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Data Done Differently: Social Media Trends Insights Report


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5 min

social media marketing

5 Social Media Trends to Watch Out For in 2021

Social media is constantly changing and whether it’s a new app like TikTok and Clubhouse or the role influencers play in social media, it’s hard to keep track of what the latest big trends are and their impact. And that’s in a “normal” year. This year has been anything but normal. Social media spikes have stabilized in 2021 after the world saw the biggest rise in online time ever as a result of the pandemic. I dug into recent social media trends and created my watch list for 2021. Who knows? In 3 months this list could be obsolete. Welcome to 2021!

A key theme that resonates throughout is the need for authentic, honest communication with our social communities. Trust is at an all-time low and the need for connection is high - brands that have found ways to combat these challenges and provide community and social interaction to their audiences are the big winners post-COVID.

Here are the latest social media trends that I have my eye on right now and why:

1. Facebook is still the social media king

While this is not a new trend, Facebook is still the king of the social media verse. It’s the trends that are happening between video-centric platforms like Instagram and TikTok that are most interesting. Instagram has taken the lead from Facebook among Gen-Zs by establishing its place as their favorite and most-used app. Yet, a high number of Gen-Zers use Facebook on a weekly basis, and it remains the world’s most popular social network across all generations, with over two-thirds of all internet users visiting it on a weekly basis. One reason for the high Instagram usage can be how Gen-Z ranks content consumption and trending topics above news stories.

But these aren’t the only channels to create a successful social following - niche social communities on TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube have proven to be successful, especially as video and live streaming content continue to rise. 74% of internet users outside China watch YouTube on a monthly basis, putting it above other popular TV, film, and video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Pick 2-3 channels and focus on building content and engagement on these channels first, and then start expanding to other social platforms. While Facebook will play a role in your channel strategy, don’t forget about the video-centric platforms that continue to grow and reduce Facebook’s market share.

2. Consumers want to be entertained & inspired

Entertaining and inspirational content has become a key motivation for users spending time on social media. Stories may be short-lived, but they can leave a lasting impression on viewers and brand followers by showcasing the people and meaning behind an organization in a more laid-back and authentic way.

Platforms that are used to find entertaining and inspiring content as one of the primary reasons to use the platform include TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter while Facebook and LinkedIn are not used as often for these social media motivations. As platforms continue to innovate and inspire, different social products and content types like stories and Fleets enhance brand-consumer relationships and drive meaningful conversations with its social followers. It’s up to brands to create authentic, two-way, and inspiring content to create these connections with their communities.

3. Demand for unfiltered social media content is high

It’s proven that influencers have a strong connection to consumers, especially the younger generations. Data clearly shows the stronghold they have on consumers – with Gen-Zs being almost as likely to follow influencers as brands. Look no further than the TikTok insurgence of growth over the last year. Between Q4 2019 and Q2 2020, weekly usage of the app rose from 7% to 21% outside China, as video-sharing platforms drew in new audiences. TikTok effects have helped various influencers and brands in their efforts to go viral.

But going viral isn’t the key to growing an engaged community of social followers. Influencer followers have a varied list of passions. They over-index for being interested in personal healthcare, wildlife, DIY, and volunteering. So it’s not that influencers have less potential, but that followers want more raw, unfiltered content, which they currently relate to better than glitzy backdrops. This is why micro-influencers have grown in popularity with their more modest size of followers but high engagement levels.

Companies should aim to create online communities centered around the themes or interests most relevant to them. Creating enclosed spaces will encourage people to open up and share experiences, enhancing brand loyalty in the process. Finding ways for viewers to participate before, during, and after an event through activities like challenges and Q&As will drive social interaction and sentiments of belonging. This is largely the appeal behind the trending invite-only, audio-based app, Clubhouse, which provides an intimate setting for communities across the spectrum. Again, people want honest, raw, real, and authentic interactions.

4. The mental health impact is felt most strongly by younger consumers

In a COVID environment where we crave physical interaction and loneliness can be high at times - mental health is more important than ever. GWI data shows higher levels of social media usage with enhanced feelings of anxiety among younger generations. Younger consumers feel the connection between social media and mental health most strongly. Gen-Z also feels more comfortable turning to social media (36%) than medical professionals (29%) for support with their mental wellbeing. Gen-Zs are more prone to anxiety in general and have been badly affected by the pandemic, so we can expect this tension to resonate in other social interactions – including online ones. Make sure to continue to check in on your coworkers, family, and friends during this time and give yourself breaks - we all need it.

5. Gaming & online dating apps are starting to look like social media platforms

During the pandemic, both gaming and online dating platforms started to resemble social media platforms with a high level of in-app and social media engagements across both industries. Both of these spikes during the pandemic can be attributed to a need for virtual connection, and brand leaders in this space have prioritized creating a social environment that is open and relationship-driven. They have prioritized developing or marketing their most social and inclusive offerings. Again, we see a trend of communities that have prioritized connection driving growth.

2021 social media is about creating an inclusive, authentic, and accessible community. People want connection and they want their voice to be heard. Many recent social media trends continue to point to the need to have products and platforms that embrace a community that provides that to all.

Follow us on social for up-to-date trends and insights featuring data from our enterprise partner, Global Web Index.

Credit: Global Web Index Social Media Report, 2020

data done differently
social media marketing
digital analytics
Megan Ingram

April 11, 2022