We’ve officially entered a new year, but what does that really mean? The social space is inundated with chilling predictions, foggy chatter, and a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding 2021. As we dive deep into the infinite black hole of scrolling on the ‘gram, we can be overwhelmed with the many thoughts, manifestations and “please be kind to me” posts as we take a scary (yet relieving) step into this year. No one can guess what the universe will throw our way this time around, but we can learn from experience.
If 2020 has taught us anything about marketing, it’s that content is king. Cliché but true. When plans were derailed and businesses shut down last year, content marketing was the only way to maintain a true connection with loyal customers and capture meaningful new ones. Brands who may have taken a more reactive approach scrambled to throw a Hail Mary, fumbled the ball, and scraped together as much of a content strategy as possible with the limited resources they had.
What we can learn from this is the importance of stepping back, painting a bigger picture and being proactive with strategy. Here are 5 top marketing trends we’ll expect to see in 2021:
1. Plan with a Purpose: With the rise of “cancel culture” in 2020, now more than ever, consumers are looking to connect with brands who are mindful, compassionate and purpose-driven. While seeing brands doing good things for others is not new, we will see a bigger emphasis on telling those narratives and sharing these stories with audiences.
What this means for you: Don’t be afraid to expose your human side. Think of ways you can help make a positive impact within your community or on others, and invite your audience to be part of that story. Above all, be inclusive and embrace diversity from the inside out as well as the outside in.
2. Pivot and Adjust: In the words of Ross Geller, “Pivot! Pivot!” 2020 forced us all to throw our planners out the window and shift strategies. Businesses who can remain flexible and ready to pivot will navigate more swiftly through their recovery. It’s important to plan ahead for the year, but just as important to remain in-tune with the shifting landscape and adjust as needed.
What this means for you: Consider planning your content or marketing topics on a quarterly basis, and depending on the nature of your business, even a monthly basis. I’m a huge advocate of planning ahead when you can, but planning in a shorter spurts will allow more flexibility as things develop and change throughout the year.
3. Make it Personal: Brands will continue to focus on the human connection as a way to bridge the gap with their customers. Taking a human-first approach through your content will build loyalty and trust, whether that’s by being vulnerable, sharing your values, talking to (not at) your audiences or even introducing them to some of the faces behind your brand.
What this means for you: Be personable in your writing and your visuals. Think of your audience as a partner you’re in a relationship with—don’t treat them as objects or see them as dollar signs. Focus on building a relationship first and the money will flow. Asking to hear from them is a great way to connect, and utilizing some social media features like Instagram story polls, is a great way to do that.
4. Listen to the Data: Personalized content is the way to go. It’s no trade secret that serving relevant and valuable content will create a more engaged community of loyal followers. The way to do that is by studying the data and letting that dictate your content. What do they respond to the most, what do they share the most and what do they want to see?
What this means for you: Look at your metrics. Are you sending out monthly emails or newsletters? Check to see what topics are getting the most clicks. Focusing on Instagram? Check the insights to get a feel for what your followers respond to best. Launching a podcast? Don’t be afraid to ask your followers what they’d like to hear about.
5. Amplify Multi-channel Content: Businesses will focus on amplifying their efforts across multiple channels. That great podcast episode you recorded? Don’t just link it in your website but share it on your social media and in your emails. If you are limited on time and resources, select a few channels to focus on and create content that can be primed for multiple platforms.
What this means for you: Simply put, don’t publish a piece of content on one channel and forget about it. Think of other ways you can share it. If it performs well, consider creating a follow up post relevant to it and creating a series around it.
Whether you’ve already planned for the year or are wondering where to even start, adapting to trends will ensure your brand remains relevant and continues to stand out in a noisy and saturated space. Don’t get overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and take it one step at a time.
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