Any social media manager will tell you part of the job is learning how to deal with and adapt to the unexpected. In 2020 alone, social marketers have had to pivot from their original strategies to deal with both a pandemic and nationwide protests.

While there are still some months to go before the end of the year, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to improve your marketing strategy for 2021. And though marketers can’t predict what will happen in the new year, we can use what we’ve learned in the last nine months to improve our marketing strategy for 2021.

By looking at your social data from 2020, you can identify what types of content will resonate with their audience and areas for improvement when it comes to social customer service. You can also determine what you need in order to make a bigger business impact with your strategies. As your team starts looking to the future, here are five key stats from the 2020 Sprout Social Index that you need to keep top of mind when marketing in 2021.

1. People follow brands on social to stay up to date on new products and services

While some people follow brands for humor or inspiration, 57% of consumers are hoping to learn about new products and services from a brand’s social feed. According to the Index, this was the number one reason consumers selected for why they follow brands, meaning no release is too big or small to share on social.

After a few hiccups, including an unintentional leak, Xbox took to Twitter to share with its 14 million followers the release information for the highly anticipated Xbox Series S. In just over 24 hours, the announcement garnered over 184,000 Likes and added to the growing excitement from gamers all over the world.

In addition to product launches, consider what types of updates are most valuable to your audience when planning your social content. For brands in esports, your audience is likely looking for social posts with information on server issues and fixes. Due to the pandemic, restaurants have taken to social to share important updates on hours of operation and changes to in-dining services. As you think about the types of content you want to share in 2021, don’t forget to make space for the timely updates your audience needs.

2. Poor customer service will chase away your social followers

If social customer service wasn’t already a top priority, it needs to be on your radar headed into 2021. With 49% of consumers saying they’ll unfollow brands because of poor customer service, marketers can’t afford to ignore any questions they receive from followers online.

As you think about how to improve your marketing in 2021, take a moment to evaluate how customer inquiries are handled and where your team can best support. Look for opportunities to answer simple questions directly and leverage tools like social listening to ensure no message is left behind. Even pointing someone in the right direction goes a long way, like when the Riot Fest social media team wasn’t able to resolve a customer issue on the spot. The Chicago music festival, known for its sarcastic banter, responded with a suggestion to direct the inquiry to a different department.

Equally important is speeding up the time of your brand’s response, as 79% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first 24 hours of reaching out. Not only does a quick response time help resolve problems faster, it can also contribute towards customer loyalty. One Gartner study found customers are more likely to stick with brands long-term when their service expectations are met.

3. To find new accounts to like and follow, consumers look to the suggestions in their feed

Building your audience online is tough. Not only are you competing with your closest competitors, but you’re also fighting for the attention span of your audience and brainstorming ways to get your content noticed.

Getting more eyes on your social profiles starts with knowing how consumers search for accounts to follow online. According to the Index, 45% of consumers rely on suggestions in their feed or discovery tools to find new accounts to like. As you think about marketing in 2021, consider targeting consumers who show an interest in industries tangential to your own. For example: because of the pandemic, fans of traditional sports like basketball and football are increasingly turning to esports for entertainment. With this in mind, esports marketers can adjust their social content to speak directly to sports fans who clearly have an appetite for gaming events but may not know where to begin.

4. Images and video are a must-have for engaging social followers

Not only does the substance of your content have to be relevant to your audience, how you deliver content on social matters too. Research from the Index reveals 68% of consumers want to engage with images while 50% want to engage with video content. As you review all the content you’ve created over the past year, consider flagging text posts that received high engagement and brainstorm how you might turn those topics into visual or video content.

Posting about a new video game title release? Use a video to share clips from the gameplay and include release information at the very end. Conducting an interview? Try turning it into a video instead. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, turn player interviews into short, two-minute clips which they then share across all of their social platforms.

5. Time and bandwidth are still in short supply

All this talk about strategy is for naught, however, if marketers don’t have the time to actually execute their plans. With 41% of marketers saying they lack the bandwidth they need to make the greatest business impact with their strategies, now is as good a time as any to ask for tools to increase your bandwidth day-to-day.

Tools like Sprout Social can help you automate daily tasks like content scheduling and simplify workflows to ensure messages are approved by the right people quickly. This frees up time for you to focus on more important work, like surfacing key insights with that can support teams outside of marketing. As with any big investment, be prepared to justify why a social management platform is worth looking into and what opportunities it opens up for you and your team when you don’t have to worry about the more mundane tasks.

If you’re looking to simplify your workflows and get more time back in your day, get a 30-day free trial for a hands-on experience.

Look to the past to get ahead

Though none of us can predict what will transpire in the new year, we can apply what we’ve learned from 2020 towards our future strategies.

Instead of guessing what your followers like or dislike, you have access to data on consumer behaviors and preferences to help guide their planning. With a deeper understanding of your audience, you can tailor your strategies to strengthen your brand’s relationship with consumers and start 2021 off on the right foot.

Looking for more data on consumer preferences and how they interact with brands on social? Download the Sprout Social Index today for the data you need to supercharge your social strategy.

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