2020 has been nothing less than a tumultuous year that changed the way we live and interact. When stay-at-home orders were enforced across the globe early this year, consumers turned to social media to stay connected, informed, and entertained more than ever. As we transition into what will become our next normal in 2021, here’s an in-depth look into emerging social media trends that will shape the way we engage, shop, and consume content, all while embracing resilience amidst uncertainty.
Over the last decade, social media has become an integral part of our lives and daily routines. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok haven’t just changed the way we interact with each other – they’ve totally changed the way we consume content online, including content marketing.
Given its growth, social media has become a key channel for marketers to engage potential customers, but the high competition and saturation of content online means that it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Fuelled by the consistent evolution of smartphone technology, social media is an endless stream of new fads, features, and platforms. And with an estimated 3.2 billion social media users worldwide, a number that’s reportedly growing by 100 million daily, it’s no surprise that new social media trends are constantly emerging, growing and evolving every day.
Amongst the social media trends of 2020, we’ve seen the explosion of TikTok, increased activism and support for political and social movements, Instagram Shops, not to mention the boom of UGC due to the global crisis. Long story short – if you want to stay ahead of the social media game, you have to keep on top of the latest and greatest trends taking your socials by storm.
Ready to spread your wings and become a social (media) butterfly? Here are the biggest social media trends predicted for 2021 and beyond…
01. Short-Form Video
It’s no surprise that social media video is the most engaging form of digital content online. But due to the quick-fix nature of social media, short-form video content, in particular, has quickly become a staple of our social feeds.
Over the last year, big names such as MAC Cosmetics and the NBA have jumped on the TikTok trend to make their brands more accessible and give customers a glimpse behind the scenes. Many more are following suit, hot on the heels of the launch of Instagram Reels, with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Sephora utilizing the short-form video feature to promote its luxury fashion line.
Easy-to-make, easy-to-watch, short-form video is a trend that’s been amplified by the global crisis, with social distancing rules and the switch employees working from home leading to an increased number of people creating and consuming content on their phones. For brands and content creators alike, this trend is should be top of mind over the next 12 months.
“If you want to stay ahead of the game and front of mind, it’s crucial to jump on new features, like Reels for Instagram,” says Envato’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Madeleine Rochecouste. “If Instagram is your main social media platform or if you create content regularly, you should consider creating or repurposing your content for Reels.
Instagram is pushing and favoring content creators who use Reels by predominantly featuring their Reels on the Instagram feed and explore page. The fact that Reels is inside the Instagram app is also a huge indicator that Instagram wants it to be a success and can be a huge advantage for a content creator to have all their content in one app. So if you can, it’s best to ride this wave in the early stages to get some more exposure from Instagram for what you want to say, sell, or share with your community.”
02. Social Commerce
With almost half of the world’s population now using social media, social commerce — the use of social media to drive e-commerce purchases – is the obvious next step for online shopping. Social commerce is a trend that has been slowly infiltrating our social media platforms over the last few years, and the introduction of Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops, paired with ongoing lockdowns around the world, suggests that social commerce will be big news in 2021.
Giving brands the opportunity to streamline their shopping experience across multiple channels and platforms, while also allowing consumers to buy while they scroll, there’s no denying that shoppable posts are the way of the future.
“Back in the day I always thought it’d be pretty cool to buy something you saw on the TV then and there from the click of your remote. That is what social commerce allows,” says Madeleine. “You’re already putting in the effort creating some epic content to sell your product, so why not add the functionality for your community to purchase it straight from the post? It’s so important to make your conversion funnel as frictionless as possible. So allowing potential customers to convert from your post can help reduce drop-offs that may occur if they had to leave your post, find your website, navigate your website, find the product, and purchase from there.”
03. Augmented Reality
With our world now revolving around technology, the augmented reality (AR) trend has started to impact social media big time. In fact, AR has become a staple of some of the most popular social networks in the world, with new AR filters and AR technologies being introduced all the time.
What is Augmented Reality?
As opposed to virtual reality – which implies creating a whole new world from scratch – augmented reality is technology that takes the real world and projects virtual, computer-generated augmentations to it to enhance our experience.
Favored by platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, we’ve seen a big increase in both the quantity and quality of AR filters on social media – especially in the midst of the global crisis. While in-feed social media content is continuing to become more authentic and organic, these days it’s rare to see an Instagram Story not altered or enhanced with an extravagant AR filter or face-changing technology.
AR filters have become so popular that Instagram now allows anyone – brands, businesses, influencers, and even users – to create their own filters for others to use in their Stories. Up-and-coming make up artist Rowi Singh has released several AR Instagram filters inspired by her unique makeup looks, and fashion magazine Vogue even created their own Diamond Instagram filter in honor of Vogue Australia’s 60th birthday. As technology continues to advance, we predict this trend to reach a whole new level.
“The ability to interact on social media is what sets the medium apart from others, and AR is the next evolution of that interaction,” says Envato’s Social Media Specialist Jo Birleson. “AR technology allows you to superimpose digital interactive experiences over your view of the real world, helping to bridge the online and offline worlds and provide a deeper experience. From a marketing perspective, AR will allow users to interact with a product or brand on a much deeper level than they usually might.
“For brands, Instagram Stories AR filters are a playful and interactive way to build engagement and awareness, bringing their brand or product into people’s everyday social experience. While Instagram Stories AR filters were introduced a while back, it’s only recently become possible for anyone to create their own AR filter with Spark AR Studio. So now that you can, why wouldn’t you?”
04. Personalized Marketing
With more businesses popping up on social media every day, users are becoming increasingly selective with the content that they’re choosing to consume. As a result, many brands have begun incorporating personalization into their social media marketing strategies to wow their target customers and stand out in the crowded social media space.
What is Personalized Marketing?
Personalized marketing is nothing new, and is essentially the art of using consumer data to tailor your marketing to a target demographic. But, the beauty of using social media for personalized marketing is that it provides a deep well of data, information, and insights, all of which can be leveraged to better engage audiences. Social media channels can be used to present individualized offers, ads, product suggestions, or even tailored content based on demographics, previous purchases, or content preferences. And many brands have taken full advantage of these personalizing capabilities.
Perhaps one of the best early examples of personalized marketing to dominate social media is Coca Cola’s famous 2015 #shareacoke campaign. The brand replaced its brand logo with consumer names and encouraged people to share photos on social with the hashtag. It spread like wildfire, and Coca Cola is now set to relaunch the campaign this year with an increased focus on diversity. In 2019, Spotify also released a personalized marketing campaign Spotify Wrapped, which revealed individual listeners’ streaming trends and music preferences from the previous decade. This approach proved to be very popular among Spotify users, prompting millions of people to share their individual #2019Wrapped on social media.
And with the increasing amount of user data available on social media, many brands are taking their personalized marketing even further, by creating campaigns targeting specific groups of customers on social media.
Lexus used social media data to run over 1000 different Facebook ads within a single campaign that were all personalized to unique customer types, and Cadbury ran a Facebook video campaign that allowed users to create a personalized video using data pulled from their account. Breast Cancer Now also took a similar approach with their personalized video marketing campaign.
Regardless of how you go about it, there’s no denying that personalization is an incredibly effective social media marketing strategy, and a trend that we predict to continue in 2021.
“If you have not added a Facebook pixel to your website, I highly recommend you do so ASAP,” says Madeleine. “Even if you’re not planning to run Facebook or Instagram ads right now, the pixel will allow you to build targeted audiences for future ads and create remarketing campaigns based on the actions your visitors have taken on your website. This data is fundamental for building personalized ad campaigns. You can also use Facebook Analytics to get insights into your audience via the Facebook pixel which can help you create great organic content for your social accounts.”
05. Going Live
As a result, heaps of big-name brands are now going live:
- Chipotle is using IG Live to share recipes.
- In the wake of the global crisis, Global Citizen is using IG Live to promote their #TogetheratHome campaign.
- MTV is going live on Instagram with their #AloneTogether jam sessions.
- Makeup megastore Sephora has been using Facebook Live to stream live makeup tutorials.
- NASA is using YouTube Live to live stream news about scientific discovery and aeronautics research.
One of the main reasons why live video has become so popular, for both brands and individuals, is due to the high level of interaction and engagement that it generates. Live video has the highest rate of engagement of all content types, allowing audiences to not only engage but actually interact with their favorite people, brands, or businesses on social media in real-time. While this phenomenon was sure to have grown on its own, the live video trend has really taken off this year – between the global crisis, environmental issues, and social movements that have dominated 2020, people are craving interaction now more than ever.
“In 2020 consumers are watching more video than ever before. And now it’s all about going live! From Facebook Live and Tik Tok to Instagram Live & Instagram Reels, it’s proving to be the best way to capture the attention of your social audience,” says Jo.
“It seems to make the audience feel more involved,” she continues. “As if they can influence or be a part of the action as opposed to passively watching it. It’s more at the moment and appeals to that deep need we have for instant gratification. And in a time we’re surrounded by content, watching something live makes it seem as if you’re the first to find out. Which has got us all thinking, if it’s not ‘live’, did it really happen?”. Another benefit is that when a user goes live, that content is prioritized and pushed to the front of the queue. Instagram notifies followers and highlights their profile picture in the Stories section, making it appear first in line on their follower’s feeds.”
06. Content for Good
With the increased focus on social, political, and environmental issues across the world throughout 2020 – such as Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Feminism, Covid-19, and many more – there’s been a big increase in the number of people advocating for these causes, as well as opening up big conversations around mental health, social issues, and human rights. As a result, many brands have also started standing up for what they believe in on social media and sharing content for good.
Big brands such as Reebok, Nike, and Netflix openly supported the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, alongside millions of people who shared educational and inspirational content around the BLM movement. In Australia, Ben & Jerry’s teamed up with the Climate Council for their latest ‘Unfudge our Future’ campaign – a new range of products urging the Australian government to ditch fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy. Even Instagram itself made big moves to keep people informed, safe and supported on the platform during the coronavirus pandemic.
Social media has quickly become the primary way to spread awareness and share content for good, as it allows brands to reach a large number of people with their positive message while creating an open dialogue by welcoming interaction and engagement from their audience.
“More than ever before, brands are voicing their opinions on important social issues and taking the lead on conversations. And they’re using social media to do so,” says Jo. “Not only can you reach a lot of people through platforms like Instagram and FB but you can also have a two-way dialogue about the topic which is essential to a commitment to be part of a ‘conversation’.
Whether it’s content on environmental sustainability or racial equality, a brand that creates content for good can become more memorable for having a defined position, and is also seen as more mission-focused (or passionate about doing the right thing) that goes beyond being solely revenue-driven. But voicing an opinion doesn’t go very far without action to back it. If you’re going to share content for good, make it meaningful. You don’t want to add more noise than value.”
In this day and age, it can be hard to scroll through social media without feeling like you’re being targeted with ads left, right, and center. In fact, the average person is exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 ads daily! Due to the over-saturation of ‘purposeful’ brands and marketing on social media, as well as the move toward more authentic content, as a consumer, it can be refreshing to see when companies actually admit what they are: brands that have been built to sell products. And as people begin questioning authenticity more and more, self-aware advertising has become the latest and greatest marketing trend to grace our social media feeds.
What is Self-Aware Marketing?
The ‘reverse psychology’ of the marketing industry, self-aware marketing is centered around satirical or ironic adverts that poke fun at themselves, other brands, or the concept of advertising in general. While traditional marketing campaigns aim to hide the fact that they’re trying to promote products or hit sales targets, self-aware marketing campaigns do the opposite by putting ‘the sell’ front and center.
Over the last few years, plenty of big brands have started waking up to the concept of self-aware marketing. Perhaps the poster-child for self-aware marketing done right, in 2018, Swedish oat milk brand Oatly caught consumers’ attention all over the world with their range of hilarious OOH posters, billboards, and social posts – a campaign blatantly poking fun at not just themselves, but the concept of advertising in general.
Then in 2019, McDonald’s released a self-aware campaign promoting their Signature Burger Collection – a range of ‘posh’ burgers and ‘premium’ products served up on a silver platter (literally) – as a way to make fun of the brand’s cheap, fast-food reputation.
Now in 2020, tons of brands have started using self-aware marketing on their socials, including Marmite, whose social posts blatantly point out the controversial nature of their product.
While marketing your brand by making fun of it may seem counter-productive, the best self-aware marketing campaigns take the assumptions that people hold about a brand or product and face them head-on – showing a level of authenticity and transparency that consumers are craving more and more.