Clubhouse, privacy and other social media trends to watch in 2021

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As fully public social networks have become more hostile to everyday users, from a surfeit of ads to political and conspiracy posts crowding our timelines, more people are moving activity and interactions that used to happen on Facebook or Twitter to semi-public networks on Slack or Discord, private group chats on WhatsApp, signal or Facebook’s Messenger, and transient communication like Clubhouse and Snapchat or Instagram Stories. According to this 2019 study from eMarketer, use of mobile messaging apps is expected to reach 90% of smartphone users worldwide by 2023.

What do these social media trends mean for marketers trying to reach people “where they are” in 2021 and beyond?

Are you available on message apps?

Particularly for B2C companies that need to field customer service inquiries through multiple channels, but even for B2B companies who want to be responsive to their users within the enterprise, it’s more important than ever to be available through asynchronous messaging platforms. I’m sure we’ve all had some level of experience interacting with company support representatives through Twitter DMs. Being available on messaging platforms can mean not making your customers choose between calling an 800 number to wait on hold and complaining publicly about your brand on Twitter.

Recently I needed a question answered about my phone bill. Instead of having to call a number or wait indefinitely in a chat window only to miss my turn when it finally came up, I was able send a message to the company through Apple’s iOS Business Chat service and get my question answered over text.

Stories have ads, too

Organic reach has long-since evaporated, so while you’re placing those social ads anyway, make sure Stories are part of the mix. Instagram alone has more than 1 billion users every month, 140 million of which are in the U.S. That includes 500 million users who use the Stories feature. According to Instagram’s own data, 58% of people say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories and 50% of people have visited a website to make a purchase after seeing a product or service in Stories. But it goes beyond trending fire pits: nearly 40% of B2B decision makers in a Hootsuite study said they use Instagram to research products and services.

Snapchat, which boasted 101 million U.S. users as of July 2020, caters more to a younger crowd, with 82% of its users being 34 or younger. In fact, Snapchat reached 75% of all U.S. 13-to-34-year-olds in 2019.

But changes are coming to established platforms, too

While consumers diversify their social diets, mobile device and operating system vendors are changing the way they approach privacy in ways that will affect social platforms. Apple has started rolling out a promised new privacy feature which lets users opt out of tracking from apps and websites. Dubbed App Tracking Transparency, Facebook fears that the opt-out notifications will change user behavior and that those changes will harm the effectiveness of advertising. While these big companies argue back and forth in press statements and newspaper ads, marketers and brands need to make sure they are prepared to adapt to changes in ad targeting. There are also steps you need to take to ensure your website campaigns aren’t interrupted, like verifying your domain.

Can you host your own community?

For some businesses, it makes sense to build a community of their own to engage with customers or B2B end-users. An industry LinkedIn Group or Slack Workspace could be a great place for users of your products or services to discuss best practices and ask for help from the company or each other. Even Discord, which started as a gathering place for video game communities, has found a second life as a place where even professional affinity groups can congregate.

Is there room in the Clubhouse?

The latest hubbub is around Clubhouse, an app for creating audio-only conversations around topics, as the next big thing in social networking. In fact, Twitter has been rolling out a competing feature within its app, which is calls Spaces. While Clubhouse is a relatively nascent platform, boasting only about a million users, they’ve smartly targeted thought leaders and influencers to attract them to the platform first. As a user, you can listen to others talk about a topic or even take the stage yourself. Clubhouse is perhaps the apotheosis of ephemeral media, acting a bit like a live-only version a podcast. Once the broadcast is over, the audio is gone forever. Social Media Examiner has a nice rundown of Clubhouse, including how to use it and how it might be useful to business development. For now, you need an invitation from an existing user to join, so it’s more in the wait and see column for businesses.

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Tony Scida

A Hodges veteran who has been with the firm for more than a decade, Tony lends his creative talents to a range of clients. With a degree in arts management and as an accomplished musician, Tony has an ear for helping tell client stories.

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