7 Key Social Media Trends to Watch in 2021 and Beyond

Want to stay in tune with your audience? Adjust your strategy to reflect the latest social media trends and escalate your growth in 2020 and beyond.

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Social platforms drive brand awareness, and your tactics open the door to conversations. But people and algorithms evolve, and you need to be right there with them. Jumping on the latest social media challenge or hashtag is a great way to stay relevant, and it’s essential you stay up to date with the latest social media trends.

7 top social media trends to inspire your social strategy:

  • Brands adopt flexible marketing campaigns
  • User-generated content (UGC) eases trust issues
  • Companies focus on authentic communications
  • The future of social media is still video
  • Social listening is a must, even for small brands
  • Stories are here to stay
  • Consumers embrace social commerce experiences

1. Brands adopt flexible marketing campaigns

Previously, you likely planned out months of social media content. 2020 tossed those well-planned promotions out the window. Many brands pulled advertisements, halted campaigns, and revised messaging from March onward to reflect current circumstances.

On social media, businesses swapped out photos of large gatherings for socially distanced images and shared updates about safety measures or business hours.

For instance, Perdue rolled out its first advertisement that didn’t feature a brand spokesperson or Perdue family member. Instead, the company shared videos of non-actors making meals at home. Fisher-Price launched a My Home Office playset, while Amazon, The North Face, and Shake Shack held virtual summer camps.

While you can still plan for upcoming social media holidays, it’s essential to stay flexible. You may need to change your messaging, hold off on a product launch, or pause a campaign to mirror popular trends, viral hashtags, or responses to social or health concerns.


2. User-generated content eases trust issues

The idea that people trust friends and family over brands isn’t a trend. It’s a fact of marketing.

And user-generated content is one way for brands to show authenticity while directing consumers toward products.

Last year, 79% of people said “UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions,” according to Stackla. But, social mistrust and general wariness grew in 2020. Just glance at a few comments on a promoted ad in your Facebook feed. You’ll see dozens of people asking if anyone ordered from the company or if the product does what the video shows.

Brands increased use of UGC for several reasons:

  • Highlight real-life fans: People like a nice story, but they’re tired of perfectly curated feeds. Fan-created content is raw and gained popularity through TikTok and Instagram Stories.
  • Demonstrate social concern: Showing customers doing things that align with your company’s values connects you to other like-minded clients.
  • Reduce production costs: Creating visual content is time-consuming and, at times, expensive. Preserve resources by sharing UGC like videos, images, or reviews.
  • Build a UGC repository: Stop relying on stock photos by generating and saving UGC for future campaign use.
  • Prove authenticity: Many customers have been burned by a product that didn’t deliver. UGC provides social proof via unedited reactions during unboxing or product use.

3. The future of social media is still video

Video gets higher engagement than other forms of social content, and when you add captions and a call to action, you can use videos to drive consumer actions. Yet video production is resource-heavy, meaning brands must ensure a return on investment by tailoring content to audience preferences and brand guidelines.

An excellent way to get the most from videos is by creating a long-form video, then editing it down into snackable versions for Instagram Reels, retargeting ads, and landing page snippets.

Figures showing how Facebook videos increase brand views and engagement.

From views to engagement, adding video to Facebook gives your brand a boost. Source: hopperhq.com.

However, live video stands out as a must-have in your social media marketing plan, with Facebook reporting that one in five Facebook videos are live broadcasts. Instagram says it saw a “70% increase in [Instagram Live] views from February to March.”

You can go live on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Live streaming content gives your brand and customers added benefits such as:

  • On Facebook, viewers can comment during your live presentation, and it shows up in real time.
  • Most platforms prioritize live content pushing it to the top of news feeds.
  • Unedited videos humanize you and your brand, providing a face to a company image.
  • Customers love being recognized or having their questions answered in real time.
  • You can perform social media research and get on-the-spot answers.
  • People watching live videos together online feel as though they’re part of a community.

4. Companies focus on authentic communications

As people spend extra time online, they’re cleaning up their social media feeds by unfollowing brands with repetitive or irrelevant messages. But consumers also expect your brand to do more than post a trendy message. They want you to back it up with action.

Authentic communication gives social media users a chance to get to know you. And that opens the door to customer engagement where you learn more about your followers. Boost brand loyalty with this kind of content:

  • Live stream a behind-the-scenes look at your customer service department in action.
  • Create social media posts recalling a memory or the reason you started your company.
  • Give a genuine thank you in response to a kind comment, share, or review.
  • Post videos or images showcasing your brand mission and values.

5. Social listening is a must, even for small brands

People expect personalization and want relevant content in their feed. And with the speed of change we’ve seen in 2020, it’s nearly impossible to hit the mark without employing social listening tools.

After all, how can you deliver relevant topics if you don’t know what your audience wants? But it’s not just your audience you should be thinking about. Listen to chatter from industry leaders, investors, and influencers.

Listening and social media management tools, such as Sprout Social, alert you to current trends in social media and help you clarify personas. By monitoring digital conversations, you can tailor messages that resonate and increase social media engagement.


6. Stories are here to stay

Storytelling is crucial to your social media content strategy, and it’s taken off across social channels with stories that disappear after 24 hours. It started with Instagram, then Facebook, and now LinkedIn. Stories provide a sense of community, give fans a reason to check back, and appear more authentic than a series of highly edited photos.

Of course, brands appreciate stories because they deliver a fear of missing out (FOMO) without sales tactics. And stories can skyrocket engagement when you add quizzes, polls, GIFs, and stickers.

While the future of stories is still iffy on LinkedIn, where its rollout caused a bit of backlash, the craving for swipeable, ephemeral content won’t end anytime soon.


7. A shift to social commerce activities

Several social media platforms try to keep users on their site and eliminate the friction consumers experience when going from window shopping to buying intent in their journey.

Instagram and Facebook use Shops where brands can upload a product catalog, giving fans more ways to learn about their products and click to buy without closing the social media app. On Pinterest, shopping ads and catalogs help fans turn their ideas into reality with just a few clicks.

Data showing how social media drives product discovery and purchases.

Social media influences buying decisions across many social channels. Source: kleinerperkins.com.

For your small business to stand out on Instagram or Facebook Shops, you’ll need to make your fans aware of your shop and how to use it. Create a social media campaign to launch your social storefront and include:

  • Email sequences with instructions on how followers can shop from your feed
  • Supportive content in stories to direct fans to your social media shop
  • Cross-promotion tactics to expand your reach across social channels
  • A live stream where you answer fan questions about shopping on social media

Use social media trends to create compelling campaigns

With the swift pace of online media, it’s crucial to adjust your social media content calendar to reflect changes. Stay on top of your audience and the latest marketing tools by following industry leaders, monitoring your audience, and optimizing your content to get the most from every post.

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