For marketers, 2021 was a year of growth and reckoning. We emerged from the challenges of 2020 with a bit more understanding and focus, and an eagerness to adapt. With 2022 on the horizon, we're not letting that momentum wane. Before we celebrate the new year though, we couldn’t help but look back at all the lessons we’ve learned in 2021. Fueled by consumers’ expanding adoption of digital behaviors, we turned to new tactics like performance marketing while striving to continue long-term brand building for a stronger, lasting connection to our audiences. From a deeper look at data and social listening to the increased use of influencer marketing, here are some of Hart’s top takeaways from our own agency experts this past year.
We discussed in our last data-focused blog, the importance of understanding data before making decisions based on it - the need to “humanize” it. We also mentioned that, as marketers, we must prepare for the demise of third-party cookies to avoid our marketing efforts falling off a cliff.
Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” stated it best; “There are three constants in life ... change, choice and principles.”
Change is inevitable, it’s always going to be around.
We face choices every day. From what to wear to our attitude and even choosing not to choose (e.g., getting two scoops of ice cream because you can’t decide between two flavors).
Principles keep you in line when handling change and making choices. They honor company values and should be a driving force in your influencer marketing strategy.
Influencer Authenticity Builds Trust.
As communicators and marketers working in a rapidly evolving media landscape, it can seem nearly impossible to develop, execute and measure a full campaign without major changes derailing the plans. Whether it’s a global pandemic or a regrettable tweet that goes viral, brands are struggling to stay on top of trends, gauge consumer sentiment and craft strategic PR campaigns that hit on all cylinders.
The pandemic has created an uptick in social media activity, with 32% of polled social users in the United States reporting an increase in their social media activity. This added activity and attention have put pressure on brands to deliver value to followers. With the need for brand authenticity and the rise in socially conscious spending, brands are trusting the guidance of influencers for their products. In fact, 63% of consumers trust influencer opinions more than testimony from the brand itself and 58% of consumers have purchased products because of an influencer's recommendation.
Influencer marketing is not a trend; rather, a sign of a greater shift in the priorities of consumers and the direction of marketing campaigns. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, this market is expected to grow in size from $9.7 billion in 2020 to $13.8 billion in 2021.
Ideally, the use of an influencer should be symbiotic for companies and consumers. The companies create brand awareness and extend their reach while consumers gain trustworthy and knowledgeable information about a service or product. Utilizing an influencer research tool like Upfluence can identify the saturation of influencers (i.e., how many other brands are actively linked with that individual), as well as other factors like message/imagery engagement.
When assessing successful marketing, the strategies associated with influencer relations and activations cannot be ignored. Recently, Hart Copywriter, Social Media & Content, Caeli Barnes moderated a sit-down with Associate Creative Director Jeff Payden, Senior Account Executive JoAnna Sorosiak and Senior Strategist Sam Williams to discuss and gain perspective into the world of influencers and their role in advertising.
Recently, we addressed the importance of social listening – specifically, monitoring what people are saying about your brand beyond your owned social media channels – in our blog, Social Listening Part 1: Insider Tips to Get the Most Out of an Evolving World. Social listening can provide data-driven insights on your brand, competitors and industry trends. But more important, it can also alert you to a negative review, politically charged tweet or complaint about your product in a Reddit thread.
In Part 2 of this series, we continue our discussion with Digimind Senior Customer Success Manager, Strategic Accounts, Tony Calega, about the importance of adding social listening to your 2021 strategy. Hart partners with Digimind, a leader in social listening software, to provide clients with the full picture of how their brand is being discussed in the social landscape.
See a Potential Crisis Before it Hits
One of the most important uses of social listening is for crisis management. In an ideal world, brands would have ample time to prepare before a crisis hit. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. But with social listening in place, it is possible to track negative sentiment toward your brand and envisage where a potential crisis could arise.
“Reddit, for example, is seen as a safe space by many groups, so people feel freer to share their thoughts about brands. These threads can go viral and be shared to other social channels and eventually become a news story,” said Calega. “Digimind monitors Reddit, meaning any negative mentions of a brand will be pulled into the dashboard. This can help stop or at the least better prepare you for an upcoming crisis.”
Research Your Industry and Competitors
Social listening can also provide valuable data on what’s trending with consumers, sentiment toward competitors and conversations within a specific industry.
“Social listening gives a full picture of not just your brand, but everything that is happening around that industry,” Calega noted. “With Digimind, through the historical search option, we can pull data on various keywords and see how sentiment and interest has changed over three months, six months, or a year ago.”
Influencer marketing continues to be a focus for many brands in 2021. Given the amount of time and money that goes into building these relationships, brands want to know they’ve selected the right influencers who speak not only to the brand’s audience, but align with the brand’s personality, as well. There are plenty of examples of businesses having to end partnerships when negative news comes out about an influencer. Digimind can help mitigate some of this by tracking influencer content during the consideration stage.
“You can vet influencers before they’re selected to make sure they’re a good fit for the brand. You can look back on their past content to see if there are any negative mentions or concerning news items that could come to light and create a crisis moment,” said Calega.
Across this country, businesses are all facing a new wave of challenges with a familiar resolve. Breaking through noise to remain relevant is incredibly challenging, but also rewarding. Consumers are evolving quickly: fragmentation is increasing at a rapid pace, and trends are hard to discern from shorter-term fads. We have a tremendous opportunity to make the connection between brands and their changing consumer, using data to listen to the moment.