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2021 most important social media trends

As social platforms introduce new features and change their algorithms, social media trends likewise undergo an evolution. Take Instagram Stories, for example. A few years ago, Snapchat was known for its disappearing, FOMO-inducing content, but there didn’t appear to be a wide appetite for similar features on other networks. Now, over 500 million people use the feature daily on Instagram, and more and more platforms are adding equivalent features.

That’s testimony of just how quickly we adopt new trends in social media.

These rapid changes present a whole new challenge for brands and social media marketers as they have to constantly review their existing strategies and pivot to add new types of content to their repertoire. Marketers continually have to keep an eye out for the latest trends influencing the future of social media and evolve accordingly.

Why your entire team needs access to social business intelligence

After a year of transformation, businesses are going all-in on social as a valuable source of business intelligence.

If you’re looking for the latest social media trends 2021 has in store for you, you’re in luck. We’ve put together some of the top trends to watch to help you adapt and grow.


1. Live streams will remain popular

The global health crisis of 2020 saw many businesses going digital however they could to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Face-to-face meetings turned into Zoom conferences and live concerts turned into live streams of artists playing from their homes.

So naturally, there’s an uptick in the use of live streaming features on social media. Facebook saw a massive rise in messaging and live streaming, especially in COVID-19 hotspots like Italy. For instance, the number of views on Instagram and Facebook Live doubled there in just a week.

While the situation continues to evolve in 2021, people have gotten used to being able to interact with brands live without ever leaving their homes. So live streaming will continue to gain popularity and should definitely be a part of your social media marketing strategy.

40% of consumers want to see more live video from brands.


2. Stories as a content format

As highlighted earlier, more than 500 million users interact with Instagram Stories every day. So although Instagram Stories were already dominant content format in the previous year, they’re not going away any time soon.

Brands will need to take a more organized approach and plan for Stories as a content format for their publishing calendars, if they aren’t already doing so. More importantly, the use of video as Stories will increase since they appear to outperform photos.

A SocialInsider study found that images in Stories have a 5.65% higher tap-forward rate than videos. Tap-forward rate is the number of people who saw your Story and moved on to the next one before finishing it. The same analysis also found that photos in Stories had more drop-offs than videos, showing that people tend to spend more time viewing videos.

No wonder 51% of brands are already using videos in Stories, and the number will likely increase in 2021.

Exit rate for video Stories vs. Stories with image

3. Virtual reality will become more popular on social media

Amid the stay-at-home orders and the need for social distancing, people are seeking more meaningful interactions virtually. Virtual reality (VR) is one of the current technological trends that can provide them with those interactions.

Interacting with people through VR gives you a sense of actually being together even if they’re halfway across the world. This is the exact kind of experience that people need at a time when they have to socially distance.

2021 is likely to see virtual reality gaining more popularity on social media as platforms push forward with incorporating this technology.

Take Facebook Horizon, for example. As of early 2021, Facebook is leveraging the Oculus VR platform to beta-test a virtual world that allows people to explore, connect with others, and play games.

4. Augmented reality as a media trend

Similar to virtual reality, recent events have accelerated the adoption of Augmented reality (AR) experiences, including in the social space. AR doesn’t require additional hardware beyond a smartphone, making it even more readily accessible than VR. It’s also familiar from experiences like dynamic photo filters that have been on multiple social platforms for years.

Augmented reality experiences are inherently interactive and highly effective for engagement.

Brands are quickly buying into this latest social media trend by creating AR filters to promote new products or encourage fan interaction. This keeps your audience engaged and entertained, and could even help you attract new customers with the right promotion.

woman shooting beams out of eyes to zap nuggets

With limited brick-and-mortar shopping in 2020, AR can also be effective in driving purchases. AR shopping options to let you ‘try on’ products via your phone camera were implemented on Instagram in 2019, and AR experiences that let you envision products in your own home are only likely to continue to drive sales.

Creatively implementing AR into your social media marketing strategy for 2021 could very well help your brand stand out. The 2020 Sprout Social Index even found that creative and entertaining content are some of the top factors that make a brand’s social presence stand out.

data for marketers and consumers opinion on what makes a brand's social presence stand out

5. Social commerce will continue to grow

With the social media industry constantly adapting to enhance the user experience, we’re seeing more features and tools that support quick and easy shopping. Instagram, for instance, allows you to add product tags and enable easy checkout without ever leaving the platform. On Facebook, you can set up a Shop that people can browse and buy right on the platform.

6. Purpose-driven campaigns to take center stage

While social media has always driven engagement with causes, the global pandemic has shined an even brighter spotlight on these causes. People want to help more than ever, and they expect brands to pitch in.

In fact, 74% of respondents in a Twitter survey want brands to showcase acts of kindness. And 77% feel more positively about brands that try to support society during this crisis.

So even for 2021, we’re likely to see brands helping out however they can through purpose-driven social media campaigns. 86% of respondents in the survey want brands to support vulnerable members of the community. And 82% of respondents expect more support for frontline health staff.

7. Authenticity and transparency will be paramount

Consumers want brands to get real. That means maintaining authenticity and transparency about your products and operations. If you want people to trust you, you need to be honest with them.

And what better way to do that than through social media? According to the 2020 Sprout Social Index, transparency and engagement with the audience are the top two factors that make a brand’s social best in class.

data for marketers and consumers opinion on what makes a brand's social best in class

If you made a mistake, own up to it through a heartfelt social media message. Allow your customers to freely reach out to you in case of any problems or disappointments. And instead of deleting negative comments, openly address them and show them how much you care about their problems. Audiences are more social-savvy than ever, so you can’t expect to ‘get away’ to attempts to avoid, delete or otherwise sweep missteps under the rug.

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Smith Aegis Digital

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