How and where we talk to people is changing. Social media in 2020 will be returning directly to its roots — gone will be the days of mass-marketing, over-promotional material and heavy branding. Instead, the social space will become more personal and communication-driven.
With over 35% of UK adults reducing their time on apps and choosing to ‘detox’ from social media, brands now need to work harder in order to make sure their social presence is adding as much value as possible. In relation, dark social is slowly rising up the ranks - fewer public interactions are taking place in favour of more private messages, Instagram Direct Messages, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.
Whilst there have been shifts in terms of how many people seem to want to use social platforms, Social media industry commentator and consultant Matt Navarra thinks this difference is actually a public-wide unease about social exchanges being so public:
“The use of private groups, communities and ephemeral 'stories' has risen sharply in the past two years. The era of social media regulation now begins: Social media was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for much of 2019. “Data privacy, online abuse, account security, as well as fake news and disinformation were the biggest topics of discussion.”
This rise of authenticity, privacy and a more personal approach to social will prompt brands and organisations to look for strategies that prove brand loyalty to its followers. Audience generated contents, personal voice, and relatable influencers will prove pivotal to building the brand and follower relationship.
From this, I have identified four key trends that will shape the social media landscape in 2020:
- Nano and Micro-influencers
- 360-degree videos
- User-generated content
‘Hello, Hi. Who am I talking to?’
The rise of real and meaningful communities will dominate in 2020. Many brands and influencers have large followings but low engagement figures. By building real and honest communities for both the good and the wellbeing of users means that they are able to get closer to those they wish to interact with, as well as increase engagement through authentic conversations.
According to research conducted by Boostify, 90% of social users report feeling positively towards brands who treat them like an individual, but only 20% feel there are brands out there that understand and care about them. Brands must find ways to create more private, intimate connections with their audiences without becoming overly intrusive. This will come down to building brand communities, or groups where your brand message is relevant, but where you are also receptive to direct messaging.
A 2018 Facebook survey of 8,000 people found that 69% of respondents said that directly messaging with a company helps them feel more confident about the brand. Other platforms, such as Instagram, offer a “List” feature that enables users to share posts and stories with a select group of friends.
Similarly, brands who want to make the most of personalisation need to see it as a way to get rid of irrelevant messaging, making navigation and communication easier, serving only content which is genuinely compelling and relevant, and ensuring that their process is more transparent. They need to ensure users that their content isn’t being posted out for vanity metrics and popularity contests - with Instagram removing likes and Facebook’s newer emphasis on ‘meaningful engagement’, brands will eventually realise that in order to be successful in 2020 and beyond, they need to be as human as possible, and tell a story.
Both hyper-personalisation and hyper-targeting will allow brands the opportunity to help their followers feel as though the content was created with their specific interests in mind.
“Thank those people in your community by actually proactively reaching out to them like you would reach out to a friend.”
Honey, I shrunk the influencer!
Since 2017, the number of google searches for ‘influencers’ has increased by 1500%, with that number set to grow even further over the next couple of years. This is due to the need for brand representatives that are recognisable, relatable and that can directly engage with users. As brands begin to shift towards a personal voice, utilising smaller influencers will be essential to reaching different communities and making content more authentic.
In order to maximise on influencer marketing, brands in 2020 and beyond will shift away from Mid-tier influencers (between 50k-500K followers) Macro-influencers (those with 500k-1M) and Mega influencers (1M+). They are both costly and are fast becoming seen as an inauthentic source due to fake engagement, inactive users and paid followers (bots). To increase potential engagement, brands will move to the micro (and even nano) level influencers.
These niche influencers offer custom-built communities that are heavily engaged, therefore offering fantastic, affordable opportunities for brands. These users have carefully built a community of followers between 1K and 10K followers and have curated it to appreciate and enjoy specific types of content - ergo making them a reliable source for maximising engagement and authenticity.
25-year-old London-based food blogger Nina Ricafort, for example, has 20,000 followers on her Instagram account @feastlondon. Her feed is dedicated to reviews of dishes and restaurants found in central London, and she always discloses when she was invited as a guest for a complimentary meal. Her posts perform well and are heavily engaged with because she is so in tune with her immediate following because she grew them. In addition, they're still small enough for them to be able to engage well with and also potentially know on some level.
Nano-influencers have a wealth of untapped potential that hasn’t been exposed to brands, including the use of offline conversations, which is becoming more and more integral to brand building. These smaller influencers also align with the eventual demise of ‘likes’ on social in order to promote more personal conversations.
Doing a 360
Whilst video content has been growing rapidly on social media for the last couple of years, recent research has discovered that it will continue to grow in 2020. Video content gets 135% more organic reach than any other post, and Hubspot found that 45% of people watch Facebook videos and YouTube for an hour or more per week.
“Videos will be behind about 80% of consumer traffic by 2020.”
Video will shift from traditional text-based content toward dynamic, engaging content - and 360-degree videos are that content. They are videos that go beyond raising brand awareness or pushing marketing and promotions; instead they will offer one-on-one personal responses, tap into specific communities and tell a story.
There will be an emphasis on creative, engaging storytelling that captures user attention in seconds. Brands will need to have a keen eye for how video stories engage users, especially when the ‘like’ button goes away on Instagram. Smart devices and the rise of VR are making 360-degree videos even more accessible and recent research from Magnifyre found that this form of video drives a 7% higher purchase intent whilst also making certain that your brand’s content stands out from the crowd.
One brand that saw great results from a 360-degree video was Kit Kat, which used the format to showcase its matcha chocolate bar. The campaign, based on YouTube primarily, resulted in a completion rate that was more than double the average. It also managed to deliver an 35% increase in consideration and a 100% rise in ad recall.
360-degree videos allow followers to buy into the experience, and in return, your brand will get increased video counts, longer viewing time and retain your follower’s attention as they navigate the AR world.
"360-degree videos are a great way for a customer to be taken on a journey that may not necessarily be accessible to them otherwise.”
91% of social users are actively searching for more interactive content. Not only does it look fresh and clean on the page, but it makes users feel more connected to brands and more involved in the buying, viewing and liking process.
Look mum, I made it!
Though UGC content is nothing new to brands, its importance in 2020 and beyond directly links to the overarching theme of needing content to be more authentic, personal and talking to you.
Many brands currently use UGC, but it is now becoming more critical for them to demonstrate they have a trustable voice in the industry. More importantly, UGC turns followers into brand ambassadors and blurs the line between follower and brand to build a more intimate relationship between the two. What’s more authentic than something created by you yourself, a fan?
UGC is prevalent because people will trust content from people who are like themselves, instead of from faceless brands or unobtainable representatives. By showing what existing customers have to say about a show, it will capture the attention of prospective viewers and improve the odds of them becoming new viewers.
UGC on your feed can be as basic as blog comments and testimonials or it can take the form of blog posts, images and videos created by users. GoPro's entire YouTube channel is dedicated to UGC, showing high-quality videos produced by its customers using its hardy, portable cameras. It currently has eight million subscribers and keeps growing.
In order to utilise it in the best way, brands can benefit from motivating users to specifically create content and tag the brand for a chance to get featured on your page. In addition, reaching out to followers with strong content and building relationships with them will enhance any future campaign.
So what should you be doing?
In short, social media in 2020 should first and foremost be understanding *yourself* as a brand. What do I want to tell my followers? How do I speak to them in an engaging, interesting, yet human way? Secondly, be real, be authentic and show real life. Next, we need to be putting effort into our content; instead of just posting video, let's make that video interactive, 360-degree and give our audience an experience. Finally, put your audience first. If you want your audience to engage with you, you need to engage with them, and this is how you'll get to know them.
For 2020, people are expecting a personalised service that will add meaning to their timelines. More and more users will consciously spend less time on their social channels, so it is now vital to share only high-quality and relevant content that adds value. As more people disconnect, the online ‘competition’ for social space will get tougher. Go offline, go personal and go deep. Invest resources into connecting with fewer people, but on a much deeper, more personal level.
Harry Clark, strategist at Wilderness.