How to win on social media marketing 2021 and beyond

As one of the leading digital marketing companies in NI, social media marketing is one of the most powerful tools we use to drive online demand for our clients. It’s an ever-changing landscape, with new platforms, tools and trends to keep up with. So we have decided to cut through the confusion by pulling together this article to help you craft a winning social media strategy in 2021.

Social media should be goal-led

A winning social media strategy sits within a wider digital marketing strategy which, in turn, must be closely aligned with your business’s overall marketing strategy and marketing campaigns. So before we talk tactics and TikTok, we need to talk about your goals.

What do you want to achieve for your business? How can your social media help to achieve this? Rather than growing a huge following for the sake of vanity metrics, think about what you want from your customers this year. 

These are some examples of how your goals can help create a social media strategy or campaign. 

Customer loyalty

Is it all about future sustainability through repeat business? Then nurturing relationships with your social followers will be important. 

Focusing on engagement across your platforms will be key to building that trust and relatability:

Tactical tip:

  • Encourage user-generated content. Do you promote your own branded hashtags? Do you give your followers ideas for using your product or brand to create their own content? This content not only engages the person creating it, but gives you social proof to share with the rest of your audience. By sharing it, you’re supporting the creator, deepening their connection to your brand, making them more likely to create more. It’s a simple but effective flywheel.

Find new customers

Do you want new customers, or to target a new segment? Then you’ll be chasing visibility on your social platforms to boost brand awareness. So making sure your content is shareable is important; this way your followers will share it with people who aren’t following you yet. The algorithm will prioritise content that’s being shared – it can see that users are getting value from it. Useful content keeps users on their platform. 

Tactical tip:

  • Use all the platform’s tools – especially if they’re new. Do you make sure to tag your location in posts and Stories? Do you include keywords in video descriptions and captions on Facebook and Instagram? Are you including hashtags? These things aren’t just gimmicks, they are ways the platforms help its users search for the content they want to consume. The newer a feature is, the more likely the platform is to serve that type of content to more people. For example, we’re seeing higher than average visibility on Instagram Reels at the moment. Instagram is open about the fact they’re prioritising Reels because they want them to do well (they’re competing with TikTok!)

Use social metrics for campaign research

Your marketing campaigns should be informed by:

  • Who your customer is
  • Where they buy and when
  • What they want
  • The ‘why’ behind their decisions

These are tried and tested marketing principles. Social media marketing simply offers new (highly effective) tools with which to do this research.

If you’re using business accounts on your platforms, the native analytics will show you things like:

  • How many reactions, comments, shares and clicks each post gets (its engagement)
  • How many likes or followers you have
  • When most of your audience are online
  • The interests, preferences and demographics of your audience

How this data can inform your campaign:

  • Engagement shows you what your audience likes and doesn’t like.
  • Audience size and growth brings insights into your brand awareness. 
  • Knowing when they’re online helps you select the best times to post and communicate
  • Their preferences and demographic information helps you refine your customer service, messaging and even your product or service itself

Social listening is not new, but a relatively recent social media research tool. It basically means to pay attention to the content of your audience’s comments, posts and conversations. In other words, to ‘listen’ to what they are saying about you, or about relevant topics.

A quick and easy way to start employing social listening is to set up a Google alert for your brand name. This can help you track mentions of your brand online, to capitalise on the good and damage-control the bad.

Being responsive on your social media accounts is important too. This means actively spending time on your social accounts, reading comments, answering questions, responding to feedback and solving problems. It’s easy to forget the ‘social’ aspect of social media! Scheduling tools and content planning are essential for making social media manageable for a business, however there needs to be human interaction too, otherwise you could miss key insights. It’s also important that a small business remains ‘human’ online too – it’s a cliche but people do buy from people. 

Don’t spread your digital brand too thin

It feels like new social media apps and features are released every day and it’s impossible to keep up with them all. The good news is that, as a small business, you don’t need to! Your ideal customer is not going to be on every single platform. Even if they are, you can be sure that they spend more time on some than on others.

The only type of business you’ll see on each and every social media platform are the biggest global brands, who either have a mass or a highly segmented market base. 

Not only do big companies have entire teams of people to look after their socials, you can bet they take a different approach for every platform to appeal to different audiences. Coca Cola’s Facebook page is all about big brand collaborations and competitions, because they know it’s the biggest platform audience-wise, and its users are financially mobile. This is all about brand loyalty and maximising the value of its advertising partnerships. Its Linked In page focuses on its corporate responsibility efforts, as it will be using this business and employment focused platform for recruitment and maintaining its reputation as an employer.

Take a Kaizen approach to marketing with social media

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning ‘continuous improvement’, used widely in manufacturing. Rather than doing things a certain way and then overhauling it when it stops working, quality improvement is a continuous, everyday process.

By continuously monitoring how you’re doing, you can see what works, what doesn’t, and make little tweaks and course corrections as you go.

In social media, this again comes back to the data. By setting clear key performance indicators (or KPIs), you clearly define what success looks like for you on social media. Depending on your marketing goals, that might be “Boost audience engagement by 10% this quarter” to achieve brand awareness or “Increase website click-through rate by 5% every month” if you’re keen to boost repeat sales through e-commerce.

As you put a plan into action to achieve these KPIs, you’ll see how realistic they are, whether your tactics are effective at achieving them, or whether those performance indicators are still an accurate barometer of marketing success. 

Social media trends for 2021

The world of social media is a rapidly-changing one and what worked in 2020 might need updated for 2021’s marketing plans. Together with the fundamentals outlined above, these key trends will help you stay current with your plans and strategies for marketing on social media.

Short form video

Social media companies and content creators across the world went into meltdown when Instagram boss Adam Mosseri announced the platform was “no longer a square photo sharing app” as it was widely reported. 

In a video posted to his account earlier this year, Mosseri expanded on this, explaining Insta was prioritising Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging. Despite the online uproar, Adam actually said the app was no longer “just” about sharing pictures, that people wanted to be actively entertained on social. No surprise given the meteoric rise of TikTok, no longer just an app for teen dance crazes and edgy Gen Z in-jokes. 

Make it work for you:

Instagram and YouTube are both actively promoting in-feed short form video content in 2021. Don’t be tempted to jump on the latest craze if it’s not a fit for your brand. Educational content, life hacks, and ‘mini vlogs’ (think ‘a day in the life’ type content) are all super popular on these apps, and on TikTok itself, whose audience is growing and diversifying every day. Play with it, experiment with the huge range of editing tools it puts at your fingertips, and don’t obsess over perfection. People value authenticity over perfection in visual content these days.


Stories are another form of short-form content; the key difference with Reels (Instagram) Shorts (YouTube) and TikTok, is that they are only visible on your platform for 24 hours after posting, after which they ‘disappear’ for your viewers. As well as videos, you can post images to your Stories. Both videos and pictures can be embellished with filters and special effects, music, stickers, gifs, captions and hashtags among other things. 

Stories aren’t new on social media, but Facebook and more recently Twitter have adopted them after their success on other platforms. Snapchat pioneered the format, but it wasn’t long until Instagram nabbed the idea!

Make it work for you:

Adding location stickers and hashtags to your Stories can help them be found and seen by people who aren’t already following you. If you’re pursuing user engagement as a goal or KPI, questions and polls are highly effective ways of getting people to interact with your content. With a business or creator account, you can see in real time how many people have watched and interacted with your content, and who they are. Stories are also archived after they disappear from user view, so you can track thes important metrics to further inform strategy and tactics. 

Audio content

The latest new feature on social media is the introduction of audio-only ‘rooms’. The trend began with the launch of Clubhouse last year, who built hype by initially being only available to iPhone users, and operating an ‘invite only’ membership system. It wasn’t long before other platforms jumped on the bandwagon; Twitter uncharacteristically was the first, with the introduction of Twitter Spaces. 

Facebook started rolling out audio rooms and podcasts this year, but unsurprisingly there is no copycat on Instagram which is known as a visual platform, but it will be interesting to see if they try it out too.

Make it work for you

The basic idea is that these ‘rooms’ or ‘spaces’ are places you can host, listen to, and participate in live conversations. Much like the podcasting or webinar spaces, these can be on any topic. If you are pursuing a content marketing strategy, this could be a useful way to repurpose your content, particularly if it’s already in an audio-only format, such as a podcast. If you create videos or webinars, could you re-use your notes or script to host an audio-only conversation? If you already use livestreaming to connect with your audience for Q & As or educational content, could you simultaneously go live on audio-only, or use your livestream topic ideas to host a conversation? 

If you need some more advice or support on your social media strategy, our digital marketing agency would love to help. Give us a ring on 028 3833 9100 or send us an email to