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How Brands Can Develop a Winning Social Media Marketing Strategy in 2021 2021 will be for agile brands that can pick up the pieces of 2020 and adapt their strategies.

By Arash Derakhshan Edited by Michael Dolan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

franckreporter | Getty Images

2021 promises a return to a semblance of normalcy, and this is one reason to be excited about the new year. As 2020 ends, many businesses are left counting their losses and re-strategizing for 2021.

2020 was not easy for anyone, but studying the way the year went does give some valuable insight into building your social media marketing strategy for the new year. One factor was overwhelmingly clear; there was way more involvement on social media due to COVID-19.

The trends in 2020 are not just insightful; the year has also given cover to some really interesting evolutions in social media that every business owner should be interested in, especially as it concerns marketing on social media.

Here are a few ideas and suggestions that would help brands position themselves for success in 2021.

Relationship-based social media marketing

Maintaining engagement and growing followership in 2021 will be much harder than if we stick to the same routine strategies we have used in the past. 2020 has been a revolutionary year, and only your agility as a brand would sustain you going forward.

A few months ago, a study showed that about 75% of respondents don't consider advertisements to be the truth. This is worrying but also understandable, based on the increased skepticism among social media users. With the increase in fake news allegations and the explosion in unethical marketing practices, this trend is hardly surprising.

It does seem that the only followers you can maintain are those with whom you have developed a relationship, and the only ones you can acquire are the ones you develop a real relationship with. Trust has never been as important a marketing factor as it is in today's social media space.

In 2021, marketers should focus more time on building relationships with their employees, customers, and niche-relevant influencers.

This is also the time for marketers to begin cultivating user-generated content in increasing measure.

Studies show that 70% of customers trust other consumers more than they do advertisements. This makes absolute sense and is why word of mouth advertisements and referrals have remained one of the most effective marketing tools across times.

Related: 5 Social Media Marketing Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Introduce some platform diversity to your strategy

In March 2020, TikTok peaked, hitting about 76 million downloads. This was staggering and well above the predictions of 2019. Clearly, they were nudged on by the extra time lockdowns afforded people, but their unique approach to social engagement should also be credited for their success.

People want to consume different types of content with increasing speed. It seems that the shorter these video contents are, the better, and this fact plays right into TikTok's strategy. Facebook has followed suit by reeling out Facebook stories and Instagram reels. Even youtube has integrated its feature for snap videos.

The massive popularity of these contents suggests that it is something marketers must jump on in a bid to market their brands. This also suggests that Integrating some of these newer fast-rising platforms might give your brand the shakeup.

This is important for many brands in 2021 if they hope to escape the staleness they have been experiencing with conventional Facebook and YouTube marketing.

While you must adapt your marketing across all platforms, it may also be time to create new content on new platforms. The reason is that the millions of mainly 16-24-year-olds who relish TikTok are not necessarily active on Facebook or Instagram.

Utilize the surge in live streaming

Another fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant lockdowns is an uptick in the consumption of live video on social media. Live videos were used to fill the void created by the physical absence in meetings, family functions, and other events.

While live videos were being utilized in this way, they were also opening an interesting door for marketers in 2020 and going forward into 2021. The significant engagement that live videos saw has seen live videos take the lead as the most viewed video content on social media.

This has effectively awakened the trend of event marketing, which had waned in the latter part of 2018. Buffer shared an interesting list of possible events that could be shared via live video that is guaranteed to thrill and engage your audience; office hours, Q&A sessions, behind-the-scene moments, production processes, interviews, and experimental content.

Contents like these feel like invited your audience into your home and giving them a grand tour. With the current live video consumption rates, many will likely accept that invitation, which becomes a powerful avenue to nurture relationships and build loyalty.

Related: Live Streaming Video: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Will Quickly Grow Your Brand

Generate social content and get involved in social activity

The trend of social impact was already on a roll in 2019 before the pandemic began. The trend soon exploded as the need for social content rose to an all-time high.

We are now in a place where brands that seem quiet on relevant societal issues are seen as either irrelevant or irresponsible by a growing demographic.

According to Merkle's Q4 2020 Media Insights Report, 56% of consumers said they have no respect for or loyalty towards businesses that remain silent on important issues. This is today's reality. As the world and the United States undergo many changes politically and otherwise because of the events of 2020, your business strategy will have to involve taking a stand.

Your stand on issues will gradually become a part of your brand identity and help consolidate your base, so you should be careful in choosing what you say.

Your considerations should consist of socially-relevant considerations as well as business ones. In many cases, you could do the minimum and provide beneficial information on social issues that appeal to a broader audience rather than taking sides in partisan issues.

Whichever route you take, it is clear that in 2021 and beyond, Marketing efforts will largely be affected by brand identity and brand identity by your contribution to social issues.

2021 is poised to be an interesting year, a year of healing and resetting for many brands, but for the brands that choose not to be agile and flexible enough, it might yet be another challenging year.

Related: 6 Steps for Better Social Media Engagement

Arash Derakhshan

Public Relations/Marketing and Brand Growth Expert

Arash Derakhshan is a public relations, marketing and brand growth expert who has executed a variety of marketing and PR initiates for a diverse range of Fortune 500 companies.

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