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Business Strategy

State of the Internet 2021: 5 Trends that Are Redefining Online Business As We Know It

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

– Charles Dickens

That’s one of the most famous openings of all time…

And even though a Tale of Two Cities was written over 160 years ago, Dickens could have been describing 2020.

For many business owners, this was the worst year and for many others it was the absolute best. My own company, Live Your Message grew by 80% and went from win to win to win… but not everyone was so lucky.

So what was the difference between those who struggled and those who had a breakthrough year?

At the end of every year I blog about how I see the State of the Internet…

What are the trends that are redefining the way online business and internet marketing are being done?

Where are the landmines and where are the goldmines?

I found 5 distinct trends that are changing the internet as we know it:

  • Trend #1: The Golden Age of Virtual Events
  • Trend #2: Ultra-DiversificationTrend
  • Trend #3: The Declining “Internet Middle Class”
  • Trend #4: The Death of the Dabbler
  • Trend #5: The Rise of Uber-Short Video
Let’s start with Trend #1: The Golden Age of Virtual Events.

In 2020, the video conferencing platform Zoom became more valuable than the world’s top 7 airlines combined… as the world was forced to replace in-person connection points with virtual.

Industries that were still largely offline — such as work, medicine, 

education, hospitality and entertainment — went largely online.

Take Airbnb’s Online Experiences — a new, 100% virtual travel platform that connects “travelers” with local experts.

Pedro, a Lisbon-based drag queen, began as an Airbnb host, then started doing in-person cooking classes with Airbnb Experiences. Then once Corona hit, Pedro migrated his classes to live virtual experiences and earned over $130,000 in a single month with their wildly popular new show, “Sangria and Secrets with Drag Queens.”

In his words, “In the beginning I was scared. As the airports closed, my world was kind of devastated and the bank account was getting low. I told my entire team that I was not going to fire anyone and together we were going to find a solution. Everyone brainstormed, and we made it. We truly believe in what we were trying to achieve. Together as a family and a team, we recreated our entire business and today we are the biggest in the world doing it. I never imagined I would be able to raise everyone’s salaries in a time like this.”

airbnb

Why limit your experiences to a local in-person audience when you can reach the entire world? 

Tony Robbins took the same approach with his legendary Unleash the Power Within event that he does each year in giant stadiums… the result? On July 16-19, a record 22,500 people participated from 143 countries.

And I’ve watched many of my colleagues host record-breaking multi-day events both in terms of size and profit… as more people are attending events that they didn’t just have access to before.

Now you may be asking, is the experience of attending a virtual event comparable to a live event? And the answer is “yes and”.

We’ve taken all of our Momentum retreats virtual and many of our students are actually preferring the virtual format to live in person. Done right, you can create experiences for virtual connection that are even deeper than what you can achieve live. Like this special moment from our December Momentum retreat…

However, you can’t do a virtual event in the same way that you do a live event. People aren’t able to sit passively through hours and hours of content like they are in person. You have to optimize virtual events for engagement to keep participants tuned in to their screens, because it’s a lot easier to lose your audience virtually.

The good news is that this has created a TON of innovation in the virtual event space and I genuinely believe that we’re seeing The Golden Age of Virtual Events… and I’m not just talking about short-form webinars where, but multi-day workshops and immersions.

That’s why I wrote this free, Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Super Success Virtual Event: 10 Proven Ways to Boost Energy, Engagement and Excitement Online So You Can Keep ‘Em Hooked from Start to Finish.

I can’t wait to apply all these principles of virtual engagement to our annual Live Your Message Live event, which we’re taking online for the first time in 9 years! I’ve gotten dozens of notes from students who have wanted to come for years and are so grateful to be able to finally attend from home.

Based on the response I’m seeing, I believe that long-form virtual events are here to stay… and they’re just going to keep getting better and better! Because people are aching for experiences and connection — even if they’re virtual. 

Which leads me to Trend #2: Ultra-Diversification.

With previously offline events — and even entire industries — going online, many people have access to opportunities and experiences that they couldn’t participate in before.

That means work and business is going even more global and audiences are becoming more diversified.

While our year long Momentum program has always had a global participant base with students from England, France, Germany, Australia and Japan, we now have students participating from further flung countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Macedonia.

The internet has always promised a global audience, but that promise is being realized in a way that has never been done before. Local options are largely disappearing and customers are going online to find new options. That means that new global markets are opening up and expanding our customer bases.

That also means there’s an opportunity for greater specialization — for new players to step into vacancies in the market and serve audiences better (or differently) than they were currently being served.

For example, my Momentum student, Candas Ifama Barnes was asked by Deaf Access Solutions to deliver a virtual workshop on “Voice Interpreting in a Virtual Setting” and a full 45% of the participants filled out an interest form to take the next steps with her after.

And she posted this on Facebook: “I’m excited because this workshop confirmed for me an extra special sauce I bring to what I’m teaching. Over 90% of the certified members of my profession are white and most are women. Black, Latina/o/x, Asian and Indigenous interpreters have been routinely disregarded, disrespected and dishonored. The treatment is not unlike what we know has happened to people who are not white in basically every profession.

After many years of being sick and tired of hearing excuses about why it’s been this way, I set out on a conscious mission to make a difference and it’s happening. We have a long way to go but I am more convinced than ever.

Today I got further confirmation about why we must increase the numbers of qualified and excellent Interpreters of Color. It MUST happen so Deaf and hard of hearing people of color can tell their stories and have unfettered access to whatever they desire.”

This is an example of Ultra-Diversification at work. It’s long been said that the internet is the great equalizer, but now that the established order is giving way, there are more and more opportunities for new voices to emerge and people to choose exactly who they want to do business with.

Circumstances are causing many people to lose their livelihood and become online entrepreneurs for the first time, there’s a HUGE need (and opportunity) to niche down, specialize, differentiate, claim your “one thing” and turn up the dial on your self-expression so you can be heard above the noise of billions of people clamoring to be heard online.

No matter who you are and what you do, there’s an audience for you.

But — and this is a HUGE BUT — in many ways, it’s becoming more challenging to find that audience, which brings me to Trend #3: The Declining “Internet Middle Class” & Trend #4: The Death of the Dabbler.

Let’s start with Trend #3: The Declining “Internet Middle Class.”

As often happens when markets get more crowded and more sophisticated, some people win and some people lose. Because with more opportunity, comes more competition.

And competition has never been fiercer on all the major online platforms — especially Google, Facebook and Instagram.

Ask anyone who runs a Facebook ad agency and they’ll tell you that it’s getting harder and harder to get a significant return on ad spend (ROAS). I often tell my students that they need to be prepared to blow at least $10K on Facebook ads (if not a whole lot more) before they see any real return.

The same goes for getting listed on the first page of Google or getting views, clicks and comments on social media…

While it IS still possible, it’s harder and harder to “get lucky” on talent and charisma alone. You have to develop a highly specialized skill set and give each platform what its specific algorithm wants.

Which means that, with some notable exceptions, the businesses and individuals with deeper pockets, deeper connections or deeper marketing chops are winning the internet… and the middle is dropping out.

The big players are either getting bigger or stepping off the field as savvy new competitors leap onto the bench to take their place. So don’t despair — if you’re reading this article — you still have the opportunity to get on the bench if you’re willing to learn the skills you need to succeed online — not just through talent and charisma, but through smarts and savvy.

Which brings me to Trend #4: The Death of the Dabbler.

With more opportunity and more competition, it’s not enough just to play the game. You have to play the game to win.

With so much competition and the challenge in finding your audience online, you have to double down and go all in if you’re going to succeed and take a spot on the bench as a real player.

Because the middle is dropping out, it’s easy to stay stuck at the starting gate, especially if you’re not 100% in.

If you’re not fully aligned and on your mark, you won’t make it on the bench.

So on the one hand the old guard is stepping down and new spots are opening up, and on the other hand it’s becoming harder to grab those spots unless you specialize (Trend #2) and develop real internet marketing savvy (Trend #4).

The internet used to be the place where a “newbie” could become “internet famous” literally overnight. And while that’s DEFINITELY still possible… it now takes real commitment and chops to build an audience and grow your business online.

There is no silver bullet. You have to put in the time, learn proven strategies to succeed (or as I like to say, be the scientist in the experiment lab of your business) and go all in.

Now our last trend, Trend #5 is The Rise of Uber-Short Video.

I’m talking TikTok (up to 60 seconds), FB Stories (up to 20 seconds), Instagram Stories (up to 15 seconds) & Instagram stories, and Instagram Reels (15 or 30 seconds).

I’ve been saying for years that we’re now in an Attention Economy where those who can get and keep attention win.

$69.7 billion dollars a year are invested in ads on Facebook and Instagram alone because those platforms have a captured a huge percentage of the world’s attention.

And short form video is one way to get a LOT more attention.

The short format means that you have precisely 1 second to stop viewers in their tracks (as they’re swiping through stories) and hook them in — usually through gestures, movement, costume, appearance, action, location, things that move faster than language…

With the end goal of follows and shares.

However these uber-short videos are usually forgotten as soon as they’re shared… and even the most virally shared videos like Ocean Spray Guy are gone within a few days.

In October, Ocean Spray Guy posted a short video of himself skateboarding on Tiktok, drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice and vibing to Fleetwood Mac. It got millions of views and shares… 

Fleetwood Mac made their own video remake of it.

@mickfleetwood@420doggface208 had it right. Dreams and Cranberry just hits different. #Dreams #CranberryDreams #FleetwoodMac♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

And the Ocean Spray company gave him a free truck, filled with their product. But when you look at Google Trends, a few days later the attention was almost gone…

So the way to use short format videos is not to hope for a viral hit — since virality is notoriously difficult to manufacture — but to use the short format to maintain contact with your existing audience while growing that audience through shares.

It’s well known that there’s a psychological tendency to form social relationships with people who are physically close to us… and I believe that consistent communication through things like short form video creates this sense of physical closeness even in a virtual relationship. And that builds the know, like and trust factor that leads to sales. 

So that’s it for our 5 trends that are changing the internet in 2021:

  • Trend #1: The Golden Age of Virtual Events
  • Trend #2: Ultra-Diversification
  • Trend #3: The Declining “Internet Middle Class”
  • Trend #4: The Death of the Dabbler
  • Trend #5: The Rise of Uber-Short Video

Let me know your thoughts about one or more of these in the chat, as well as what trends you’re seeing.

And in case you’re curious, here’s my What’s Working Now post from 2020.

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Shalima Mohammed

    Thank you so much for sharing. To me, one of the most insightful statements you made was, we are now in an “Attention Economy where those who can get and keep attention win”. I agree completely.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Totally. This explains SO MUCH.

      Reply ·
  2. Idongesit Ewoh

    Thank you so much Marisa for all your support and encouragement , your online package are perfect and insightful

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      So glad to hear that! <3

      Reply ·
  3. Maureen Weekes

    Thank you so much for this with deep affection and gratitude❤

    Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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