” Emily said. “It can be a good way for some brands to participate in the election conversation on social media without bringing up politics or other contentious issues.”

But like everything in 2020, this election will be different, since many people are voting early by mail. This may cause election fatigue to hit earlier than previous election years. “I think some audiences will tire of election content, especially as we get closer to Election Day,” Emily said. “So it’s really important to understand your audience’s needs by monitoring trends and engagements more frequently than normal. Just to make sure your message gets heard by your audience this election season.”

As 2020 continues to move forward, social media is sure to be at the center of any communication effort. And TA’s experts, data-centric approach and creative minds can help. Contact us to learn how we can help you leverage these changing trends, capabilities and macro events in your social media marketing efforts. 

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September 11, 2020by april lisonbee, jarica befus, emily baker


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