New year, new social media trends. For 2021, long-time social media giants will face greater competition from niche platforms and tighter scrutiny from regulators.
This year, we’ll see a bigger focus on multimedia over text-based stuff like links.
The fact is, social media apps want to keep people on their platforms. (Brands, take note!) Promoting tools like IGTV, in-app shopping, and podcasting is the platforms’ answer.
Without further ado, let’s jump in!
2020 forced social media apps to rethink how people use their tools to connect with each other while physically apart. Twitter finally seems to be embracing how people use its app by revamping its video features as well.
I’m just gonna come out and say it: Instagram feels threatened by TikTok. TikTok makes it easy for creators to go viral with interesting content even if they’re new to the platform.
That’s why we saw Instagram unveil new keyword search features in November 2020:
Go ahead and optimise your profile, posts, stories, videos, and reels from here on out!
Reels also make it easier for you to show up in the Discover screen for engaging and relevant topics. Expect to see similar tools as giants like Facebook and Twitter try to compete against TikTok.
If you’re not familiar, Reels are quick cut-together videos at either higher or lower speeds tricked out with the usual Instagram stickers, filters, hashtags, and features.
Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest all employ comprehensive in-app shopping features for e-commerce and retail stores.
In 2020, we saw lots of brands jump onto these tools in response to COVID-19 restrictions. We’ll see more optimisation of these in-app shopping tools throughout 2021 – and probably better shopping features too!
With so many people using social media as their main contact with the outside world and friends, it’s no surprise that people have grown weary of the hyper-positive Insta-perfect shots.
In 2021, brands will no doubt embrace realism via more user-generated (and non-edited) photos, videos, and other content.
In line with the drive towards authenticity, we’ll also see brands prioritise more human conversations and interactions.
Customers want to see more of the people behind the brands and what they represent. Live Q&As, office streams, behind-the-scenes snapshots, and genuine conversations about current events will dominate.
Launching stories was a real turning point for LinkedIn in 2020 which previously kept itself pretty buttoned-up. The platform realised more professionals were spending time on the app to interact with co-workers and colleagues working remotely.
There’s no reason we shouldn’t see LinkedIn lean into more consumer-centric tools like Reels and videos in 2021.
For a long time, brands like Patagonia and Cisco have led the way in demonstrating what excellent YouTube content looks like with documentary or thriller serials.
In 2021, brands will realise that creating YouTube content “just because” isn’t enough. They must add value via engaging, entertaining and non-advertising content.
For many users, niche Facebook groups won’t cut it anymore – especially as Facebook cracks down on content. Reddit offers a ton of super-niche communities where people can connect anonymously. Meanwhile, other niche social media apps exist for every interest under the sun. Keep an eye on the ones in your industry.
Stories are valuable real estate. They propel you to the top of newsfeeds and all but guarantee views. As far as social media trends for 2021 go, definitely expect to see your competitors double-down on stories and all their available features like stickers and video.
Artificial Intelligence or simply known as AI is getting more and more accessible. Marketing software tools that utilize AI to crunch social media data and give you insights to better your content and campaigns will give forward-thinking brands an edge.
The good news is these tools are already in use and working very well. 2021 should be the year you dive in and check out Artificial Intelligence for your social media.
Each social media platform has its own version of search. Twitter, for example, offers one of the most extensive advanced search tools. Brands should prioritise their social media SEO to encourage organic discovery and solidify authority across certain searches.
Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WhatsApp, Text messages – you get the picture. The point is, your audience uses these tools and apps so you should too.
Plus, they’re chock-full of tools to set up bots, collect data, and engage with your audience. Offer curated feeds, set up VIP lounges, use them for customer service.
The choice is yours, but Messaging is huge – time to jump in.
Speaking of customer service, social media platforms like Twitter are often the first point of contact for customers looking to speak to someone at a company.
Still, you’d be surprised how many brands don’t properly manage their comment sections, messenger inboxes, mentions, and tweet replies. That will change in 2021 as brands realise people aren’t picking up the phone anymore – they’re tweeting and commenting.
Social media apps have one goal: keep users on their app. If you create engaging content that helps them accomplish that goal, the apps will like you. How? Share less links and more multimedia. Facebook, for example, is really doubling down on its video creator tools – so use them!
It’s all about video in 2021. Skip the promotional stuff with high production value and instead focus on the value you provide to viewers. This is where it is especially handy for brands to think of themselves as media companies instead of advertisers.
Asia-Pacific is a massive market. Although Facebook enjoys most of the attention, region-specific platforms like Sina Weibo, WeChat, Helo, and TikTok hold their own.
There was even an ironic point in early 2020 when Iranian and U.S. diplomats started arguing on China’s Weibo after getting censored on other platforms like Instagram.
Brands will definitely want to familiarise themselves with these platforms in 2021 to stay ahead of the game.
If you haven’t been on Reddit lately, the feed is like 50% Oculus ads at this point (and other weird futurism or Cheez-It ads). As a subsidiary of Facebook, there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect to see more VR and AR features emerge across the Facebook family of social media platforms.
Bot armies are still a problem not just in political discourse but among brands that seek to manufacture a false presence and authority on social media.
We’ll see platforms like Facebook and Twitter develop new AI tools and technology for identifying these bots and removing them. In other words, don’t rely on bots for follows and shares – just don’t.
Facebook already lets you sort your feeds by top posts, new posts, groups, videos, and news. We predict that other platforms will follow this same concept.
Instagram and TikTok, for example, could introduce curated features, allowing you to group topics or hashtags so you can create your own custom feed. Platforms might also let users set up messenger notifications for pages to compete with platforms like Telegram.
You might not believe it but B2Bs, especially in the MENA region, are jumping onto Snapchat. In 2021, B2Bs might finally realise that professionals use other platforms aside from LinkedIn.
Who isn’t guilty of scrolling Facebook or Twitter at work? These consumer-centric platforms demand a little nuance from B2Bs if they want to deliver results though.
So keep an eye out for more B2B content on Onlyfans.com. ?
This looked pretty desperate on Zuck’s part seeing as he currently faces intense scrutiny from legislators to break up his social media empire. Stay tuned for more in 2021.
On that note, you can’t talk about breaking up the social media empire without mentioning data collection. After all, that will no doubt be a key argument from legislators. The question then becomes: How will this change how data is collected, who can access it, and what control consumers have.
Time will only tell – but for sure it’s going to be a trend.
Speaking of breakups, Twitter announced it’s ending its relationship with Periscope in early 2021. Don’t worry, video and livestreams aren’t going anywhere. Instead, Twitter is finally taking the leap into its own video tools.
Social media trends for 2021 are just that: trends. How you use them and even whether you use them at all is your call. Some brands might be better off sticking with shopping, stories, and Instagram trends for 2021. Meanwhile, others might want to lean into TikTok trends for 2021.
The point is, don’t get stuck thinking in absolutes. If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that there are no rules anymore. You do you.
As an Associate Strategy Director I am responsible for leading the development and execution of organic and paid social media and content strategies for our clients at Kubbco.
These might interest you...