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The looming threat of a recession is driving plenty of companies to slash marketing budgets and dismiss employees by the hundreds, but a new study from Hootsuite predicts the strength of social media marketing will endure—and potentially even grow—in 2023.
The social media management platform’s latest Social Trends Report, an annual survey of thousands of social marketers, managers and executives, found marketers and companies alike are increasingly confident in the value of social media marketing and the return on investment that these campaigns provide. While overall marketing budgets may decline, Hootsuite’s report projects social media budgets are projected to steadily climb into the new year.
“Despite [economic] uncertainty, many social media marketers find themselves in a position of relative security—they’re getting larger slices of the overall marketing budget and more agency over their work,” the report reads. “After more than a decade of growing pains, social media marketing has finally matured into a profession.”
Hootsuite, a social media marketing and management tool, has a lot of skin in the game, of course, to see social budgets remain intact.
With the continued rise of the creator economy, influencers are expected to increasingly shape social marketing, particularly for smaller businesses that may have previously felt intimidated by the prospect of influencer partnerships. To emphasize creators’ ever-expanding influence on social media, Hootsuite teamed up with several prominent influencers on a video highlighting key findings from the report—which, naturally, the company will distribute across its social media channels.
Hootsuite’s findings focus on areas such as creator collaborations, not the more corporate-driven marketing found on platforms such as Twitter, which is facing pressure as brands halt or pull back on ads on the platform acquired last month by Elon Musk.
When companies reduce their marketing budgets, funding for influencer partnerships is often one of the first things sacrificed, the report states; and though some larger brands may pull back from creator collaborations, “it leaves the door wide open for smaller businesses to compete for top creators at lower price points.” Currently, only about 28% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees include influencers in their social media marketing, according to the report, while over 40% of companies with more than 1,000 employees do.
Many smaller brands remain hesitant about these partnerships because of the murkiness surrounding what influencers should be paid for brand collaborations; but Robyn DelMonte, a TikTok creator and social media strategist also known as @girlbosstown who appears in Hootsuite’s promotional video, told Ad Age that influencer marketing is more accessible and affordable than ever, enabling brands of all sizes to work with creators.
“Because of the [old] influencer marketing era of working with big creators and big budgets, a lot of small businesses didn’t necessarily think they could be part of that game,” DelMonte said. “But now, rather than just using influencers with big communities and picking the top three creators with the most followers, you can use creators who are super niche and relevant to the products [your brand] is selling and have a community that trusts them and knows they genuinely use these types of things.”
Even when working with creators with smaller followings, brands should still ensure they compensate these creators fairly for their content—over half of the participating social media marketers in the survey reported that they paid creators under $100 per post, with nearly 30% of those respondents saying they provided those creators with a free product or gift rather than payment. “Think of how much exposure a commercial got on TV—these creators are getting the same exposure, and you wouldn’t pay a massive marketing agency to make commercials for under $100,” DelMonte added.
Along with more businesses collaborating with creators, the Hootsuite report also predicts social media marketers will move away from cross-posting the same content across social channels and instead hone in on what users are seeking from each platform. People turn to social media platforms for distinct reasons, and social media managers should aim to align their content on each platform with what those people are hoping to find—for example, TikTok is primarily sought out for entertainment, while Instagram remains the number one platform people use to follow their favorite brands, according to data from the report.
Read more: How brands are using TikTok, BeReal and Roblox
The campaign video uses a group of TikTok creators to put a humorous spin on this point, showing the five creators behind the account @pleasesponsorus recreating the viral “Tortilla Challenge” with a voiceover saying, “You wouldn’t post this on your LinkedIn, would you?”
Hootsuite also anticipates social media will increasingly become a replacement for traditional search engines like Google as younger consumers look to platforms such as TikTok and Instagram for restaurant suggestions, recipes, vacation ideas and other information. The report highlights a recent Google study that found 40% of 18-to-24 year-olds currently use social media platforms as their “primary search engine.” Similarly, when it comes to researching a brand, half of people under age 25 will search for that brand on social media rather than via a search engine, according to a Hootsuite study conducted with creative agency We Are Social.
With people spending an increasing amount of time on social media, platforms have effectively become an “engine of culture,” according to the report.
Although social commerce seems to have hit a wall in the U.S., the Hootsuite report also predicts that social media will steadily grow into a site for e-commerce throughout 2023. Companies like Meta and TikTok have been shying away from their initial live shopping and social commerce functionality over the past few months after initially aiming to jump on the success of live shopping overseas. The Hootsuite report argues brands and tech platforms shouldn’t abandon social commerce quite yet.
Read more: How brands can better connect with influencers
Maggie Lower, chief marketing officer at Hootsuite, pointed out a disconnect between marketers and consumers surrounding social commerce concerns: though 37% of marketers in the Hootsuite survey said hesitance to social commerce revolved around consumers not wanting to enter payment information on social platforms, an Accenture survey from April 2022 included in the report showed that, for nearly 50% of respondents, the biggest concern was their purchases not being protected or refunded if bought through social media.
“To overcome the trust gap and turn skeptical shoppers into buyers, marketers will have to work on the basics: offer easy returns and refunds, display ratings and reviews from other buyers, and keep buyers notified about the status of their purchases throughout the customer journey,” the report states.
Ultimately, more brands will begin to center their marketing strategies on social media as 2023 approaches and economic uncertainty looms, Lower said.
“As you think about social, it’s a much deeper conversation than just, ‘What are we going to post on Instagram today so that we can get people to look at us?’” she said.
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