2020 has been an unusual year for many reasons, so as 2021 approaches, it’s important to revisit your business’ social media strategy. There have been many ups and downs, developments, and major shifts in the world of social media this year, so let’s take a look at four major areas that could continue to see some big changes in the new year.
1. Video Continues to Evolve
The numbers don’t lie: every year, mobile video consumption rises by 100%. Additionally, video social media posts have 48% more views than those with pictures only.
Over the past decade, the way video is utilized on social media has constantly evolved, and in 2021 there are two main areas where this evolution will continue.
Tiktok and Reels’ Expansion
2020 saw many innovations in video, including the continued rise of TikTok and the emergence of Instagram’s copycat function Reels. Looking ahead to the next year, it’s clear they will both feature prominently in many companies’ marketing strategies. That being said, there are caveats for both: at the moment, TikTok is somewhat difficult for brands to monetize, as its general ROI is still unproven, and Reels is in the shadow of its predecessor.
Currently, many companies are using TikTok to broaden their audiences and brand awareness. However, 2021 will be all about turning this awareness into leads and those leads into customers. This will mean finding ways to make sure top creators get paid, or else they will jump ship to other platforms that are easier to profit from, like Instagram. For brands, it will be important to include TikTok in their social media calendars, creating content that resonates with their audiences while also working within the conventions of a video-only platform like TikTok.
For Reels, the task will be to make itself stand out from its forerunner, TikTok. It’s unlikely that Reels will dominate its competition in any form in the year ahead, but it could become a steady alternative content opportunity for brands and Instagram users alike. 2021 could also see Instagram establishing exclusivity deals with influencers, as well as developing a few other new features that could boost Reels’ popularity. Brands looking to use Reels as part of their 2021 social strategy should focus on being creative and entertaining with this new feature, while also generating content that is of value to their audience, and could potentially go viral.
LinkedIn and Video
The COVID-19 pandemic provided many LinkedIn users with the opportunity to post more relatable or humanizing content via video or text, especially as many people all over the globe lost their jobs and searched for new ones – one of LinkedIn’s current main uses. This often manifested in conversational posts that mirrored the collegial atmosphere of an office, which those working from home certainly missed.
Video is one of the best forms of this conversational content, as people enjoy connecting not just with words and ideas, but with the person and face behind those words and ideas. This content will continue to be prominent in 2021 and offers brands the opportunity to reach their audiences in new, more humanizing ways on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn already offers robust opportunities for video events, allowing people from all over the world to create new professional contacts and broaden their professional networks. Although it’s possible that many events will return to being in person in the new year, that number will be nowhere what it was pre-COVID. LinkedIn’s online event feature allows businesses to run international events easily at a low cost, and will certainly continue to be taken advantage of by companies worldwide.
Although video in and of itself hasn’t been the main focus of LinkedIn’s growth strategy so far, 2021 could see the rise of a new video-focused area of the app and website, allowing content creators to regularly post videos much like Instagram’s Reels. LinkedIn could monetize this feature by introducing ads, giving users an incentive to continue producing quality content.
2. Utilizing New Features to Create Visually Engaging Content
2020 also saw the launch of a few new visually-focused features like Twitter and LinkedIn’s versions of Stories, the former of which is called Fleets. Both of these features were met with a certain level of confusion or bemusement, which in the case of Twitter was largely due to the fact that many users have been requesting specific practical changes for the past few years, only to receive a completely new feature in Fleets out of the blue. Despite this initially tepid response, there is certainly room for brands to use both to their advantage and increase their engagement levels.
How to use Stories on Twitter and LinkedIn
According to Twitter, Fleets provide the ability to make brands’ personalities and messages even clearer, while also posting content without the possibility of receiving any public comments or potential negative backlash. Although Twitter is often seen as the most “in the moment”-specific social media platform, Fleets takes this idea even further. Brands can take advantage of this in 2021 by posting visual content about time-sensitive offers or deals or highlighting sides of their office culture that wouldn’t necessitate an official Tweet.
LinkedIn Stories, on the other hand, are all about creating conversations and having a more lightweight and fun content opportunity on the platform. In the new year, brands can use this feature to illuminate their culture without having their audience switch to another platform like Instagram. Additionally, it can be a place for corporate Q&As, announcements, or real-time event updates.
Instagram SEO and Other New Features to Boost Engagement
Instagram’s recently unveiled keyword search function will also make it possible to find content through keywords, rather than just hashtags or specific accounts, as it did previously. This could allow for more organic growth for brands posting on Instagram, especially with Reels that have well-written captions and include relevant keywords.
Although a lot is still unknown about this new search feature or how it will affect Instagram users’ search behaviour, it is a potential way to get more engagement on posts. Reels already appear on the explore page, but a keyword search — alongside searching with hashtags — will give them another opportunity to be seen by as many people as possible. On top of this, video engages at a higher rate with audiences, so the keyword search feature should only drive this engagement higher.
Perhaps one of the more low-key launches of the year was Instagram’s Guides, allowing users to share longer form content at a dedicated tab on their profiles. Near the end of the year, the feature expanded to also include Products, Places, and Posts. In 2021 brands can use Guides as a home base for a variety of content that might provide value for their audience, while also keeping them interacting with their Instagram profile for as long as possible. Guides can be shared in users’ stories and in Direct Messages, allowing for even more organic growth.
3. Shopping on Facebook and Instagram
Another area that saw strong and sustained development in 2020 was eCommerce via social media, as many businesses worldwide were forced to temporarily shut their physical stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This prominence will continue into 2021, as Instagram and Facebook have shifted a lot of focus onto in-app shopping.
In fact, Instagram recently moved features around on its homepage, creating a focused shopping section of the app, and allowing it to be easily accessible to users on their home screens. There was some public blowback to this big change, which was actually the first in many years. However, it highlights Instagram’s overall focus on making the platform as shoppable as possible and driving users to that specific function of the app. In 2021 this will manifest as more advanced one-click purchasing and new AR try-on tools, alongside strengthening already existing try-on tools and allowing items to be tagged in videos for easier identification and direct purchase.
Facebook, which generally serves an older demographic than Instagram, has been focusing on the dedicated Shops function, and is looking to grow into the number one destination for many different online transactions.
Facebook Pay could also see some development, and the merging of Messenger between Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp could provide more cross-promotion opportunities for businesses. For Facebook, the goal is to make the journey between scrolling and making a purchase as short as possible so that businesses are maximizing profits, while also relying on Facebook as one of the main centres of their eCommerce efforts.
4. Companies’ Responses to Public Crises
After COVID-19 wreaked havoc internationally in many different forms this year, and we saw the rise of multiple important, influential social movements, it has become even more pertinent that companies focus on how they respond to crises, as well as the tone and form of their responses.
Most importantly, it is evident that brands must listen and think carefully before using their social media platforms to respond to pressing events happening in the world. This sensitivity will be increasingly necessary for 2021. Social media users will expect brands to have learned from the high profile missteps of 2020 and have developed an accurate and appropriate action plan for responding to future crises.
For the current generation of social media users, it’s extremely important to feel that the brands they support are making informed, thoughtful viewpoints on social issues and voicing them on social media, as well as backing these viewpoints up by taking actions within their own companies to prove their authenticity.
For many companies, this clear proof of social responsibility is important. It addresses their business values while also making sure they do not lose socially conscious customers with strong buying power. As a result, social media is a necessary tool for businesses to use when broadcasting their perspectives on issues, listening to their audience, and showing how they will specifically be involving themselves in making the world a better place.
It’s possible that the entire world will heave a collective sigh of relief when calendars roll into 2021, but that unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear yet. 2020 saw a range of developments and changes in the world of social media, and the lessons learned during this year will certainly continue to the next!
More than anything, it’s important for companies to stay informed on the trends and shifts in social media and digital marketing as a whole, keep an eye on their social media analytics, and adjust their strategies as necessary.