2020 changed the way that businesses and audiences engage with each other. As in-person activations moved off the table, meaningful digital experiences and social media content became the primary way to build momentum and establish your brand. What’s more, a year into the pandemic, audience personas have flipped upside down as we all try to target the latest, digital-savvy, COVID-consumer. (Note COVID consumers aren’t necessarily just B2C, B2B buyers have adapted their process as well).
The future of social media will continue to evolve based on circumstance and technology. It can feel overwhelming to keep up, but right now, it’s one of the best paths to elevate your brand and reach your goals. For those ready to double-down on social media strategy, here are seven ways to update your approach and reach the COVID consumer.
1. Don’t Underestimate Micro-Influencers
The price tag required to work with top influencers can often shock business owners and marketing professionals. While their goal is to appear relatable (i.e., Mommy bloggers who look and act just like their followers), they’re knowledgeable business-owners who command a high rate.
Instead of spending a large chunk of your budget on high-cost partners, consider adding micro-influencers to your arsenal of brand advocates. These are social media personalities whose follower count may not rival those with celebrity status. Still, they have an engaged core audience that listens to, interacts with and most importantly—trusts them. According to Buffer: “The latest data shows that micro-influencers, influencers with 10,000 or fewer followers, are getting the best results for brands and businesses. More engagement, more clicks and lower ROI.”
More often than not, a recommendation from a less-popular influencer can sway a consumer over a brand-deal-burying content creator.
Check out our 10-step guide to working with social influencers to get started.
2. Invest in Diverse Audience Research
We all know it’s essential to understand your audience before you market to them, but are you critical of the research you perform? If the people you survey aren’t representative of a diverse audience, you’re likely missing out on key insights that could drive greater engagement.
Without the proper research, it’s also possible that your campaigns and content may not appeal or even cause a negative reaction from diverse audiences. Ensure that every survey, focus group or research analysis initiative is coupled with a focus on getting the right people in the room. (The room being proverbial, as, with COVID consumers, your research will be virtual). Their voices will dramatically impact and improve your business if you choose to listen.
3. Use Paid Campaigns to A/B Test Content
As part of your research strategy, many forget the power of paid social media content to gauge success. Low-risk A/B content testing allows you to understand what messaging connects with your audience and anticipate how they’ll respond on a broader scale. “Dark” posts (paid campaigns that don’t appear directly on your social page) are also an effective way to test new ideas against the old and see what appeals to these new, emerging audiences.
4. Build Virtual User Engagement and Giveaway Campaigns
Your giveaways and events don’t need to be IRL anymore. Over the past year, consumers have come to anticipate all-virtual campaigns. Additionally, B2B buyers prefer remote or digital interactions (according to the previously mentioned McKinsey research).
As a social media marketer, it’s your job to stand out among the competition. With continuing stay-at-home orders and remote work, think about how you can run social giveaways that are easy to execute, exist in a digital space and provide value to your audience.
5. Create and Capitalize on Viral Momentum
The days of trying out a crazy, new concept and suddenly “going viral” are long behind us. In the future of social media, the market is too saturated for small brands to have guaranteed success with such strategies. That doesn’t mean that you can’t hop on micro-moments to show that your business’s social presence is relevant (just make sure they’re relatable to your brand).
Leverage popular social media trends and leave room in your content calendar for spontaneity. When there’s a post, meme, GIF or video series taking-off in popularity, seize the opportunity to join the convo. (Think: Flip the Switch Challenge or the “how it started vs. how it’s going” meme).
While you can’t predict the future all the time, you can make sure your team is ready to do whatever it takes to keep your audience’s attention when a viral moment hits.
6. Get Inspired by User-Generated Content
Your best creators won’t always come from inside the office. Social media users are constantly creating, whether they realize it or not, and that creation can inspire your strategy. In fact, many brands rely on user-generated content as part of their marketing mix, creating content that feels authentic and fresh.
You can bet Ocean Spray, a 90-year old juice company, didn’t think their biggest influencer would be a man with just a vibe and skateboard, lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac, but it sure was! That’s the equivalent of UGC gold.
While it’s unlikely that one of your followers will strike virality like that—it’s still a perfect example to turn to your existing customers, clients and fan base and promote their content. It can be anything from testimonials to reposted images with your product/service or even gratitude for their support.
7. Measure Impact over Intent
At the end of the day, social media marketers in 2021 need to remember one thing: your impact is more important than your intent. Instead of judging your campaigns by what you wanted them to do, look at what they actually did. Take lessons from your successes and your misses—use it all to refine your process and strategy.
The future of social media is all about the experience of our audience. (Not vanity metrics, impersonal automation or an inexperienced manager’s opinion). We’re creating content to connect with the COVID consumer and their evolving ecosystem.
Sometimes your posts will miss the mark, or some content might perform way better than anticipated and it’s often unclear why. The important aspect is to examine your results, feedback and engagement to reevaluate your audience and better understand them. Remember, social media is all about conversation. In 2021, that dialogue needs to be more authentic and relevant than ever.