2020 was a year to remember for a long time from now, and that is because of the global pandemic first of all. The COVID-19 virus has had a strong impact on every business in the world, and digital marketing trends and social media in particular changed a lot.
Although a lot of businesses were affected in a negative way, the e-commerce sales grew exponentially and people spent a lot of time on social media because of social distancing.
Video conferencing, both for work and personal usage, became the new normal and companies like Zoom saw a tremendous increase in users: from 10M in December 2019 to 300M+ in April 2020.
In 2021 we will see an increase in online purchases because the COVID-19 pandemic is still here (hopefully not until the end of this year), video meetings, more time spent on social media channels, and podcast and video consumption as well.
As I have done for the past 7 years (in a row), I wanted to know the 2021 digital marketing trends from top marketers who were kind enough to tell our Hot in Social Media community their digital marketing predictions for this year.
If you want to be prepared with useful and relevant information for 2021, you need to read these 20+ predictions and recommendations in order to have a successful year for your (online) business.
What are the Most Important Digital Marketing Trends in 2021?
David Meerman Scott
Marketing strategist, Entrepreneur & Author
Social networking companies AI algorithms have become way too polarizing and marketers should avoid putting too much time and money into social media marketing.
Chief Experience Officer – The Experience Maker LLC
1) Listening first, talking second. Make sure you are delivering content and offers that your customers want, rather than just what you want them to see. It has become easy to weed out self-serving marketing vs. genuine, helpful content. By listening and engaging with your audience, you can be their go-to resource and ultimately their provider of choice.
2) Keep in mind where the prospect or customer is in the buying cycle. Google searchers are actively looking and expressing intention to buy; Facebook users are scrolling through baby pics and cat videos and may not be in the right frame of mind when your ad hits. That doesn’t mean Facebook ads can’t work; of course they can. But all digital marketing requires careful planning, segmenting and targeting to be effective.
B2B Marketing Consultant, Author of Global Content Marketing and Effective Sales Enablement
The key trend is that people consume more content than ever before and do so on many channels.
The key challenge to marketers is there is no one-size-fits-all content. You can create one piece of content and syndicate that to different channels. The post you do for LinkedIn may need to be modified slightly for Twitter and Facebook, not to mention that TikTok has yet another different format.
Create some long-form content and make an effort to think through how to repurpose the same content in different channels with different write-ups, CTAs, and images.
Award Winning Marketing Strategist, International Speaker & Passionate Founder of NOW Marketing Group
I believe in 2021 brands are going to see a rise of the “Unfiltered” conversations. Meaning the veil between brands and their customers will be thinner, providing access and insight into what is at the brand’s core and the impression their customers have as it relates to their relationship with the brand.
The name of the game will be creating a sense of belonging > buying, in our approach to marketing if we want to build a sustainable brand without the constant pay to play model.
Why? Even with buying Ads, aka attention, community and loyalty isn’t something for sale. Anyone can buy from a brand once but unless the brand is delivering above & beyond their promises, that customer most likely will not be back. Not to mention, brands will have to work even harder at growing new sales if they don’t have direct positive social proof and people talking about them via unfiltered reviews & dark social conversations (conversations in the inbox brands can’t see or measure).
We will need to focus less on the tools and more on our technique. Building better #Hxperiences (human experiences) will be the battleground. Our customers want to feel that they have the inside scoop, instant access, on-demand service and VIP treatment when, where, and how they want it.
Let’s face it, 2020 just sped up the rate of customer adaptation to a self-service approach to doing business online. Our customers want speed, accessibility and ease-of-use of doing business with us, not just buying from us. Therefore, this has to be a mindset shift. Everything we do should revolve around building and enhancing our experiences, not just to gain the sale the first time. It will be a huge contributing factor to our customers continuing to buy from us again and again.
Human experience trends we will see skyrocket:
- Messenger Marketing | Automation via Chatbots in the inbox for process and accessibility more than marketing broadcasts.
- Dark Social | Foster and participate in niche social channels that customers go for real-time conversation & information in a place that is comfortable to them.
- SEO via Page Experience Updates | Brands will look at ways of turning their website into an interactive resource hub that gives their visitors a reason to return.
- Personalized Content | Brands stepping up their game in providing content specific to their audience- using personalized video emails, audio messages and sharing a means of direct access when communicating with their customers.
- User-Generated Content Moments | Brands will focus on ways to create moments, opportunities, and rewards for their audience to share UGC of their brand with photos, videos, affiliate links, etc. Brands want to get their audience to help amplify their story.
- Relationship Marketing (YAY!) | Brands will step up their customer-first culture and workflows of how they approach marketing and sales messaging. I believe that they will really focus on stories around their customers.
- Personalized Ads | Brands will invest a lot more on improving their ads management skills – developing ads that reach the right people with the right message.
SEO & Social Media Maven
As long as the pandemic is around, businesses are going to need to focus on keeping ALL of their digital assets updated.
More and more, I’ve noticed amongst friends and clients, as well as in my own personal life, if people are going to take the chance on going out, they want to be assured that their experience will be what they want. They want to know ahead of time if businesses are open, if they’re following mandates and suggestions on safety (like masks, social distancing, cleaning, etc).
For e-commerce based businesses, people want to know about safety protocols around the items they’re ordering as well as how any shipping issues may affect their order, and they want to know that BEFORE they order. To get that assurance, folks are turning to the Internet. They’re checking websites, social media outlets, Yelp, and Google My Business profiles for updates on hours, capacity, menu/service changes, reviews of others’ experiences during the pandemic, and more.
Businesses will need to keep up with these outlets as a basic level of customer service while any sort of stay-at-home or safety mandate is in effect in their area.
Internationally recognized author, professor, and speaker
One-to-one marketing will be the most important digital marketing trend in 2021. Data, analytics, and AI now allow us to personalize our messages so that we’re speaking to individuals rather than demographic audiences. That change will be the most significant change in marketing for the next decade.
Founder & CEO
2020 was an exciting year online, yet also … exhausting. We did see some positive evolutions on the digital landscape.
At the same time, the political climate was ever present no matter where we turned — even on social media and the blogosphere. And if not there, then in real life or via texts on our mobile phones. Shift view again, and it was on our TVs. And radio and newspapers. Many felt they couldn’t escape it!
Big Tech executives were brought to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to testify during widely televised committee hearings to discuss their believed manipulation of algorithms and censorship. In early 2021 the President of the United States was deplatformed by Twitter. Not long after, a newer social platform focusing on Free Speech, Parler, was shut down by their server company. Depending on how you see things … Let’s just say it is divisive.
People. Are. TIRED.
In turn, they are making adjustments in how they spend time online. Or not. Generally, people are:
- Getting on, catching up with what they wish, and getting out (regulating)
- Grouping up with like-minded people
- Utilizing more mobile apps
- Turning to subscription services for news and information
- Purchasing more online due to COVID-19 and preference
This will absolutely make a difference in digital marketing trends!!
We will see brands get more savvy in personalizing the customer experience. Implementing groups in social media strategies, improving and increasing story and video content, and shifting more to messenger marketing and concise emails. We’ll continue to see more podcasts. They will choose to position their influence and opt for influencer marketing that nurtures the chosen direction in brand voice. News brands will suffer as subscription news options become more popular from influential personal brand sources. Ecommerce will get better on websites as well as social platforms. As 2021 evolves, we could also see brands decrease the number of digital channels they use, opting for doing less better.
The Customer (People)
People will gravitate to brands that cater to them. They want quick fascination, frictionless ecommerce experiences, and they know they have more choices than ever in getting what they want. Story content is fun and easy – no matter what platform. Absolutely video – More frequently via mobile phone. If an influencer they trust presents a product or idea, they will look at it more seriously. Podcasts will replace some news consumption, as they involve individuals people like and are usually quicker and more fun to listen to or watch. In 2021 it will be about enhancing actual experiences – People will quickly turn off what bores or alienates them.
Author / Strategist / Speaker
The role of influencers within each business’s marketing plan will likely grow significantly in 2021. No only are brands putting more dollars into influence marketing but consumers are consistently responding they rely on many online influencers for product recommendations.
Estee Lauder is spending 75% of its entire marketing budget on influencers. While beauty is a bleeding edge vertical here, they’re doing it because when you hit on the right combination of message, influence partner and opportunity for their audience, it works.
But the trend will move beyond thinking of influencers as just Instagrammers or YouTubers. Or even online at all.
The market will begin shifting to see influential people as the more effective mechanism to achieving influence. And that, more broad definition, opens up the practice of influence marketing to be far more than online or social media based.
Increased use of markup for featured snippets and voice search
Optimising content for a “normal” listing on Google’s SERPs is no longer enough. Companies are now aiming to get the very top position, reserved for the featured snippet. Others are more concerned about voice search, with the increased use of voice enabled devices. In both cases, I expect to see more and more sites use structured data and markup in order to help them get some level of control over voice results and featured snippets.
Real people replace models
Authenticity is more and more important. We’ll see more of real people than models in ads. Many brands will stop retouching model images or use stock photos and instead will embrace the use of realism in pictures and ads. It’s not an entirely new direction, because we’ve seen this trend emerging over the past few years but I think it will be stronger than ever in 2021.
Head of Content and Social Media at Social Media Today
The growing eCommerce shift and the evolution of AR
eCommerce saw a massive rise in 2020, due to store closures and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. That’s given many consumers a new perspective, and you can expect online shopping to continue to rise, especially as Facebook and Instagram, among others, look to boost their own eCommerce initiatives. It’ll be important for marketers to note these shifts, and to consider how they apply to their processes. Even if you don’t offer products and services that can be distributed via digital means, the growing expectation will be that consumers will be able to manage more and more of their business interactions via connected platforms.
AR is also set to see significant evolution in 2021, especially with the expected arrival of new connected glasses, which likely won’t be fully AR-enabled, but will form the bridge that takes us to that next stage. Expect to see a range of new AR tools and processes, and new means to connect with consumers via interactive, engaging digital overlays and options. This will open up significant opportunity, and it’s worth keeping in touch with the fast-developing AR space.
Nonprofit Digital Marketing Expert
Did you know that the majority (64%) of Americans say social media negatively affects the way things are going in the country today?
Digital marketers going into 2021 can’t rely exclusively on social media to spread their message. They need to embrace multi-channel – a vibrant and mobile-friendly website, short and succinct email communications, and a message that resonates and is relevant across all channels.
Focus your social ads and posts to grow your email list and to build a deeper relationship with your audience. Building your house on rented land is the wrong way to go, and won’t lead to long-term sustainability.
Speaker / Author / Provocateur
1. If brands are hoping to stay relevant and keep up with the content creation phenomenon, 2021 needs to be the year of Empowering Employees to Power your Brand. It is plain and simple—employee censorship on social channels is a disaster for brands. We can no longer control the message folks. The social framework is “bigger and stronger” than our puny frameworks. Instead of fighting it every step of the way, USE it to your advantage, or you’ll pay a steep price in diminished return… especially during these times of change and uncertainty. Your employees are the best way to humanize and personalize your brand… and truly the best way to scale relevant, contextual content creation
Did you know that employee created content (ECC) receives eight times more engagement than content shared from the company itself? On top of that, employee content extends brand messaging by over 500%. Crazy, right? So why aren’t more companies getting employees engaged in content creation? It’s well known that companies with engaged employees outperform their peers; involving employees in content creation can help to create a sense of common purpose.
The truth of the matter is that the social evolution is a business evolution. Only by changing our old frameworks can we possibly hope to succeed—because social media and the way it is evolving, along with so many other application during the pandemic, has completely altered the business landscape. #ROE… Return on Employees.
2. Changing shopper behavior creates a land grab for retailers and brands alike. Established brands like Nike are making huge strides to connect directly with shoppers, preparing for a future where a good portion of retail is direct. Upstart brands including AllBirds, Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club have been pushing incumbents to embrace more flexible channel strategies as well, and the trend is expanding exponentially in 2020. Incumbents and challengers alike are exploring all kinds of channel mix combinations although with a common tactical thread… all brands are seeking direct relationships with shoppers instead of relying on third party retailers… especially with how the #Covid19 pandemic has dramatically altered shopping behavior.
3. Customer Experience with our Marketing… we worry all the time about customer experience with our employees, product, purchase, and service, BUT we have overlooked a critical part of the customer expereince, and that IS how “our” marketing affects “them.” We’ve got data coming out of our ears, so tracking the results of our marketing efforts in terms of dollars and cents is becoming easier and easier. However, all these efforts only measure the upside of banging consumers over the head (how many more clicks, shares, engagements, and ultimately sales, do we get). No regard is given to the downside numbers. What we are NOT tracking is the point at which our customers turn from just annoyed, too fed up with our bot stalking and algorithm tweaking.
I think we need to spend as much time finding ways to track the negative effect of our marketing efforts as we do the positive ones. Every brand that continues to bang your customers or followers over the head again, and again, and again – without regard to the damage it is doing to brand equity – is going to suffer as we move forward in this customer, “my media, my commerce, my way”, world.
Marketing will truly win when humans control the machines, instead of the machines controlling the humans.
Co-Founder / CMO
Webcam video was sooo 2019. Serious social media marketers spent 2020 building mini-studios. In 2021, you’re going to see a huge upgrade in video production quality.
Just watch the streamers.
Hardware (DSLR cameras with camlinks), software (OBS, Camtasia) and skills are putting some social media pros over the top. They saw what was happening on Twitch and they decided to bring that party to their social channels. The difference in quality is huge. In 2021, you’ll know at a glance who is serious about social video and who is still just talking to their phone.
Social Media strategist
One on one conversations : With the emergence of new platforms such as “Clubhouse” we can see the growing need for users to interact on a more intimate basis with the brands and influencers they follow.
This behaviour is going to be even more important in 2021 as users look to have a closer relationships with brands and businesses on social media to learn from them.
This means utilising more closed communities such as groups, hangouts, masterminds and live shows to really get a chance to talk to your prospects and fans on a more 1 to 1 level.
DIGITAL MARKETING TRENDS 2021
The social media platform will become a top channel for purchases.
The global pandemic has benefited social commerce sites like Pinterest. It has become a top channel for buying. And it is not just used for discovery; Pinterest has made a frictionless path for shoppers from discovery to purchase without ever having to leave the platform.
Pinterest saw a 58% increase in YOY revenue. Monthly average users on Pinterest reached 442 million this quarter; an increase of 37% year over year. Part of their success is Pinterest has a reputation for having a brand safe environment for users. Facebook on the other hand faced widespread ad boycotts this summer related to its failure to curb hate speech on the platform.
“Advertisers are telling us that ads are working” on the platform, said Pinterest CFO and head of business operations Todd Morgenfeld. “It’s in large part due to the investments we’ve made in technology that makes it easier for advertisers to hit their goals on the platform.”
Pinterest has also seen the benefits of shopping on their platform. In fact, the number of users engaging with shopping features has grown a whopping 85% in the last six months.
More than ever before, people are coming to Pinterest to get inspiration for their lives—everything from planning early for a socially distant celebration to creating great home schools for their kids. “Our top priority is to continue making Pinterest home to the most inspiring and actionable content, said Silbermann in prepared remarks.”
So let me ask you. Is it really wise for you to ignore Pinterest and all their momentum?
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING TRENDS 2021
Consumers will gravitate towards short, snackable video content.
Video consumption will continue to take center stage.
Pinterest has always been the place to discover ideas and the inspiration to go do them— from recipes to beauty tutorials, style and home ideas, and more. Pinterest’s Story Pins give creators a way to tell dynamic and visual stories with videos, voiceover, image and text overlay. In fact, Pinterest is making it easier for creators who are eager to share their talent, passions and creativity to flow back directly into Pinterest without the need for a website.
Story Pins also make it easier for creators to build an audience on Pinterest since they aren’t ephemeral and don’t disappear after 24-hours. To ensure ideas get in front of the Pinners who are looking for them, creators can tag Story Pins or videos with topics or interests fueled by the trends and insights on the platform.
Senior Insights Strategist
- Positivity: After everything that has happened in 2020, people want hope and positivity. A place where they can enjoy content without doomscrolling. Brands need to find opportunities where they can positively engage with their audience and create content that lifts spirits.
- Community: This year has left many feeling isolated and alone. People are being forced to connect online like never before and they want to feel included and appreciated. A strong sense of community is empowering and also uplifting for many stuck at home alone.
Keynote Speaker, Author and Founder of Landscape Digital Institute
Get Reacquainted with Your Audience
The one certainty heading into 2021 is that your audience has changed. Some may have checked out and those that remain will have new problems and aspirations. Getting reacquainted with them is the only way to find out for sure.
If anything can pull companies out of this current funk, it’s marketing that shows customers you are right there with them. They want to be lifted up so they can move on to a better place. Delivering on that brand promise will grow your audience.
Head of Marketing
I think efficiency and scaling will be the real keywords of 2021. Marketing teams are more and more focused on automating the tedious, manual tasks, and win back the time to invest in creativity and strategic analysis. Slowly but surely spreadsheets and documents hold a less important role in marketers’ lives and that’s a good sign.
The second trend I think will see a steady rise is the new-found authenticity from brands in the digital space. With the pandemic forcing marketing teams to do without professional studios for each video or photo, we all got to see a new face of digital marketing. Most people liked the raw nature of the content and brands will keep testing the waters here.
Co-founder and CEO
The most important trend for digital marketing in 2021 is the way that social media has become the place where your prospects and customers hand out.
There are after all 4.14 Billion active social media users. Why is that important? With a 98% failure rate of both digital marketing and email marketing, companies have to make the switch for failure in marketing to success. Which is why people have switched their budget to social media in 2021.
Digital Marketer | Founder of Brieffin Consulting
There is a myriad of trends that have been evolving and getting stronger specially in the past few years, shifting almost every area of our social and professional lives, and the way that we connect and communicate, towards the edge of the all-things-digital dimension. Last year specially we have closely witnessed this phenomenon with the global lockdowns that have been going on since the beginning of 2020, and the quick adjustments and transformations that we all had to go through, kids, juniors, adults, and seniors alike.
We are now at the gates of even more lifestyle and professional remodeling: the imminent new way of doing things all-digitally once and for all.
But what does this really mean for our future?
The paradox is that the faster that we move in this hi-tech direction, the more we crave real human connection. Even the holidays season, a once-in-a-year opportunity for some of us to meet with our loved ones, has been affected by the imminent lockdown, with virtual gatherings and celebrations as the main backup plan.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Only time will tell what the growth expectancies of this trend will be over the next decade. One thing is for sure: this one will come at the speed of light.
Because of all this, we are facing a people-focused, solutions-centered marketing era, stronger than ever. Many brands are moving away from branded content, and direct products and services promotion, investing all their efforts in emotional marketing at all levels. Specially in the B2B sphere that in the past years might have struggled with the generation of more people-focused and emotional, human-connected, content for the marketing of their brand, products, and services, within the more corporate, business to business, audiences.
This is the definite change from an “it” to a “we” brand philosophy.
Marji J. Sherman
Accepting and embracing the pandemic pivot. Most people will not want to return to live events until long after, if even then. The hyper-digital environment COVID created during 2020 only expedited a change already bound to happen. Take your reactive COVID strategies a step further by creating communities, rather than a single Zoom event. Use micro-influencers to community manage different groups in order to meet your consumers where they are. Hiring micro-influencers to provoke conversation among your community is a great way to bring new consumers into your brand. You are going to have to work a little harder this year before you get to the hard sell in digital marketing.
For more advanced marketers, I recommend creating an AR experience that evolves throughout the year. Bring consumers in and continue to prove the value of your brand beyond the brick and mortar.
CEO and Founder
Managers getting more involved in their digital marketing executions. When they know it better than anyone else, they know what’s working and what isn’t. Any time you have a third party does it for you, it can’t help but be less than if you rolled up your sleeves, injected your insights, and wholeheartedly participated in it.
Online Marketing Expert
In my opinion, the most essential trend marketers should include in their content strategy in 2021 is interactive content. Brands should use this type of content to communicate with their audience. When posting something on social media, they can use questions, surveys, contests, polls, etc. All these can do magic for brands.
People want to be involved; they want to tell their impression – so make sure you ask your follower’s opinion when you want to launch a new product, a new feature, change the design for your landing page.
LinkedIn Ads Expert, CEO of B2Linked.com, and host of the LinkedIn Ads Show Podcast
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