HOW CURRENT EVENTS HAVE RESHAPED THE SOCIAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE

Digital marketing has always been a dynamic business. Whether it is platform acquisitions, shifts in consumer behaviors, or new ad types and targeting capabilities, marketers constantly have to relearn and adapt to stay ahead of competitors and continue to drive results. Outside of these cyclical changes, there are large scale events in every digital marketer’s career that reshape everything they know about their area of expertise. These transformational events happen every few years in each vertical and range across a few themes. Examples of these themes include:

  • Disruptor Technology: Traditional TV efforts and budgets moving towards Connected TV (CTV), on the likes of Roku, Hulu, and exchanges, gives advertisers more targeted audiences at cross-device scale with more concrete measurement.
  • Expansion Of A Channel: Paid Search expanding from the traditional Google and Bing engines into Apple Search Ads and Google UAC for app awareness and downloads.
  • Consumer Concerns: The Cambridge Analytica data scandal that completely reshaped the access and insights to deeper audiences and changed the consumer privacy narrative worldwide.
  • Competition: Facebook’s introduction of Instagram Stories took market share away from Snapchat and pushed Snapchat further into the augmented reality space to refine its value proposition and retain users.
  • User Led Change: Podcast growth disrupted the digital audio scene as listeners tuned in to binge-worthy series like “Serial” and “Dirty John” over the radio or music-oriented listening. Additionally, platforms made reaching Podcast audiences easier for marketers with programmatic buying and improved targeting.

All of the examples above contributed to a large scale change over the last few years, but what if those timelines were sped up drastically and into one channel? What if there were major, transformational occurrences almost weekly that did not fit the traditional molds?

WELCOME TO SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE YEAR 2020

Let’s take a look at the timeline of changes across the major Social platforms since January:

JANUARY – FEBRUARY:

  • TikTok came under fire for international data security vulnerabilities, making advertisers wary of the platform.
  • 1/28 – Pinterest releases its “Try On” feature powered by Lens for an augmented reality (AR) lipstick experience. “Try On” integrates with Pinterest’s skin tone range feature to ensure all skin colors are represented. This new feature makes online make-up buying more accessible for customers and opens new opportunities for advertisers to sell products with improved customization. It also highlights the value AR has to play in user buying experiences and the decision making process.

MARCH:

  • Early March – Covid-19 causes a global shut down, halting businesses, events, travel, and social gatherings across industries and countries. Consumer employment and financial statuses change while shopping behaviors pivot to the essentials. As a result, many brands paused their marketing campaigns to assess not only the impact Covid had financially but to review how consumers’ needs changed. Social media usage pivots from marketing products to more educating consumers on the status of the business using both organic and paid mediums.
  • 3/6 – Facebook bans the sale of essential products (such as masks, hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes) through advertisements to protect against scams, misleading medical claims, medical supply shortages, inflated prices, and hoarding.
  • 3/12 – Snapchat releases Lens Web Builder in order to make augmented reality lens creation more accessible to brands directly in Snapchat Ads Manager.

MID-MARCH – APRIL:

  • TikTok’s user demographics shift as many millennials and older generations download and start using the app. In March alone, the app gains 12MM new US users and has 52.2MM unique visitors (up 48.3% Jan – March). The shifts in audience makeup made TikTok accessible to more advertisers.
  • Facebook, Instagram, and Snap usage skyrockets while CPMs are at historical lows due to advertiser budget and campaign reductions. For those who have the funds to advertise, March – April was one of the most cost-efficient and least competitive times to do so with CPMs dropping between 20-35% (pending the source you look at). The creative messaging resonated most if it was relevant and cognizant of Covid-19.
  • LinkedIn sees a surge in users from 67.5M in January to 690M in April as the unemployment rate skyrockets. According to Microsoft’s Q3 Performance Report, sessions were up 26% for the quarter. LinkedIn becomes a higher reach play, but still one of the more expensive social platforms.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, and more set up Small Business Relief programs for advertiser support during Covid-19 to promote spending and brand awareness.

MAY:

  • 5/8 – Facebook rolls out the new “Facebook.com” look and feel and changes the way Facebook’s Business Manager looks as well.
  • 5/19 – Both Facebook and Instagram Shops are announced as new ways to discover products and improve the business and buying experience on the platforms.
  • 5/27 – Instagram introduces ads to IGTV, as a way to support content creators, by allowing them to monetize their content.
  • 5/30 – Black Lives Matter protests are held across the USA over a few week time span. Brands use social media to show support, detail brand action, promote equality, and ask for change.

JUNE:

  • 6/1 – Pinterest launches its Shop tab on Lens visual search results, making it easier for Pinners to shop with their camera.
  • 6/2 – “Black Out Tuesday” overtook news feeds as the social media movement swept most social platforms with blacked-out images to raise awareness. Many advertisers pause all other social media and/or participate with a post on this date.
  • 6/10 – Facebook opens policies to advertise non-medical (fashion) masks and other essential products on Facebook and Instagram, allowing many brands to resurface their ad efforts.
  • 6/22 – The North Face is the first major brand to join the #StopHateforProfit protest that calls for advertisers to pull ad spend from Facebook and Instagram during the month of July to force Facebook to update their policies.
  • 6/28 – Reddit removes over 2K communities from the platform to crack down on users violating policies and to protect brand safety.

JULY:

  • Heading into July, the #StopHateForProfit movement is in full swing with brands like Unilever, Adidas, Reebok, Ford, REI, and Patagonia calling for Facebook change, and shifting their social budgets and strategies as a result. Those brands not already in the movement have to take a hard look at their stance on the subject both from a brand value and financial impact perspective.

KEYS FOR SUCCESS

For digital marketers to succeed over the next few months, these rapid changes call for a few things:

  • Openness to Change and Relearning – What worked last year, most likely, will not work the same now. Marketers need to keep in mind what has worked historically, but be open to exploring new avenues of advertising to find their customers where they are now and meet them with new messaging.
  • Substantial Thought – It is important to think through who your customer is now. What is their new financial status? How has Covid-19 or the Black Lives Matter movement changed them? What types of media are they now consuming? Asking more questions and exploring the possibilities of new personas will be essential for reaching and communicating with target audiences.
  • Boldness – Testing into new platforms, being open to the unknown, or taking a stance can be bold moves but can have valuable results in terms of performance and learning. Testing, learning, and adapting plans will be key to success.

2020 is already a year for the history books and we are only halfway through it. If you are looking to understand the new digital landscape as it relates to your business, please reach out to AVX Digital today!

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