By March 2020, the coronavirus began having a monumental impact on B2B marketing, including social media. Almost all social media metrics experienced a seismic shift, including dramatic spikes in usage.
The changes were so significant that on the heels of publishing its annual CMO Survey released in February, Deloitte decided to publish an additional document in June 2020. The special report was aimed at understanding COVID-19’s impact on marketing, including budgets, performance, operations and talent.
One of the report’s key findings was that while overall marketing budgets have shrunk, spending for social media increased by 74% during the early months of the pandemic. Also, organizations are expected to increase their social spending through the rest of the year. Marketers said their increased spending on social media is having a positive impact on brand awareness, customer retention and new customer acquisition.
Deloitte is not alone in reporting on this trend. For example, according to GlobalWebIndex, 45% of global consumers are spending more time on social community platforms.
With social media taking an even more significant role going forward, it’s a good time for organizations to review and reprioritize their social media strategies to ensure they are responding to our changing environment. The following insights from social platforms and leading social media software companies, and social media marketing best practices can help guide businesses on the road ahead.
The Impact on Social Platforms
Every popular social media platform has experienced changes since the advent of the pandemic. They’ve reported several insights on what’s changed, including the following:
- The Facebook family of social platforms, including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, have seen daily active users climb to 2.36 billion in the first quarter of 2020 compared to 1.66 billion in the last quarter of 2019. Further, monthly activities hit 3 billion for the first time.
- Twitter reported a record 24% increase in its daily users in early 2020. This is a jump up from 134 million at the start of 2019 to 152 million monetizable daily users in the first quarter of 2020.
- In early 2020, YouTube surged 15.3% to new highs, according to The New York Times. A Channel Factory survey found that people in the U.S. and U.K. are flocking to YouTube, with 80% of the viewers tuning in to improve their mood with uplifting, helpful and educational content.
- The new kid on the block, TikTok, reported a 96% year-over-year increase in app downloads from February 2019 to February 2020.
Reports from the Field
Leading social media application companies have recorded interesting changes in usage as well — including Buffer, Hootsuite and Sprout Social.
- Buffer recognized that now is a time to reflect on any existing social media plans marketers created for 2020 before the pandemic because they may no longer be suitable for their customers’ changing needs. Further, it’s a good time to reflect on goals to ensure they align with new priorities. For example, new customer acquisition goals might shift to a focus on customer retention and support instead. Buffer itself shifted the launch of its new podcast, feeling that now was not the time to “celebrate.” Instead, the company spent its resources addressing the immediate needs of its customers.
- Hootsuite reported an 11% increase in weekly usage of its automation and employee advocacy tools used to communicate in the crisis. In particular, its customers used the tool to help deal with the spikes in 1:1 messages. One customer — a grocery store chain — used 40+ chatbots to handle the demand, while pushing urgent questions directly to human support. Organizations also turned to their employee advocacy programs to quickly distribute information, increase trust with peer-to-peer messages and get remote employees to rally behind corporate responsibility initiatives.
- Sprout Social conducted a survey of its 20,000-plus customer database to find out what social media variables were changing. It discovered several noteworthy shifts in light of changes in people’s daily routines. For example, whereas previously the best times to post on Facebook were Wednesday from 11 a.m. and 1 to 2 p.m., now the best times to post are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. In fact, every day at 11 a.m. had a slight peak compared to the rest of the day. Weekends and weekdays after 5 p.m. showed a significant drop-off, as remote workers juggle more home and family needs.
8 Best Practices for Social Media Marketing Now
Along with changing variables, best practices in social media are also shifting. The following social media best practices can help guide marketers as they create and recreate their social media programs and campaigns. For example, they need to “read the room,” elevate consumer engagement, go beyond public feeds and more.
1. Listen More: “Read the Room”Social listening has always been important for optimizing social media. But it’s more important now than ever as people’s lives, attention and emotions are shifting. All companies should use social media for more than just pushing out information — they should also pull information in. Marketers need to pay attention as consumers are sharing information, anecdotes, media stories and asking questions. Follow relevant hashtags, business leaders, local media outlets and influencers to see what they are sharing, posting and saying. By paying attention to this ongoing dialog, you can gain crucial insight into people’s sentiments, fears and concerns, and understand how customers really feel, identify new opportunities and proactively react faster when necessary.
2. Think Fresh: Assess Current ContentUp until this year, it was a common practice to reuse existing content. But now, organizations should rely on this standard tactic a bit more judiciously. Some of the historic content may no longer resonate in our “new normal.” Think through any content you post now to be sure it’s not outdated, off-topic or inappropriate for our present circumstances. For example, if your organization pre-scheduled messages wishing your customers a happy holiday, you may want to update the message to wish people a safe and healthy holiday.
3. Elevate Engagement: Invest WiselyNow more than ever, social media is the consumers’ preferred channel for communicating with the brands they use or are interested in. When they make a complaint, share a suggestion or ask for information, people are more likely to contact a brand on Facebook or Twitter than any other channel. Being ready for this level of communication requires a wise investment in the resources required to be responsive. This includes enterprise-grade tools, customer service teams and experienced partners to ensure that every comment is dealt with appropriately and nothing falls through the gaps. Note that while social bots can handle some customer queries, real people are still required to handle more nuanced and complex conversations.
4. Create More Dialog: Think Outside the BotThink beyond just posting information about your company and product offers. Think of your organization as a source of useful information. Instead of standard media posts, consider newsy topics. Consider having your own experts broadcasting live on social platforms, such as through virtual Q&A sessions. Also, participate in relevant industry podcasts to share useful information and insights.
5. Think Private: Go Beyond Public FeedsAlong with posting on public feeds, today’s marketers should expand their landscape into private channels as well. More consumers are heading into private channels to escape the noise and impersonal aspects of public feeds. If you go there, go with a clear purpose for engaging one-on-one with community members. Make sure you are adding value to the conversations and not just trying to sell products and services.
6. Stay Authentic: Keep it RealBeing authentic has been a big catchphrase for the past few years. But, now more than ever, it’s critical to be really and truly authentic. Today’s consumers are on high alert for anything that reeks of being too sales-y or PR-ish. To ensure you stay on the right side of real, create corporate promises and live them at every level of your organization — including in your social media campaigns.
7. Track Performance: Measure ResultsWhether your budget for social media has increased or shrunk, accountability is critical. You need to know what’s working and what isn’t to ensure you get the results you need and to stop any campaign that isn’t resonating with your target audiences. Poor performing campaigns not only have the potential to bust your budget, but also ruin your reputation with consumers who are turned off by social media that is off-message. When you know what’s performing well and what’s struggling, you can take immediate action to move the needle forward or backward.
8. Expand Vision: Analyze Visual DataOne useful way to improve analytics is to add visual analysis. Data analysis has always been vital to good social media marketing. But now, data is likely in flux more than ever before. Adding more analytics will assist you in tracking and responding to changes as they occur because visual data is easier to digest, share and help get buy-in.
Now's the Time to Adapt
The social media revolution began over a decade ago and most businesses have deployed a social media marketing strategy — some more aggressively than others. But the world does not stand still — as we have learned in 2020 like never before. An already ever-changing marketing avenue has proven that changes will continue to rock the social media landscape. Savvy marketers must both keep their ears to the ground and hang on tight for the bumpy ride.
Heeding the insight of the experts and adopting best practices is the most dependable path forward in a medium that is both essential and in flux.