Key Social Media Trends for 2021 and Beyond
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way that we do almost everything: from work, to shopping, to relaxing at home. Social media’s ability to keep us connected has become all the more important as the pandemic keeps many Americans from going out to socialize.
As we head into 2021, brands need to stay on top of trends in social media in order to connect with wider audiences. 2020 brought us TikTok; what will 2021 have in store?
Engaging with COVID-19
Marketing campaigns have also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brand slogans and other materials need to comply with and be cognizant of social distancing regulations. This way, consumers will believe that a business has responsible practices, and is not encouraging them to do something that is not safe.
The four C’s of COVID-19 content are: community, contactless, cleanliness, and compassion. Consumers want to feel that the brand has their safety in mind, and that they can engage with the company without risking their personal safety or breaking their boundaries around the pandemic.
Make sure your advertisements align with consumers’ values through this difficult time. By showing concern for consumers, you gain their trust that the corporation understands and cares about the pandemic. Invasive advertising will not work during the pandemic.
Social media has a lot of upsides: its ability to help us stay connected, word of mouth marketing, and connecting directly with consumers. However, it is also a major spreader of misinformation. This can range from intentional fake news and conspiracy theories, to simpler highly curated lives of influencers that spring false expectations in audiences.
In 2021, brands and social media channels will become more focused on highlighting reliable, fact-based information as the spread of misinformation continues. Consumers will value accountability, transparency, and authenticity in brands.
Make sure your brand’s accounts are secure, and check your communication guidelines across your company to avoid spreading any misinformation through your channels.
Socially Conscious Audiences
Consumers are becoming more and more socially conscious, and this will continue through 2021. Consumers want to see brands engage with topics like social justice, the environment, diversity and inclusion, and mental health.
As Generation Z approaches adulthood, this trend is only expected to continue. They are the best-educated generation yet, and they share many values of millennials on topics of climate change, racial justice, feminism, and equality.
Consumers want to see brands do more than post about these issues: they want to support brands that are having a legitimate social impact, and have active causes aligned with their values. It’s now very profitable for brands to make real efforts in these arenas.
Hard-sell tactics have been shown not to work for millennials and younger generations, with only 1% of millennials saying that they will build trust based on a compelling advertisement. Mission-led marketing campaigns connect with these consumers on an emotional level.
Determine what issues matter most to your existing consumer base, then act on that issue and align your marketing, PR, and mission to support this issue. You can expect some pushback, but if you are raising too much controversy, you might need to pick a different issue for profitability.
If you’re going to share content on certain issues, make it meaningful. Consumers want to see brands make authentic and nuanced posts about issues they care about, rather than adding to noise of a certain movement.
Memes are a huge part of the culture on social media, and a way that young people cope with difficult events or news situations. They have become no less prevalent through the turbulent year of 2020. Reportedly, 55% of 13-35 year olds share or send memes on a weekly basis. Memes can be a great way to show innovation and variety in your marketing strategy. Mentions of memes increased 26% over the last 13 months: August 2019 saw 19.8 milion mentions, while July 2020 saw 24.9 million, with a peak of 28 million in April 2020.
Brands should be careful in the way they create and share memes. Memes can be used negatively by consumers. It’s almost important to make sure that you have legal rights to share a meme before you use it as part of your marketing.
You won’t be able to track your brand’s presence in memes through mentions, as memes are usually posted without text. Instead, you’ll need to do image searches for your brand’s logo. You can also engage with popular memes to create viral content for your brand, and share memes generated by users (if you have the rights and can credit the creator). Before posting a meme, be sure that you understand what the meme is, where it comes from, and what cultural implications or associations it has.
Marketing nostalgia helps your brand connect a consumer to a previous time. Nostalgia marketing was very popular during the Great Depression of the 1920s, as well as the Great Recession of 2008 – and it’s shaping up to be a primary trend of 2021, as the recession due to the pandemic continues.
Appealing to the nostalgia of consumers, even just to 2019 before the pandemic began, can inspired positive feelings in association with your brand. Campaigns that create this positive feeling can help lift consumers out of the difficult times they are in.
When social and travel restrictions began due to COVID-19, keywords on social media relating to nostalgia or remembering the past skyrocketed from 13 million mentions to 24.4 million mentions, an 88% increase.
Nostalgia marketing is very linked to the age demographics of your target audience. Think of your audience in 10-year age bracket, and take other demographic information into account as you are developing these campaigns. Different time periods will speak differently across generational and other divides.
Social Media Giants
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have dominated social media, and this is set to continue through 2021 and beyond. These giants do need to continue to adapt to new trends, which means that each platform may look different based on what consumers are doing.
Brands should determine what social media balance works best for them, taking advantage of new platforms without diluting their presence on the giants. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter continue to be the top priorities for brand marketing.
Social shopping is a trend currently emerging through many apps. Consumers are shopping within these apps, and using social media to research products and determine how others feel about the products.
Social shopping has been slowly infiltrating social media for several years. Now, we have Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops. With the rise of online shopping during the pandemic, social shopping will likely only increase.
Studies have shown that 71% of consumers find their shopping inspiration from social media, and 55% of online shoppers make the majority of their purchases through social media. These efforts allow consumers to buy while they scroll, and shoppable posts are a growing trend.
Remix: User Generated Content
User generated content (UGC) refers to content that brands share directly from their users. This shows how users are engaging with their products. Lately, we’ve started seeing consumers “remixing” a brand’s existing content to suit their own personal taste or sensibilities.
UGC provides excellent word of mouth for brands. Consumers often turn to other people, rather than marketing campaigns, to determine what products to buy. In order to inspire more UGC, brands can make sure to provide their logos, templates, or other easy-to-use materials to users so that they can create their remixed content more easily.
The only downside of UGC is that you cannot control how users will remix your content. This means that they can use your branded materials to denigrate or be critical of the company. Be aware of this as you share your information, and decide whether the possible gains are worth the risk.
In the age of social media, marketing is now driven by direct engagement with consumers, rather than just outputting a campaign. These conversations help to humanize your brand and build longstanding relationships with consumers.
Consumers now appreciate brands that are authentic, transparent, and even vulnerable. The personification of brands helps consumers understand a brand’s values. Putting a face on your campaign can do wonders to increase consumer connection. You can also increase your conversational marketing through chatbots, direct messaging, social media comments, calls, and more.
Conversational marketing can also bring together your marketing and customer service divisions. If your departments work together, you can use consumer engagement through customer service as the beginning of your marketing strategy. This is a highly adaptable form of marketing that you can vary by situation or by consumer. Even when putting out marketing campaigns, brands can still adopt a more conversational tone to reach consumers who prefer to connect.
Going live can help your brand create a direct connection with consumers. This method of sharing removes the polish and frills of typical marketing, and makes users feel that they have a behind the scenes understanding of your company. You can use this feature to share updates, announce new products, discuss issues important to your company, or provide tutorials on your products. Audiences feel more involved since they can directly engage with the video through the comments feature.
During the shutdown, many individuals have turned to video games as a form of distraction. We have also seen increases in gaming forums and groups online. Brands can tap into this growing popularity, especially as the stigma around gaming will likely lift as they become more mainstream. We’ve seen an increase in the number of people who identify as gamers, from 31.1 million in August 2019 to 41.2 million in July 2020, with the most significant increase in the months just after the lockdown.
Among Generation Z, the worlds of social media and gaming are beginning to merge. Brands can begin considering how to work marketing strategies onto gaming sites. Begin market research now, and start to understand what intrigues a gaming audience. You can begin creating campaigns geared specifically toward this demographic.
Videos on social media are the most engaging form of digital content. In particular, short-form videos have become a staple, as users often want to move on to the next thing fairly quickly. The introduction of TikTok and the new Reels feature of Instagram have only supported short-form as the leader over longer-form video content.
Several brands have jumped on TikTok to make themselves more accessible to young people and offer a look behind the scenes for consumers. These videos are as easy to make as they are to watch, and the trend has only increased as more people are working from home. Brands should stay on top of new features on social media platforms, and be sure to follow new trends that emerge.
The last few years have seen disruptive marketing campaigns as brands try to engage consumers in new ways. Now, we may see a return to classic marketing, including voice calls. While consumers are still texting more than talking on their smartphones, popular features such as voice search and voice notes may lead us back to voice calling as a popular marketing strategy.
Studies have found that podcast marketing is more effective than other digital forms of marketing. Audiences are actively listening to this ads, and they come from trusted podcasts hosts that the audience feels a connection to.
Brands can use newsletters to connect with their audiences, find advertising opportunities in podcasting, and work with influencers who have strong connections in their communities.
Augmented reality (AR) is a relatively new technology that has already started to impact social media. You know those filters on Snapchat? Those are a form of AR that has already taken hold among consumers.
Instagram allows anyone to create their own filters, and brands can take advantage of this to spread their branded content among users. AR allows you to offer consumers an interactive experience with your content – building on the interactivity that social media is most prized for. This allows consumers to interact with your brand on a deeper level, while providing content that is playful and fun.
Social media can be a barrage of content, and more businesses turn to the platform every day. To set themselves apart, brands can create personalized social media strategies. To do this, use consumer data to create content specifically for a certain demographic. Social media provides a wealth of consumer data and insights that can be leveraged to target your posts and engage with your consumers.
Many brands present individualized offers, ads, suggestions, or other content. Users are more likely to share something that they connect to as an individual, such as Coca Cola’s #shareacoke campaign, or Spotify’s Spotify Wrapped campaign that allowed users to share their personal streaming trends and preferences.
Self-aware marketing is another method to cut through the din of social media ads. The average person is exposed to a whopping 6,000-10,000 ads every day, and it can be hard to stand out. This overwhelming onslaught of ads, plus the current trends toward increased authenticity, can make consumers respond positively to see companies that are self-aware. This means putting out content that recognizes that a brand is a company designed to sell products, and the advertisement is trying to get the consumer to purchase the product.
This is essentially the “reverse psychology” approach to marketing, where brands ironically poke fun at themselves or the entire of idea of advertising. This is different from traditional marketing, which might try to hide the fact that they are trying to sell a product. Many major brands have jumped on this bandwagon, releasing ads that are funny and self-referential.
Social media has become an indispensable marketing tool for all brands. This environment changes consistently, especially in response to major global events like we’ve seen in 2020. Make sure to incorporate these trend forecasts into your marketing strategy for 2021, and continue to seek out new features on social media platforms and new ways of engaging with consumers.