Whether you’re a marketer, small business owner or content creator, here are the hottest social media trends you need to know about.
If you’ve ever spent two hours on “I’m just going to check my Instagram real quick”, then you know what power social media has over our lives.
But perhaps this feeling although very real is subjective. Well, in terms of actual data, the importance of social media on the economy is even more striking. Here are some striking numbers:
- Over half of the world’s population is on social media
- 43% of people reported increased use of social media during the covid-19 pandemic
- After Google, the top-visited websites were YouTube and Facebook
- Around 40% of 16-54-year-olds search for brands on social media
- Instagram got over 111 million new users last year
- LinkedIn passed a milestone of 700 million users
And the list goes on. Social media isn’t going anywhere as a marketing and networking channel, but the rapid growth can also mean that it can become more difficult to beat the competition and reach your customers. Stay on top of the latest social media trends to make sure your strategy can fit changing expectations with your audiences.
We’ve split the hottest trends into 2 sections, new and emerging types of content, and general trends related to social media demographics and behavior.
Popular channels and content types
It’s obvious that video content will keep gaining popularity. But what forms of social media videos are ones to look out for, and how can you optimize your content for new audiences? Here are some tips.
1. TikTok will get bigger
You might be surprised to hear that TikTok launched back in 2016. However, it’s safe to assume that it really hit the big league last year. In 2019, reached its first billion downloads. A year later, this number doubled. In just the first quarter of 2020, TikTok downloads from Google and Apple app stores reached an incredible 315 million (only Zoom and Pokemon Go managed to achieve the 300 million mark in a single quarter)
Whether it was the need for entertainment in quarantine or the fact that younger generations are overwhelmingly adopting this creative platform (41% of TikTok users are younger than 24), TikTok continues to rise in popularity (the number of adult users from September to March 2019 grew 5.5 times).
So, if you’re a reluctant millennial (present!), Gen X or Y, the news is that you really should consider including TikTok in your social media strategy. And if you wish to reach a younger, and especially teenage audience, TikTok presence is a must.
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2. User-generated content and influencer marketing
There’s a reason why user-generated content (UCG) is booming. For marketers it means saving money; for consumers, it means seeing product reviews from real people they can trust (90% of consumers say UCG holds more influence over buying decisions than promotional emails)
But of course, brands aren’t just turning to their customers for promotional content. Most marketers (63%) increased influencer marketing spending last year. However, instead of partnering just with big names, there’s a growing interest in collaborating with micro-influencers. A smaller target audience means that these influencers can connect with their audience better and often bring more ROI to brands: micro-influencers have a 20% higher conversion rate than other influencers.
3. Live streams
In the year behind us we live streamed everything from fitness classes and lectures, to theater plays and even concerts and DJ sets.
Live streams have shown the opportunity to connect with people safely, often without additional costs that organizing an event in person might carry. Aside from the big social media platforms, a couple of new ones emerged specifically for live video streaming, such as Twitch and Mixer, and even LinkedIn introduced this feature.
When it comes to marketing, [Livestream’(https://livestream.com/blog/live-video-statistics-livestreamrl)'s report suggests that 82% of people prefer a video live stream from a brand over a social media post.
The use of live stream is an opportunity for mid funnel leads to get a deeper insight into your brand. Instagram stories (or Instagram live) have certainly grown in popularity, but don’t disregard trusty old YouTube either: it’s still the number 1 preferred platform for live streams! Don’t worry too much about scripting and rehearsing a script (authenticity is popular!), but make sure your videos are of high quality: Livestream suggests 67% cite video quality as the most important factor for watching a live stream.
4. The rise of VR & AR
No matter what social media channel you use on a regular basis, you must have come across at least one of those face editing videos. The so-called “deep fakes” use AI deep learning technology to swap people’s faces in images and videos to a surprisingly realistic range.
There are legitimate concerns about the misuse of this futuristic technology, but as far as virtual reality goes, your audiences might expect to see something other than a simple video: if we get used to seeing face swapping, then surely you can expect to be able to see how a product fits (for example, Sephora is known for using augmented reality (AR) for years to help people see how one of their products might fit).
5. Social media plays a bigger role in ecommerce
Another area in which covid-19 has increased the social media landscape is online shopping. With Facebook shops and Instagram shopping, you have an opportunity to create a completely frictionless experience for your shoppers, and move them from your marketing to the sales funnel much faster.
When it comes to demographics and general user behavior, the most important 2021 social media trends to note are the following.
6. The boom of boomers
Ageism is yet another form of exclusion that’s not addressed nearly as often enough as it should be. And yet, slowly but surely baby boomers have gotten more used to new technologies and are developing tech-savvy despite being constantly overlooked by marketers and digital business owners.
The pandemic left many people in financial difficulty, however since baby boomers came into it with generally healthier finances than younger generations, 2021 might be a great time to reach out to this demographic. Hootsuite reports that 70% used ecommerce, and 34% plan to continue their increased internet use. And if you have at least one older relative on social media, then I don’t have to stress that by far the most popular channel among this age group is Facebook.
7. Social listening
In the wake of the pandemic, many marketers struggled to find a suitable strategy: relaying the right messages or using the sudden rise of social media users to their advantage.
The clever ones took a step back and listened to their customers and their communities, before stepping out with a definitive marketing strategy. A creative campaign last year was Coors Light #CouldUseABeer. In one of the most difficult periods in contemporary history, they decided what people needed was a bit of fun and…well, a cold one. They handed 500,000 free beers, but more importantly, got even more people engaged on their social media, talking about why they might need a free alcoholic pick-me-up.
It’s also related to the aforementioned influencer marketing: customers trust influencers more than organic brand ads. So instead of bombarding them with ads, join in the conversation and try to respond to questions and queries.
8. Increase in social media customer service
With the expansion of social commerce, it’s no surprise that more people are turning to social media for customer support queries. Again, there are strong reasons for this trend. Go Globe suggests that customers expect a quick response with social media (1 hour); another finding is that this type of customer service is also 80% cheaper than traditional call centers.
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9. Transparency & sustainability
Product-based brands (especially fashion brands) have been increasingly challenged about their commitment to more sustainable and ethical production, but this trend is now expanding to marketing in different industries.
Making your operations transparent, and your production chain sustainable is perhaps an obvious tip. But when it comes to social media marketing, you need to be prepared to start a discussion with your audience. Consumers have better and easier access to information these days, and making a special “Earth Day product” won’t be enough to win them over. In fact, some of them might call you out on greenwashing.
10. Inclusivity is important
Last year was a turbulent time for exposing racial inequality in the US (and by extent, across the globe). The big conversations from (earlier) the Me Too and now Black Lives Matter movements, have had a huge impact on the ways brands interact with their customer or user base on social media.
Of course, remember that staying on the surface level won’t be enough in the long run. A study by Getty Images shows that 80% of people expect companies to do a better job at representing people from different backgrounds, lifestyles and cultures. This doesn’t mean using diverse models in your social media graphics, but also creating content and addressing issues that are important to your audience.
With new types of content, new channels and better access to information, customers expect social media marketing to be authentic, personalized and representative of them and their lifestyle.
Instead of expensive campaigns, the focus will be on starting conversations and responding to the changing needs and expectations of a (post?) pandemic world.