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Understanding Shifting Social Media Trends in the Age of COVID-19

The first half of 2020 was a tumultuous start for most everyone across the world. In the professional sphere, digital marketers have dealt with unprecedented shifts in content, processes and approaches. With the international news cycle suddenly dominated by information about the COVID-19 pandemic, social media networks were overrun with stories of lockdown, protest, sickness, political divide and tales from front-line workers.

Not surprisingly, many marketers struggled to find an appropriate, visible platform for their messaging among the chaos.

As the weeks have continued on, audiences have begun to return to their typical content consumption patterns. As we head into the second half of 2020, evolving and completely new marketing strategies are finding their place in the world of social media.

You may be wondering on behalf of your business—what’s working well?

The Social Media Examiner (SME) recently released its 2020 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, which takes a look at data and surveys among digital marketers to identify social media shifts and changes. Among their most significant discoveries, marketers can find insight to update their strategy and adapt to the ever-changing world of social media marketing.

Why is social media marketing so critical?

It should come as no surprise that social media marketing has dominated digital marketing efforts for years, and is continuing to exert more influence year over year. In its report, SME surveyed digital marketers to find out why social is such an important part of their strategy, helping to explain why the social media impact is so strong.

  • Engagement - The more businesses can engage and interact with consumers, the stronger they can build new and cement existing relationships. Social media makes engagement both easy to do and trackable, enabling you to determine how, why and where your content is making an impact.

  • Opportunity for Organic Reach - The SME report found that organic reach was a big reason marketing managers focus on social media in their strategies. SEO and social media help each other—with links to your website posted on social helping to drive your organic reach, ultimately boosting your website traffic. While many marketers compliment these efforts with paid advertisements, a strong social media in and of itself provides a free organic boost.

  • Ease of Reporting and Metrics - Most social media platforms have reporting tools built right in, which makes it simple to track campaign performance, analyze network growth and compare the content successes and failures. This kind of instant feedback is unique to social media marketing—giving you tangible insights into your consumer base to make data-driven decisions and adjustments to your marketing strategy.

Analyzing evolving social media marketing trends in 2020

In addition to looking into the strategy behind social media marketing, SME reviewed the use of each of the major social networks to identify trends and patterns for 2020.

Some of these trends follow expectations, while others are a surprise to even the most seasoned digital marketer.

Facebook video and ads on the rise—while platform focus strays

It’s no secret that Facebook is still the most dominant of social networks when it comes to marketing. It’s still one of the most used social media platforms in the US, ranking second only after YouTube. In fact, 69 percent of all U.S. adults use Facebook, findsPew Research.

The platform is particularly popular for video consumption, with live video in particular on the rise as one of the most popular types of online content. The SME report shows 94 percent of digital marketers use Facebook Live to stream, making it the leading live video platform.

Additionally, more than 70 percent of marketers use Facebook ads, with the majority plan to increase their use over the next year. It’s not just the broad audience reach that’s appealing, but the price point—with Facebook’s median cost per click being the cheapest among the four major social networks, particularly compared against LinkedIn.

However, one significant change is that the numbers show content creators are focused on diversifying away from the platform. Because of the shifting algorithms and a move in 2018 to focus on more personal content, social media strategy for most businesses now includes more than just Facebook.

Many digital marketers were also disappointed with the performance of Facebook’s highly-anticipated Messenger bots, which were expected to help brands increase customer service response times. However, it appears that customers don’t engage with a bot the way they would with an actual customer service representative—and the number of marketers using Messenger bots has decreased year over year.

Bottom line?

For the past two years, SME has gathered that fewer and fewer digital marketers are citing Facebook as their most important platform.

Instagram and YouTube continue to grow in popularity

Over the past year, Instagram usage has grown significantly with digital marketers, who are working hard to learn the evolving features and nuances of the platform. SME found that 76 percent of marketers currently use Instagram, and nearly 70 percent plan to increase their usage of the platform over the next year.


With more than a billion active users on the platform, it’s one of the most popular and fastest growing networks. In contrast to Facebook, the platform is photo and video-specific, and is a favorite home for top brands and influencers.

YouTube also continues to dominate in popularity, leading interest in the platform as a marketing tool to skyrocket over the past couple of years. According to the SME report, 69 percent of marketers plan to increase their use of the platform and more than 70 percent want to learn more about how to leverage video on YouTube.

More and more consumers are indicating they prefer video to long-form content, and “vlogging” may just be the way of the future. Digital marketing results back it up—with video efforts boosting engagement and ROI across the board.

TikTok thought to be irrelevant—yet quarantine spike proves otherwise

Short-form video platform TikTok initially gained popularity among teens and Generation Z, used to post quirky talent videos such as lip sync mashups and viral dances. Perplexing older generations and expected by many to be a short-lived fad, only 5 percent of marketers were using TikTok at the time of the SME survey.

However, the popularity of the platform has exploded with trending quarantine content in light of COVID-19, prompting many marketers to reevaluate the platform’s advertising and influencer marketing potential.

In fact, data shows many young consumers are ditching the more established social platforms altogether to focus on TikTok, engaging with rising micro influencers of similar age and interest. As this consumer base continues to mature, those in marketing who’ve capitalized on this potential early may find themselves in a significant position of reach and influence.

Many big brands like Calvin Klein, Sony and FIFA have already made the move, with GUESS’s #InMyDenim campaign reaching viral status showcasing its marketing potential.

Reevaluating your social media strategy for 2020

Do any of these social network shifts and trends surprise you?

With the rapidly changing nature of the online world, social media marketers can expect a continually moving target. Particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and other major headlines, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of trends, changes and shifts among the most valuable marketing platforms available to keep your digital marketing strategy cutting edge.

Feeling overwhelmed, or are just short on marketing resources?

From social media strategy to tactical support, the marketing experts at Jennasis & Associates can help.

Click to reach out to our team and learn how we can scale staff, resources and budgets up and down to provide a variety of digital marketing services to meet your needs and budget.

Kim Magaraci is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey with five years of experience writing about travel, healthcare, dining, and more. In her free time, she enjoys training horses, hiking with her dogs, attending concerts, and working on landscape photography projects.