It’s no secret that small businesses are hurting from the pandemic. Figures show that roughly one-third of small businesses across the country are shut down, with many in danger of never reopening. For those that are operating, revenue is down significantly according to TrackTheRecovery.org, a website maintained by Opportunity Insights, a not-for-profit organization located at Harvard University. In the United States, as of December 31, 2020, total small business revenue had decreased by 31.1% compared to January 2020.
Behind every struggling small business is a small business owner, who has often poured his or her life savings into building out their dream. A dream that becomes the lifeline for their family, employees, and others in the community. At mConnexions, we understand this passion because we live it ourselves as a small female-owned and operated small business. It makes it personal for us, to continue stretching our own business to help as many others survive as possible.
Here are four marketing trends for small business survival in 2021:
1. Delivering Quality Content: EAT It Up!
Our clients often hear us talk about quality content in terms of two general audiences: our human targets and Google’s bots. The good news is that Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines include an excellent rule that helps us create quality content for both audiences: EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), which is also referred to commonly in SEO tactics as Page Quality.
Our friend EAT tells us 2021 is the year of quality content, which means we’ll see a market saturated with it—and you should be eyeing a solid content strategy. Your content is your most important communication tool, so you should be intentional about creating it and methodical about its delivery. How well do you know your audience? How do they want to be receiving and consuming content? Why should they consume your content and not someone else’s?
Whether you are writing for traditional print or digital, remember that quality content helps you master some very important goals:
Demonstrate why—and how—you’re the best at what you do. Use your content as your avenue to educate your audience about what you offer and what makes you better than the competition; this requires you to understand your audience and what problem they’re looking to solve, then prove through quality content how you can solve that problem for them. We always recommend starting with a good buyer persona, especially with the market and audience changes due to the pandemic.
Build strong relationships. Beyond understanding and educating your audience, quality content with in-depth information that’s reputably sourced establishes you as an expert and boosts your affinity—this keeps your audience coming back to you as a brand they trust. Turn to well written and organized long-form content to capture your expertise.
Develop a community and build your brand voice. Consistently producing content gives your audience something to regularly engage with—this builds an entire community around your product or services and boosts your brand’s recognition and value.
There are so many different types of content, but know this: they’re not all meant to fit your strategy! It’s about choosing the formats most relevant for your audience and the different promotion strategies for each platform. Diversifying your content can help you reach new—sometimes unlikely—demographics, and expand your audience.
As you build your content strategy for 2021, keep these formats front-of-mind:
- Video and live streaming continue to be the biggest content trend this year. Bonus: video works well across blogs, podcasts, and social media.
- Infographics can pack a ton of valuable information into a concise format—it’s an enjoyable and easy way for your audience to consume a lot of complex information, an EAT favorite.
- Interactive content such as polls, quizzes, lists, or interactive maps drives audience engagement.
- E-learning content, like webinars and online courses, offers specific and immediate value to your audience. This can also be a source of revenue generation.
2. Social Media Stories Reach New Heights – Better Keep Up!
We hate to sound harsh, but If you’re not using Stories on every available platform by now, you’re doing it wrong. We’re sure you’ve used IG and FB Stories for your brand, but have you ventured to LinkedIn Stories or Twitter Fleets yet? If not, now’s the time to start! Consumers often prefer Stories over regular feed posts — which means these expanded features area great way to maximize engagement and grow your audience. You just need to have the right strategy for each platform.
Since they are the two newest options out there, here is our advice for effectively utilizing LinkedIn Stories and Twitter Fleets to enhance consumer interaction with your brand:
LinkedIn Stories is a quick and engaging way to share information with your professionally motivated audience, while helping you reach your goals for 2021 in a creative way. If you’ve ever made a story on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, LinkedIn Stories operate in pretty much the same way – with the ability to create short videos of up to 20 seconds and are available for your audience to see for up to 24 hours. Note that as of this blog publish date, LinkedIn stories are only available through its mobile app.
What to Share
Now that you know how it works, you’re probably wondering what type of content you should share. Highlighting your career updates and accolades works well on LinkedIn. For your Stories on the platform, consider discussing some of your brand’s big wins, like high-profile partnership announcements, published articles, or recent awards your company received. Always make sure to have a strong call-to-action so your audience knows exactly where to go for more information on your products or offerings.
You may have heard the (fairly) new term, Fleets, but have you used it to boost your brand yet? Fleets are designed for sharing momentary thoughts – fleeting tweets that only stick around for 24 hours. The short lifespan is designed to help people feel more comfortable sharing personal and casual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
What to Share
If you’re looking to sell out a lot of one product fast or offer a promotion to your most engaged Twitter followers, Fleets may be exactly what you need. Using Fleets to promote temporary sales, offers, or coupon codes is an effective way to gain consumer’s attention and interest in your special limited time offer. Since Fleets only last for 24 hours and users know they won’t be able to find the codes or promotions forever, a sense of urgency is instilled when making them known through Fleets – so expect your followers to head to your website or make a purchase fast!
3. Social Media Commerce: Facebook Shops
Social networking has taken a giant leap into social commerce, with Business Insider estimating a 20% increase from a year ago to 76 million U.S. shoppers spending $23.3 billion buying products through social networks. With the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses of all sizes are relying on online platforms and virtual sales opportunities more than ever before. Facebook has rolled out a convenient, free feature with a goal to make shopping seamless and empower every business owner to better connect with customers and increase profits. Virtual storefronts are becoming more prevalent within social media, shown through buying options on Instagram, Pinterest, and more.
Hosting your own storefront on Facebook Shops is almost too easy. Remember setting up your profile? Your shop may be even faster to create. You can create discoverable products on your business page, customize design elements, and sync your Shop to appear on all of the Facebook-owned platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. Facebook already partners with many of the e-commerce shopping apps, like Shopify and BigCommerce, so connecting your inventory pricing is simple. Once you’re up and running, you are literally open for business, all the time!
“This sounds great—what’s the catch?” For Facebook shops, the feature is free, but there are fees if your customers purchase items through the Facebook shop instead of being redirected to your own website (5% of your shipping cost). It’s also easy to set up a shop, then neglect to promote it. Facebook Shops allows ads that can be utilized in Stories and News Feeds, meaning your strategies to promote your business need to stay active and eye-catching! Use some of the money you’ve saved on setting up your shop to promote it, and see how social media e-commerce can take your business to the next level.
4. Post-COVID Marketing Predictions: 3 Ways To Keep Up With New Consumer Demands
As we look ahead to what still may be coming in 2021, it is important to note that the ‘new normal’ of virtual business has become not only a necessity, but a preference for consumers. We all hope that the post-pandemic shift will come sooner than later, and when that time comes, it’s important to have an eye on which habits buyers will stick with long after the shutdown orders are lifted for good. During 2020, we saw an increased need for a virtual contactless approach to reaching our customers – but has this become the preferred method for consumers even post-COVID?
After spending nearly a full year adjusting to a remote lifestyle – working, shopping, exercising, and even socializing – consumers have picked up new habits that may be here to stay. The use of social media stories, livestreams, and reels may be important for continuing to effectively reach your audience and retaining their business this year. In 2021, we anticipate not only a consumer need but also a want for virtual engagement. Now’s the time to adjust your marketing strategy to keep up with these new expectations – and we’ve listed three ways to get you started:
1. Virtual Brand Experience
If you have a retail store, allow potential shoppers to take a virtual tour of your shop. Host a live event on your social channels and walk them through from front to back – and be sure to encourage them to ask questions or leave comments in the chat for you. If you have a product to demonstrate or launch in real-time, even better!
2. Host Online Events or Webinars
Throughout the pandemic, consumers have grown accustomed to Facebook and Instagram Live events, Zoom meetings, and webinars – often this was their only connection to the outside world. For business owners, this is an easy and inexpensive method of reaching your target audience. Facebook and Instagram Lives allow you to organize and run virtual events without even having to leave the platform – or the house.
3. Live Online Classes
Although we are keeping our spirits up and anticipating more businesses to safely reopen this year, consumers have gotten used to at-home luxuries like virtual workout classes and online masterclasses. If your business has something to teach, your audience is ready to learn and doing so will add value to your brand. Find creative ways to use your social channels this year to offer virtual learning experiences. If you own a bakery, why not publish an Instagram Reel on a quick and easy 3-ingredient dessert recipe? Show your consumers where the bread is (literally) made!
Let’s make 2021 a year of strength and success! If you’re interested in improving your content, creating engaging social media strategies, looking into e-commerce platforms, and adding virtual marketing strategies to your 2021 business plans, our team at mConnexions can get you started. Reach out to schedule a free consult with one of our experts to learn more about how we can help.
Julie Holton is the Founder and Principal Strategist of mConnexions, a full-service marketing and communications agency. Prior to launching her agency, Julie spent more than ten years working in top television newsrooms across the country, as an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and executive producer. Julie coached reporters, producers, writers, and videographers. She also worked with her news teams to develop digital and social media strategies. Julie currently hosts two podcasts and is a featured author in numerous blogs and publications. Follow her directly on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.