In 2021, social media, as you know it is going to shift materially again! Here is our synopsis of the social media trends to watch out for in 2021.
Many experts see 2021 as the fulfilment of the Internet as the world's commercial backbone. By all accounts, the new year will be an important time for social media marketing – connecting the world more closely than ever before and providing new opportunities for business to gain awareness and revenue locally and internationally.
For those brands embracing all things digital and social the acceleration and gap, they are creating is evident when compared with their peers.
Think, Airbnb, Uber, Ikea, Dominos, Adidas as a small subset of the market leaders.
Let's assess where social media is going in 2021, and what this means to you and your brand.
The Stories trend - started by Snapchat - is now reasonably ubiquitous across all major platforms. Facebook, Instagram and even YouTube, have all introduced a Stories feature, and its use will increase in 2021.
As of today, 500 million users now use Instagram Stories every day!
Why? Stories are viewed as very authentic, with the videos usually created in the spur of the moment. Producers are given a vast variety of choices to express the story, and the content is more highly valued because it disappears after a short time.
Fear of missing out is a classic behaviour driver; stories allow brands to use this tactic for short-term deals and flash sales. As a feature, Stories also give loyal customers a reason to stay tuned in to a channel and feel rewarded for their loyalty with exclusive content and opportunities.
Of course, no high-impact feature stays a secret for long. New users will eventually hear about the Stories, sales and specials they missed out on. Once this intrigue occurs and new interest is gained, a company can begin to grow engagement through the informal opt-in. Stories also allow for polls and quick question features that will keep these users engaged without the need for hard sales pitches — Whilst even educating brands on consumer interests and knowledge about their products and industry.
The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is an initiative that has taken the commercial Internet into an entirely new era of transparency and corporate responsibility. Although the jurisdiction of the data protection law centres out of the EU, the global business community has generally held it up as an initiative to follow. The GDPR also asserts itself onto any business that does business inside of the EU, affecting a vast number of international companies.
The law went into effect in May 2018, but it is now just taking effect. Companies that are seen as untrustworthy data collectors now face the court of public opinion as well as, possibly, a real court with eight-figure fines a practical reality.
As a result of the GDPR and the attempts of industry leaders stay level with Europe, we will see a lot more "transparency" when it comes to companies withdrawing consumer data. What this will likely turn into is companies putting access to its content behind a data paywall. Blue-chip companies will begin to require that users give up certain information to use their services and websites. Digital anonymity will slowly become a thing of the past, and users will become much easier to profile in the long term. In the short term, however, the companies that ease their customers into this new era of transparent data transfer most smoothly will find both short term and long terms success.
However, the new, transparency of the Internet also provides an opening and opportunity for companies to profit from user-generated content. One of the most effective ways of building trust with consumers, as showcased by Starbucks and others, is to allow customers to share their experience with the brand openly. User-generated content satisfies the need of the company to gather data and allows its consumers to offer that data in a way that is not intimidating. In 2021 transparency on both side of the equation is going to continue to increase.
Video will generate around 80% of Internet traffic by the year 2021, how is that for a social media trend. Video outpaced text as the most widespread form of digital content in 2017. Now that video is more mainstream, and everyone generally has access, we will begin to see video marketing strategies evolve at a pace we have not seen before.
Live video will be used more than ever to generate engagement. Expect to see more live Q&As for events of all types, as well as product demos and how-to videos. Companies will invest more in live streams, as they have been shown to build engagement with an audience in real-time. Other communications giants will mirror platforms like IGTV from Instagram, making it that much easier for consumers to engage with video content.
And as the machine learning capability of YouTube and other platforms continues to grow, we will see brands that create content around user interests derive a significant advantage in terms of consumer attention.
Speaking of social media trends, let's talk Q&A, the underrated (but widely used by people in the know) Quora is likely to get the recognition that it deserves. For years, Quora has been one of the best places to create brand and market awareness by answering questions that are directly relevant to a potential customer base.
Some experts believe that Quora will read its own tea leaves and expand its platform into the company profile space. As of today, you cannot create a complete business profile on Quora, only a personal one. However, many companies are creating a real presence on the platform by creating multiple profiles of their employees. Smaller companies, self-employed people and contractors are also using Quora to display their niche expertise and build communities through discussion boards.
Advertising capabilities are continuing to grow on this platform, and for a B2B business, there are some significant advantages in advertising across Quora.
Some interesting statistics to consider about Quora.
- It has an active user base of 300m
- Users spend twice as much time on Quora as they do LinkedIn
- 54% of user report an annual income exceeding $100k
- 37% of users are in management positions.
Millennials are progressing into decision-making power and for a long time they have been setting social media trends in business and actually prefer chatbots to humans for customer service. Forbes reports that the majority of consumers prefer chatbots to humans as well.
We are quite a long way from the prewritten list of answers for common questions triggered by generic keywords. Today's chatbots are so advanced that it's possible to understand users by their tone and even typing speed. Canned answers are a thing of the past – the modern chatbot can search Google for an answer just as quickly (or perhaps even faster) as a customer does.
Chatbots also allow a business to expand a customer service department exponentially without expanding the payroll exponentially. One chatbot can talk simultaneously to multiple people. Through machine learning technology, all of these conversations allow the bot to "learn" how to respond to people, meaning that they will only improve on their current performance down the line.
The technology has already improved to the point that the average person can build his own chatbot without knowing how to code. This will improve the customer management system at small companies quickly, allowing them to maintain the same level of customer service as their larger counterparts.
Not investing in influencer marketing? 59% of marketers reporting that they will increase the budget for influencer marketing in 2021.
Consumers are seeking reviews about products from people they trust. For consumers and companies, this social circle has expanded to include trusted influencers on social media platforms. People follow celebrities, yes, but they also follow experts with specific knowledge and niche artists with a good reputation.
This is great for small companies that don't have the budget to hire the A-list Hollywood actor for a commercial. With the growth of micro-influencers, we will also see the growth of many niche-oriented microbusinesses.
Augmented Reality (AR)
In 2019, AR showed a great deal of potential. However, only forward-thinking companies invested in it and made a commercial impact. In 2021, this will be different. The cost of implementing AR is decreasing, and the technology is improving and becoming more natural to use. We will likely see AR technologies proliferating more in eCommerce, exclusive sales offers and product discovery.
There is huge potential for this kind of technology. Prospective car buyers will be able to customize their vehicles from their computers, right down to the headlight colour. Realtors will be able to take potential buyers on virtual reality tours of the homes they are selling, and those buyers will be able to see what the home would look like with virtual objects such as different colour paint schemes or the bathroom wall taken out. "Try before you buy" has always been a staple of doing business, and AR is set to make it more convenient than ever before.
Social Media Shopping
This is a social media trend that will actually catch many brands out! Although we are making huge strides in digital commerce, we have yet to really streamline the procedure of purchasing online completely. In the very near future, customers will be able to buy things directly from their social network feeds without leaving the first site. Imagine being able to look around a social influencer's room on YouTube or Instagram and purchase everything in it with nothing more than a few clicks. Talk about impulse buying!
Any technology that shortens the sales funnel is going to generate significant investment from the sales and marketing industry, and social media shopping is top on the list for leading companies. We already see blue-chip businesses use this strategy, and as the technology for it becomes more readily available, more brands are likely to shift in that direction. 2021 will see shopping via social grow exponentially, and consumers become very comfortable transacting via this online shopping experience.
We live in an era of commerce that is driven by the consumer, not the producer. The Internet allows the average person a variety of choices that were simply not available in previous business generations.
People can vote with their fingers, taking their attention away from a company with a single mouse click. Smart companies know this, and they are responding with a huge investment in their customer service efforts.
And just how effective does this investment in customer service have to be? Speed is everything in the world of modern business. Research on HubSpot reports that 82% of consumers expect an "immediate answer" when they have a customer service question, marketing or sales question.
Immediate was defined in the report as 10 minutes or less. This research also shows that getting that immediate response is a huge deal – they rated speed as "important" or "very important."
The right investment in customer service creates feedback that is more than the sum of its parts. It also means investing in more than just the parts!
In 2021 and beyond, marketers define service as part of the brand – it is what a business is, not just what it does. Look to leading companies to create entire marketing campaigns, and exclusive sales offers from the trends they find in their social media threads.
We will likely see the biggest investments in technologies that have not hit the mainstream yet. For instance: As popular as chatbots are becoming, they still have a huge market to tap into. Because of AI-infused technologies like this, 24/7 customer service will become the norm and an expectation rather than a luxury.
If there is one thing that we know about digital technology, it is that surprises are the norm. As new technologies are built using social media, the pace of new innovations will accelerate. Look to these trends as the beginning of the evolution of social media in 2021, 2022, and beyond.
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