By Rachel Tringali-Marston and Danielle Brusby

2021 was another dynamic year for social media, and the proof is in the metrics, especially for Pioneer Social utilities. More than 94 million impressions and 5 million engagements were earned across Utility Pioneers’ social channels  (read more in our case study, Social Campaigns Connect Consumers to Utility Pioneers).

Pioneer Social logoAs people were ready to step out into the world last year, our team still saw growth online. There are now more than 500,000 fans for Pioneer Social clients, a 14.5% increase from 2020’s total fan count. The Pioneer Social team shares what worked well in 2021,  major social media shifts and the social trends Pioneer anticipates in 2022.

Social Marketing Trends in 2021

Three Strategy Strengths for Utility Pioneers

Content Mix Works

Our Pioneer Social team strategically creates social media content that is diverse and relevant for our utility clients. For example, for our electric utilities, we ensure a mix of energy efficiency, safety and local content.

The performance is evident in our engagement rate, which surpasses the average Facebook page engagement rate of 0.5%-0.99%. In 2021, we helped our clients reach a cumulative total engagement rate of 5.4% — that is more than five times the average rate of engagement!

Why is engagement rate important? It tells us that the content shared on social media is interesting to your audience. It is compelling enough to receive engagement (a like, comment, share, etc.), which is the support needed to ensure page and audience growth.

#DYK other brands that represent services, on average, gather lower average engagement rates per post? Their engagement rate on Facebook is 0.12%. Our Utility Pioneers are knocking it out of the park!

Video Performance Shift

Fifty-four percent of marketers say that video is the most valuable content type for achieving social goals. Both long-form and short-form productions continue to dominate the social space across all platforms due to their high engagement rate. (Source: Sprout Social)

Videos and animated graphics have much higher impressions than still graphics, and overall are better performing media. Our team is noticing that shift and is incorporating more motion graphics into your social media content for this reason.

Forty-two out of the top 60 highest-engagement (per impression) posts published by Utility Pioneers in November 2021 were videos or animated graphics. We’re continuing to monitor video and animated graphic performance into 2022.

Local Content Wins

The moments you capture at your utility and share on social media — community events, highlighting an employee’s retirement, storm restoration photos — are nearly always your top performing posts! Our team loves the opportunity to feature you, our Utility Pioneers, and we encourage you to reach out with questions or help for an upcoming campaign or event.

Month to month, local posts are at the top of the metrics, and our team encourages sharing more when you can. Weather-related posts are one example of local content that matters to your consumer-members and will drive social media engagement. In the table below you can see two significant spikes in engagement, showcasing members’ use of social media to seek out information during large weather events. In February of 2021, a polar vortex brought freezing temperatures to many of our utilities. They took to social media to communicate with their members, and their members communicated back — resulting in the highest engagement point of the entire year. The next spike occurred at the beginning of September 2021, when Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast. Our team worked together with the affected utilities, helping them communicate to their members, and also highlighted some great Cooperation Among Cooperatives moments, all of which contributed to the bump in metrics.

Social Shifts in 2021

Diving Into the Meta-verse

In October, we let you know when the Facebook company introduced Meta, a brand name encompassing all of the apps and technologies they offer (similar to Google creating a parent company called Alphabet). Meta’s subsidiaries still operate regularly. Facebook is still called Facebook, and Instagram is still called Instagram.

Prior to the rebranding, our Pioneer Social team was quick to investigate the unexpected outage on Facebook and Instagram for our utilities on Oct. 4, 2021. During this same time, a Facebook whistleblower became news as well, generating a lot of negative attention.

Our team noticed a dip in overall metrics at that time, but levels are moving positively again.

Focus on Followers

Facebook is actively rolling out, in a staggered fashion, a change to business pages. They are calling this the “new Page experience,” and it will gradually replace what they are now calling “classic Pages.”

On classic Pages, you had both Fans and Followers. If you’re like most of our utilities, your emphasis was on gaining Fans, not Followers. By focusing on Followers, it simplifies the way you connect with your audience.

When you accept Facebook’s invitation to move your page to the new Page experience, however, it will be your Followers (not your Fans) that move with you. The good news is that when a member or consumer Likes your Page, they automatically become a Follower unless they later unfollow the Page, meaning that the vast majority of your Fans should transition with you to the new Page experience.

Also, despite these challenges and changes, Facebook’s US ad revenues specifically are not expected to decline in 2022. Pioneer Social Platinum clients receive paid, targeted Facebook advertising as a portion of their service with us. Our team closely monitors shifts in the effectiveness of paid ad strategies, adjusting our best practices as needed and updating you about important trends as they come up.

 

Seven Trends to Watch in 2022

It can be hard to know which social media trends to focus on as we enter into another (rapidly changing) year of social technology. We don’t have a crystal ball, but our research indicates seven social media trends we feel will shape your approach to social media marketing planning in 2022.

1. Paid Ads

Social media platforms prioritize posts from family members and friends on their sites. Targeted paid advertising is important if you want your content to be seen by new and returning consumers.

2. Mobile Content Optimization

The ubiquity of smartphones requires communicators like you to optimize social media content for mobile devices. Quality graphics and short videos with brief captions will draw consumer-members in and keep them interested.

3. Posting Strategies

Posting should follow the 5:3:2 rule — out of every 10 posts, use five pieces of content from other sources (Energy.gov, Ready.gov, ESFI.org, etc.), make three posts brand-related and create two localized posts.

4. Livestreaming

Livestreaming content is a popular and easy way to attract viewers. It’s a great way to build brand authenticity and transparency, because consumers get an unfiltered glimpse into your utility in real time.

5. Video Shifts

Vertical video is increasing in popularity. In fact, according to Sprout Social, videos get 35% more views on Facebook when they are square (vs. landscape). Think about how you hold your phone – it’s vertically!

6. Customer Service Is Key

 

More and more customers are turning to Facebook and Instagram to solve their problems, so utilities should evaluate their processes to ensure faster responses and solutions. In a Nielsen survey commissioned by Facebook, 64% of people say they would prefer to message a business rather than call them. Pioneer Social’s TwoFourSeven Response Program is available as a service to help you stay on top of customer service through your social channels.

Pioneer Social logo

7. Team Up

 

One-person social teams will become a thing of the past.

“For a social strategy to be successful, organizations will need a fully staffed social team with the resources to back them or they will miss a massive opportunity for their business,” says Courtney Gagné, inclusion and diversity program manager and former senior social media specialist at Progress.

You’re already ahead of the curve if you’re working with Pioneer Social, since you have a team of marketing professionals on your side helping to carry your social media load. Good for you!

If you aren’t already working with our Pioneer Social team, you may be wondering what we can help you accomplish as you move forward with your social media marketing objectives. Let’s start a conversation and see how we can help you take your social media game to the next level.

 

Our Utility Pioneers hit it out of the park in 2021; the proof is in the metrics. We’re already looking forward to what’s ahead in 2022 and to how our Pioneer Social team can help support you.

Pioneer Social logo