The lockdowns changed a lot of things around the world. Trade routes, healthcare, work life balances. Lockdowns affected so much, in fact, that it would be hard to determine something that wasn’t affected by the lockdowns. Social media and therefore marketing, were not exempt from this. When consumers were forced into their homes, spending more time than ever on social media, some new habits formed. We all spend so much time online that we actually had to think about what we were looking at and how to browse better – even if only subconsciously.
If you remember 2020, you’ll remember that a lot of outside forces were having an effect on social media too. No one could talk with even the closest members of their family, friend groups or office teams, which means a lot of unfiltered opinions were making their way online. Even if it wasn’t said publicly, your latest attempt at banana bread sure was, and any other projects you embarked on to let the time go in faster.
All of this is to say that some new habits were formed that haven’t, in fact, left. Social media users have learned from their time online and marketers and influencers are having to adapt their methods to match. If that sounds like it would be useful to you, read on to see how social media has changed and how you can use these changes to your advantage.
Platforms are pushing into retail
A lot of platforms have started making massive changes in order to make themselves more appealing to users and brands. Once the popularity of TikTok boomed, big and smaller platforms were tripping over themselves trying to implement a short-form video content feature. Instagram and Pinterest were two particular examples.
But that was just the start of Instagram’s moves. Facebook and Instagram did a lot to try and make the process of buying on social media as seamless as possible. They created features that allow smaller influencers to get in touch with affiliate marketers easier (more on that later), like a commissions forum for brand deals. They also made it easy to promote and secure ad placements to expand your reach with just a few clicks.
They had already noted that users were discovering new products on social media, and therefore decided that they would turn Instagram into a retail store. Brands can now tag the products they are showing off, sending users straight to the webpage of the product to be bought.
And they weren’t the only ones. Snapchat released an augmented reality feature that would allow users to try on clothes before buying them and TikTok started developing their Live Shopping feature, which allows creators to show products in real time with a link to the item’s page posted on the live.
Users’ most lucrative habit of finding products and brands on social media can now be used to prompt habits of buying on social media, with all the features available.
Payment methods are expanding
The very concept of money itself has changed over the past couple of years. Not only is cash going out as the less hygienic option, but digital currencies are becoming more and more mainstream.
And, more importantly, how brands are getting paid for their work and products is something to think about with so many options. And they all come with their own pros and cons.
Influencers, in particular, need to consider how they will be paid. There are the Creator Funds on TikTok and YouTube, but they are notoriously flawed. This forces creators to look for ways to put the cost of their income back onto the customer. Patreon and OnlyFans are a good alternative to this. They are subscription services that allow fans to sign up for content and exclusives.
And so, influencers more often than not opt to open up a merchandise shop. This can be hoodies, mugs, books, music, make-up, etc. and turns influencers into merchants.
But online finances have always come with risk. Influencer fans are particularly resourceful and can use their time on the internet to dig up the past, avoid payment, or whittle out secrets. If you are a merchant looking to keep your payment methods as safe as possible, look into 3D secure. It is a security protocol that will keep any online card-not-present checkouts safe and secure.
With the rise of contactless payment in the past couple of years, it makes sense for brands to add an extra level of security to their online transactions.
Micro-influencers and communities
Mainly due to the rise of TikTok and the nature of Facebook, a lot of the reasons users looked at social media changed too. Whether it was due to TikTok’s algorithm doing it organically, or Facebook users reaching out into groups, people were finding their people. Call it communities, or call it groups, people were discovering that they were not alone.
This meant a lot of people with the same interests were clustering together. This could be an identity, like religion, family position, sexual orientation, race, political stance, etc. or it could simply be an interest, like nerd culture, health culture, arts, travel, etc. And these options could get very niche, with genres within genres exploited.
Meanwhile, users were becoming more and more distrusting of big influencers. An entire genre of “tea/commentary” YouTubers were exposing all their bad behaviour, and the general hustle culture of “fake it ‘til you make it” was losing its sheen. Big influencers were suddenly shallow, greedy, and fake, and everything they were selling was probably pulled from the skip and peddled like it was gold.
Enter, the micro-influencer. These are the middle ground influencers, which are very useful to brands trying to market with affiliate marketing. They aren’t as big as some of the names found on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, and therefore are considered more humble and genuine. It stands to assume then that if they take a brand deal, it’s because they believe in the brand.
These influencers often directly tie in with communities too. Often, they are born of communities, due to either being a big voice in the genre or due to their participation by selling their own items for the genre, like crafting products. This allows them a smaller, but far more dedicated audience that will take their word as gospel. If they tell their niche crowd that they use this paint set to paint the portraits they are selling, their audience will buy that paint set.
Plus, they offer the idea of returning customers. If your item aids the community in some way, the community will keep recommending the product and keep using the product because they are all talking about it.