New Year. New Content!
That’s what many social media marketers are thinking about as we start 2021. And, as you think about new content ideas, you need to think about visuals as much as text (even more so, really).
And, what better place to turn than one of the biggest repositories of visuals on the planet: Shutterstock.
They recently unveiled their emerging visual design trends for 2021 based on hard-core search data from their users. These were interesting to peruse on their own. But, then I got to thinking: These trends can and should inspire social content marketers as you think about what kinds of visuals to use this year in your posts on Facebook, Insta, LinkedIn and other platforms.
Sure, you’re still going to use photos of your products and your people. But, that leaves a lot of room to refine your visual game on social platforms.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the visual trends I think could impact your content strategy in 2021:
#1 – Surreal faces
Might seem like a strange trend for corporate American to take advantage of, but I can’t help but think of what the Wall Street Journal did a couple years ago here. You know how they have those sketches of the reporters in their bylines? It’s a WSJ staple. And, they offered that up to anyone a while back and you started seeing those “portraits” as people’s social media profile pics for a while. I could see some companies doing the same thing in 2021. What about asking your design team to make face line art out of that boring team shot you want to feature on LinkedIn? Or, a face paint portrait of the exec leader who was recently recognized for a big industry award? Seems like a stretch, I know, but man, it would be creative, on trend and a big differentiator (and would get people liking, commenting and sharing!).
#2 – Tie dye
We know, based on 2020, that nostalgia is trending. Big time. What’s more nostalgic that tie dye! I could see brands using tie dye as backgrounds for social posts featuring quotes or clips from media placements. I could see companies working tie dye designs into branded templates. Lots of options to incorporate here.
#3 – Identity Unfiltered
You’re definitely going to see more companies featuring diversity in their people images in 2021–mostly in advertising. But, that should show up in social content, too. And, not just racial diversity, but gender and sexual diversity, too. Brands will start making conscious choices about what kinds of people to feature in their social content. This will be a big one–and it’s already happening in spots.
#4 – Inner Life
During the pandemic, it’s no surprise people are searching for more visuals featuring self-care and home hobbies, as noted above. So, why shouldn’t we see companies capitalize on that in the year ahead? I also think more of these visuals will be user-generated, as companies continue to struggle with sourcing photogaphy that hits on this trend.
#5 – Eccentric Animation
Animation might not be something every company can do–mostly due to cost constraints. But, it certainly is an interesting option at a time when many are struggling to produce original visuals. And, it’s interesting that the trend revolves around more fun, light-hearted animations–something many companies are usually loathe to do. The liquid abstract is another interesting visual trend I think companies could take advantage of–again, I’m thinking of post backgrounds and visual elements in branded posts here.
Note: Photo courtesy of Amy Hanson
A couple weeks ago, I noticed an acquaintance of mine accepted a new job as a VP of marketing. Sweet title, right? And, this person is probably in his/her early 30s. So, yay for him/her! VP by 32. This person has made it. They have achieved greatness in marketing and they are officially a success.
However, whenever I see a younger (and by “younger”, I mean anyone under the age of about 35) take on one of these VP, CCO or CMO roles I can’t help but wonder, “did they just make a big mistake?”
Hold up. Didn’t you just say the person had accepted a VP of marketing role? How on earth could that be a mistake?
Because, sometimes “title chasing” can backfire on you.
To be clear, I’m not saying this person was title-chasing. I do not know the details, and I’m not speculating. But, I have seen a movie like this before.
The young person is frustrated. She wants the bigger job. She wants more money. She wants to manage a big team and budget.
So, she takes a VP job. At age 30! So cool! You’ve made it! You’re a freaking VICE PRESIDENT!
But, here’s what happens after that. The person does the job for a few years. Then, like many other jobs, they get bored. Or, the employer decides to move on. And, the person is laid off or starts looking.
And, they hear crickets.
Why? Because they’re a VP now. And, when you’re a VP at age 30, strangely enough, you put yourself in a tough position.
Now you need to look for VP or CCO-level jobs. That’s it. And, as we all know, those are few and far between. So, you’re going to be looking for a while.
So, you start looking for director and manager level jobs, because those are open. But, employers start looking at you sideways. “Why are you looking for a manager job? You were just a VP!” Or, “Why are you looking to take a step back in your career?” These are the questions you are bound to get.
It’s tough to find a new VP job. And, it’s tough to find a director or manager job because people think you’re “settling” and that you’ll be bored quickly.
Like I said, it’s a tough position.
And I’m not even saying it’s the wrong thing to do. I mean, how could accepting a VP job at age 30 be wrong! All I’m saying is there is a downside to taking that super-senior role at a young age. And I do think you have to consider that when you do.
Like I said, title-chasing can sometimes backfire on you.
Trust in everything is plummeting. Except my company’s CEO.
That’s the message from the 21st edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer (side note: They’ve been producing this thing for 21 years?!?! Man, I feel old).
While the continued loss of trust in government, NGOs and media is definitely concerning–and not great for communicators. The rise in trust for “my local employer” and “my employer’s CEO” could result in huge wins for your organization in 2021–with the right steps.
As I read over the Trust Barometer last weekend, I couldn’t help but come back to one key tactic that more communicators could be pushing: Get your CEO out in front on social media–specifically LinkedIn and/or your corporate blog.
Let’s let the data do the talking, shall we?
Data Point #1 – Business now most trusted
Not by a wide margin, mind you. But this is significant. And, what’s more, as you can see, it’s not just in the US. Businesses are more trusted in most companies around the world.
Data Point #2: Trust highest in “my local employer”
Sure, trust in “my employer” was down in the US this year (-2), but at 72%, it’s still highest among all sources. And again, still highest for most companies around the world.
Data Point #3 – Trust higher in my local CEO than everyone but scientists
Not only is trust highest in local employers, it’s also highest in local CEOs. And, unlike every other position on this list, trust in local CEOs did NOT go down in 2020.
Data Point #4 – “My CEO” trusted most by both Biden and Trump supporters
Key point here: Local CEOs are most trusted not just among Democrats–but among folks of all political stripes.
Data Point#5 – “Employer media” most believable
Content from employers appears to be the most trusted source of content. Actually a little surprised “National Government” is #2 on this list, but the fact that employer-based media is #1 is huge for communicators.
Data Point #6 – CEOs should take the lead
We’ve seen this in other surverys over the last couple years, but Edelman also found, quite demonstrably, that people want CEOs to speak up and tackle societal issues.
Data Point #7 – I expect CEOs to speak out about issues
Again, people are looking for leadership from their local CEO. On COVID, societal issues and local community issues.
These data points paint a pretty clear picture: Employees trust their CEOs more than anyone else and they want to hear a lot more from them.
So, what opportunities do we have as communicators in the year ahead? Although most were doing their best to get CEOs out in front of employee audiences a lot in 2020, I see some clear opportunities in the New Year:
Opportunity #1 – Polish your CEO’s LinkedIn profile and make a plan
Table stakes for 2021. No question. It’s time. If your CEO doesn’t have a functioning LinkedIn profile, it’s high time to get on that. And, if it’s incomplete, time to polish it up! But, more importantly, start to make a plan for how your CEO can start effectively showing up on the platform. Start with getting them in the habit of using the tool–even just 5-10 minutes a day will make a difference. Then, get them engaging. Liking and commenting on employee content is a good place to start (see #3 below). Finally, make a plan for what they will post about on LinkedIn. What are your content pillars? And remember, you don’t want to repurpose internal messages here directly–LinkedIn requires a different kind of message and content.
Opportunity #2 – Get your CEO out in front of employees more regularly
Here’s where a post on LinkedIn every week can make a big difference. No, LinkedIn hasn’t historically been considered an employee comms channel–but it should definitely be a complimentary channel! I know most communicators have probably been doing this in 2020, but I’d also ratchet up CEO visibility in 2021. More Town Hall meetings (virtually, to start). More email communications (without inundating people). More videos. When I worked on the corporate side earlier in my career, the one thing we always heard from employees was: We want to hear more from our CEO. It was always #1. I can’t imagine that’s changed in light of the year we just had. And, the stats above from Edelman confirm that.
Opportunity #3 – Look for ways to humanize your CEO
In 2020, a lot of CEOs became more active on LinkedIn, which is awesome. Many of us have been lobbying for this to happen for years! It took a pandemic to make it a reality. But, I saw one key mistake made by many CEOs in 2020 on LinkedIn–they still felt too stiff. Too corporate. Not approachable. I’d suggest doing the opposite–making your CEO more human. Softer. More approachable. That’s what employees want. They don’t want a robot leader–they want a strong, but empathetic leader they can relate to. So, give them that. Help your CEO weave in messages that display her personality more. Add in personal stories that connect with employees. For far too long, CEOs have shied away from opening up about who they are as people–those days are long gone in 2021.
Opportunity #4 – More visibility doesn’t have to mean more content
Case in point: Take a page from H&R Block’s CEO, Jeff Jones, and help your CEO comment and like employee content on LinkedIn more. XX makes a habit out of this, commenting on employee posts weekly. And, I have to believe that’s intentional–and that it’s making a big impact. Couldn’t you sit down with your CEO and coach them through this process? Help them understand how to identify employee-generated posts on LinkedIn, and come up with appropriate responses. In reality, this could take as little as 10-15 minutes per week. Again, with a huge impact. Think about being a store manager at Walmart and having Doug McMillon comment on your LinkedIn post? If you don’t think that would make a big difference in employee morale and positivity, you haven’t worked in communications long enough!
Every year, about this time, I typically present to the local Social Media Breakfast chapter on the topic of social media trends. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. I don’t get down to the SMB meetings as much as I used to, so it’s a chance for me to reconnect with old friends–and meet a few new folks.
However, this year, that’s been put on hold obviously. But, I still put together my annual trends deck. Mostly because I enjoy doing it! But, this year, I took a slightly different tack. I offered it up to clients, partners and a few other select folks (including the team at Maccabee–you can see that full recording here).
It’s been a blast. So far, I’ve given the presentation 8 times! And, since we’re already past the mid-way point of January, I thought I’d share it here before we get into February and I start thinking about trends for 2022! 🙂
A couple caveats as you review the deck below. First, I am not a trend expert. BUT–I do read a lot each week. I have to–for this blog, for our podcast, for my enewsletter, for class. And I love keeping my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in our industry.
Second, my trend presentations usually tend to lean a bit more pragmatic than some. The trends I talk about are things I believe will impact a lot of people. If you’re looking for bright shiny objects, this is NOT your presentation.
With that, here’s 14 social media trends I believe you’ll see in the year ahead.
One thing I’ve learned about social media marketing over the 12 years I’ve been a consultant: Everyone wants to know what the next big thing is going to be.
At the moment, “the next big thing” = Clubhouse.
Clubhouse is the audio-only app that’s really taken off since May when it launched–especially in the tech/angel investor space. Clubhouse boasts a modest 600,000 users, but that number seems to be growing as of late (it’s tough to find real-time numbers on Clubhouse).
It’s also actively recruiting and attracting many creators and influencers, as this New York Times article explains. Right now, there’s money, there’s influencers and, there’s a growing (albeit smallish) audience.
So, is Clubhouse “what’s next?”
Maybe–but, probably not.
Audio is increasing becoming a medium more people are interested in. According to Edison Research, 55% of Americans have listened to a podcast. And, podcast listeners have grown almost 38% in the last three years. Not to mention tech like Siri and Alexa, which is growing at a slower rate, but is being built into things we use everyday (phones, cars, etc.).
And, it does provide an intimate setting that other social platforms have really gone away from. You can sit in a room with celebrities like Tiffany Haddish and talk directly to them. The intimacy of the audio conversations does have a strong pull for folks–especially those who want to interact with CEOs of tech and smaller firms.
Finally, it’s easy. Like really easy to just jump in and listen to a conversation for a few minutes at a time. And, at a time when many of us are at home with our ear buds in 24/7, that’s a big factor.
On the other hand…
It’s not at all obvious, right now, how brands would participate. Maybe they won’t participate at all. Maybe it will be like LinkedIn where company leaders participate vs. a “corporate account.” This seems to be up in the air right now–I haven’t seen any “brands” out there.
Also, much like Snapchat and Insta Stories, this content is ephemeral. There’s no “long tail” here. Once the content’s spoken, it’s gone. There’s no capturing this content and repurposing it on other channels. There’s no SEO value. It’s real-time content–and that’s it. I’m not sure what metrics companies would even track–because you know they’re going to want their metrics.
Finally, many of the rooms I’ve seen so far seem to be either entrepreneur-focused (the awful “Hustle Room” for example–insert barf emoji here!) or topics that brands probably wouldn’t want to be involved with (“If you Wake up Early on Saturday, your Friday was washed up”). What I don’t see, so far, are rooms where brands could add real value–rooms around thought leadership topics for B2B brands or topics around food, for example. They may come, in time, but so far I don’t see much of that.
One last, and important, point I’d like to make here: I know audio is hot. I know everyone is listening to podcasts now. But, I can’t escape the gut feeling that this is all just a bit overblown. The notion that somehow audio is going to become THE preferred medium in 2021 seems a little crazy–especially as we see platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Insta continue to flourish. Video and visuals are still pretty damn powerful. I just don’t see a big percentage of people flocking to an audio-first platform where it’s tough to establish any kind of long-term credibility. Because, keep in mind, that’s a big part of this, too, for many people. “Going viral” on TikTok is a big reason many use it. Getting subscribers on YouTube matters to a lot of people. And, getting “likes” on your post on Insta is a big deal to some. None of that really exists on Clubhouse. I think that matters in today’s day and age when seemingly everyone is seeking internet fame in one shape or form.
For now, in January 2021, I’d say Clubhouse is one of those apps to kinda keep your eye on (passively), but for most brands you probably don’t have to start developing a “Clubhouse strategy” just yet.