Over the past year, the way brands advertise their products or services on social media has changed.
And as social media continues to grow in popularity – we reached over 3.6 billion social media users worldwide by 2020 – brands aren’t just wondering how they’re going to reach a large social media audience next year. They also ask, “What social media trends should I expect in this ever-changing landscape?”
To learn more about what brands can expect in 2021 and beyond, I spoke to Kelly Hendrickson, HubSpot’s social media manager, and did some research, including HubSpot and Talkwalker’s Social Media Trends Report.
Below, I’ve rounded up nine expert or research-backed trends that social media marketers should watch and leverage in 2021.
Social Media Trends 2021
- Brands will continue to take a less than more posting approach.
- The content value exceeds the production quality.
- Conversational marketing is going to change its tone.
- Consumers will crave nutritious content.
- The focus will continue to be on the video.
- More brands will go live.
- Social media platforms could serve as shopping channels.
- Users will appreciate gaming and VR.
- Authenticity will be crucial.
1. Brands continue to follow the “less is more” approach to posting.
This year, many brands spent less time writing social media posts and more time just producing content that felt thoughtful, valuable, and in touch with the world around them.
According to Hendrickson, the “less is more” trend is likely to continue into 2021.
“COVID-19 has had brands starting to ask a question they may never have asked themselves before: ‘Is my audience even wanting to hear from me now?'” Says Hendrickson.
“I expect brands will be more thoughtful when they post. It could even mean that regardless of the algorithms, they publish less because that’s the right thing to do,” explains Hendrickson. “There will also be more thoughtful ad purchases and partnerships.”
For example, check out the Mented Cosmetics YouTube page. The brand makes sure they are thoughtful when they post new videos and usually only releases a new video once a week.
This helps keep Mented Cosmetics followers from feeling bombarded with content too often, and creates excitement when a new video is posted.
2. The content value exceeds the production quality.
When many companies were forced to be completely remote in 2020, social media and video marketing teams had to develop scalable production processes that could be carried out from home.
As consumers continued to delve into videos, live streams, and other social media content that clearly came from home offices, marketers found that lower-quality content can still be interesting – if it offers value.
“COVID19 has forced many brands to resolve issues with the production of content, especially video work,” said Hendrickson. “Without a production studio or tons of equipment available, the production value got a bit lo-fi and, in the end, a bit more human.”
“The exciting thing about brands is that the audience generally loved it. If anything, they saw each other more at work,” adds Hendrickson. “They were zoomed in too, filming things on their cell phones or stuck in their homes.”
Hendricks predicts that “we will see productions bare bones in 2021. But audiences will continue to appreciate it.”
For example, Airbnb’s YouTube ad, “Meet Dan”, is of lower production quality – and for good reason. The more authentic feeling behind the scenes adds to the humor it evokes when we get a tour of Dan’s Airbnb room on alpacas and segways. The brand made a wise decision by ditching fancier video effects in favor of something far more real – more human.
3. Conversational marketing will change its tone.
Conversation marketing isn’t new. With most of the big brands we know and love, you can always connect with them through social media messaging channels.
In 2021, the tone of digital conversations could change as there are more messaging channels than ever before and consumers need more information to make a worthwhile investment.
While previous conversation marketing tactics focused on promotions and getting sales done as quickly as possible, conversational marketers of 2021 may have been more focused on helping a user with something, educating them about a product, and providing them with a more thoughtful or empathetic sense of conversion move sound.
“Brands need to be more human on social media and invite the world to a meaningful and engaging conversation around your table,” said Aaron Kaufman, director of social media at Square Enix, in our Social Media Trends report.
“You are the biggest fan of your fan and you have to embody that, no matter which social media channel you live on. Emote, answer, recognize, relate, get involved. We are not robots.”
For example, Asana recently posted a #TakeYourKidsToWorkDay-inspired post on LinkedIn, along with a cute message: “Send a lot [love] to our parent and carer community! “The message has nothing to do with Asana’s product or service – instead, it focuses on connecting with Asana’s audience on a deeper level.
How will brands deal with increased demand for thoughtful conversation marketing? A mix of AI tools and human interaction could help.
A healthy combination of AI and human interaction could allow brands to work efficiently on social media while still giving consumers the authenticity they need to trust a brand and make a purchase. For example, a bot could handle quick message requests while sales, service, or community management reps could respond to more complex questions and concerns.
To learn more about scaling your conversation marketing strategy, check out this guide on how to build a chatbot or learn how HubSpot increases qualified leads by mixing people and bots in our conversation marketing.
4. Consumers crave nutritious content.
In 2020, we saw the rise of TikTok and Instagram roles, continued commitment to Stories content from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and brands creating other short-form or “snack” pieces to convey to consumers about their brand to enlighten.
With the attention span on social media shrinking and more and more people scrolling through feeds endlessly while bored at home, don’t expect snackable content to run out of steam anytime soon.
Take a look at the latest tweet from the McBride Sisters Collection, which featured a design that quickly summarizes which wine glass shapes you should use for different types of wine – including white, dessert, and sparkling wine.
The picture is easy to digest (or snack) so that the brand’s followers can quickly get value from the post without spending too much time looking at it.
This helpful post will tell you about four types of snack content your brand should be taking advantage of over the next year.
5. The focus will continue to be on the video.
In early 2020, HubSpots Not Another State of Marketing Report found that video was the most widely used marketing content – and the second most common type of content on social media.
As major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn continue to improve their video capabilities, marketers can assume that high video consumption will continue and increase in the years to come.
6. More brands will go live.
In 2019, every fifth Facebook video was live. In May of this year, YouTube users spent a total of 284 hours watching live videos.
With many brands forced to have conferences, events, and other marketing experiences online in 2020, it’s not shocking to think that the number of live streams could be higher in 2020.
Currently, many brands are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, and Twitter to broadcast live stream events, Q&A, tutorials, and other types of content. This type of content keeps your followers connected to your brand by bringing an event they might not otherwise be able to attend right on their screens.
For example, each year INBOUND interviews some of its notable speakers and guests in live episodes of INBOUND Studio on Facebook. This way, followers who can’t join us can get live tips from experts. In addition, supporters of interviewed experts can learn more about INBOUND and HubSpot.
For more information on online live streaming, check out this live streaming guide, as well as these tips for marketing your next virtual event.
7. Social media platforms could serve as shopping channels.
As many brands learned how to do business entirely online, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok have tried to create more online marketing solutions for businesses.
While TikTok and Snapchat expanded the marketing offering for companies in 2020, Facebook and Instagram have integrated the shopping functions directly into their apps.
With Facebook Shops and Instagram Shoppable Posts, consumers can buy a product featured in a post without leaving the app they are in.
For example, check out the Pink Lily Boutique shoppable Instagram post. If you click on the picture you will see some tags from each product that the model is wearing. You can then click the link to buy immediately without leaving the app.
This increases convenience for consumers. For brands that haven’t been able to build their own ecommerce store, the online shopping tools mentioned above offer new ways to effectively sell products online.
8. Social media users will appreciate gaming and VR.
In the past year, the number of social media users who identify as “gamers” rose by more than 10 million – or 32%. Our Social Media Trends Report shows that the highest increase in player identification was during the heaviest lockdown months of COVID-19.
Now that Facebook’s company Oculus is launching new VR products, Twitch is expanding its online streaming capabilities for games, and platforms like Snapchat are launching mini-game apps, it’s clear that gamification and social media will go hand in hand in 2021 Hand will go.
As a small and medium business marketer, game-related promotions may no longer be available at this time. However, as Facebook and other major platforms continue to introduce branded tools for their latest features, it’s not shocking to think that more in-game social media advertising opportunities may be possible in the future.
Brands should be on the lookout for game-related promotions in 2021.
Wendy’s took advantage of the gaming world via Twitch in 2019 when the brand created an avatar for the popular Fortnite game to destroy freezers and demonstrate the brand’s commitment to fresh meat.
The marketing promotion earned 1.5 million minutes and achieved a 119% increase in Wendy’s brand names across all platforms.
Even as promotional game content becomes available to big brands but not smaller businesses, marketers can still watch what bigger businesses do and be kicked off with fresh ideas as gamified advertising becomes more scalable.
9. Authenticity will be crucial.
This year, consumers and brands faced a global pandemic, uncertain financial times, and a number of important events that paused nations from the news networks.
Now, consumers need more than cheap deals to trust, identify with, and invest in a brand. At this point in time, many brands were realizing authenticity and their human side on social media.
For example, Tipping Cow Ice Cream skipped an ice cream post on New Year’s Eve to focus on something more important: The founders’ appreciation for the support of their customers, especially in the challenging year 2020. The post shows authenticity and the sense of reality you can’t Earn only with product-oriented contributions.
While some brands have spoken directly about their thoughts on COVID-19 or other news, others have shown authenticity by zoning their customers through user-generated content. O. r customer references.
When both strategies are done authentically, they can help brands gain trust from their audiences while building awareness as a company that cares about people.
“We will continue to see the growth of social media developers. Influences will continue to exist, but accountability, authenticity and transparency will be the areas in which brands and companies determine who to work with and who to share.” on, “says Karen Freberg in our Social Media Trends Report.
“Empathy and advocacy will be elements that will be integrated into messages and purposes for creator campaigns. The days of faking it until you manage to have no experience other than a lot of followers are over.”
In 2021, expect authenticity to take center stage on social media as successful brands continue to build trust among their target audiences.
How to take advantage of the social media marketing trends of 2021
Now that we have covered some of the most popular social media trends you will see in 2021, let’s summarize the steps you can take to capitalize on these trends and promote your own social activity.
Here are a few steps your social team can take to capitalize on these trends, attract new audiences, and build a larger following:
- Use videos whenever possible. People are currently loving videos, especially live video content that feels extra authentic. Test live video channels like IGTV or Facebook Live to see how they work.
- Create assignable content. Don’t be afraid to show another side to your brand. Highlight customer stories; Talk about the bigger mission or purpose of your company. Give us a “day in the life” of one of your employees. Go beyond your product or service and create a deeper connection with your audience.
- Use a conversation tone. Create social media captions like you’re talking to a friend. Of course, you want to stick to yours Brand voice, but play around with how to engage with your audience on social channels. Ask your followers questions or tell stories to increase engagement.
- Use design elements for snacks. Test out memes, gifs, short videos, quick quizzes, fun infographics, etc. to find out how to grab and hold an audience’s attention even when they are quickly scrolling through their feeds.
- quality before quantity. No need to post once a day. Audiences value quality over quantity – think about ways to schedule your content to be regular, but not Overposting. Use analytics to determine the right cadence for your own brand.
Navigating social media in 2021
Today the world around us is constantly changing. And while we think we know what to expect with social media, this list of trends is unlikely to be exhaustive of what we’ll see in 2021.
As a social media marketer, your best bet is to continue researching trends, online consumer behavior, and your team’s social media data to see what trends or strategies to rely on, or how to navigate unprecedented online scenarios.
A great place to start this research could be our HubSpot and Talkwalker’s latest Social Media Trends report.
In addition to insights and quotes from social media experts, our social media trend report contains all the important trend predictions for 2021 to learn how COVID-19 can affect social media marketing. To view the free report, click here or on the banner below.