Opinion: what’s in-store for social in 2021?

Social Media Exec, Jack Paull, looks ahead to six trends that he believes will shape social as we kick-start 2021.


1. The rise of alternative platforms

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been the core platforms for B2C brands, and LinkedIn is ever present in the strategies of B2B companies.

However, consumers are becoming noticeably fatigued and less engaged on these mature social channels, with Gen Z in particular developing an appetite for experimenting with emerging platforms, such as Clubhouse.

Facebook has seen the biggest drop in usership, especially amongst Gen Z. Over the last 2 years, Facebook has waved goodbye to over 15 million users.

A platform that is well and truly battling its way into the race of social media giants is TikTok. The app was launched in 2016, but enjoyed the majority of its success in 2020 as a huge number of new users flocked to the platform. TikTok now has over 800 million monthly active users worldwide, the bulk of which are Indian (119.3 million).  The UK currently has 3.7 million users, which goes to show that the growth potential here in Britain is huge.

While TikTok is probably not the first port of call for B2B companies, it will gain the mainstream adoption of B2C brands this year, especially those with a young target audience. 41% of TikTok users are aged 16-24, making it an exciting tool for those looking to build a relationship with the next generation of spenders.


2. Social media is the new storefront 

eCommerce boomed during the pandemic, and now it’s the turn of social commerce.

We saw the introduction of Instagram Shopping in 2020, and I expect to see other social channels follow suit in 2021.

Social commerce has revolutionised the online retail industry revealing new avenues for brands to connect with buyers. It is fair to argue  that social commerce is becoming a more mainstream retail channel, as according to Avionos, “40% of consumers have made a purchase via Facebook, 13% via Instagram and 12% via Pinterest.

With the variability of shoppable posts to platform storefronts, social networks are constantly working towards becoming revenue generating retail platforms. Marketing teams should be savvy to these changes and take full advantage in 2021.


3. Video content will continue to dominate 

Video has been the most engaging form of content for some years now, with Facebook & Instagram making no secret that they rewarded brands with greater reach for publishing long form video content in 2020 – this will continue for the year ahead.

When you crunch the numbers, it’s simply a no brainer: with TikTok’s rapid growth and with YouTube generating more than 1 billion views per day on mobile devices alone, excluding video content from your digital strategy is simply not an option.


4. Ephemeral content will keep gaining popularity

Ephemeral content is available for a limited duration before it disappears, never to be seen again. Which is perhaps why it started gaining popularity; during a time when people’s privacy is paramount. Ephemeral content is what we see across Snapchat, Instagram & LinkedIn Stories, for example.

Users’ habits have transformed unrecognisably last 5 years; attention spans are much shorter, people have less time and there is more content being published than ever before. So serving compelling, ‘snackable’ content that is accessible on the go is a must.

The explosion of content on Stories is understandable in my opinion – it’s short, engaging and wildly addictive. The increased usage of Stories by users has been reciprocated in brands’ marketing activity, on average brands post 2.3 Instagram stories per week and that is set to rise again in 2021.

According to Hootsuite’s marketer’s survey report, 64% of marketers have either already incorporated Instagram Stories into their digital strategy, or plan to do so this year. 


5. The rise of socially conscious audiences  

2021 and beyond will continue to be shadowed by events of 2020. Wellbeing, mental health, social justice and inclusivity are all heavy topics that will remain on the agenda. Gone are the days of meaningless, salesy organic content – commercialism just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Brands face becoming disregarded by users on social in 2021 if they don’t engage with cultural topics that truly matter to their audience. 


6. The meme sensation that’s sweeping the nation

It’s worth noting the rise in memetic media. In the UK, 55% of social media users are sharing memes with one and other every week. Lockdown and Coronavirus have played their parts in stimulating the rise in meme content – with the notion of ‘remaining positive’ a strong theme from social media users.

The use of social has changed unrecognisably. I would urge you view social as a tool for building and nurturing more meaningful relationships between brand and consumer, and look to balance purpose with profit when thinking about your content strategy for 2021.

Posted in Insights
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