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Social Media Trends 2021 Global Report

For brand survival in ‘uncertain times’

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Social media trends 2021

2020 was a heck of a year. If there’s one thing to take away from it, it's the importance of being prepared. For both the expected and unexpected.

With discussions of COVID-19, plus the subsequent social and economic repercussions, looming over everything we do, we look towards 2021. With insights from experts, influencers, and industry professionals on what you need to know to be ready for the year ahead.

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Social media trends 2021

This year, we’ve teamed up with HubSpot to create a free Social Media Trends for 2021 eBook, that includes:

  • In-depth analysis from 70+ global experts, and 50+ actionable takeaways to help you engage the trends for your brand.
  • Analysis of why these are the trends to follow. Stats, facts, and campaign inspiration, showing how major brands are already integrating them into successful marketing strategies.
  • For the first time, we surveyed frontline industry professionals, from social media managers to CMOs, to help pinpoint the trends they think will be the most significant next year.
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Remixing is the new UGC

User-generated content is nothing new. But the way it’s created is. Remixing is on the rise, through apps like TikTok or Koji. Taking existing formats, templates, or ideas, and recreating them to express a user’s own personality or ideas.

Expect 2021 to bring even more opportunities for remixing, with brands taking the opportunity to use it to engage with new audiences and create additional content for their brand.

Gordon Glenister notes that it’s video driving this user creativity, while Ben Jeffries tells us why remixing is so enticing for younger generations.


The four Cs of coronavirus content

Even if the pandemic is resolved in 2021, the repercussions will be felt for years to come. The shadow cast by coronavirus will most likely linger, making it hard for consumers to simply forget its consequences.

Brands will need to adapt their communications with this in mind - with the tone of 2021 shaped by the 4 Cs of coronavirus content: 

  • Community 
  • Contactless 
  • Cleanliness
  • Compassion

Janet Machuka discusses the importance of adapting brand messaging to suit the crisis, while Lilach Bullock considers the broader changes on people’s lives, and how that will affect marketers.


Memetic messaging

Forget emoji. Bin the GIFs. Memes are now the way to communicate. They’re spreading across the internet as a fun way to engage communities. But, it’s not just cat pictures. As per any communication, they can be used to manipulate the mindset of viewers. They can be used to normalize extreme behavior, like external agencies interfering with elections or other major events. In 2021, you need to be ready to protect your brand from memes.


Nostalgia marketing

It’s easy to look back on 2019, and think how much better it was. The positive emotions connected with the “good old days” help boost current emotions. And that’s where the power and the appeal of nostalgia marketing lies. It connects strong positive emotions to your brand. It gives it a sentimental boost.

During times of uncertainty and economic downturn, it appears more frequently as consumers look to connect with happier times to distract from current situations.


A little more conversation(al) marketing

Marketing is now a two-way street. Brands can no longer shout their messages at their audience and hope for the best. Instead, it’s about conversations and connections - having conversations with consumers to build those relationships. And create sales.

The pandemic has brought this to the forefront. Sales are no longer top priority for customers - it’s information, engagement, and social issues. Connecting with those stories will be key for engagement.

With insights from David Berkowitz on how omnichannel social media will connect conversations across all media, and Mireille Ryan on why shopping will connect to stories even more.


Social gaming = gaming social

As lockdown took hold, people turned to video games as another form of distraction. Yet gaming is no longer just about playing to win. Communities have risen within and around games, creating entire communities dedicated to the various fanbases.

Plus, as we learn more about how players benefit from games, developing relatable skills that are valuable within the real world, in 2021 we should see the stigmatism associated with gaming lift, and brands become more focused on these relevant communities.

Eunice Yin Ern sees gaming as vital for creating great consumer experiences, while Rahul Pillai thinks entertainment will be a big driving force behind content creation.


Old-school marketing for a new market

Some trends come and go overnight. Some circulate, bouncing back into the social consciousness every now and then. 

Marketing is no different. Techniques we shunned before, can suddenly reappear, especially during times of uncertainty - with comms professionals switching back to tried-and-tested methods over disruptive ideas.

Because of this, in 2021 we will see a rise in “old-school marketing” as brands switch back to a simpler way of engaging consumers.

Cheryl King highlights the importance of podcasts for building trust, while Leila Hamadeh looks at how they are perfect for targeting specific audiences.


Social media giants adapt to the new normal

Often when reviewing social media trends, there’s some that will cry out that one platform is dying. Or that another will take over. For this trend, we predict that the dominant social media platforms of today will be just as significant in 2021 and beyond.

They may have new features and will adapt to the trends in their own particular way. But their significance is unlikely to dwindle in the coming years.

Matt Navarra expects more social media regulation, led by both government and user requirements. While Ashvin Anamalai predicts that the platforms will integrate shopping further into the social media landscape.


The rise of digital disinformation

Social media has always blurred the lines between fact and fiction - from the highly edited lives of some Instagrammers, to Twitter parody accounts.

But the coronavirus has brought the issue to the forefront. Society is facing an uncertain future. This uncertainty has created a hotbed of misinformation - with false stories leading to life-changing decisions. Expect 2021 to be the year brands and social media channels focus on highlighting the truth, and silencing ‘fake news.’

Joanne Sweeney believes digital disinformation will put more pressure on online comms, while Gini Dietrich thinks mitigating harmful content should be brands’ priority for 2021.


The impact of socially conscious audiences

Here it is. The number one trend as defined by our survey. We’ve discussed the rise of Generation Z in previous trend reports, but in 2020, it was clear how this socially conscious generation (and the future Generation Alpha) had an impact on brands, politics, and society as a whole.

Companies will have to engage more with topics like mental health, inclusivity, and social justice, or face becoming irrelevant - and potentially, obsolete - in 2021.

With input from Rob Carney on identifying your brand’s ‘why’, and Dr Jillian Ney, discussing how social data will help brands perceive the consumer perception.


2021’s ultimate trend

Did you spot the ultimate trend for 2021? The pandemic has escalated one global change from a ‘nice to have’ to ‘an essential for survival.’  Christina Garnett hints towards it here:

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