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Well, we’ve made it folks. In just a few days we will be in 2021, for which we are all grateful. We’ve already headed down a more positive trajectory in the past couple of months! A grueling 2020 election came to an end and thousands of COVID-19 vaccines have already reached our hardworking healthcare workers. Yes. I am crossing my fingers that 2021 will be a good year for us in all aspects of our lives.

But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The digital marketing landscape continues to get more and more wild. On one side of the pancake, the digital marketing landscape is becoming more limited in terms of privacy and data protection. On the other, new channels like TikTok are sending users around the world to stardom and offering instant influence to those who have never had such a platform. Digital marketing moves fast. That’s personally what drew me to the industry. But as fun as it is to get immediate results and feedback, it’s crucial for us to stay nimble in an always-changing industry.

That’s why I want to be completely transparent with what we can expect for digital marketing in 2021. The good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s get into it.

The Good: TikTok

We wrote a blog post about the future of TikTok back in September. Things were really starting to heat up for the app over the summer and since it has continued to grow exponentially. There was a brief moment in the fall when it seemed that TikTok might be banned in our country, following a ban in India. However, TikTok has stayed strong and it’s Freckle Media’s opinion that TikTok is very much here to stay.

That being said, no need to be hypnotized by this shiny new thing. Point blank, TikTok is great for reach. If you or your CMO is huge into billboards, mass transit advertising, radio ads, etc. then by all means, add TikTok to your 2021 plan. However if you prefer more targeted advertising TikTok may not be for you. There are ways to make your videos targeted by including your location in the content, using appropriate hashtags so your audience can find you as well as even using age hashtags which is actually quite a popular hashtag to use as users love to poke fun at themselves for using an app that in the beginning was used mainly by Gen Z (think #MomsOver40).

TikTok also prefers businesses to make content, not ads. In fact that is the headline on their landing page for marketers. TikTok wants businesses to become part of the community. This isn’t a new trend. Think of sponsored content on our favorite news sites and influencer ads on Instagram. Being native to the platform will provide better results. Would you rather a friend make you a suggestion or a stranger try to sell you something? … That’s what I thought!

If you are a small brick and mortar that is not a franchise, TikTok might not be worth your time. If you are an e-commerce site that sells affordable products around the world TikTok is definitely for you. If you’re still not sure if TikTok is a good fit, send me an email (sierra@frecklemedia.com) and I’ll give you my thoughts.

The Bad: Coronavirus Continues

It would be so great if we could flip the switch on New Years Eve and COVID was gone with 2020. However, that is really not the case. In fact, this new strain circling Europe and eventually heading our way is reported to be 56% more infectious than past strains.

COVID communication is our new normal. We know how our business likes to discuss COVID-related topics and we know how COVID impacts our relationship with our customers. But just because this new way of life seems second nature doesn’t mean we should stop exploring and researching. We recommend checking out how your competition handled their pandemic response.

We’ll use a children’s toy store as an example. Did their competition do live videos on their social media channels with activities for the family while they quarantined? What about activity sheets they could print out and do while spending time at home? Did they provide ample access to their customers to shop their toys online or call in orders? The best place to start is almost always with a competitive analysis.

Take the next few weeks to also talk to your team. What went wrong during quarantine? What went right? What can you add or subtract in 2021? Prepare a marketing plan for yourself for the worst-case scenario. You can always scale back if need be. Fingers crossed a scale back occurs, but if not, you won’t have to worry.

The Ugly: Apple and Facebook

If you read the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times you’ve seen the full page ads that Facebook has taken out attacking Apple. Simply, Apple will allow iOS users (that’s the operating system for iPhone) to opt-out of data tracking across apps. Tracking allows all kinds of advertisers to serve you ads on their apps (like Facebook), games (like Words with Friends) and more based on your internet & device behavior.

So let’s say you google “Best Hikes in New Jersey.” Based on this query and what you click, you may get ads for hiking boots or for a nature photography blog. The good thing about targeted ads is you get served ads that likely have to do with things you find interesting. However, many see it as a breach of privacy. A common saying in the digital marketing age is “if you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” Hence why Facebook is able to provide its site without a subscription.

This hurts Facebook broadly. Firstly, it will hurt the ad platform because with less of an ability to target, the revenue of those who use the ad platform will be bruised, and thus will lose them customers. Secondly, this will hurt their ability to sell their own data to third-party brokers, since they’ll be able to sell less data upfront.

Does this mean you shouldn’t spend your media budget on Facebook & Instagram ads? Absolutely not. The New York Times summed up the crux of this issue perfectly in an article from earlier this month:

“Analysts said the change would probably have a limited impact on Facebook’s main ad business, as it already knows plenty about its users’ interests from their activity on Facebook and Instagram. But they said it could hurt Facebook’s efforts to sell ads in other places around the internet. Facebook’s enormous trove of user data is also one of its most valuable assets.”

All in all, this is a good thing to be aware of as a marketer because it shows us the direction we are heading in as big tech companies slowly become more controlled by the government (or a better way to put it is “democratically controlled by the people that use their products.”) Freckle Media recommends continuing to add Facebook & Instagram ads to your media plan but to keep an eye on your results over the first quarter of the year for any possible changes.

In Conclusion…

No one could have predicted our 2020. It almost feels foolish to predict 2021 at this point. But you know what there is no harm in? Over-preparation. By always being on the ball with new marketing opportunities (like TikTok), drafting plans for worst-case scenarios (COVID-19), and watching the larger trends in the industry (Apple v. Facebook), you can’t go wrong.

You also don’t need to do that all on your own. You have a business to run for goodness sakes! So lean on Freckle Media. Sign up for our weekly newsletter where we’ll tell you the latest news and what to do about it. We’ll give you insider tips and tricks only full-time digital marketers know. And of course we are available for hire too, if you’re up to your ears in newsletters. We totally get it.