This past year many marketers were forced to reallocate budgets and pause marketing campaigns due to the coronavirus pandemic. And as we get ready for 2021, there are still many uncertainties that have us questioning the effectiveness of different marketing tactics and wondering where to best allocate funds.
To help your organization gear up for the new year and solidify a social media strategy you can be confident in, our expert social media strategists have broken down valuable tips to consider and answers to top questions from marketers across multiple industries.
While COVID-19 uprooted many plans in 2020, eMarketer still projects ad spending across multiple industries to grow heading into 2021. Yes, some industries have more growth than others (the entertainment and travel industries definitely took a hit this year) but our team advises you to consider what nuances COVID has brought to your business and be realistic about what your needs are as a business moving forward. This is a good place to start when you’re looking at allocating budgets and making sure those budgets are going to actually drive the results that you need them to for next year.
It’s also vital to evaluate just how important social media will be in terms of your overarching budget allocation. Recent eMarketer data anticipates a 7% increase in digital media in 2021 and a 9.1% increase in social media. Additional research shows that right behind digital advertising is social media marketing with an 11% budget allocation for 2021. Of course, if you’re looking at which areas to increase, also consider which areas you may need to cut costs. Some aspects of marketing are naturally declining, such as traditional media, which is anticipated to decline by 1.3% next year.
You’ll also need to consider how much of your social media budget should be dedicated to ad spending. eMarketer forecasts for 2021 show the amount of ad dollars spent on the channel will grow by 21%, an 11% growth from this year.
Additionally, social media usage has drastically changed. We saw a pretty dramatic increase in social media usage this year at 10% compared to the 0.9% growth that we saw in 2019, but don’t expect that type of growth to last. Our research indicates that this high usage is going to level off going into next year.
Finally, if you’re curious how the networks are doing, below are some additional data points on social network ad revenues by company. Facebook and Instagram are still taking the lead in terms of revenue, but competitive platforms are predicted to grow at higher rates. This information can be helpful as you start to look at prioritizing certain channels for next year.
Now, the above data and projections should be used to help guide you while you’re looking at whether or not you should go for a budget increase for your business. Of course, you’re going to have to balance those increases with how your overarching business is doing.
This past year we saw social media networks step up their game in regards to shoppable features. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest most notably, but all of the networks are prepping for more and more eCommerce optimizations. Now we have shoppable storefronts, shoppable ad units, even TikTok has moved into shoppable video. Almost every network has its own shoppable component, and it’s an opportunity for brands who have a strong eCommerce presence to look to tie social media marketing to direct purchase. If this is something that you haven’t done for your brand and it does make sense, we would definitely recommend adding some of the available shoppable features into your 2021 strategy.
This is probably not a surprise as we’ve been talking about video for multiple years now, but we couldn’t leave it off because it just continues to dominate social media and is still getting priority in the feed. We saw apps like TikTok and features like Instagram Reels take off this year and really that short-form video content is just continuing to evolve. We’re also seeing video generate really high impressions and engagement rates, some of the highest that the platforms are seeing right now are through this type of content.
We also can’t leave out stories when we talk about video and short-form content, especially now that almost every platform has a version of stories because of so much success that was driven off of what Snapchat started. We’re also seeing on channels like Instagram that sometimes Stories are getting more eyeballs and visibility versus the newsfeed content, so stories and short-form video should definitely be in your 2021 strategy.
What a year for this to have priority – between COVID and social justice movements and the recent election, social media marketers have needed to stay on their toes. Moving into 2021, we recommend you continue this practice and look into having a team in place that can adjust quickly to real-time trends. They’ll need to be able to read the room and understand: What are the conversations that are happening out there is your brand at risk for being a part of those? Does your brand have something to contribute? Should you plan to take a step back and look at what content is about to be published to make sure it won’t be interpreted in a way that would put the brand at risk?
Having a team in place, maybe with some PR training, and having a plan of action ready is essential as you’re looking into next year.
Every year more brands are advertising on social media. The data from earlier in this article is evidence of that. This means competition is regularly increasing and it’s going to be more costly to get space in newsfeeds. Because of this, think about carving out a respectable ad buying budget that makes sense, especially if you’re looking to drive year over year growth (which most brands are).
Also related to social advertising, looking at some of the privacy implications that really started coming into the forefront this year and in years past, and what implications that have on paid media targeting. We know that Facebook is going to be moving away from their pixel, which is very cookie-based, into a Conversions API, which we highly recommend looking into so that you don’t lose any of the robust targeting capabilities you might already be leveraging.
With all of the heavy content and heavy events we’ve experienced this year, people are getting a little bit tired of Facebook and they’re looking to other networks like Pinterest or TikTok for a break. Consumers are looking for entertainment, DIY projects, things to do around the house, and more. They’re looking at exploring other platforms where they can reach their desired audience. And this isn’t just about young people not being as likely to be on Facebook, we’re seeing other audiences expand to other channels as well.
A lot of social media marketers still put a lot of eggs in the Facebook/Instagram basket, but it’s definitely something that’s worth exploring – doing some testing and learning and 2021 and looking for other channels to really reach and engage your audience.
Honestly, this varies by brand and by the target audience. We would really recommend taking a close look at who you’re trying to reach and that goes back to an overall strategic approach of thinking about your target audience. Where are they? What channels are they using? Is Facebook the right platform to reach them on?
We’ve seen a lot of success, specifically with LinkedIn, just because of the robust targeting with job titles and other features they have available. That and other brands who are trying to reach more of a C-suite audience that’s B2B, LinkedIn is probably a better connection for them. Not to say Facebook isn’t worth it thinking if you have specific parameters such as email addresses or of course retargeting off your website.
It’s interesting because we still get quite a few questions about paid and organic from clients and we get a lot on the business development sides, brands still grappling with how much to invest in organic versus paid.
Our belief if that paid should drive your business objectives, first and foremost. It should be used to reach some of those specific audiences that are just going to be impossible to get in front of if you don’t have paid to support it.
We also find value in analyzing the results that organic content produces. Many times, when we do our analysis for clients, the amount of content that’s published on social is not generating results based on the amount of time and energy it took to create that content. So, you have to look at your organic content and conduct an inventory. See how many impressions or clicks or whatever your business objectives are and ask yourself, “how much time did it take to create that asset, put that message out there, and isn’t really reaping the results that you need?”
Organic content does still have value, though, because there’s a lot of brands that still find their customers might stumble on their page and want to understand what the brand is about. There’s also other brands that have a lot of brand advocacy happening naturally and they might want to use organic to really engage with that really enthusiastic audience that really wants to feel that connection with the brand.
So we see organic and paid working together. Obviously, the networks themselves also have different organic reach and so navigating the differences can be a little challenging, but the data is definitely going to be your guide. This type of approach ensures that you’re not putting too much emphasis on one or the other.
It sounds easy to say start with a strategy, but there’s a lot that goes into a strategy. We start with people first. We follow Forresters POST Methodology as an agency and we really try to understand who our target audience is, what we’re trying to accomplish, and how those business objectives align with what we’re wanting to do on social media.
Part of that first step is compiling a really good understanding of who your audience is, leveraging both third-party tools to get this information (we use GlobalWebIndex) as well as any data that you might have available on your customer base. Then diving into understanding where people are on social, how much time they’re spending, what do they want to hear from brands, what is their mindset when they’re on certain channels, etc.
Once you understand who your people are, you’ll move on to your objectives, identifying what exactly you’re trying to accomplish with social media marketing. This is where you tie your overarching marketing and business objectives together and where we see the best success.
From there, we move on to our strategies: What are we trying to do, how are we going to accomplish those things all the way down to the tactical execution of which channels are we using, considering influencers, thinking about content themes, and more.
Part of that strategy process is also doing an audit and looking at what things worked (if you have an existing presence), to looking at if your competitors are on social (what are they doing what seems to be resonating with them?). From there, just putting pen to paper and start getting some thoughts down.
It’s never going to be perfect. Social changes every single day. We’re constantly tweaking our tactics. But getting a framework down to start with, who’s our target, and what we’re trying to accomplish, is a great place to start.
One place to start is to plug your audience into ads manager, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever platform you’re considering, and begin to run different scenarios: “If I have X budget, what are my impressions/engagements/clicks/results going to look like?”
This is something we test often with our clients and helps us provide ranges of good, better, best scenarios so that the client can then make an educated decision on what is going to generate the most effective results.
Also, consider what success looks like compared to your other media and marketing efforts (what are the CPMs or CPCs of these other efforts?) This will help you figure out kind of where to move your funds and what’s going to be the most effective for your audience.
Thinking about paid and organic as completely separate strategies is dangerous. We see a lot of paid agencies focus on just very lower-funnel activities and have nothing to do with the organic side of things. We also see various scenarios where brands have certain types of paid posts and then organic serves a different purpose. There should really be an overarching strategy and messaging that holistically drives your brand objectives, and your organic and paid strategies stem from there and work together.
Now, if you have different agencies or teams working on the execution of these tasks, it’s important that you bring them together for planning. Consistency is key, collaboration is key, and both paid and organic need to be connected to drive meaningful results.
Start by looking at what you’re getting from your current reach per post organically. Then look at what you’re trying to accomplish in a given period of time (are we trying to get people to the website, for example?) Consider how much organic is doing driving that goal and look at the gap between what you’re getting organically and what would support the business in terms of the objectives and goals you’re trying to reach.
Think about that scenario planning of how much paid media would be ideal to get you there. But also consider quality versus quantity. We really emphasize creating really great content, engaging content, and then putting media dollars behind fewer pieces of really great content, and letting that do the bulk of the work instead of having tons of messages out there that aren’t driving much of anything at all.
Back in the day, we would traditionally tell our clients to avoid Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the crazy holiday deals because of the competition and increased costs, but that’s not an option this year.
We recommend thinking about your messaging more than anything else this year. What once resonated with your audience might not anymore because things look a little different in 2020. We also know people are being more price-conscious so including pricing messaging upfront is valuable to consumers.
Ultimately, you’re going to need to get creative with your placements and really monitor your results so you can make adjustments in real time.
Influencer marketing is definitely a consideration for 2021. With all the new ad formats available and different platforms people are consuming content on, if you’re struggling to find a way to develop a brand presence and engage audiences with these new features, influencers can really assist your brand in that area. They also are an excellent resource for developing relatable content that your brand can also leverage for owned channels.
We’re also seeing a lot of success with ongoing ambassador programs generating a lot of content that then we leverage and package to use on our owned channels. Then we also have those influencers driving to the same business objectives that we identified for the brand. So it all works together, it generates a lot of content and it gets the message out there on other channels and drives advocacy.
If you have any additional questions while working through your 2021 social media strategy, contact our team today to get some answers. Our staff has developed and executed over 100 award-winning social strategies and would love to help ignite your brand. Also, keep yourself up-to-date on the latest in social media by subscribing to our e-newsletter, Social You Should Know.
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