Social Media Marketing in 2021

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Social media could be the key to your breakout year in 2021 and beyond. It helped many people, possibly including yourself, survive 2020. Locked indoors, people had time to browse through various platforms. Companies that invested in social media reaped the benefits.

How’s your social media marketing? Do you have a Facebook and Instagram presence? These two and many others are providing businesses with more and more opportunities to market their products. Soon, even ecommerce shopping on social media will become the new normal!    

That’s not to say websites won’t remain relevant and important. In 2015, many experts predicted that e-mail would become obsolete by 2020. They were completely off the mark … email has not only grown, it’s become even more valuable a marketing tool. The best strategy is to incorporate all three: your website, email lists, and social media.

Why Social Media Marketing? 

First, if you are an ecom business, you can make your customers’ buying process less tedious, increasing conversion rates. When they see something they like after scrolling through your products, they don’t have to leave their platform of choice to buy.

Second, you can focus your ads on specific target market segments. If you cater mainly to teenagers, Snapchat is definitely your best option. You’ll find Gen Xers mainly on Facebook. Millennials and Gen Z are on Instagram. If you need more information, here’s a helpful guide on social media usage by generation.

There’s still time to get it done if you haven’t optimized your social media presence. It’s a consumer-driven shift, so you shouldn’t ignore it. Before I go further on what you can look forward to in 2021, here are some of things you should keep in mind with your marketing.

Be authentic on social media

Who you are will make you stand out. You can be unique, funny or serious. You can be different as long as you’re genuine. Remember, your customers like your brand because of the person (or people) behind it. Followers love you because they identify with what you and your brand represent. Build on these instead of trying to pass yourself off as something you’re not.

I’m pointing this out because some companies tried to promote themselves as advocates of today’s social issues. They failed and suffered a backlash. Take Pepsi, for instance. The company tried to ride on the Black Lives Matter movement, a marketing campaign that spectacularly failed.

Your content should also reflect your brand’s values. Is your business known for being casual or conservative? Do you come across as a product of Wall Street or Main Street?  Whatever it is, let your real personality and values shine through.

Lastly, when you choose micro-influencers, the numbers of their followers shouldn’t be your only criteria. Find people who you and your customers can relate to.  

Split up your personal and professional social media accounts … But show your real self as well

Yes, the lines between personal and business can be blurred on social media. Sure, you can limit the number of friends on your personal account. While you can keep it private, there’s no guarantee that your blogs and comments will remain hidden. Your personal life can and does leak to the general public.

I may sound like your mother when I suggest you keep your social media clean. However, there are benefits when your accounts intersect. For instance, it’s definitely to your advantage when your customers see you as a responsible family man. A photo of you and your family enjoying a picnic lets others know you’re no different from them.

Social media is a double-edged sword, of course. One misstep and word about it can spread like wildfire. Even with social media managers, big organizations have shot themselves in the foot. I’m talking about companies like Chrysler, ESPN and the New England Patriots.   

Wisely choose the appropriate platform when you share content. Always screen and filter before posting. You can delete an offensive or insensitive tweet or blog, but somebody, somewhere will have it saved. Small companies can’t absorb hits like the big firms.

Use social media to provide better customer service.

There will always be unhappy customers. Even after successfully addressing their concerns, a few will remain dissatisfied. Using social media may not change that. However, a conversational social tool will definitely improve the perception of your service.

You have to respond promptly, though. With social media, your customers pretty well expect immediate replies. Unlike websites that use chatbots, people assume they’ll be talking to a live person when they communicate. You can also ask them for feedback, and inform them of discounts, new products or upcoming events. Make communication a two-way street.

This doesn’t mean you’ll need to be awake 24 hours a day waiting for messages. You can also hire a virtual assistant to help you with social communication.

 The Biggest Social Media Platforms

Facebook

FB is still by far the dominant platform. It owns Instagram and WhatsApp. As they have different ways of marketing, I’ll discuss each separately. Soon, these three will be interconnected. Stay alert for developments.

Facebook Shops is currently available in the United States, the U.K. and other select European counties. It was launched to give small business owners the same opportunities big brands have. You can now reach new customers by making it easy for them to shop without leaving their Facebook window. It also has its own payment-processing app, Checkout. Click on the link to find out how you can create your FB and IG shop now.

YouTube

While many feel YouTube is a video platform, it definitely counts as one of the largest social media networks, with two billion users worldwide. Owned by Google, YouTube videos are often promoted in the search results, and is itself also considered a “search engine” … and the second largest one at that!

Using YouTube for social media is massive, as you can optimize your videos to rank, tag keywords for more views, and many younger viewers have replaced television entirely to watching YouTube.

YouTube is also planning on becoming a massive shopping destination. With the millions of product “unboxing” videos and product reviews, they are testing turning YouTube into a “social commerce” destination. Right now it’s an invite-only beta with select YouTube channel owners, but could quickly expand if successful.

Instagram

IG Stories usage will continue to rise. Between June 2018 and January 2019, users increased by 100 million. IG Reels was developed to compete against TikTok. It’s not that different from Stories. It still has a long way to go before it can outperform TikTok. However, if you’re already active on Instagram, it’s a feature you can take advantage of.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp, also owned by Facebook, is an excellent platform if you want to get into conversational commerce.  As I mentioned earlier, WhatsApp is also the perfect channel for customer service. Users can call, send messages and images for free.  WhatsApp or Facebook can neither listen nor see personal messages, as stated in its privacy policy

To be honest, I always expected Facebook to monetize WhatsApp. Last year, the platform tested tools to allow users to communicate with businesses and organizations. You can now place ads and increase your exposure to targeted audiences. Here’s a link if you’re curious about placing ads.

When you open an account, you can use an image of your brand or logo. You can provide links to your website in your WhatsApp status, but these won’t be clickable.  You have to type these in your messages again. You also can’t add people to your list. You have to ask their permission or have them add you. 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, is mainly used as a B2B platform. While it might be considered “boring” compared to the youthful energy of Tik Tok or the influencer-focused chic of Instagram, it is a fantastic platform to connect and network with other businesses and professionals. You can also build your brand through LinkedIn to generate leads for your business.

Twitter

Despite its growing popularity with millennials, there’s no indication of any major changes in 2021. It remains a platform for tweets, which allow your business to share posts with your followers.

Twitter has its own version of Instagram’s Stories. It’s called Fleets, and I predict we will see updates as it’s becoming more popular. As a business, you can create your own community on Twitter. Users can improve your reach, which helps boost sales. Hashtags, links and likes are traditional and highly effective ways to increase engagement.

TikTok

It’s the hugest trend right now. Owned by Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, they also own the Chinese version Douyin, which includes shopping and purchasing features.  It likely won’t take long before TikTok incorporates the same functions.

There’s a concern about its future, though, as evidenced by countries like India banning it and the United States attempting to do the same.  Security is the main issue that holds back businesses from joining this platform. Secondly, artists and brands have to pay when they promote their products.

There’s no question it’s a massive hit among teenagers. Companies might be more open to TikTok if there is a change of ownership. As of now, negotiations by interested parties are still on-going.  In the meantime, keep abreast of developments, if your target audience includes Gen Z and especially if you are in the music industry.

Snapchat

This is also popular with teenagers, with a user base of about 265 million as of the fourth quarter of 2020. If you want to place ads on social media, maybe add Snapchat in your mix. 

Opening a free account is easy. From your ad account and with Snap Publisher, you can create your ad in minutes. According to the company, you can pay as little as $5 a day for ads. It really depends on your budget, duration and what they call a goal-based bid.

Expect Snapchat to enhance its eCommerce abilities in 2021. It has already integrated with Amazon two years ago, allowing users to shop anytime via its Snapchat camera.  Snapchat continues to improve its barcode-reading ability by adding more items to its database.   

Have you heard of AR? It’s not the same as VR, which provides total immersion that shuts out the physical world.  Augmented reality (AR) adds digital elements to a view when you’re using your smartphone’s camera.  Snapchat is already working with Apple’s AR glasses to improve its AR capabilities. Watch for more developments this year.

Finding The Right Platform

If you are just stepping into social media marketing, and are unsure what to try, it starts with knowing who your target audience is. Where will you find most of them? Doing your market research is vital to finding out which platform will be most effective for your business or your niche.

As well, check out where your competitors are on social media. Look at their webpages. They usually tell you to follow them on FB, IG or Twitter. If you need to focus on only one, look for obvious trends in your niche to find out where your main competitors have the most followers. 

Through trial and error, you’ll find the right platform. Maybe, you’ll discover that images and videos lead to more conversions. Don’t over-analyze, but rather begin marketing on social media by being authentic and reaching out to people. It’s a profitable step you won’t regret!

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