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  • Lucy Muircroft

Social media predictions for 2021

If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we certainly can't predict the future. Whilst we didn’t predict a global pandemic, our social media predictions for last year were pretty spot on. So, what are some of the things we expect to see in 2021?

Last year saw the continuing rise of short form video with TikTok crowned the most downloaded app of 2020 and the introduction of Instagram Reels. Elsewhere, video conferencing apps became the norm, both for work and play, and Twitter joined the world of 24-hour stories with Fleets. Whilst many advances of the last year were driven by the pandemic and the need to think digital and fast, they will likely lead to lasting changes and new developments throughout 2021 in the way we connect and communicate online.

Social Commerce Becomes Mainstream

Will 2021 be the year consumers finally get comfortable with social shopping? We think so, and expect to see purchasing without even leaving your favourite social media apps become common place. The global pandemic has accelerated changes in the way we shop, and it seems highly likely social media platforms will continue to develop tools to make shopping on social as easy as one click.

Instagram has already swapped out its activity tab for ‘Shop’ where users can filter products by categories, and 2020 also saw testing of shopping via Reels. Meanwhile, not one to be left behind, TikTok is partnering with Shopify to launch new shopping features in the US. We expect to see TikTok move further into ecommerce, with swipe up links to shop introduced, and in turn, a proliferation of shoppable content both from brands themselves, and in the form of paid influencer partnerships, with greater ability to track conversion.

Brand and Influencer Accountability

2020 was the year of social media activism and we're willing to bet that it's here to stay. A global pandemic, increasing climate crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement saw audiences question the efforts and beliefs of brands and influencers alike who came under fire to publicly address issues they had previously never focussed on.

Consumers more and more want to support brands and influencers that align with their ideals and values, so it doesn't seem crazy to predict that audiences will continue to challenge both on how they are impacting social movements. An Accenture study found that 66% of consumers think transparency is one of a brand’s most attractive qualities whilst 62% want companies to stand up for the issues they are passionate about.

If 2020 was the year of setting intentions, 2021 will see a call for more action. We expect to see a move away from performative activism to more quantifiable actions, whether it's communication of inclusivity within their own workplace, stepping up their sustainability practices or influencers challenging the diversity of campaigns they work on. We think those with strong focus on social, environmental and ethical business will be the ones to flourish, especially amongst Gen Zers, who are more conscious consumers. A survey by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence found 82% of them believe brands should be about something more than profit, so we expect to see brands and influencers alike take note this year and, as a result, social media activism on the rise.

Social media activism posts on Instagram - one asking Primark to pay workers, and one from Patagonia saying they will be closed election day to encourage voting

Content Value Will Reign Supreme Over Production

With work from home becoming the norm, we all had to adapt and find ways to create engaging content from the comfort of our own home. And thus came the realisation that we don’t always need all singing, all dancing production. Without studios and high-tech equipment, production became less slick, but also more human.

Audiences have embraced Instagram Live, Zoom and a less polished Instagram grid. We think 2021 will continue to see content that provides value to the audience championed over glossy production, whether it is a recipe filmed from your kitchen or an Instagram Q&A with the odd accidental cameo from your other half or furry friend. Social media audiences are bombarded with reels of content every day, so it is more important than ever that every piece of content you put out this year has a clear purpose.

Going Live

It’s no understatement to say that 2020 shook up the world of live events. It has been a while since we've been able to crowd together at a concert or support our local sports team in the flesh, so across the events industry, brands have been dipping their toes into the virtual world. What started out of necessity, we predict will continue thanks to accessibility and return on investment. We expect to see the scaling up of online events and livestreams in 2021, as confidence in producing what was previously unchartered territory grows.

Arguably ahead of the trend, influencers have also been embracing the world of livestreaming, whether it's an Instagram Live Q&A, a sweat session or an at home mixology class. Fitness fanatic Courtney Black has gained over 400,000 followers, several clothing line collaborations and a book deal since March thanks to the popularity of her live workouts. We think 2021 will see more influencers and brands build innovative digital experiences to forge deeper connections with their audience, encourage two way conversation and inject a little more personality, in a world where faces on a screen are becoming the norm.


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