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The most important social media trends to know for 2020

Social media trends not only change from year to year, but often from month to month these days. Some trends even burn brightly, then burn out. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter remain popular, but other keep challenging them, especially with the younger generation that grew up on social media.

The theme of this new decade for many brands seems to be: What does success look like for social media marketing? How do you find a balance between making sense of social media data and finding new ways to engage with customers?

In an article on sproutsocial.com, Brent Barnhart breaks down some of the 2020 social media trends that he based on recent research and happenings in the space. Here are his nine social media trends to watch in 2020:

1. Brands reevaluating the metrics that matter most

As highlighted by the most recent Sprout Social Index, marketers are looking at a variety of metrics to determine what’s working and what’s not on social. There is no single metric for success on social media.

However, the tested removal of public Facebook and Instagram Likes may force a shift away from “Likes” as the measuring stick for content performance.

And even if Likes don’t totally disappear, this trend signals the need for brands to look beyond surface-level data.

Case in point, nearly two-thirds of marketers surveyed by Sprout felt that social listening will be crucial in 2020. Diving into conversations and sentiment analysis, marketers are growing more concerned with what’s being said rather than how many people are talking or looking at a single post.

The takeaway? Long-term and engagement means more than a short-term spike in Likes. Rather than chase a viral moment, brands are rightfully trying to understand what’s driving conversations with customers.

2. The growth of private communities and tight-knit tribes

Piggybacking on the last trend, marketers are increasingly focused on building meaningful connections with their target audience versus anybody and everybody.

Sure, brands want to reach as many customers as possible.

That said, the emergence of marketing tribes speaks to the need for brands to focus on talking to individuals rather than speaking to wide-ranging demographics.

We’re seeing this a lot with brands looking to reach younger consumers. For example, brands are more empowered than ever to respond directly to customers and likewise speak their language with a distinct brand voice.

Also, note that the concept of privacy and community is impacting the way that modern consumers approach social media.

Although people are more than happy to engage with brands, consumers are also becoming more selective about their interactions.

For example, new features such as Instagram Threads allow people to only share their Stories with a select group of friends. This gives the platform a more intimate, friends-only feel.

Meanwhile, Facebook Group marketing continues to be a valuable way to market to smaller, private communities as organic reach on Facebook is flat for most brands.

And hey, that actually leads us to our next point.

3. More advanced, dynamic and direct social ads

Brands are still investing massively in social ads for good reason. Because consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the concept of social shopping in general.

Coupled with the fact that ads are becoming more advanced, it’s easier than ever for brands to encourage direct business from customers on social media.

For example, Facebook’s recent roll-out of personalized ad experiences delivers products dynamically to customers, changing formats (carousel, collection) and calls-to-action based on who it’s being served to.

Meanwhile, the recent introduction of Instagram shopping also highlights the growth of direct social selling.  The platform essentially represents another arm for ecommerce and retail brands looking to start selling on Instagram without having to funnel followers to a bio link.

Heck, even LinkedIn’s ad platform has recently evolved to help B2B brands get their products in front of relevant customers.

The point here is that companies don’t need to be shy about selling via ads in 2020. They have plenty of options to be more targeted and compelling growing almost universally across all the major social platforms.

4. Brands are putting influencers under a microscope

The popularity of influencer marketing as an authentic way to advertise products is well-documented. And although influencers aren’t going anywhere in 2020, brands rightfully are looking at influencer relationships with a sense of scrutiny.

The rise of fake influencers and the potential de-emphasis on “Likes” as an engagement metrics signals the need for influencers to be able to back up their price tags with data.

Remember what we said earlier about the importance of tight-knit communities? The same rings true in the influencer space. We’re seeing more and more brands connect with nano-influencers, representing accounts with only a couple thousand followers.

The concept is simple: smaller audiences are more meaningful and engaged versus an “influencer” that’s just chasing “Likes” and brand deals for the sake of it.

Marketers looking to build relationships with influencers shouldn’t avoid doing so. Simply understand what any given influencer brings to the table and whether or not their audience is meaningful to your brand.

5. Stories aren’t slowing down

Stories have been one of the biggest social media trends of the past couple of years and 2020 looks to be no different. The dominance of Instagram Stories speaks for themselves. However, also note that Facebook Stories are on par in terms of engagement with approximately 500 million daily users.

As highlighted in our breakdown of Instagram trends, interactive Stories and polls are brilliant ways to go back and forth with your audience, making your content feel more “must see.”

Coupled with Instagram’s new business features including Growth Insights and “Stories About You,” expect to see even more from Stories in 2020.

6. Video content continues to boom

Both long-form and short-form video are among the most-shared content on social media.

Food for thought: YouTube is second only to Facebook in terms of active users. Although Instagram might be regarded as the top hub for influencers, more and more brands and marketers are flocking to YouTube en masse.

Meanwhile, Instagram is trying to breathe new life into IGTV. With IGTV introducing landscape videos, we’ll have to wait and see how brands take up the opportunity, which could make it easier to repurpose video content from other platforms.

And of course, we need to talk about TikTok. The spiritual successor to Vine might be a head-scratcher for brands right now, but its popularity with younger consumers and influencers is telling. With well over 1.5 billion users, labeling the platform as a flash in the pan would be premature.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: brands really can’t sleep on video anymore. With so many options between ads and organic video, the barrier to entry is lower than ever when all you need is a smartphone.

7. Make your audience integral to your content strategy

Half of the marketers surveyed in the Sprout Social Index noted that user-generated content would be among the top social media trends of 2020. And we totally agree!

This again highlights the need for brands to establish connections with their audience via customer-centric content.

Doing so not only builds brand relationships but also encourages a constant stream of content from your followers. For example, brands like Zenni use their #justgotmyzennis hashtag to showcase satisfied customers and show off their latest products.

Modern consumers are happy to have brands tell them what to post. Encouraging user-generated content and customer photos is a brilliant move for engagement and for the sake of social proof.

With so much competition in the social space, anything you can do to create customer-centric content is a plus.

8. Rethinking which social platforms deserve your attention

As you may have noticed, a common thread between our 2020 social media trends is the need to reevaluate and reflect.

Pop quiz: which social platforms kicked the bucket in 2019? The short answer? None of ’em.

Despite popular belief, no platform is truly “dead.” As a result, brands should really rethink where they spend their time and try to zero in on the platforms where their audience is hanging out.

For example, Linked is seeing insane growth for B2B marketers. SnapChat actually saw an overall increase in daily active users in 2019 even with the emergence of TikTok.

Meanwhile, Pinterest is driving serious revenue for consumer brands versus other social networks.

Translation? It’s crucial to understand how you’re spending your valuable time on social and whether or not your efforts are paying off. For example, can you clearly point to the ROI of your Facebook or Instagram presence? This is where it’s important to understand the real meaning behind your social media metrics: don’t just chase vanity metrics on the biggest platforms for their own sake. Think about where your brand can shine best, whether that’s through long form articles on LinkedIn or visual-first content on photo-heavy platforms.

And on that note…

9. Marketers are accountable for their performance data

As highlighted by the Sprout Social Index, 63% of marketers regularly report social data to their bosses.

Getting social media a seat at the executive table means being able to “prove” what your presence is worth. This means monitoring conversations, engagement and growth and making that data readily available to your team.

Tools such as Sprout Social make it so much easier to track these data points and package them for your colleagues. Doing makes it not only easier to see what’s working on social media, but also translate that data for folks outside of your department.

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