10 social media trends to watch in 2021

7 min read
Quentin Aisbett

Life during COVID-19 has transformed the way we work and communicate. Zoom became a household name across the globe and live streaming via social media skyrocketed. So too did TikTok. What will be the social media trends of 2021? What can you expect? And what should you do about them?

Here are my top 10 social media trends for 2021 and what you should do to capitalise on them.

1. TikTok will surpass 1 billion users

Yes, it’s expected that TikTok will pass one billion users at some point in 2021. It’s an incredible feat considering it only had 54 million users in January 2018.

Should you create a TikTok account?

That’s a complicated question. You should approach this the same way you choose your other social media platforms. Understand if your audience is on the platform and if the content form aligns with your brand.

You can expect the TikTok audience will primarily be 13 to 24 years old. Is this your audience?

In terms of content, you’ll need to be comfortable producing really short videos and engaging with influencers to promote your brand.

Still interested? Start talking to your best customers and see if they’re using TikTok.

2. Businesses and brands focusing more on ROI

COVID has forced businesses to take social media more seriously. For many, it is no longer a fluffy marketing tool but a serious communication channel and a platform to drive sales. So with this new perception, we should see an increase in businesses wanting to get even more from it.

You should begin by identifying your social media objectives. Once you know what you want to achieve, then you need to identify how you will measure your performance.

Once you can start measuring your return on investment (ROI), it will be time to start improving your performance. Get familiar with your Facebook or Instagram Insights to understand your social audience better, the best times to post, and what kind of content drives more clicks and shares.

3. Live streaming will continue to rise

Recording video on laptop.

While live streaming was already on the rise before COVID-19, the pandemic has accelerated its use.

The Verge reported that the live-streaming sector grew by 49% from March to April 2020.

Will this slow down? I’m not expecting it to.

This social media trend gives you the opportunity to do more of what’s important for your users.

  • Consider Q&A sessions with staff or brand ambassadors to answer your consumers’ questions and create a compelling call to action.
  • And we’ve all flirted with trying to go behind the scenes of a business with staff profiles etc., but a live video does this with authenticity.

Facebook is always going to be a great place to start.

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4. More scrutiny on disinformation

The big platforms will increasingly move to fight disinformation. For example, Twitter has started flagging posts that contain unverified claims. This means you want to stay well away from sharing anything that may be anything but the truth.

In fact, I encourage brands and businesses to use their voice to call-out questionable truths on a topic that’s aligned with your target audience.

Use the opportunity to demonstrate your authenticity and commitment to a shared cause.

5. Moves to encourage more conversations

As more businesses take social media seriously, we’ll start to see a broader understanding that social media is not best served as another broadcast channel.

They’ll realise that to better use social media, they need to begin with one-to-one interactions — ultimately encouraging conversations between members of their audience.

Start small and try and facilitate some engagement between your audience. If you see encouraging signs, then look to create a Facebook Group for example and move the conversation into a closed space.

6. Baby Boomers will continue their online activity

World Economic Forum statistics revealed that before COVID-19, Boomers were showing the greatest increase in activity on social media platforms.

Older man using laptop while talking on smartphone.

COVID restrictions have only accelerated their online activity and 2021 may well prove to be the year that the ‘sleeping giant’ starts to be a big player in terms of social media usage and online sales.

Again, this only matters to you if Boomers are an important subset of your buyers.

And don’t fall for the stereotypes. Get to understand Boomers just as you would any other segment of the population. Look to use your engagement data and align your messaging more to their behaviours and interests than when they were born.

Roy Morgan research indicates Boomers in Australia favour Facebook and YouTube, with Pinterest not far behind and Instagram growing steadily.

7. Volatility will remain in 2021

For Australians, 2020 started with wild bushfires leading into floods and then a pandemic. The world will remain somewhat volatile in 2021 as we wait for a COVID vaccination rollout to get back to the ‘old normal’.

We should expect the unexpected in such a volatile time. Reconsider your three-month or six-month social media calendar. Work no more than a month ahead and plan for a variety of outcomes so you’re prepared.

8. Consumer convenience expectations to continue

Businesses have adapted well during the 2020 lockdowns. For example, cafés and restaurants moved to provide take-away meals instead. Retail stores established eCommerce operations and offered contactless pick-ups. And businesses have increasingly communicated and transacted via social media.

While some may expect these services to be dialled back when we get “back to normal,” I don’t. Many consumers have enjoyed a lot of the convenience that businesses have provided during lockdown and will demand it to continue even into the new normal.

This will influence social media trends, so I encourage you to continue to use social media as a true customer service channel.

9. Moves to integrate social content

Social media is often approached as a separate digital channel to your website, your content, email and particularly search. But with social media trends evolving, I believe there will be more social media integration with other digital channels in 2021.

I expect businesses will pull user-generated content (UGC) from their social media platforms into email campaigns, blog posts and advertising.

I would look to use live-stream recordings from social as well.

You should also identify opportunities to get your social content featured in search — YouTube and Twitter are great opportunities.

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10. Social media eCommerce will mature

Screenshot of Instagram Shopping
Instagram Shopping got its start in 2020, expect it to become even more popular in 2021.

Social media platforms obsess over keeping their users on their respective sites. They have little desire to encourage their users to leave and transact on another site.

The advice is pretty simple. If the social media platform you use to promote your business provides a way for you to sell your products to your audience easier, then get involved. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are great places to start.

Consumers already use social media for product discovery, so it’s a natural next step for you.

Events such as COVID-19 tend to accelerate already growing trends. This appears to be the case for social media trends in 2020 and into 2021.

The time to start using social media as a true extension of your business is now.

Every interaction your audience has with your business on social media is as important as a face-to-face interaction. So align your messaging and be authentic. Communicate your social media strategy internally. Identify your objectives and monitor your performance.

And above all, use social media as a tool to truly listen to your audience. It’s an invaluable platform to learn more about them so you can turn those insights into a competitive business advantage.