Social Media Strategies for 2021 – how different will they be post-pandemic?

By Tim Hyde, Founder and Director of Social Media Marketing Agency, TWH Media

2020 was the year that rocked global business and has potentially, brought on a new era of commerce, from the way a business is run to the way that consumers shop and pay. It was a year that saw 84% of people shopping online as shops closed and 79% of consumers saying they will shop online regularly in the next 6 months*

It  was also a huge year for social media, which has attracted a new demographic and an increasingly digitally savvy audience.  

To succeed in 2021, brands will need to invest in their social media presence, strengthen their omnichannel strategies and with consumers more likely to make decisions based on a brands values and impact on society, they will need to prove their authenticity if they are to surge ahead. 

There are a few key aspects to consider for a successful social media strategy in 2021:

Diversification of spend

Brands will have had to start investing in more than one channel, even those they have previously avoided. Right now, from a paid media perspective, Facebook and Instagram are the dominant channels but there is a new trend which is already spilling over in to 2021 in the form of competitors such as Snapchat and Tik Tok. These platforms have made huge improvements this year and they are set to mushroom in the New Year.

From a marketers perspective, Facebook can be frustrating as the attribution window can be up to 28 days. You are tracking that you are making money, which is positive, but it can be a little biased. You see a higher return on ad spend on these platforms as they are older and more technical, but you almost have to retrain your mind to engage with platforms like Snapchat and Tik Tok. 

These tend to use the last click attribution models which are more prohibitive and track for a shorter window which therefore means results are lower. 

But businesses can’t afford to be reliant on just one platform and one source of revenue, particularly post pandemic. There is going to be a continued shifting where traditional media such as TV, print, out-of-home etc will feel the effects as spend on these channels will be significantly reduced and businesses will invest more in social media. 

Old and established brands will change their behaviour

The rise in the popularity of newer social media channels, such as Tik Tok, has definitely pioneered a new approach to social engagement. Tik Tok has encouraged old and established brands to communicate in a completely different way. The example I am going to cite is that of Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the US. 

Such massive corporations adhere to strict brand guidelines, scrutinised by multiple channels before approval. Walgreens, so corporate and traditional in its marketing and advertising, stepped right out of these tight perimeters in 2020 and started using Tik Tok. Tik Tok advertising has a native style and in using this platform for advertising, brands such as Walgreens are completely disregarding the traditional guidelines and actually creating native content. 

From an organic and marketing perspective, this is a massive transition and so far removed from typical FMCG brand communication. They have used employees in amusing beauty videos, rapping, gimmicky product demos etc. This is not just happening at individual store level but on the main brand account, even using a strapline on their Tik Tok account which reads: Trusted since 1901. Making TikToks since 2020.

This activity will no doubt make other FMCG brands stop and stare and if they want to keep up, they might need to adapt to the best practice of a social media platform.

More competitive

There continues to be a rise in direct consumer brands competing against each other with very few actual USP’s, and the differentiation will be how these products are marketed. Getting new products in from China and investing in research and development was tough during 2020. Therefore it’s going to be hard for brands to differentiate themselves with just product quality because typically there was little investment in that during 2020. It’s going to take some creative thinking and increased use of social media channels to try and keep your head above the parapet to stand out.

Invest in content

Consumers are looking more than ever, beneath the surface of a brand and businesses are having to place more value on content to compete to win loyalty. 

Investing in prime content is going to be a trend for 2021. Social media platforms to date have been used extensively for advertising and promotional activity but moving forwards, this is where brands need to be connecting with their customers on a more personal and human level, and this has to be done though carefully planned, more meaningful content. But a word of warning – if brands share their opinions but don’t show they are acting on them, they may lose customers who will stop believing in them. 

There will definitely be more spend on User Generated Content (UGC). People giving honest reviews will be used more for advertising than, for example, a 10K, all singing and dancing advert. It works from a performance perspective but also capability. Its now more difficult to create those shoots because of compliance and the restrictions that Covid has created.

Brands will need to become more transparent

Transparency to the nth degree will be the core tactic for many brands. In 2020 there were more traditional core message values and tones emerging – the Christmas TV adverts were stripped down to basics, focussing on messages of comfort, hope and simplicity. Consumers have lost confidence and are more fragile and businesses will need to build trust and make them feel secure. 

Consumers have also become more sceptical with the media and brands need to think about educating them more about the business behind the scenes and all the goings on around the product, not just the end product. So for example, show them how the sausage is made rather than just showing them the sausage!

So many new trends are emerging from the pandemic and companies will need to embrace and evolve new social media strategies to remain competitive, even if it is way out of their comfort zone!