Understanding the state of social media today

Phil Garbrecht

The year is only half over and already we’ve faced several once-in-a-lifetime events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, #BlackLivesMatter social justice protests, and a global recession. Communities and individuals across the United States have committed to improving racial disparities, and the virus has changed lives in every corner of the world. All of this has also meant incredible changes to the social media landscape. With more people than ever working from home, protesting injustice, and communicating with loved ones digitally, evolutions that might have taken years have instead taken months.

We set out to discover exactly what has changed in social media, and why, and what brands can do about it to remain relevant and connected to audiences for our Smart Social Report, Key trends impacting brands in 2020. In the report, you’ll find relevant information about key trends which you can use to adapt your social media strategy and stand out in the crowded digital field. Doing so will win your brand loyal customers who are willing to recommend you to friends and followers: customers who connect emotionally to a brand will recommend the company at a rate of 71%, compared with the average rate of 45%.

Below we’ll explore three important trends covered in our Smart Social Report. For more trends, details, and current examples from top brands, download the report today.

Connect on a personal level

Customer sentiment is changing quickly and brands will need to adapt in order to retain current customers, earn the trust of new ones, and avoid ire. One of the most important trends identified by our social media experts is the desire for personal, human interactions.

Nearly half of the world’s population currently uses social media, and these numbers are only trending upward. But even though we’re more connected than ever before, about half of adults around the globe say they feel lonely on a regular basis, with younger generations reporting even higher concentrations of such feelings, according to Ford’s 2020 Trends Report. To combat these negative emotions, consumers are interested in digital wellness, including personal, human interactions whenever possible. This trend is important for brands to take note of: 77% of consumers would rather patronize and recommend a brand that provides personal service or experiences.

In order to meet consumers’ need for a personalized experience on digital platforms, top brands have gotten creative. For example, Target invited their followers to share their “big day” with the brand on social media:

The upshot of user-generated content like this is that brand effort is low, aside from monitoring social media mentions (something Khoros can help you with), but inviting consumers to share their personal experiences boosts positive sentiment and brand engagement in important ways.

For more consumer mindset trends identified by our experts, see the full report.

Make room for conversations

Customer behavior is changing, too, and there are some important trends brands need to understand.

One such behavioral change is an increase in customer communication with brands. Our researchers discovered that both public and private customer engagement with brands on social media has gone up on almost every major platform this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven much of the uptick, especially for hospitality brands like airlines. For example, we found that five top airlines received 61% more tweets and replies this year than they did on the same date last year.

With increasing amounts of brand conversations on social media as well as the desire for real connection on the part of the customer, it’s clear that brands need to be both tracking and responding to customers on social platforms. One brand doing an excellent job of handling customer correspondence is Delta:

What sets this interaction apart is that Delta not only addressed the customer’s initial query, they responded to the customer after the fact, too, creating a truly personalized experience.

Focus on the social impact of your brand

The changes we’ve seen this year in customer sentiment and behavior on social media have led some brands to adapt their social media management strategies — an increasingly important task for all brands.

It’s crucial that brands telegraph their values to their customers — this has been true for a while. But in the current climate, it’s also important that brands take the next step: customers want to see what brands are doing about socially relevant events.

In the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd, many brands expressed sorrow, and even anger, and lent their voices to the need for social justice. But brands who went further fared better on social media. For example, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker engaged in an emotional conversation with a Black flight attendant about the state of racism in this country. Customers appreciated the airline’s effort at putting their stated values to use.

For more details about each of the above examples, as well as how Khoros can help your brand rise to meet changing consumer demands on social media, see the full report.

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