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What’s New in Social Media? (January)

It may only be January, but we’ve already had a host of key developments in the world of social media marketing. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Introducing Clubhouse, the New Invite-Only Social Media Platform

Although the app has been out for a few months, widespread media coverage has seen it grow in momentum. Everyone wants to know: “what is Clubhouse, and how do I join?”

Firstly, Clubhouse is a social media platform that is built around audio. It’s being described as a mash-up between Spotify, Zoom and the X-Factor (yes, that X-Factor). Clubhouse is about connecting people through voice alone. You can drop into live conversations, share your thoughts, or simply listen from the sidelines, akin to a podcast.

What’s grabbing the most attention is its unrivalled exclusivity – it’s easier getting into Berghain than Clubhouse. The likes of Oprah Winfrey, Drake and Jared Leto use it. Each member can only invite an additional two people to join. There’s only 2 million Clubhouse users, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll receive the prized invite just yet. In the meantime, you can join the waiting list on their website.

Although it’s early days for Clubhouse, we can already see its marketing potential. With celebrities and content creators active on the platform, there’s a foundation for influencer marketing activity. Audio as a medium has been experiencing a resurgence recently, thanks to the rise of podcasts, streaming services and TikTok. Clubhouse looks to combine the best qualities of all three. Let’s also not forget that exclusivity drives desire – people want what they can’t have.

2. Millions Delete WhatsApp Over Privacy Concerns

Facebook is once again at the source of controversy, this time concerning WhatsApp, which it purchased in 2014. It has managed to avoid the ongoing backlash facing its parent company – until now.

Millions of people are deleting WhatsApp off their phones and switching to rival messaging services. The reason? WhatsApp issued a confusing new privacy policy that suggests they will share all your sensitive data with Facebook and its partner companies. Worst of all, the privacy policy came with a warning: accept our terms, or delete WhatsApp.

Facebook has already been under scrutiny for its less-than-ethical data collection policies, which have been in the public eye since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2018. WhatsApp clarified that they can’t see the content of your messages, as they’re protected by end-to-end encryption. But they can see the attached metadata, including the message senders name, phone number and time sent.

It’s not been enough. WhatsApp users have become increasingly aware that Facebook is harvesting tons of data on them, causing them to leave the en-masse. Rival messaging apps Signal and Telegram have been downloaded 7.5 million and 25 million times respectively since the start of January. Signal in particular is amassing interest for its privacy-led service.

What this whole ordeal proves is that data privacy is still a hot-button topic for consumers. Users are becoming more educated on how their data is handled online. It’s up to us marketers to make sure we maintain their trust. Brush up on the rules around GDPR, and if you’re unsure whether something infringes on a consumer’s privacy, assume that it does.

3. YouTube Shorts

It wouldn’t be an E1MA monthly social media round-up without announcing the latest in a long line of TikTok clones. Not wanting to be outdone by Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight or Twitter Fleets, YouTube are currently beta testing their stories feature – Shorts. Many UK users can already view Shorts within the YouTube app despite officially being in beta.

We could go into more detail about how YouTube Shorts works but there’s not much to say. It’s the same mobile-led, story-audio hybrid we’ve come to expect in recent times. Your videos can be up to 60-seconds long and can be viewed on your YouTube channel or the user’s homepage (if the algorithm permits). YouTube also recently revealed how Shorts will impact channel analytics, which you can read more about here.

The proliferation of TikTok-style functions within social media platforms can be a little overwhelming. What we would suggest is creating content with your favoured channel (e.g. Instagram Reels) and sharing to your additional channels. As they all resemble TikTok in both form and content, so it’s easy to make any necessary adjustments. This would dramatically increase your content output and allow you to reach audiences that use Shorts but not Reels. 

4. Pinterest Updates Story Pins & Adds New AR Tools

Often the forgotten child of social media platforms, Pinterest has been making some serious waves in recent times. Initially starting off as a ‘visual discovery engine’, the platform has been steadily growing in popularity and adding new features to its offering. We announced the launch of Story Pins, Pinterest’s take on Stories, a few months ago. Now it looks like they’re actively encouraging its usage. Recently they’ve been testing a new ‘Stories Panel’, found at the top of the home screen.

Look familiar? That’s because, like all social media advancements in 2021, they’ve decided to play it safe and copy everyone else. The key difference with Story Pins is that they don’t disappear after 24-hours – they live permanently within a Pin. We expect the relocation of Story Pins to become permanent, even if it’s an uninspired development. The top of the home screen is a tried and tested location and it’s where users have come to expect stories to live.

A more exciting Pinterest development is their expansion of new ‘try-on’ AR tools. Looking to gain an edge in social commerce over their competitors, the platform has introduced the ability to test eyeshadows through AR (Augmented Reality).

You can already ‘try-on’ lipstick with Pinterest, so this is a sensible next step. As you test shades, the feature will recommend new products you might like. They’re trying to replicate the experience of shopping in a beauty hall or department store like Debenhams (gone but not forgotten). As the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down, social commerce looks to fill the void left by brick-and-mortar shopping – AR tools like this blurs the line between the two.

5. Instagram Launches New ‘Professional Dashboard’

Instagram looks to improve the experience of content creators and businesses on the platform with their new professional dashboard. The dashboard essentially combines Instagram’s analytics feature with other tools that can help creators make the most of the platform.

Instagram themselves describe the dashboard as “a central destination to track performance, access and discover professional tools, and explore educational information curated by Instagram.

This should make it easier to understand how your business is performing on Instagram, and how you can improve. Any feature that simplifies the user (or in this case, creators) experience gets a big thumbs-up from us. Instagram have also hinted more tools being integrated into the dashboard soon.

E1MA’s Awareness Day Calendar 2021

Awareness Days can be extremely useful for your business if you’re ever stuck for ideas on what to post. They are designed to draw attention to a cultural or social cause, but can also just be fun.

We’ve rounded up some key awareness days that you can align your business with in the calendar below.

Click ‘Google Calendar’ at the bottom right to attach it to your own calendar so you don’t miss any more great content opportunities! Get creative with your posts and ensure there’s a genuine link between your business and the cause you’re supporting.  

Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021

2020 was a tough year and has had a profound impact on the way we communicate with brands, customers and each other. Here’s what will continue into 2021 and beyond.

E-Commerce & Social Commerce

COVID-19 restrictions and the subsequent mass closure of brick-and-mortar retailers drove shoppers online in 2020. Of course, this isn’t a new trend. E-commerce has been increasingly chipping away at in-store sales for a number of years. 20% of UK transactions took place online in 2020. That’s including the pre-pandemic months of January – March and loosening of restrictions over the summer.

Shopping online has become embedded in the consumer psyche, even for those reluctant to shop online prior to the pandemic. Accenture expects an 160% increase in the amount of online purchases made by ‘low-frequency’ shoppers. This is promising news for e-commerce businesses, as it means there’s a large, newly digitally-savvy audience to target online.

Accenture Consumer Research Graph on E-commerce Trends

Not only are there new demographics to target, but new means of reaching them as well. Social Commerce, or S-Commerce, is a rapidly growing arm of e-commerce. If you’re not familiar with the term, Social Commerce is selling products and services directly through social media, rather than a website.

Facebook are leading the charge in this space, launching FB & Instagram Shops over the summer.

Facebook Shops 2021

Other platforms such as Pinterest and TikTok have also developed their own s-commerce iterations. Even messaging service WhatsApp is exploring its options. This trend is being spearheaded by social media giants looking to diversify their revenue streams rather than by users. Digital ad spend dropped for the first time ever in the early stages of the pandemic.

Regardless, we feel that social commerce is here to stay. The average 16 – 24 spends 3 hours a day scrolling through social media. 40% of people use social media to research products. Social commerce seems like the natural next step – streamlining the customer journey by cutting out the website-shaped middleman. We wouldn’t be surprised if websites go the way of the phonebook – an outdated medium that hasn’t kept up with evolving consumer preferences. 

Live-streaming & Influencers

With most people confined to their homes in 2020, we desperately sought out forms of home entertainment. On-demand video services such as Netflix experienced exponential growth, and pretty much everyone took up baking if social media is anything to go by.

But these pastimes aren’t a substitute for live interaction. Zoom calls allowed us to interact with friends and family, but what about brands and celebrities? Live-streaming was the solution, and it took the world by storm. This isn’t going to be limited to 2020 either. 17% of all internet traffic is expected to be live video by 2022.

Live-streaming provides a way to host ‘virtual’ events. Musicians have had to perform free-of-charge in the early pandemic as there were no ways to monetise the experience early in the pandemic. Thankfully, online platforms have caught up and are starting to introduce ways to monetise live-streaming. Zoom for example, is launching its own paid-events marketplace called OnZoom:

Zoom OnZoom 2021

Seamlessly blending Social Commerce and Live-streaming, Instagram has added shoppable product tags to live-streams and IGTV.

Live-stream Instagram Shopping Tags 2021

This is perfect for influencers. Love them or loathe them, the use of influencers (or ‘content creators’) as a promotional tool is here to stay. 8 out of 10 customers have purchased a product after seeing it on a content creator in 2020. Influencers are valued for their ability to reach target audiences without consumers feeling like they’re being ‘sold to’. This is especially poignant in 2020, where rampant consumerism took a step back whilst caring, community-focused issues came to the forefront. With regards to promoting products, the ‘soft sell’ became more effective than aggressive sales tactics. Content creators are the perfect vehicle for this.

We will feel the effects of the pandemic for a number of years, on both an economic and social level. Consumers will have less disposable income and will need more coaxing to make purchases. Influencer partnerships are great for making those early customer interactions, as their fans trust their judgement and the brands they advocate. 

Sustainability

2020 made us rethink the way we live. The pandemic brought to light the fragility of the planet and the ecological challenges we face. Despite heart-warming stories of animals returning to urban areas during the 1st lockdown and temporary reductions in C02 emissions, the environmental situation is still dire. Wildfires, floods and drought are all on the rise. 18 billion pounds of plastic fill the ocean each year. Society is beginning to take notice – we documented the rise of the ‘conscious consumer’ in our Green Marketing blog piece.

Today’s customer expects the brands they associate with to minimise their impact on the environment. Promises aren’t enough, the conscious consumers see through attempts of ‘green-washing’. Cutting single-use plastics, reducing carbon footprints, green delivery vans – these real action companies need to take to win their trust.

Tentree Instagram Post

We may speak of the ‘conscious consumer’ as a niche demographic that can be ignored, but it’s growing rapidly and can make or break a business. 27% of Gen Z (who are particularly eco-conscious) have boycotted a brand for its below-par sustainability practices. As Forbes rightly say, ‘sustainability has become a business necessity, not just a differentiator’.

Concluding Words

Its hard to accurately predict what 2021 has in store for us. The pandemic will no doubt continue to severely impact businesses and wider society. Trends like environmentalism have been steadily growing in influence over the years. Others, such as live-streaming and social commerce, have been supercharged by the pandemic. Regardless of whether the global situation changes soon, the E1MA firmly believe these are long-lasting trends that marketers should be implementing into their strategy for years to come.

Have a question?

talktome@e1ma.co.uk