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3 Social Media Trends that Will Define Marketing Strategy in 2020

Type: Articles
Topic: Marketing and Branding
By Todd Grossman
3 December 2019
Credit: istockphoto.com/izusek

Social media move fast, and the proven digital marketing strategies that were popular just a few years ago (from Instagram stories to Facebook ads) are now being disrupted by new platforms, emerging trends, and evolving user behaviors. By taking a deep dive into the online conversation and engagement trends that shaped social media and digital marketing throughout 2019, we can start to see which platforms and technologies will become the must-use tools of 2020 and which tactics it may be time to retire.

Here are three key takeaways from this year’s Social Media Trends for 2020 report by Talkwalker and Hubspot that will help marketers, advertisers, product managers and content creators shape their marketing strategies for the next decade.

User-generated content is king

The classic social media adage “content is king” is getting an upgrade in 2020. Viewers and consumers increasingly prefer to engage with raw, unpolished, user-generated content (UGC) made by “people just like them” instead of slickly produced professional media. In fact, according to influencer marketing agency Mavrck, user-generated content now generates 6.9 times as much engagement as brand-created content.

Why? In a word: authenticity.

Millennials and (especially) Generation Z consider the brands they choose to be signifiers of their lifestyle and their values, as the VSCO Girl trend both embodies and satirizes. As a result, grassroots user-generated content that features authentic, spontaneous, or lived-in depictions of a brand’s inclusion in a consumer’s daily life is more likely to generate engagement—and sometimes even more likely to drive sales—than commercial media with high production values.

What does this mean for your 2020 marketing strategy? First, brands should expect to include more community-building and UGC amplification in their outreach tactics, especially as the buying power and media influence of authenticity-conscious Generation Z continues to grow.

Second, design your products, media and messaging with sharing in mind. The more interesting, unusual or aesthetically engaging a brand’s output is, the more likely their customers are to want to be seen with it—and share it—through their own social media channels.

Consider this example based on Tesla’s remote parking capacity as an example of how these kinds of user-generated content ripple effects only become possible when a brand’s shareable design matches their users’ core values.

The TikTok popularity surge

With the rise of popular new social hubs, marketers will have to decide where they spend their time to capture the attention of Gen Z.

If you’re not familiar with TikTok, it’s a short-form video-sharing app that has exploded in popularity over the past year, especially among youth, teens and young adults. The increase of social mentions for TikTok helps illustrate its meteoric rise: In January 2019, Talkwalker found 1.6 million mentions of the app, but that number swiftly grew by 62.5% to 2.6 million mentions by June 2019.

With widespread global adoption and a built-in social aspect that encourages users to take part in UGC challenges built on replicating funny dances and other memes, smart brands should pay attention to how young audiences are using this emerging platform and what their expectations are in terms of brand engagement within TikTok.

Why? Currently, 66% of TikTok’s audience is estimated to be under age 30. This makes it one of the only fast-growing digital hotspots for young millennials and Gen Z—an identity it likely enjoys as an alternative to “older” destinations like Facebook and Twitter. Because of this, TikTok is poised to become one of the leading access points to reach young consumers in the coming years.

What does this mean for your 2020 marketing strategy? TikTok only began testing ads in January 2019, so while there are no proven best practices for launching a TikTok campaign yet, there is much more of the highly creative, “Wild West” feeling that accompanied the original rise of Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s. Adventurous brands like Pepsi, Nike and Sony Music are diving into this new platform and learning as they go, and building their communities along the way.

This early exploration will likely pay off in terms of consumer awareness, brand trust and data analysis, as early adopter brands will be able to experiment with a variety of audience outreach tactics that will help them write the initial playbook for marketing on TikTok in 2020 and beyond.

While exploring exciting new platforms, marketers shouldn’t forget about other platforms such as YouTube, which has also seen an increase in users.

Digital wellness is a growing concern

Anyone who’s ever been unable to stop themselves from checking their notifications during a meeting or realized they just spent the past 45 minutes scrolling through Instagram knows that social media channels are addictive by design. Their goal is to keep us engaged for as long as possible, minimize our time away, and always keep us coming back for more.

As a result, social media users are increasingly concerned about digital wellness and the time they spend “unplugging” or “detoxing” from their phones and other devices. In the six months from January to June of 2019, there were 78,000 online conversations on the topic of digital wellness or social media wellness. The vast majority of these conversations are taking place between casual users of social media and are not driven by news organizations or headlines. This indicates that the concern is largely user-generated, and that users are empowering themselves to control their intake and time spent on social channels.

Why? A combination of comparison culture, fear of missing out (FOMO), and the reward-based nature of social media vanity metrics like comments and likes can turn the act of creating or sharing social media into a daily crisis of self-worth. Meanwhile, from politics to sports to movies to brands, it can be hard for people to have an online conversation about their preferences or beliefs without it turning into a polarized “us versus them” debate that creates more stress than joy.

Luckily, the act of unplugging and better managing their social media habits is helping many people find a better balance. For example, the #DigitalDetox movement encourages more mindfulness among social media users, which has led to a rise in positive online sentiment among users of that hashtag: From January through July of 2019, over 60% of its mentions were classified as “joyful.”

What does this mean for your 2020 marketing strategy? If consumers truly are reducing their digital media consumption, it becomes increasingly important for brands to create media that is both more memorable (because you may not gain as many repeat impressions over time) and more positive (so your brand doesn’t become a reason that users choose to disconnect). This not only affects the aesthetic choices you might make in developing your media, but also the sentiments and values you might choose to express.

By focusing more on optimism, community, empowerment, and authenticity, your 2020 marketing strategy can help you connect with social media users who seek more positivity in their feeds and position your brand as a provider of content that your customers and users will actually look forward to seeing and sharing.

Todd Grossman

Todd Grossman is CEO of Talkwalker Americas.

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