This year will always be known as the Year of the Pandemic. It’s the year that no one predicted, and marketers never prepared for.

Marketing in 2020 didn’t come with a rule book. Yet, it showed how adaptable, savvy, and strong-minded we could be—even under pressures never felt before. Marketers took a challenging situation and figured out how to maneuver their way through it, meeting their customers in their new state and even taking social stands.

We’ve lived through marketing change, and the future is bright. Here’s what we learned, how we adapted and innovated, and what’s next.

What Changed in Marketing in 2020

Marketers taking on more responsibilities

Being a marketer means a lot more than getting leads. In 2020, we learned that marketers are the voice of the company—and that voice can make or break a brand during tumultuous times. The marketing role has become more important than ever, more than just creating brand campaigns. Brands need to be part of the conversation, whether that’s a pandemic or social injustice.

Marketers also need to be adaptable with things like content production, even without being able to organize product shoots and work in-person with their teams. This past year, where some hit the brakes on their content production, savvy brands had a trick up their sleeve.

As online content consumption doubled, brands leveraged user-generated content to continue their content output. With UGC, they didn’t need product shoots, models, or even an entire content team to help them put it together. The content created by their fans and customers is repurposed for the right marketing channels.

The role of User-Generated Content Specialist will need to be filled by experienced marketers who have tapped into UGC’s potential. These marketers will focus on incentivizing customers to create UGC and showing employees how they can make company-friendly EGC as well. As UGC continues to dominate engagement, conversions, and brand loyalty, this role will become more and more important in the future.

Rapid evolution and adoption of technology

Industries are evolving, either being created out of necessity or through new consumer behavior. A new wave of telecommunication has soared, as 20 times more participants used video conferencing within three months. Disney+ launched with the goal of acquiring 60-90 million customers by 2024 and they reached 73 million subscribers just one year after launching.

While many languished, certain industries grew faster than they could have predicted, and as the dust settles, certain businesses have hit consumer gold becoming a part of our daily routines. Nowhere is this more apparent than in platforms and technologies supporting work, connection, and communications. Companies have now figured out how to work from home effectively and they don’t see a huge rush to get back to the office.

Facebook announced they’d keep staff working remotely through June 2021, Salesforce is keeping employees remote until at least August 2021, and Shopify told employees to work from home indefinitely. For marketers, these trends mean that traditional methods of location-based outreach such as office phone numbers, IP address range targeting and tracking, direct mail, and regional events may continue to be challenging.

More online shopping, increased emphasis on trust

In 2019, Shopify hit a record for Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending with $2.9+ billion in worldwide sales. With 2020’s economic uncertainty, the question of how Black Friday and Cyber Monday would go was on every business’ mind. It turns out—it would go extremely well. Shopify hit a new record, $5.1 billion over the 2020 Black Friday and Cyber Monday holidays.

eCommerce, of course, was already on the rise and more consumers are purchasing online, but prefer to buy from trusted brands. As Mckinsey reports, people have a preference for brands they trust, and they’ll happily fill their online carts.

Social media more than just publishing

Sixty-nine percent of businesses surveyed by Hootsuite found that social media helped them prepare for COVID-19’s impact on business disruption by maintaining customer and audience relationships. While social media use was already increasing, COVID-19 accelerated the trends.

Marketers now use social media to understand where their customers are in the ever changing buying landscape, to adjust their tone, and further cultivate relationships with their audience as they humanize their brands through UGC and EGC.

Employee-generated content and employee advocacy provide a look behind the lens and brand messages are re-shared up to 24 times more when distributed by employees and get eight times more engagement than content shared by the brand. This year has strengthened the bond that social media can create between a brand and its consumers.

Adapting to Change

Adaptability has always been an essential requirement for success in marketing and in business. We’ve witnessed that brands can adapt faster by listening to their customers and earning the trust of their users. User-generated content is more important than ever because it helps brands show that they are in touch by highlighting the authentic voices of their audience.

Over the last year, we continued to innovate and evolve TINT’s leading enterprise UGC platform to provide marketers an infinite stream of high quality curated authentic content,  create hyper-personalized engaging experiences, and make it easier than ever to drive social commerce conversions with UGC. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Visual Search

This year we launched industry-first visual search UGC technology. In the world of social and UGC, there are massive volumes of content being created every day – and we give our customers the ability to search and uncover the perfect visually similar content every time. Visual Search is a testament to the power of the TINT AI backend by Filestack.

UGC Studio

We also launched UGC Studio to help marketers collect assets and build a library of UGC to customize and repurpose, streamlining social content workflows. Smart management makes it easy to store, organize, search, customize, edit and repurpose owned and earned content. Marketers also use UGC Studio in place of expensive and time-consuming design programs to make edits, crop, enhance, apply filters, and turn visual assets into ads for any social network at scale.

Virtual Events

Providing social walls and user engagement for conferences and events has always been a big part of who we are and by March it was clear that the world was changing. We released TINT Virtual Events just in time to help power virtual conferences, events, and graduations around the world with solutions to create immersive experiences designed with audience engagement in mind.

Future of Marketing

To connect with customers in what they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing will continue to be essential in the new year and UGC is at the core for driving higher engagement and conversions. Once a week on the Future of Marketing, we curate the most relevant trends, resources, and strategies in user-generated content for effective marketing – subscribe here.

At TINT, we’ve been behind-the-scenes with marketers and executives as they navigated the unknowns of 2020. There was a lot to learn and we got to watch as everyone listened and adapted goals—all while experiencing the first (and hopefully only) pandemic of our lifetimes. And, we’re grateful to have been able to help by powering UGC around the globe.

We believe that the most compelling story that a brand can tell, is one that the brands users, influencers, customers and employees tell. We pride ourselves as a platform that brands trust to tell this story of authenticity. We are very grateful to our customers, partners and our wonderful team.

Together, we’re pushing forward to a brighter future and we’re here to help you grow engagement, conversions, and brand loyalty with the power of UGC – schedule a demo here.