It’s a wrap. Here’s the social media data from 2020 that we can plan from.

It has been a hard year. 

While we were all looking to Christmas as our beacon of hope, the harshness of the pandemic has refused to let up. With little respite as London and other areas of the country go into new Tier 4 restrictions either before Christmas, or what is looking increasingly likely for many more, after Christmas we need to prepare for 2021.

We look set for more disruption and challenges to the way we work and trade. So let's reflect on what has worked for businesses that have survived and in some instances thrived in 2020, and prepare to replicate their moves.

Social media usage by consumers increased during the pandemic and will continue to do so, as people need ways to keep in touch and be inspired. Businesses must tap into the very human need for inspiration, purpose and connection.

Businesses who have stayed connected and continued to serve customers have faired better. We can take this view from the 3.4m businesses social media data that we can see in the Maybe* platform. 

Managing Tier 4 and further lockdown restrictions 

We’ve profiled shoppers and their attitudes to shopping at regular points since the Summer, and we know that safety is the number one concern for shoppers. When it came to making decisions about where to shop in the run up to Christmas, it was a bigger factor than price.

Maybe* survey results showing the biggest factor for consumers on Christmas spending

With this in mind, shoppers in those areas where non-essential retail is still open, may well decide to stay home.

Retailers need to continue to offer online shopping, click and collect and call and collect services, and they must continue to drive the stay connected, shop local, and the safety message through social content.

By prioritising the safety message, as well as reminding people of the importance of supporting small businesses, retailers can reassure shoppers and give them more flexibility in service options which will only benefit their business in the long run. In addition the support local message creates camaraderie with others,  it gives customers a sense of purpose in where they shop, boosting the feel good factor, and creates a sense of unity over separateness, which is much needed in a year that has been so isolating.

See how independent business Dunmow Emporium stayed connected and offered new shopping solutions

See how The Find, an independent coffee shop made their takeaway offering extra tasty via social media

What does the social media data tell us about who's done well in 2020 and how have they achieved success?

From national retailers, to indie boutiques; high street coffee haunts and global burger chains. Some businesses have lit the way this year. What do they have in common? They’ve been brave. They’ve tried new things and learned new things in response to the situation at hand.

What a year for Primark. A huge national retailer that took a hit to the tune of £650 million in the first month of lockdown, because it can’t sell online. Yet when retail re-opened on June 15 2020, they had queues outside. The business achieved this by staying connected to customers, but crucially by staying relevant on social media.

Its content was centred around how to celebrate a birthday alone, or what to wear while working from home. Primark recognised people were at home and bored. So they set out to inspire customers with their content. That’s why people use Instagram, to be inspired. But rather than lose customers or lose positive sentiment, because customers couldn’t shop or get their hands on what Primark were marketing, the approach created a sense of anticipation.

The Maybe* How they feel report for Primark


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A post shared by Primark (@primark)

Fabulous fashion retailers making moves

Back in April, during the first lockdown, shoe boutique Keith Scarrott more than doubled their year on year and month on month sales. To do this they listened first to the mood of the country, recognised it was not appropriate to be selling when customers were panicked and had bigger priorities. So they focused on engaging with conversations rather than creating them.

They interacted with local conversations, showed support for local businesses, schools and the wider community. And they paid attention to what the big brands were doing and took their lead from them. They measure their brand sentiment to understand whether it would be brand damaging to start advertising and selling. And they made sure their message when they did start selling was human-led, personal, and gentle.

social media data sales

Orders over time for Keith Scarrott comparing March and April in 2019 and 2020.

Throughout the first lockdown, Keith Scarrott prioritised community needs over its own, and reaped the benefit of that in return. So when it came to the second lockdown, the business was better prepared about what to expect. And during the second lockdown they smashed it again, increasing sales by over 11,000% in only six hours.

Again they read the mood right and in addition were set up to offer click and collect and delivery options from the first time around. Not only did they have a great offer, they had their service and fulfilment down, learnings from advertising at their fingertips, and the personal and human storytelling underpinned it all.

Keith Scarrott orders on 5 November 2020 vs 5 November 2019

Back in June Maybe* partnered with Cotswolds clothing boutique Law and Co to help them put an additional £18,000 in the till in only one week. Again this approach was about taking what was already working for the business, and teaching them how to optimise it. Law and Co already had a great story and a gorgeous social media presence.

Again it was human, it was impossible not to fall in love with founder Denise’s personal style and approach to sharing her product and passion on Instagram Stories. But she was not using Facebook advertising to drive sales. Law and Co were able to successfully reach old customers, convert browsers and acquire new ones, with just a little bit of social media data and insight. Be brave to try something new.

In both the cases of Keith Scarrott and Law and Co, gathering insight, staying human, experimenting and adapting has armed them with tools they can draw upon to serve customers in the future. And both of them spent less than £1000 to do so.

But what about industries other than retail?

Next we look at a completely different industry. 

Fast food giant, Burger King, has captured our imagination in recent months with their social media approach. First up they actively encouraged customers to choose a competitor over them. Burger King championed the message that protecting the industry and the jobs of those in it, was more important than clamouring for market share.

The chain had seen the approach work in France, and then adopted it for the UK market. A great lesson in collaboration and shared learnings, take what is working elsewhere, and adopt it as your own. Choose collaboration over competitions. And continue to learn and iterate.

burger king social media

The Maybe* See What Works report showing the content created by Burger King and the engagement with it

While the message landed extremely well, the business did see some negativity from comments suggesting that independent businesses needed support more than Burger King’s global competitors. So in December, the chain listened to that feedback, and this time invited any indie eatery suffering in the UK due to lockdown restrictions, the use of it Instagram account to advertise on for free,

Burger King clearly asked itself whether on the other side of this strange new world, whether they wanted to be the business that fought just for itself, or for something bigger. And this sense of purpose, this idea of global citizenship, and responsibility to the people you employ, and the people you sell to is going nowhere. Just ask Topshop.

Social media top dogs

BrewDog is another national chain who have built their brand around purpose and walked their talk during 2020.

During the first lockdown, the business used its distillery to manufacture hand sanitizer, keeping their employees in jobs and serving a public demand. They’ve supported pubs by giving them starter packs and Brewdog product they can use for marketing purposes, and they’ve championed what they are doing to support their staff’s welfare. In addition they continue to be unapologetically loud, proud and positively disruptive about sustainability issues.

This kind of behaviour increases brand sentiment, but also has business benefits that has helped them acquire new commercial partnerships, and reduce the cost of having to rehire by keeping staff in jobs.

brewdog social media sata

The Maybe* How They Feel report for BrewDog


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A post shared by BrewDog (@brewdogofficial)

What does the social media data show us about consumer trends for 2021?

The importance of brand purpose, and serving the greater good coupled with a strong social media presence has been a notable driver in how gen Z make purchase decisions.

And now that’s impacting both younger and older generations. Captain Tom is over 100 years old. His story inspired the world, the technology he used to tell that story is less than 20 years old. Generations both young and old can access and relate to the impact and the message Captain Tom has.

Social media usage increased during the pandemic and will continue to do so, as people need ways to keep in touch and be inspired. Businesses must tap into the very human need for inspiration, purpose and connection.

Want the proof? We profiled 180 retailers' social media posts, to find the best post from a business for the whole of 2020. Here’s what we learned.

Nike’s Black Lives Matter content on May 20th, was the most engaging post of 2020.


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A post shared by Nike (@nike)

Putting people first

Inclusivity be it around race, gender, ability or preference; worker conditions; conscious and sustainability messages; creating communities be it around lifestyle interests like the gym, sport or fashion, or something bigger like charity and social justice; and messages that inspired dominated the top 20 social media posts of 2020.

Covid, or lockdown, were not mentioned in any of the posts that made the top 20. The posts also all occurred on Instagram demonstrating the importance the platform has to reach audiences.

People need to escape the pandemic, its soul sucking. They want to be inspired. So they turn to Instagram and feel good stories, and they take action on that. Primark, Brewdog, Nike are all inspiring and taking action. Equally people will take action on the feel bad stories by taking their business elsewhere to businesses that do meet their needs and expectations.

Now more than ever it is important to remember that customers are people first, and they care about… .  people. That’s why Nike, Keith Scarrott, Law and Co, Burger King, and BrewDog are telling human, personal, and purposeful stories.

And while brand purpose or creating community might not sound commercial, and might seem a bit fluffy, and a bit idealistic ask Gymshark how fluffy a valuation of over £1billion resulting from an approach that created a community and inspired people to be the best version of themselves is?

Social media data and social listening will tell you how customers are feeling, then you can drive value for customers, so you can derive it for your business later down the line.


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A post shared by Gymshark (@gymshark)

But it's not just brand purpose and the emotional needs businesses need to meet, the same can be said for services and the practical needs customers have. Safety, to save time, or to save money, flexibility of opening times.

Businesses must accept and adapt to what customers need. Work patterns have changed for customers, schooling and child care arrangements have changed, people are tired, scared, bored and in need of a break. This is what it means to be customer centric. To listen first, find out how your customers are feeling and behaviour, and then adapt your communication and touchpoints around the customer.

What’s the action plan to hit the ground running in 2021 no matter the circumstances?

This all sounds terrifying doesn’t it? Uncomfortable? Where do we even start? In 2021, businesses must solve for human pain points be them practical or emotional. And yes it sounds like a lot of pressure.  Knowing where to start must sound so overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be.

Start small like Keith Scarrott or Law and Co. Elmy Cycles is another great example of a business racing ahead on social media. They do this by being locally relevant, and locally invested.

Follow a process like the Maybe* 10 steps to future proof your business or get acquainted with how to create a winning social media strategy.

Join us on a webinar every Wednesday we showcase the best social media performance across the  and how you can replicate it. In the meantime, . .

Prepare. Gather as much insight and reflect on your learnings so far. What worked for you before, what’s worked for others? What approaches are you taking forwards. Get this clear in your head, make a plan, and work that plan.

Simplify. Can anything that hasn’t worked for you in the past, and focus on what is working. Keep your message consistent, and don't scatter your energies. Focus on safety, focus on purpose, make sure your social media content is positive and personal.

Support other businesses. Engage with their conversations, share their content, create that sense of community and inspire customers to do the same.

Pick something new. Try Facebook advertising, join a Maybe* webinar or masterclass to learn from the social media data . Sign up to Local Rewards, offer a new delivery of fulfilment service. Choose something that you can get up and running quickly, and cost effectively, but stands to benefit you in the long run. Then bake this newness into your BAU.

Share your learnings Maybe* loves shining a light on businesses who are thriving and not just surviving. We’ll work with you to tell your story. Join our Facebook Group Make Social Media Work to chat with other businesses like you and share stories

Key takeaways

It is certain that this situation is going nowhere. Life has changed, normal as we know it has changed, and as distressing as it is, businesses must now accept those circumstances and adapt. With two national lockdowns under our belts now, Christmas hopes dashed, and areas of the country having experienced more hardship and restrictions than others, there are plenty of learnings available to reflect on, proactively plan and re-orientate as we approach 2021.

The pandemic may cease to be a problem, however the landscape left in its wake, will be here to stay. Preparing for the future is critical, and we are ready to help, handhold you through the uncomfortable bits, and celebrate your successes as they come.

Whether you are heading into Tier 4 or not, Maybe* will help you roll with the punches 2020 has delivered and will continue to deliver in 2021. 

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