Towards the end of 2020, one thing is certain: we’ve spent a lot of time on social media this year.
However, our increased connection to social media is by no means shocking.
In March, Statista reported a 21% increase in monthly social media usage as countries filled stay at home orders due to the global pandemic.
Throughout the year, consumers not only continued to use social channels to reach out to loved ones, but also used them for product research, the latest news coverage, and hours of mindless entertainment.
Now that the world reaches 3.6 billion social media users and continues to grapple with the pandemic, brands are not just wondering how they are going to reach a large social media audience next year. They also ask, “What social media trends should I expect in this ever-changing landscape?”
To learn more about what brands can expect in the next year, I spoke to Kelly Hendrickson, HubSpot’s social media manager, and did some research, including HubSpot and Talkwalker’s Social Media Trends Report.
Below, I’ve rounded up nine expert or research-backed trends that social media marketers should watch or take advantage of in 2021.
9 social media trends for 2021
- Brands will continue to take a less than more posting approach.
- The content value exceeds the production quality.
- Conversational marketing will change its tone.
- Consumers will crave snacks.
- The video will continue to be the focus.
- More brands will go live.
- Social media platforms could serve as shopping channels.
- Users will appreciate gaming and VR.
- Authenticity will be crucial.
1. Brands continue to follow the “less is more” approach to posting.
This year, many brands spent less time creating social media posts and more time just producing content that felt thoughtful, valuable, and in touch with the world around them.
According to Hendrickson, the “less is more” trend should continue into 2021.
“COVID-19 has had brands starting to ask a question they may never have asked themselves before: ‘Is my audience even wanting to hear from me now?'” Says Hendrickson.
“I expect brands will be more thoughtful as they post. In fact, it may mean less posting – regardless of the algorithms – because that’s the right thing to do,” explains Hendrickson. “There will also be more thoughtful ad purchases and partnerships.”
“Never before has it meant so much to make sure your audience gets the real value of your brand,” adds Hendrickson.
2. The content value exceeds the production quality.
When many companies were forced to be completely remote in 2020, social media and video marketing teams had to develop scalable production processes that could be carried out from home.
As consumers continued to delve into videos, live streams, and other social media content that clearly came from home offices, marketers realized that lower-quality content could still be interesting – if it offered value.
“COVID19 has forced many brands to resolve issues with the production of content, especially video work,” Hendrickson said. “Without a production studio or tons of equipment available, the production value got a bit lo-fi and in the end a little bit more human.”
“The exciting thing about brands is that the audience in general loved it. If anything, they saw themselves more at work,” adds Hendrickson. “They were on zoom too, filming things on their cell phones or stuck in their homes.”
Hendricks predicts that “we’ll see pure productions in 2021. But audiences will continue to appreciate it.”
3. Conversational marketing will change its tone.
Conversation marketing isn’t new. With most of the big brands we know and love, you can always connect with them through social media messaging channels.
In 2021, the tone of digital conversations could change as there are more messaging channels than ever and consumers need more information to make a worthwhile investment.
While earlier conversational marketing tactics focused on promotions and getting sales done as quickly as possible, conversational marketers of 2021 may have been more focused on helping a user with something, educating them about a product and using a more thoughtful or empathetic approach to converting move sound.
“Brands need to be more human on social media and invite the world to a meaningful and engaging conversation around your table,” said Aaron Kaufman, director of social media at Square Enix, in our Social Media Trends report. “You are the biggest fan of your fan and you have to embody that, no matter which social media channel you live on. Emote, answer, recognize, relate, get involved. We are not robots.
How will brands deal with increased demand for thoughtful conversation marketing? A mix of AI tools and human interaction could help.
A healthy combination of AI and human interaction could allow brands to work efficiently on social media while still giving consumers the authenticity they need to trust a brand and make a purchase. For example, a bot could handle quick message requests while sales, service, or community management reps could respond to more complex questions and concerns.
To learn more about scaling your conversational marketing strategy, check out this guide on how to build a chatbot or learn how HubSpot increases qualified leads by mixing people and bots in our conversation marketing.
4. Consumers crave nutritious content.
In 2020 we saw the rise of TikTok and Instagram roles, continued engagement with Stories content from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and brands creating other short-form or “snack” content to educate consumers about their brand .
With the attention span on social media shrinking and more and more people scrolling through feeds endlessly while bored at home, don’t expect gourmet content to run out of steam anytime soon.
This helpful post will tell you about four types of snack content your brand should be using in the next year.
4. The video will continue to be the focus.
In early 2020, HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing report found that video was the most widely used marketing content – and the second most engaging content type on social media.
As major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn continue to improve their video capabilities, marketers can assume that the high level of video consumption will continue and increase in the years to come.
5. More brands will go live.
In 2019, every fifth Facebook video was live. In May of this year, YouTube users spent a total of 284 hours watching live videos.
With many brands forced to hold conferences, events, and other marketing experiences online in 2020, it’s not shocking to think that the number of live streams could be higher in 2020.
Currently, many brands are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, and Twitter to broadcast live stream events, Q&A, tutorials, and other types of content. This type of content keeps your followers connected to your brand by bringing an event they might not otherwise be able to attend right on their screens.
For example, every year INBOUND interviews some of its notable speakers and guests in live episodes of INBOUND Studio on Facebook. This way, followers who can’t join us can get live tips from experts. In addition, fans of interviewed experts can learn more about INBOUND and HubSpot.
For more information on online live streaming, check out this live streaming guide, as well as these tips for marketing your next virtual event.
6. Social media platforms could serve as shopping channels.
As many brands have learned how to do business completely online, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok have tried to create more online marketing solutions for businesses.
While TikTok and Snapchat expanded the marketing offerings for companies in 2020, Facebook and Instagram have integrated the shopping functions directly into their apps.
With Facebook Shops and Instagram Shoppable Posts, consumers can buy a product that will be seen in a post without leaving the app they are in.
This increases convenience for consumers. For brands that haven’t been able to set up their own ecommerce store, the above online shopping tools offer new ways to effectively sell products online.
8. Social media users will appreciate gaming and VR.
In the last year, the number of social media users who identify as “gamers” rose by more than 10 million – or 32%. Our Social Media Trends Report shows that the highest increase in player identification was during the heaviest lockdown months of COVID-19.
Now that Facebook’s company Oculus is launching new VR products, Twitch is expanding its online streaming capabilities for games, and platforms like Snapchat are launching mini-game apps, it is clear that gamification and social media will also go hand in hand in 2021 Hand will go.
As a small and medium business marketer, game-related promotions may no longer be available at this time. However, as Facebook and other major platforms continue to roll out branded tools for their latest features, it’s not shocking to think that more social media advertising opportunities may exist in the game in the future.
Brands should be on the lookout for game-related promotions in 2021.
Even as promotional game content becomes available to big brands but not smaller businesses, marketers can still watch what bigger businesses do and get new ideas off the ground as gamified advertising becomes more scalable.
9. Authenticity will be crucial.
This year, consumers and brands faced a global pandemic, uncertain financial times, and a number of important events that paused nations from the news networks.
Now, consumers need more than cheap deals to trust, identify with, and invest in a brand. At this point in time, many brands were realizing authenticity and their human side on social media.
While some brands have spoken directly about their thoughts on COVID-19 or other news, others have shown authenticity by zoning their customers through user-generated content or customer testimonials.
When both strategies are done authentically, they can help brands gain trust from their audiences while also building awareness as a company that cares about people.
“We will continue to see the Creators grow in
the social media room. Influencers will continue
be present but accountable, authenticity,
and transparency are the areas of brands and
Companies determine based on their partners
with and whom you pass on, “says Karen Freberg in our Social Media Trends Report.” Empathy and advocacy will be elements that will be incorporated into messages and purposes for creator campaigns. The days of faking it until you manage to have no experience other than having many followers are over. “
In 2021, expect authenticity to take center stage on social media as successful brands continue to build trust among their target audiences.
Navigating social media in 2021
Today the world around us is constantly changing. And while we think we know what to expect with social media, this list of trends is unlikely to be exhaustive of what we’ll see in 2021.
As a social media marketer, your best bet is to continue researching trends, online consumer behavior, and your team’s social media data to see what trends or strategies to rely on, or how to navigate unprecedented online scenarios.
A great place to start this research could be our HubSpot and Talkwalker’s latest Social Media Trends report.
In addition to insights and quotes from social media experts, our social media trend report contains all the important trend predictions for 2021 to find out how COVID-19 can affect social media marketing. To see the free report, click here or on the banner below.