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ModSquad’s 2020 Digital Predictions – How’d We Do?

Every January, our tradition is to look back at the predictions we made for the digital space last year. A few quick insights before we get into our results. Looking at common search terms from 2020 gives a sense of how the norm was upended during the past year:

  • In a heartwarming move, “How to donate” was searched two times more than “how to save money.”
  • Google’s Year In Search 2020 video features the most frequently asked questions we asked this year, such as “Why is toilet paper sold out?”
  • In fact, people searched questions starting with “why” more than ever before.
  • Top search terms reported by Google include the obvious “Coronavirus” (of course), “Tom Hanks” (one of the first well-recognized people to be afflicted with COVID-19), and, of course, “Tiger King.”

Now that we’ve closed the book on the past 12 months, it’s time for us to review the predictions we made last year and see how things actually played out.

1. Safety and privacy are taking precedence.

Privacy and security remain top priorities. As laws for publishers and advertisers continue to evolve, successful brands must develop clear data strategies to maintain transparency and invest in new technologies to ensure safety and increase trust. Movement on digital privacy and safety is taking place around the world:

  • The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) enhanced the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), adding new obligations to businesses and service providers and creating new liability risks. It also called for the establishment of an agency to enforce privacy violations. These changes are slated to take place in 2023.
  • The Japanese legislature updated its Act on Protection of Personal Information (APPI) privacy law to bolster individuals’ rights while requiring notification of data breach notifications and upping penalties for noncompliance.
  • The EU’s highest court declared the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework to be invalid as a mechanism for transferring personal data from the EU to the U.S.
  • China’s privacy and cyber authorities enhanced and clarified their data protection compliance obligations, which now includes the right to bring personal civil claims for breach of data privacy.
  • The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) offered guidance on the use of cookies, notifying organizations of their obligations around cookie banners, policies, and consent collection processes.

Our recommendations moving into 2021 to keep your company and clients safe:

  • Review company security policies (data privacy) and update them regularly.
  • Audit current tools and resources being utilized internally for safety.
  • Invest in data management to prevent breaches.
  • Roll out customer-facing initiatives to demonstrate transparency in your priorities around safety.

2. Influencer marketing will continue to thrive as it adapts to user demand.

The proof is in the pudding. After all, in a year of needing a spot of “escapism,” influencers really delivered (whether or not you agree with their choices).

Going into 2020, it was predicted that 65% of influencer marketing budgets would increase, which was a 26% increase over 2018. Additionally, 17% of companies spend more than half their marketing budget on influencers, and 89% say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels (all stats according to Big Commerce). 

With over one billion active users, Instagram still remains the top platform for influencer marketing. It’s projected that the number of active Instagram users in the U.S. will reach 125.5 million by 2023. Instagram, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020, has quickly grown into a source of income for creators and a major new sales channel for businesses. (Check out Instagram’s top 40 influencers in 2020, ranked by quality audience and authentic engagement.)

3. Achieving authenticity is about customizing content and creating experiences.

New standards for quality content came into play last year, as we saw various fact-checking initiatives emerging across social media posts, especially around COVID-19 standards and political information. Content providers need to focus on proving expertise, authority, and trust in published material. Understanding that strong content is about increasing your E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).

To have content that resonates with your audience, it must adhere to what is culturally relevant. “Content marketing in 2020 was characterized by swift changes in strategy and how quickly brands could adapt,” noted Search Engine Journal. Inclusive content that allowed people to feel heard and connected was the driving force last year.

4. Video, video, video.

Need we say more? 

5. Work-life balance is not just a company perk.

Last year, working from home became the new normal for many. While for some it may have been seen as a perk, for others it was a requirement. When we take a look at it from different perspectives, with so many businesses forced to close and people taking risks on the front lines, having the opportunity to work from home made a huge difference in many people’s lives.

That change brought with it a new set of challenges. Companies without ModSquad’s remote-work expertise made accommodations and established policies on the fly; parents juggled home, school, and work at the same time. Learning to achieve this balance amidst stay-at-home orders was at the forefront of our mental health and well-being. Going into last year, we predicted that employers would have more diverse offerings for workers when it came to their internal cultures. We certainly saw that happening as companies, often out of necessity, implemented more flexible work options.

All in all, our predictions were largely on the mark. For a look at what we think is going to shape this year online, read our 2021 digital predictions. And to share your thoughts on the digital trends of the past year, leave a note in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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