With a new year underway, we’re reflecting on 2020. If the year taught us one thing, it was how to manage and adapt to the unexpected. Globally, businesses and organizations had to pivot from their originally planned strategies to face a global pandemic and maneuver their stance on social justice issues and a polarized political climate. Though we cannot predict what the year ahead of us has in store, we can assess the trends that left a mark on the industry in 2020 and apply them to 2021 marketing communication plans. Here are some trends and practices we expect to continue to stay relevant:
COVID-19 imposed the importance of online communities, building connections, and providing resources, news, and information. An online community–is a group of people bounded by common interests and shared values, it’s more than a social media presence. To develop an organization that thrives from online communities, you must first establish and maintain an active dialog with your audience, create a local footprint and platform, share your values and social stances, and be a place where people can connect regardless of geographical location. According to research conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub, 57% of consumers want to learn about new products, features, and benefits from the brands they follow on social media. Consumers are going directly to social media for “the latest.” To keep your followers engaged, satisfy them with resources and information they need and seek. Adapt your social media platforms into online communities. This year, consider diving deeper into data and social media analytics to better understand your audience, so you can provide them with the most meaningful and relevant content—and keep an eye on emerging community platforms like Clubhouse (we know we will be).
With The (Re)Rise of the Influencer, TikTok, short-form video content, coupled with stay-at-home restrictions, led to a significant increase in screen time. Beyond a means of staying connected, people diverted to social media platforms as a source of news and entertainment. As COVID-19 shifted consumer behaviors—and organizations’ tactics primarily were forced to focus on online strategies—the pace of influencer marketing accelerated. Influencers took full advantage of the extra eyeballs to create and populate enticing video content. We expect this trend to continue throughout the year. We’ve already noticed brands in the sports, entertainment, fashion, and beauty industries championing the use of TikTok—pairing their initiatives with well-aligned influencers. If your influencer campaign entails TikTok, consider the main demographics that are scrolling through this app, with 25.8% of users aged between 18 and 24. This is a layered approach that starts with forming an alliance with a micro-influencer who best represents your brand. (Authenticity is paramount here.) Next is to set up your communication strategy. Your plan should provide appropriate content that represents the trinity: Your brand, the new brand ambassador, and your audience. Finally, it’s all about establishing sound, attainable goals that should be easy to track. When done right, a solid influencer campaign could be the competitive advantage you’ve always been looking for.
While sharing your organization’s “why” isn’t new, it’s certainly something the political landscape and social justice issues of 2020 brought to the forefront of many communication plans. Brands were forced to distinguish themselves in a crowded digital world. To stand apart from competitors, brands needed to re-examine and evolve their “why”. Communicating your brand purpose will remain at the forefront of marketing communication efforts; organizations need to ensure that they are connecting with their target audience on levels deeper than their commodities. Consumers buy into products and services based on emotional connections, and whether the brands share the same values as their own. Brands need to be prepared to publicly share, express, and inform their communities on their stances—including environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues.
As you map out your 2021 marketing communications plan, look back to the most engaging content you developed in 2020. Video and live streaming will continue to remain a leader in communications. Think about ways to convert your most-engaged text and static image posts into more entertaining, interactive content. Typical communications methods, such as press releases and blog posts, can be visually enhanced into genuine brand experiences—creating a more emotional connection with your base. Need a few tips for increasing your video and live-streaming content? Try developing video teasers for new product launches and announcements, convert extended interviews into mini-videos, and lean into short-form video platforms and live streaming.
With all the uncertainties we faced last year, looking ahead to 2021 may feel a little intimidating. A safe way to maneuver through the uncertainties is to apply what worked for your brand and organization in 2020 and continue to lean on and evolve those tactics, strategies, and initiatives.
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