Social Media Trends

Top Social Media Trends For 2021

Was 2020 a year of transformative change? Hell yeah! Expect the same for 2021, is what we predict.

As we continue to move through the phases of the pandemic, we realize the huge degree to which COVID-19 has been a catalyst for social change. The social changes which we are now seeing will endure into 2021 … and likely long after the pandemic subsides.

This past year has forced us to revaluate how we conduct business, interact with each other, and engage with content online. It’s no surprise that 2020 has had a profound impact on the trends in digital marketing, and on the social media landscape in 2021.

It might feel like a lot to take in for businesses already grappling with unprecedented change. But staying on top of these trends is essential for businesses looking to ride out the economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have carefully reviewed the many changes afoot in the sector, and have identified these top trends we feel are important to marketers wanting to make an impact and grow in 2021. We’ll start by taking stock of the social media industry to understand where we are today.

A Short History of Social Media

Social media was born in the early 2000’s. One of the early platforms, MySpace was the first to reach one million users around 2004.

While platforms have come and gone, today’s social media giants are firmly established and here to stay.

The top 3, Facebook with 2.26 billion active users, YouTube with 1.9 billion active users and Instagram with 1 billion active users compete on the basis of their features, and appeal to varied audiences, and will continue to be significant in 2021.

This chart shows the rapid growth in active followers that has taken place over the past 16 years.

Social media giants have maintained their competitiveness by changing their offerings over time. As a result, there are important differences among these sites not only in their essential features, but as well in the specific demographic groups who spend time on them.

The chart above gives an excellent overview of age demographic by major platform.

For example, if your target audience is under 50, they are spending time on YouTube and Facebook, while younger audiences are more likely to be on all of the platforms, and are more likely to have adopted Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

And if your target audience is over 50, this chart reveals that Facebook and YouTube are more likely where you’ll find them although they are present on the other platforms as well.

Social media has matured into an essential marketing channel for reaching and engaging audiences, and for gaining visibility among new growth audiences for your business.

What are the driving forces which will shape social media in 2021, and which you should consider for your marketing strategies and plans?

Top Social Media Trends To Keep An Eye On

1. Ditch the hard sales pitch, pick up engaging conversation

During times of uncertainty, consumers are comforted by past positive memories. From the Great Depression of the 1930s to the Great Recession of the late 2000s “Nostalgia Marketing” has been a successful strategy employed by brands to foster hope during difficult times.

Nostalgia Marketing A Trend in 2021

Nostalgia marketing entails connecting consumers with positive memories that are linked to the brand, notes Hubspot & TalkWalker in a recent joint study.

The goal is to strengthen an emotional relationship with your consumer by getting them to associate your brand with hope and optimism.

Making people feel good, helping them escape the harsh reality of the current milieu is a compassionate act that is being very well received by consumers everywhere.

With so many challenges facing today’s consumers, brands need to make consumers feel warm and content.

The current pandemic climate is causing a come-back of Nostalgia Marketing. Now, and through 2021 is the right time to make your consumers feel better about their lives.

Selecting nostalgic, brand-relevant messaging and images will nurture how they feel toward your brand. Give this concept consideration as you craft your social media content throughout the year.

The Rise of Socially Conscious Marketing

We see a rise in social consciousness, with the Pandemic serving as a lightning rod for long simmering social issues such as Black Lives Matter, front-line health care and retail worker rights, and the climate.

The rise of political and social movements across the globe has led to consumers purchasing brands that align with their morals and values.

This is especially true among the Millennial and Gen Z demographics. From issues around equality to mental health, these younger-skewing consumers are generally more cognizant of the social and political ramifications of their purchases.

If you seek to build your brand presence among the valuable Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, it’s important to understand how much they care about issues such as mental health, the environment and social equality.

In fact, this trend has led to the rise of social responsibility in marketing, or Socially Conscious Marketing. When brands take the time to understand the issues their audiences care about, and then find authentic ways to engage on these issues, they strengthen their brand value.

Finally, brands need to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed conversations with consumers.

According to our data, consumers want their needs addressed amid this pandemic. Marketers should opt to address those needs rather than pushing forth aggressive advertising, which may come across as tone deaf to consumers.

2. Old-School Marketing Remains Relevant

Traditional modes of marketing are making a comeback in 2021.

The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings true, especially during times of uncertainty.

Part of the reason is that it’s more difficult to find new customers, so marketers must work harder in 2021 to keep top of mind among their current customers to not lose a sale, and to attract new customers to the business when many households are doing some belt tightening.

For marketers, channels such as newsletters, podcasts and webinars can be relatively easy to establish. More importantly, they’re also easier for audiences to consume.

As a result of this challenging economy and finding revenue growth, newsletters, podcasts, and voice are all getting a close second look from marketers for their potential value in the 2021 marketing playbook.

Over 55% of consumers now listen to podcasts, and 90% of podcasts are listened to on a smartphone, replacing radio as a source of on-demand news. In 2021 we will see a rise in “old-school marketing” as brands switch back to simpler ways of engaging consumers.

The Rise of Voice Search & Voice Tweets

Consumers are rediscovering their voice in 2021. Unsurprisingly 68% of today’s consumers text more than they talk on their smartphones. However now we’re seeing a surge in the use of voice search, voice notes, and now voice Tweets.

Twitter’s new voice feature has garnered 164K mentions with 744.4K engagements since its launch in June 2020, with much more growth anticipated with people getting increasingly comfortable with voice texts and voice searches in recent years.

3. The Influx Of User-Generated Content and ‘Remixing’

User-Generated Content (UGC) has been around, well, since humans started communicating. Now, the way it is being created, sourced and shared is undergoing an exciting transformation.

Remixing is a method of creative expression that is provoking the emergence of a new culture on social networking sites.

Designed to persuade viewers, remixing it’s a user generated mash up of images, photos, audio and video that is gaining traction. And when they go viral, they are at their most entertaining best.

A rebirth of “remixing” is emerging as newer platforms like TikTok and Koji are being discovered by people with time on their hands due to pandemic related quarantines, confinements and work layoffs.

The UGC Evolution

Let’s look at how the trend has evolved, from this type of creative execution which as a top viral video in 2007:

Today’s collaborative mash ups, increasingly found on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram Reels and Youtube, are using catchy music to create viral-video trends. The exciting result is that new users and creators are attracted to these platforms in droves!

A word of caution.

Not all UGC is positive so you must keep an eye on what’s being done with your brand. Unchecked, an irreverent creator can cause damage to your company’s reputation, if it’s overly critical, or uses your brand or logo in an inappropriate way. Active monitoring this remixed content will enable you to react quickly before it goes viral.

How This Trend is Changing the Digital Landscape

Brands are embracing this new creativity across social media channels. Forward looking brands seek to provide their users more creative outlets, and providing them tools, templates and assets to create new original content.

To counteract increasing competition in UGC remixing across the social media channels, expect to see more games, 3D pics, and VR and AR user generated content for mobile devices.

4. Reeling in TikTok users with Instagram Reels

“Over the next few years, the much bigger driver of the business and determinant of how we do is going to be video, not Messenger,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. And he’s right.

Case in point: Instagram Reels. This is Facebook’s version of TikToks. Instagram Reels is a video-content format that allows users to produce and share 15-second videos on the platform.

It is Facebook’s arsenal in competing with TikTok, which also uses short-form videos popular with Gen Z.

Reels lets you record and edit clips with special effects, text, audio and stickers, similar to TikTok.

Reels offers brands a great way to engage with an audience who want short and easy-to-digest content. It’s also a space brands can utilize influencer marketing and collaborate with talented personalities pumping out viral content via Reels.

Expect 2021 to continue to see a growth trend in short-form video as various social media networks battle it out to lure in users from competing platforms.

It is no surprise that the growth in this content format coincides with increased unemployment and underemployment ushered in by the pandemic.

A young and underemployed demographic is showcasing its creative prowess, in turn pushing forth the growth in short-form video creation. We’ll continue to see exciting new things from them in 2021.

5. The Power Of Memes

Goodbye emoji and GIFs. Memes are the lingua franca of the digitally savvy.

Being fluent in memes is a necessity for businesses to communicate in an online landscape.

Stats provided by YPulse, a recognized leader in youth research and insights, claims that 55% (and growing) of the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts send memes every week.

Memes, defined as an image or video, communicate feelings and emotions often linked to our cultural milieu. They’ll continue to be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.

Baby Yoda captured our attention in The Mandalorian, winning a position as one of the most popular memes of 2020:

Brands can utilize popular memes to create engagement with their online communities. Associating your brand with a popular meme increases your chances of going viral.

If you use a user-generated meme making the rounds on social media, always credit the creator as this will build a stronger brand connection while encouraging others to create branded content as well.

The Role of Memes is Changing

Memes are a quick and easy way for consumers to respond to company news on social media., tweeting or posting a meme in response to a company announcement. And this can be of great benefit for brands in understanding the thinking among its follower base.

There is a dark side to be aware of.

While memes are used to influence consumer mindset, with the increase in disinformation, they are also being used to normalize extreme behaviour. We see this increasingly in their role in interfering with elections and other major events.

It is important to have a pulse on the culture when using memes, keeping in mind that highly charged topics are at risk of memetic manipulation.

In 2021, while memes will be used more to persuade consumers, you may need to be ready to protect your brand from malicious memes.

Let’s take a quick look at the evolution of memes. In late 2016, Wendy’s used the infamous Pepe-the-frog meme on its popular Twitter account, and that created a large online backlash and negative response as the character is often linked to alt-right organizations.

There is growing content fatigue on all kinds of social media platforms, and consumer tastes are evolving.

Innovation is challenging brands to use short stories, and to personalize content at scale.

Social and Influencer commerce, leveraging each other’s platforms, will become a top priority for brands.

We will see consumer brands continue to embrace memes in charting their challenging road to recovery.

6. Fake News

Expect 2021 to be a year where brands tackle the rise of fake news, which entails a blurring of the lines between fact and fiction. Social media exacerbates the issue, made evident by heavily tailored and edited Instagram accounts, and parody accounts on Twitter.

The Rise of Conspiracy Theories on Social Media

Times of uncertainty also add to the deluge of disinformation. And with a global pandemic, we’ve seen a fair share of conspiracy theories floating around.

For example, 28% of adults in the U.S. believe a vaccine for COVID-19 will be used to plant microchips in people. Such misconceptions will create headaches for public health systems and governments trying to tackle the pandemic.

When the pandemic first started, people were searching for information on the virus. Many couldn’t find authoritative sources they could trust and decided to fill in the gaps through social media.

This means 2021 be a year where social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter will be expected to tackle misleading information, which is something Twitter has already started to do.

In 2021, social media channels will be tasked with balancing the issue of fake news with open communication and transparency.

7. E-Commerce and Social Commerce

Be prepared to redefine who you think your consumer is. The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online for both business and consumers, and with it, your typical customer is likely to have changed.

Research from leading e-commerce business solutions provider, Checkout.com has witnessed growth across most demographic age groups, including older consumers.

These consumers have shifted to eCommerce from offline commerce, and this trend has been evident since the start of the pandemic.

We are learning that e-commerce buyers not only have higher disposable income, they also exhibit higher levels of brand loyalty.

Brands will do well to consider their checkout experience and hire experts to improve the buyer user experience. Assess your payment options, security measures and customer support functions to best serve this emerging demographic.

The Rise of Social Commerce

Have you noticed how more and more businesses are selling products and services on their Instagram and other social media accounts?

This illustrates the rise of social commerce, which is the use of social media to drive online purchases, and it is a trend that will grow in 2021.

The trend started a few years ago with the introduction of Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops. Add to the mix our current lockdowns that have essentially suffocated brick-and-mortar retail, and social commerce is slated to become big business. It makes sense.

Half of the world’s population is now using social media and 71% of consumers are using social media for shopping inspiration. Meanwhile, 55% of online shoppers are making their purchases through social media channels.

It is no wonder that large brands are already using social commerce to sell their wares.

Benefits of Social Commerce

There are several benefits for businesses interested in joining this trend.

Using social media as an e-commerce platform makes it easier to evaluate the performance of your marketing campaigns.

Facebook and Instagram business accounts have built-in metrics to measure the success of your content. So does Twitter.

Today’s marketers need good analytics data, and platforms are improving their ability to deliver these essential buyer insights.

Social commerce also leads to greater loyalty with people. By engaging directly with followers, brands develop deeper and more trusting connections with their following.

Social commerce also creates two-way communication between the brand and its followers. In turn, this leads to a more authentic connection between the brand and its followers.

Finally, social commerce leads to greater traffic to your website in part because great content is being liked and shared, enabling it to reach a larger audience, all of which is bringing more traffic to your website.

And more traffic to your website is a signal that the search engines reward by increasing your brand’s ranking in search engine results.

Social Media Marketing Strategies for all kinds of Businesses

Some memes also skirt around copyright rules, so if you plan on using them for your business, make sure you’re not breaking any regulations. It’s better to err on the side of caution when using memes.

Wendy’s had to delete the tweet. Before you share a meme, make sure you understand its social implications and meaning.

These are just some of the latest social media trends that are set to dominate the social media landscape in 2021. Leverage these trends to your business’s advantage to stay ahead of your competition in the new year.

Social media marketing has become a central part of marketing your products or services in today’s economy.

Without question today’s consumer is searching online as a first step in almost everything they buy. Therefore, small and medium sized business marketing must embrace social media – as part of an omnibus marketing strategy.

Your next customer is as likely to find you online as to hear about you through word of mouth.