January 28, 2021
2020’s Virtually Social Year—An Analysis of Facebook
It’s been a year, hasn’t it?
A pandemic. An election. A continuing discussion on the proper
balance of facts and opinions, of science and belief.
And as we’ve all been social distancing, social media has become
even more important. It’s no longer just a method to communicate with folks far
away, it’s now also a tool to interact with those nearby.
And for us marketing folks, the ups and downs of 2020 have almost created
a new playing field in regards to social media marketing, especially on
Let’s examine some of the challenges and changes of Facebook and
Facebook marketing in 2020, where we think it’s all heading in 2021, and what
we can do to thrive.
2020 will forever be associated with a world-wide pandemic. More
people staying home for safety meant more time was spent on smart phones. Year-over-year,
Facebook reports that usage increased by 12%, both for
monthly and daily users.
With our own clients, we also noticed a big increase in reach and
impressions between March and April 2020. And that’s right when lockdowns were
starting, and people were beginning to strengthen the lifeline (and boost the
usage) of their smart phone.
Without getting political here, another challenge faced in 2020
was that of perceived censorship. Regardless of your feeling about this, it did
spark a wave of users leaving (or, at least, threatening to leave)
Facebook—some voluntary, some not. But, just like all the previous “death knells”
in 2017, 2018, and every other time Facebook changed something (like removing
some ad targeting options to prevent the risk of being exclusionary), people
couldn’t stay away for long. What seemed like another message of doom for
Facebook, turned into only a hiccup when users found other platforms just
didn’t have the features, audience, and connectivity of Facebook.
Other than the just-mentioned changes to ad targeting
options, there have been other layout and algorithmic changes. All of these changes
attempt to serve users the content they most desire to see. The more content
they like, the longer they’ll stay on the platform. The longer they stay on the
platform, the more ads they’re served and respond to, which makes marketers
(and Facebook) happy money. A good illustration of this is comparing
revenue from 2019 to 2020 (when people were in lockdown and spending more
time online). The amount of growth from Q1–Q3 YOY was 53%. Impressive.
In spring of 2020, Facebook launched a new layout, giving priority
to Groups and Events. Was this a pre-arranged change planned before lockdowns
started, as in-person events were suddenly not happening? Was it an effort to
increase engagement in virtual events for all of us isolated at home? We can
only speculate on the reasoning, but we can examine the effects. These changes
made the newsfeed less available, meaning fewer users were seeing page posts,
degrading the user experience.
In July of 2020, Facebook realized how their previous algorithmic changes
were negatively impacting their users, and pivoted to give original content
more priority. The goal was to present even more news content to users, but
this time with more transparency of authorship. The concept is sound as it
attempted to remove unsubstantiated news posts, but it also somewhat limited
the number of users seeing page posts.
And at the end of 2020 (continuing into 2021), Facebook really began
enforcing their Community Standards, cracking down on hate speech and any users
and posts that sought to “…intimidate,
exclude, or silence others….” Along with other platforms also
issuing bans and suspensions, Facebook seemed committed to making the posts
they rank higher as more beneficial to their users.
Predictions & Planning
Using algorithms to deliver content to users that prioritize their
interests just makes sense. Give the audience what they want to see. As
Facebook marketers, we want those most likely to become our customers to actually
see our marketing too.
It’s very likely that, as Facebook continues work to tweak their platform,
changes will come in 2021, specifically (and continuing the focus on)
removing hate speech and misinformation. To fill these voids, Facebook will be
looking for more creative content in posts.
Facebook will also probably build up Facebook
Shops—an in-Facebook ecommerce platform looking to bring ecommerce to
everyone. It’s a good guess that Facebook Shops will have special priorities
and incentives to use additional Facebook advertising.
So, what’s a marketer to do to prepare for and prosper with Facebook
in 2021? There are many lists of Facebook best practices, but upon closer
examination, those lists are really just marketing best practices. And at the
heart of it all is creative and engaging content.
One of the most engaging form of content is video. Video has
always performed well on Facebook, and that won’t stop in 2021. Hootsuite
points that Facebook video increases engagement by 44% (signup
req.). Video is the perfect format to fulfill the “show, don’t tell” mantra:
the quintessential method to tease the user with a taste, entreat them to
follow you on a journey, and lead them right where you want them to end up.
Video has always been important on Facebook, and it will only become more so in
But video is more than just prerecorded pieces. Yes, we’re talking
about livestreaming. Livestreaming, sometimes thought of as only a supplemental
experience, has become even more important in 2020 and 2021. It is now seen as
a replacement of sorts for in-person experiences. Treat it as the important
communication tool that it is. According to a report by Coresight
Research (paid site), livestreaming is expected to—in the US alone—generate
$25 billion in sales by 2023.
Another thing to always keep in mind is how your audience is
viewing your Facebook content. Most likely, it’s on a mobile device. 92% (signup
req) of internet users are on mobile (and 90% of those are watching videos).
Cater your Facebook video and post length to the mobile user. Even though we are
spending more time on mobile devices during the pandemic, skewing your content
to appeal to the mobile user will be a way to future-proof your marketing.
We’ll end this piece with three recommendations from Hootsuite in
Trends 2021 report (signup req.). These are things you should really keep in
mind as you plan out your Facebook marketing in this second year of
pandemically influenced decisions. Keep in mind, however, that though these
have grown due to the pandemic, they most likely won’t disappear once the
pandemic is over. Instead, they will just be a part of the new normal.
1. “Don’t dismiss passive content
consumption.” Not every post will go viral, and you shouldn’t be creating
content with that as a goal. Your content should inform, entertain, and engage
your audience. But don’t despair: just because your users aren’t actively
liking or sharing your Facebook posts doesn’t mean your message is falling
flat. Your stream of greatness is still influencing them, just in a passive
way. Your marketing messages are still dancing through their brains.
2. Trust user-generated content (UGC). It’s
difficult right now to make all the same professional-quality Facebook videos
we’re used to producing: it’s just not safe. But the UGC your audience can
create in their backyard or living room is no less compelling. With smartphone
cameras being as good as they are (and the skill of many users), UGC can be amazing.
Other than cost savings, the added bonus of promoting UGC is trust. The Edelman
Trust Barometer reports that earned media like UGC is more trusted than
3. Never ignore a demographic, but
target them appropriately. We’ve all been there. You are sure your
prospective customers are only in a certain age bracket, for example, so you
target your marketing on Facebook to that demographic only. Never thinking
about the other age demographics can have overall negative effects. Hootsuite
found a lot of companies selling online were neglecting the boomer demographic
(users aged 55–65), even though 70% of that age group reported buying something
online in the past month. But when you do target a new demographic, don’t do it
based on the demographic itself. No one wants to hear “you’re old, so you
should like this,” even if it is sweetened with fancy graphics. Instead, target
your demographics based on shared interests. It’s a much bigger hook for a much
Along with the world, Facebook (and social media consumption in
general) has changed in 2020. Adapting to those changes, however, doesn’t have
to be scary. If you evolve your Facebook marketing game smartly, you’ll
actually end up better prepared to proactively navigate the social media
currents of the future.