3.7 Billion Social Media Users Enter a New Decade, Plus Five Social Media Trends to Adopt in 2020

In October of 2019 the internet hit a half century, yes that’s right, the internet has been a part of our society for 50 years now. While the internet is Gen X, we also celebrated our most popular Millennial — the world wide web turned 30 this last year! And while it might be getting older, it is still more relevant to how we communicate today, and its popularity is anything but waning. Our world is very much digital. In Hootsuite’s Digital 2019 report, we found nearly 4.5 billion, or 58%, of the global population are active internet users, and nearly 3.7 billion of those people are social media users. That’s 48% of our global population, and growing fast. Social media continues to define itself as the place where people convene, and where brands need to be to reach their audience. But what do we know about this younger hip Gen Z sibling ‘social’ and how it will challenge the rules in 2020? Hootsuite gazed into the crystal ball and put together a look ahead at the turn of the decade and 2020, identifying the key trends marketers should use to leverage this powerful tool.

Trend 1: Brands strike a balance between public and private engagement. It’s something we do as humans, so it’s no surprise that brands should follow suit. According to data from GlobalWebIndex, 63% of people say messaging apps are where they feel most comfortable sharing and talking about content. However exposure to the content is most often on public social feeds. There’s a need for both in a well developed social marketing strategy: start the conversation in public, give it an opportunity to deepen in private. It’s the natural journey of most social conversations, whether brand to consumer or friend to friend. Think about how you might seamlessly move people from your public channel to your private feed while delivering a consistent brand experience. And make use of the tools available to automate that process where it makes sense. Messenger bots are best for addressing the most common customer queries, the ones that come up time and time again, while real people still need to be available to handle the more nuanced customer inquiries and personalize your brand.

Trend 2: Employers take center stage in a divided world. It’s no surprise that our respondents highlighted the feeling of division in our society. But not all is lost. The good news is that people are placing their trust in their employers and looking to their leaders to take a stand. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, 75% of people say they trust their employers to do what is right — more than government, media, or business in general. So it’s up to brands to heed the advice. Brands that earn employee trust through a genuine commitment to purpose will gain a significant competitive advantage, if they do it right. It can’t just be a marketing strategy, but instead should be thought of as a way of being. If it is core to your brand identity, employees will also get behind it and be your biggest advocates. Pride in your brand will set the right tone from the inside out, and people will take notice.

Trend 3: TikTok shakes up the status quo. It has certainly come in with a bang. TikTok was the most installed app in Q1 of 2019, and now boasts over 800 million monthly active users, spending an incredible amount of time — 46 minutes per day to be exact — consuming videos that are typically only 15 seconds long. Will it last? It’s hard to tell. What we do know is that it will be fun while it lasts. And it can provide marketers with insight into the tastes and motivations of the next age demographic, armed with buying power. Gen Z is fully in the driver’s seat on TikTok, 69% of users on the platform are between 16 and 24 years old. Knowing what resonates with them can help inform marketing strategies you might implement on other channels where ROI can better be measured. Another learning we can glean from the success of TikTok is the power of video. Short video. Short form creative video content resonates with people and should be a strategy marketers use throughout their social media strategy regardless of the channel. Make your story stretch by building it for each platform and let it be a seamless flow from one to the other.

Trend 4: Social marketing and performance marketing collide. In putting together these trends we interviewed over 3,100 marketers around the world and found that the top two outcomes they want to achieve on social are brand awareness and driving conversions. Makes sense. But one can’t really exist without the other and neither one is mutually exclusive. ‘Social Veterans’ may be inclined to see separate strategies for each of these outcomes, seeing the role of organic social contributing to brand awareness and possibly sitting with your PR team, and paid social contributing to sales. But the impact of brand building is a marathon, not a sprint, and should be given the time to grow. Paid campaigns can boost brand awareness and initiate a relationship with your customer long before they are your customer. In 2020, social media teams that can optimize ads on the fly without losing sight of the longer term strategy, all while staying on brand, will be the most successful.

Trend 5:
The social proof gap closes. Let’s call it the age old quandary of measuring the impact of our social marketing efforts against business objectives. Despite increased access to technology that provides all kinds of data, measuring the return on investment is still a big challenge for social marketers. For example, 70% of our survey respondents aren’t using an attribution model at all, which makes it hard to prove the value of social compared to data-rich channels like paid media. However through our interviews we found marketers who feel they are doing a great job measuring ROI. And what do they have in common? They unite their social data with other metrics to get a more holistic view of their customers. All relationships are complex - whether person to person or brand to consumer. The more you view data points as integrated and connected, the more likely you will be able to build relationships that last. Successful marketers integrate their entire customer engagement approach - social media, PR, email and advocacy programs - together as part of a more wholesome marketing strategy. And, they also don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to attribution modelling. They look to what’s been tried and tested in other channels like search engine marketing, television, and outdoor advertising, and apply that rationale to social.

So here we are, 2020 ready. One more thing to remember — always be ready for change. Use these trends to help forge deeper, more authentic, and longer-lasting connections with customers, putting social at the center of everything they do. But also remember to remain flexible and responsive to whatever gets thrown your way in 2020. And the full report can help you with that too.

The data used to define these trends is based on a survey conducted in Q3 2019 with over 3,100 marketers around the globe. Our team then supplemented these results with insights from primary interviews with dozens of industry specialists, as well as published reports and data from Deloitte, Edelman, eMarketer, Gartner, GlobalWebIndex, The CMO Survey, and others. For a more in-depth look at all the trends, as well as brands who are already implementing these insights in their social marketing, download the full report here.

This post is written by Henk Campher, Vice President Corporate Marketing, Hootsuite.
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