In 2020 we saw a surge in social media usage, with people spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic. A poll conducted in May last year showed 46% to 51% of U.S. adults started using social media more than they did before the pandemic. With 2020 being as unpredictable as it was, there is probably one thing on your mind right now: what does the new year hold for us?
“When you have five minutes to fill, Twitter is a great way to fill 35 minutes.”
— Matt Cutts
Which social media trends and strategies can we expect to dominate in 2021? This article will review some of the top predictions made by social media experts on the trends and strategies brands must pay attention to this year.
1. Brands Will Shift Focus Toward Transparency and Accountability
From Black Lives Matter and U.S. elections to protests on climate change and the LGBTQ day of silence, 2020 bore witness to numerous political movements. Brands need to understand how these movements are shaping consumer mindsets and buying behavior.
Consumers are more aware than ever of the various injustices embedded within our society. As a result, they seek to engage with brands that are authentic, transparent, and responsible. Brand accountability dominated in 2020, and this trend is expected to continue in 2021. Purposeful brands grew two times faster last year.
Smart businesses will understand the importance of this statistic and what it means for social media marketing. Brands must personify themselves in a manner that reveals what they stand for and what matters most to them.
2. SEO and Reels To Drive Marketing on Instagram
Instagram is making some critical changes that will influence marketing strategies for this platform. To begin with, Instagram announced in November that it would become more search-friendly. Previously, users had to rely on hashtags for searching posts of interest. They can now search for keywords in the search bar instead and view relevant posts, videos, and profiles.
These new changes to Instagram’s algorithm and UI presents an exciting opportunity to marketers. They can now use Instagram SEO to improve the organic reach of their posts. It is recommended you insert relevant keywords in your captions to make the most of this update. Doing so can allow Instagram to identify what your post is about.
Volume and high-quality content also matter for SEO, and brands should consistently post content related to their niche.
Additionally, Instagram has introduced its Reels feature to compete with TikTok. Knowing how this impacts the visibility of your posts and stories is very important. In 2016, when Instagram introduced Stories, the engagement and organic reach of feed posts declined. The same thing is happening with the introduction of Reels. As per a social media expert, Reels are driving ten times the number of views than feed posts and stories.
Reels typically have a 15–30 second period and can deliver content creatively and entertainingly. You can add text and music, which makes these videos more engaging.
For marketers looking to take advantage of this feature, the length is a significant consideration. 15-second videos tend to perform better than 30-second ones. The latter requires clicking on See More after 15 seconds are up. Most users do not do that, so you can expect marketers to stick to creating 15-second videos to capture user attention and get their message across.
3. Growing Emphasis on Data Security
It has been over two years since the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The scandal sparked a wave of awareness about the lack of data security and privacy on social media platforms like Facebook. These factors have only been gaining an increasing amount of attention since.
Repeated data breaches and violations of internet security have made consumers aware of how companies use their data. And they are not happy with it. In 2020, Pew Research reported that 79% of consumers believed companies had too much data gathered about them.
We can expect brands and social media platforms to take more measures that display their transparency and address these concerns. Among other social media trends for 2021, this one is expected to take center stage in retaining customer trust.
4. More Live and Long-Form Video Content
Posts with video content tend to get more engagement than static ones, and you can expect plenty of video content on social media platforms in 2021. 92% of video viewers share this content with other users.
What’s more, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need to share real-time updates through live video. Facebook reported a 50% increase in viewers for live videos in March.
The popularity of TikTok has also contributed to a rapid increase in video content. Social media users are becoming increasingly comfortable sharing updates through video, and brands are expected to do the same. The length of these videos is also likely to increase, and long-form video content could become popular in 2021.
There has been a shift in the production values of video content produced by brands too. Due to the challenges posed by the pandemic, brands switched to creating in-home, lo-fi videos. Consumers have embraced this type of video content, perhaps because it has a more organic feel.
5. Online Shopping on Social Media To Become Mainstream
Nearly every business has had to modify and expand its sales channels to adapt to the new normal. If Amazon’s surge in profitability is anything to go by, online shopping has become increasingly commonplace. Naturally, that is bad news for brick and mortar stores that don’t have an e-commerce website yet.
Building a secure e-commerce website requires a great deal of effort. A faster alternative here is to sell products through social media. Therefore, it is no surprise that brands are successfully using Facebook and Instagram to entice customers and encourage them to use the ‘shop now’ option. We can expect social media to evolve into a new sales channel. Marketers can use it to convert consumers by integrating e-commerce features on their business pages and using shoppable ads.
6. LinkedIn To Become Increasingly Conversational
2020 saw significant changes in LinkedIn’s UI. LinkedIn Live and Events to Polls and Stories changed how users share and communicate on this platform. Marketers must embrace these features and content formats in 2021. They should also acknowledge how remote work has caused a shift in LinkedIn’s culture.
For starters, professionals are looking for conversational content that recreates an office environment. Conversational marketing also includes creating polls for audiences to vote on, sharing candid photos in stories, and asking open-ended questions in posts. Brands can use these techniques to engage with LinkedIn users and have meaningful conversations.
7. Social Messaging Will Be More Common
Many social media users opt for messaging instead of posting on their feeds. Consumers also use instant messaging and direct messaging features on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage with brands. This behavior is attributed to an increased need among users to connect on a more human level virtually. Thanks to the prevalence of social messaging in 2020, we can expect to see users connect with brands and build networks in 2021.
Social messaging is a highly versatile medium, as well. Besides personal conversations, social messaging can be used to file complaints, place online orders, ask questions, and more. Brands can also use messaging platforms like WhatsApp to advertise their products and services free of cost.
With social media becoming an integral part of our lives, marketers are scoping out this platform’s potential to engage with prospects and customers. Making the most of social media trends allows you to push ahead of the competition and build long-term relationships with customers.
It also offers brands the opportunity to be more actively involved in events happening in the country and worldwide. As it has been made abundantly clear, brands can no longer be bystanders amid critical developments. They must communicate their values and forge more meaningful connections with customers to hold their attention.
Social media makes that possible. Be it video content, online shopping, or conversational marketing, social media offers daily engagement opportunities to win over customers.
“Engage, enlighten , encourage and especially just be yourself! Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.” — Susan Cooper