Ten Social Media Trends in 2021

Not just another top 10 list: Critical considerations for your social media strategy in 2021.

We don’t need to tell you that in 2020, a global pandemic and the rise of civic engagement meant a surge in social media use. Social platforms increasingly filled in the gap caused by social distancing – a phenomenon that is here to stay in 2021 as more of us continue to spend our lives online.

The social media landscape, meanwhile, is constantly changing – if you haven’t heard of Clubhouse, now’s your time to catch up! Over the past year, we’ve seen newer platforms take off. Tik Tok, for example, is estimated to have more than 800 million users, with users spending an average of 500 minutes on the app per month[1].

While we recognize that new platforms don’t come along every day, familiar platforms are always coming out with new developments from algorithms, to features, to tools. As audiences tune in to social media more than ever to stay connected, brands will need to develop content that’s more personalized, compelling and engaging to compete in the attention economy.

What kind of social media strategies will boost audience engagement in the year ahead? Here are ten key 2021 social media trends to consider:

Trend #1: Ephemeral content

If you’ve spent any time on social media over the last year, you know that ephemeral stories, whether on IG, Snapchat, or other platforms, are engaging and addictive. Ephemeral content – images or videos that are only accessible online temporarily – draws strong responses and engagement from viewers[2].

It’s no surprise that platforms like Facebook, and recently Twitter with its addition of Fleets, are continuing to adapt their platforms to fill audiences’ appetite for fleeting stories. The trend of ephemeral content isn’t going away – in 2021, we’ll see at least 64% of marketers incorporating content like Instagram stories into their content strategies[3].

Trend #2: Changes to “likes” feature 

Brands are adapting to Instagram’s recent announcement that the platform will gradually remove “likes” from its features – removing likes has already been beta tested and soon may be implemented globally.

This change means brands will no longer be able to measure the impact of the organic reach of campaigns. To adapt and to maintain audience reach, brands will need to increase the use of Instagram ads in their social media strategy.

Trend #3: Social commerce

Social commerce is becoming a mainstream retail channel. As more social platforms continue to introduce pro-selling features like shoppable features and IG storefronts, brands will want to adapt their social platforms to offer retail services and take advantage  of sales opportunities.

Trend #4: Video content

Video is the most engaging form of content and will continue to dominate in 2021. Marketers are predicting that by 2022, 82% of all content on social will be video[4], whether it’s shorter videos on TikTok or longer videos on YouTube.

Trend #5: Augmented reality and virtual reality

Audiences are hungry for more interactive experiences, and social media platforms are answering that call with a rise in technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

If AR seem like its years away from becoming a part of our daily reality, consider that you’ve probably already used AR on social media. AR filters on Instagram or Snapchat have seen great success and proliferated since they were first introduced.

Trend #6: Influencer marketing

Marketers are predicting that there will be an increase in the number of social media influencers in 2021 – and that brands will increase spending on influencer marketing on social media channels. In a New York Times article covering social media influencers, technology reporter Taylor Lorenz summed it succinctly: “influencers are part of a massive industry that drives retail, marketing, entertainment and more.” [5] In 2021, brands are predicted to lean into niche influencers who cost less, but yield higher engagement rates.

Trend #7: Personalisation

Personalisation has reached a new level – brands now have more nuanced insights into consumer interests and can offer tailored content that matches niche interests. Customizing social media ads to target specific audience segments will help brands grow audience engagement in 2021.

Trend #8: User-generated content

Following the success of brands like Daniel Wellington, Airbnb, Olay and Dove, marketers will increase their use of user-generated content (UGC). UGC is free and is considered much more authentic than branded content. It can help your brand seem more trustworthy and can do wonders for your image.

Trend #9: Customer service on social media 

Brands have started recognising social media platforms as a useful avenue to deliver customer service. In 2021, we will continue to see brands responding to messages and supporting customers on social media. For example, Nike’s customer-oriented Twitter channel, @NikeSupport, serves as a platform for Nike’s reps to answer customers’ questions. [6] @NikeSupport has been praised for how its reps build relationships with customers through thorough exceptional customer service.

Trend #10: Social media community

Many brands recognize the benefits of creating niche community groups on social media platforms and will continue to do so in 2021. By creating community groups for their customers, brands can curate meaningful engagement opportunities for fan audiences. In 2021, we’ll see more brand-managed community groups that bring together existing and prospective customers to connect about shared experiences and interests.

We’ve shared with you ten crucial developments on social media – but  what does all this mean for you?

To engage audiences in 2021, brands will need to be agile and respond quickly to shifting online behaviours. Brands will want to adapt their approach to social media channels based on emerging audience behaviours. As you are taking a look at your digital strategy for 2021, it’s important to remember that a solid foundation rich with insights about your target audiences should always come first. With this in mind, are you ready to get started?