Want to succeed on social media in 2020? Then you need to know what trends will matter most this year.
While the technology we have access to has never been greater, the competition has also never been higher. Plus, there is no shortage of platforms where you could be investing your time.
But in the end, it all comes back to your audience. Are you getting in front of them where they’re spending their time? Are you giving them what they want or need, at the right time?
What matters to them?
These are the questions we all need answers to – and these answers seemingly change every year.
So I asked some really smart people for their thoughts on social media marketing in 2020.
Here are 10 social media trends that will matter most to marketers, brands, and businesses in 2020, according to 34 experts.
In 2020, the big trend will actually be a return to the basics.
Lisa Buyer, CEO, and Social PR Consultant, The Buyer Group, said that it is no longer enough to provide a service your customer needs. Self-serving social messages won’t cut it in 2020, either.
“The new mindset is this: The relationship we build with our customers is more important than the products and services we sell them,” Buyer said.
Part of the “back-to-basics” approach to social media means you should step back and think about two things, according to Michael Williams, Senior Social Media Manager, Jellyfish:
“When it comes to creating content, brands need to counteract the social media noise, think ‘less is more,’ and create messaging that actually resonates with their key audience(s),” Williams said.
That all starts with the connection.
“People are looking for connections on a personal level with businesses and brands that feel like part of their community,” said Mary Davies, President, Beanstalk Internet Marketing. “Businesses will need to put more effort than ever into being more of a helpful, understanding ‘friend’ in a community than simply a service/product provider.”
Elena Salazar, Digital Marketing Manager, VMware, said smart brands should aim to make their social media social. It may seem obvious, but there are still a lot of brands that don’t respond to comments on their posts, she said.
“It is important to listen to your audience and provide value to them as opposed to solely using your social media channels to promote your products/services,” Salazar said. “With more and more competition on social media, truly connecting with people will help humanize your brand and gain the trust of your audience (which will help your sales!).”
Part of that means spending more time building engaging content and being more engaged, said Amanda Webb, Digital Marketing Strategy Specialist, Spiderworking.
“This is one area where SMBs can still win,” according to Webb. “Social networks will also recognize engaging pages and give them a lift in reach. This engagement will help when you create ads, too.”
Erin Jones, Founder, RepBright, expects to see an increase in the value of authentic engagement in 2020. After all, social media was never meant to be a platform for push marketing, and users have shown that they value engagement and interactions with brands.
“People want to feel like they know who they’re spending money with, as a result, brands will need to step up and provide an environment for their customers to do so quickly and easily,” Jones said. “Making them feel like they’re part of a group that they want to be in will ensure brand loyalty and great social media engagement.”
That means community will also be key.
That’s why brands should create their own groups on Facebook (and specialized LinkedIn groups), rather than just having a company page to get likes or follows, said Krystian Szastok, SEM Consultant, KrystianSzastok.co.uk, tells.
You have the power to build a strong community around your brand and create movements that have an impact beyond increasing sales, said Lenka Koppova, Freelance Social Media Strategist & Founder, Cambridge Social Media.
“The reason why I call it community, is the ability of brands online not only to educate and entertain their audiences but also to engage and facilitate meaningful interactions among their followers, users, and fans,” Koppova said.
Davies believes that, in 2020, we will see the group and like-minded community spaces dominating more and more, which means a much heavier workload for marketers and brands.
“Groups and communities require a lot of time to manage, as they really are all about the personal communication, not just posting and waiting for the comments to roll in or paying for an ad and waiting for a click,” Davies said. “Leaning on influencers and experts will continue to be a major factor in social media, especially in these community-minded groups.”
And don’t forget to focus on creating experience, said Brie Anderson, Program Director of Digital Marketing, WSU Tech.
“Brands should focus on their groups, direct messages, and comments as the conversation is key to community and experience,” Anderson said. “Giveaways and automated shoutouts don’t cut it anymore, brands are going to have to have a vested interest in their customer base and engage with them online.”
Companies that adhere to the principle of “people not just pixels” will reap rewards in 2020, said Mel Carson, Founder, CEO & Principal Strategist, Delightful Communications.
Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere; in fact, it’s maturing, said Erin Fredregill, Founder & CEO, Robe + Signet.
“The key is in creating a crystal clear influencer strategy that thoughtfully integrates with your overall marketing strategy, establishing a thorough influencer vetting process and providing a brief that clearly outlines your brand’s goals and content guidelines while still allowing micro-influencers to direct the narrative in a way that feels authentic to their audience,” Fredregill said.
Kendall Bird, Social Media Manager, DKY, believes influencers who are authentic will be more powerful than “power influencers” (e.g., Kim Kardashian), as these authentic influencers will share content they care about and actually use on a regular basis.
“Social media users know what a forced relationship with a brand looks like, and they’re tired of seeing these interactions,” Bird said. “I encourage brands and companies to look for influencers who will authentically use their product or service and share it with their audiences.”
For smaller organizations or those in the B2B industry that may be struggling to see how influencer marketing can be implemented to reach their goals, there are a few places to start, said Anastasia Warren, Senior Social Media Manager, KoMarketing Associates.
“Look into industry event speakers or ambassadors to see who your target audience is paying attention to on social media and on the floor at industry events,” Warren said. “Additionally, look internally at how employees can step into thought leadership roles and become the voice of an organization through engagement and amplification of messaging.”
In 2020, our concept of influencer tiers – major influencers with millions of followers all the way to micro-influencers in the 1,000s – will expand even further because it’s becoming easier for everyone to be an influencer, as Kevan Lee, VP of Marketing, Buffer, points out.
He said businesses can take advantage of this by doubling down on employee advocacy (more on this in Trend #5) and user-generated content (see Trend #10).
Emma Franks, Sr. Paid Social Account Manager, Hanapin Marketing, expects diversification to be a primary trend in social media, especially on the advertising side. Diversification is also beneficial for risk mitigation by reducing dependency on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.
“Facebook is no longer the one-stop-shop it used to be. Younger demographics are favoring the sister platform of Instagram, as well as TikTok and Snapchat,” Franks said. “Every ‘early-mover’ advertiser who embraces smaller networks now (e.g., Twitter, Quora, Reddit, Snapchat) will enjoy an environment of relatively low cost due to lower levels of competition.”
Speaking of TikTok – Brandon Doyle, CEO & Founder, Wallaroo Media, said getting onto that platform now is key.
“Organic reach on TikTok is like nothing we’ve ever seen. It’s better than even the early days of Facebook,” Doyle said. “Create content that will resonate with your target audience, but be willing to test and iterate over time to see what works best. We’ve seen incredible results for our clients. The ad platform is early-stage but the ROI there is great, too.”
Debbie Miller, President, Social Hospitality, expects more marketers to start exploring ways to take advantage of TikTok’s advertising platform to reach engaged Gen Z consumers.
“It could also be worthwhile to locate the platform’s top users to endorse your brand if they’re a fit,” Miller said. “This younger demographic is highly engaged and trusting of the opinions of their peers.”
Another platform companies need to put on the radar in 2020: Reddit, according to Brent Csutoras, Adviser, Search Engine Journal.
Many companies have found marketing on Reddit difficult and intimidating. But consumers’ use of Reddit is growing rapidly and view brands on Reddit as more authoritative (likely due to the difficulty and commitment required to be successful on Reddit), he said.
“It has never been a better time for brands to establish themselves on a platform that is largely responsible for creating much of the internet culture we have come to enjoy today,” Csutoras said. “With over 430 million monthly active users and about 32% of all Americans on Reddit each month, brands need to take a serious look at making Reddit a part of their 2020 plans.”
The era of reporting on vanity metrics seems to be nearing its end, especially on Facebook-owned platforms.
Anna Bredava, Marketing Manager, Awario, noted that this should make social analytics tools even more useful to marketers, as we analyze and report on our social media successes and failures.
Sam Ruchlewicz, VP of Digital Strategy & Data Analytics, Warschawski, agreed. He said as the amount of money being spent on social media (ads, influencer programs, organic programs, etc.) increases, so will the scrutiny of those investments by both marketing leaders and the C-suite.
“Smart marketers will continue investing in measurement and analytics programs that go beyond the standard vanity metrics and toward meaningful metrics that more accurately align with larger organizational/business goals,” Ruchlewicz said. “On the analytics side, it has never been more important for marketers to create their own source of truth and do their own math in terms of quantifying outcomes, especially when it comes to measuring incrementality. As machine learning continues to evolve, the brands with the best data will rise to the top – so make sure you have the infrastructure in place to do that.”
So that leaves us with an important question to answer: how will analytics measure reach in a like-less world and correlate activities of potential customer to marketer objectives?
“Deeper, inferential metrics will be needed to describe how social media influence consumer behavior and local commerce,” Pierre DeBois, Founder and CEO, Zimana Analytics. “Social media platforms must refresh their analytic dashboards to provide more transparency behind the measurements.”
Your employees are more important to the success of your company than you think, said Ted Rubin, CMO, Photofy.
“Brands that are winning this new journey are providing large quantities of fresh and relevant content for shoppers to use when they actually need it,” Rubin said. “Empower your employees and they will power your brand.”
Employee generated content helps build brand trust and reinforce relationships, as Kendall Bird points out.
“I encourage all companies to think about employee advocacy, even if it is starting on a smaller scale with employees sharing blog content to their social media networks,” she said.
Boring brands are everywhere, with their boring social media content.
In B2B tech, for instance, Mel Carson is always looking for more creative ways to stand out in a sea of blah, blah, blah. For instance, showcasing what it all means with dynamic examples, which may be:
Who wants to go to a brand page and just see a bunch of ‘buy my stuff!’ posts or boring posts that don’t apply to their life or solve their problems?
Nobody, that’s who, said Chris Sciulli, Digital Marketing Lead, The International Society of Automation / Owner & Author, SmokehouseSEO.com.
So, in 2020, start being interesting and stop using your social media as a place where you stand on a box and shout ads at people.
“Nobody cares about your ads unless you have shown your worth by providing quality consumable content,” Sciulli said. “Nobody cares that you just got a new drinking fountain in the break room. Put yourself in the place of their visitors and think about what they would want to see and interact with.”
Smart brands/businesses would do well to ensure they have a solid Stories strategy for 2020 with daily images, micro-videos, and content that audiences value, said Mari Smith, Social Media Thought Leader & CEO, Mari Smith International, Inc.
“Follow those accounts leading the way,” Smith said. “Get creative. Be sure to always tie to the bottom line and add your CTAs.”
Sarah Clarke, Media Strategist & Founder, Dufferin Media, believes the consumption of ephemeral content (social media content that is only available for a limited amount of time and then disappears) will continue increasing in 2020.
“Stories are a perfect way to get the attention, for a few valuable seconds, of an audience that loves authentic creative content,” Clarke said. “Stories are a great way to add a touch of humanity to your social media using emojis, videos, and stickers.”
Smart brands and businesses will make this a greater focus in their 2020 marketing strategy if they want to have a higher level of success reaching their audiences, and increasing engagement, Clarke said.
Are you using social media to drive direct traffic and branded search? If not, you should be in 2020, said Mark Traphagen, VP of Content Strategy, Aimclear
“Ahead-of-the-game brands will add paid and organic social posts using arresting creative, emblazoned with a brand name along with ‘money’ terms and phrases prominently displayed,” Traphagen said. “The objective is driving top-of-funnel seekers to brand-specific search – low cost on the social end; incredible potential value on the search traffic end.”
But that’s just one way to use social media as a discovery engine. You can also use social media to point to private messaging and text message clubs to stay in touch, said Virginia Nussey, Director of Marketing, Mobile Monkey.
She expects more brands to develop high-value, high-transparency, highly personalized VIP access programs.
“Check out Gary Vaynerchuk for a first look at how this is working,” Nussey said. “He uses the opening of his YouTube videos to share an opt-in text message phone number. The text message club starts with an automated welcome message. After that, Vaynerchuk personally sends motivation and lifestyle messages to the community with a text message blast tool. The strategy is part automation, part personalization, and a 100% scalable brand connection.”
Video may not be a hot new trend, but it remains an important trend in social media.
As Joe Youngblood, Founder, Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, put it: 2020 is the year that video content on social media is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have.
“Data has suggested for some time that consumers who view online videos are more likely than their counterparts to make a purchase,” Youngblood said. “Consumers now appear to expect video content from a brand they are going to do business with. If you haven’t started experimenting with video, now is the time to get going or you’ll risk falling behind the competition.”
Oh, and don’t forget: YouTube is a social media platform. And it’s bigger than Facebook.
“In 2020, the biggest trend that smart brands and businesses should focus on for greater success is the emergence of YouTube as the leading social media platform,” said Greg Jarboe, President & Co-founder, SEO-PR.
In the full ebook (download to see it all), Jarboe lays out all the latest juicy data and stats, which include this important fact: YouTube is the #2 site on the web (behind only Google), while Facebook ranks fourth, according to Alexa.
The content your audience creates is invaluable to your brand, according to Kristi Kellogg, CEO, and Founder, Dazzling Digital.
“Your customers (and potential customers) find content posted by their peers far more influential, trustworthy, and compelling than the content a brand creates itself,” Kellogg said.
She said every brand can take three steps in 2020 to get more user-generated content (UGC) and earn more social proof: