2021 trends-desk-reading glasses-pens-smartphone

Whichever way you look at it, 2020 has been an extraordinary year. Everyday life has been turned upside down by the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been through two national lockdowns (so far) and asked to work from home.

Inevitably there have been winners and losers, and among the winners is without doubt social media.

A recent study showed global internet traffic was up by 30 per cent in the first half of the year. By July, social media users had increased by 10 per cent and more than half the world’s population – 3.96 billion – are now on social media. Not only that, people spend far more time on social media, further elevating its importance as a marketing tool for organisations.

While we use social media more, the way we use it and our expectations have also been affected by the pandemic. What we want to see and read, and how we engage has changed. It’s these changes that will continue on into 2021, and inform how businesses and organisations should use social media as part of their marketing strategy.

So here are Visually Explained’s ten predicted trends for 2021 and how organisations should respond to them.

1, Listen and be authentic

At VE this has always been our mantra and it is more important now than ever. Shouting sales messages simply doesn’t work any longer – if it ever did. Businesses need to engage their followers, and strike up a conversation. They need to be entertaining and informative, seeking opinions and input.

2, Build trust

Trust is hard won and easily lost. Winning trust and retaining it are key to effective social media activity, and there are no quick fixes here.

At the same time, people don’t trust advertising, and in this era of fake news they trust it even less. Against the backdrop of the pandemic – when accuracy of information has never been more important – trust has been even harder for brands to garner. Kantar Dimensions’s 2020 study revealed advertising was the least likely source people would use to find out information about an organisation, with just 14 per cent of people finding adverts trustworthy.

This is why at VE, we advise on growing and engaging an audience organically, using paid advertising to support organic activity. This approach will reap the better long-term rewards.

What people do put their trust in are ratings and consumer opinion. So to cut through the noise and engage your audience, invest in your relationships with your own staff (who could be your biggest advocates), customers and influencers. If they trust you they will say so, and your audience will listen to them.

3, Harp back to the good old days

There is strong evidence that, in times of crisis, connecting with people’s feelings of nostalgia is highly effective. We’ve seen this during the pandemic, where people have gone back to basics – just look at the explosion in the interest in DIY, home cooking, and crafting, for example. This is reflected in how well Pinterest is doing. By the end of 2019, Pinterest had overtaken Snapchat to become the fourth most popular social media platform in the US, after Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and this popularity has soared during 2020.

By making a connection in your social media with happier times, you’ll find a way to engage your audience. Ask them what they enjoy and remember, tap into those feelings of nostalgia, and strike up a conversation.

4, Be everywhere

Essential as we move into 2021 is diversification. If you are on just one or two platforms, you should sign up for others. Social media is changing all the time, so you need to be on every platform to be seen and be visible.

TikTok was the real success story of 2020 in terms of engagement. Facebook is looking a bit senior by comparison, but is constantly changing to keep up. Innovations are happening all the time: Instagram brought in Reels; LinkedIn, now offers stories.

The platforms are jockeying for position, and you need to be riding all the horses to be in contention for growing your following and increasing engagement.

At VE, we always talk about social business, as opposed to social media, because your social business strategy has to be embedded in your marketing. That means adopting a systematic approach to the platforms you appear on (and, as we have said, add more platforms), to what you post, when you post and how often.

5, Go live!

2020 has been the year of the video, and live video on social media has really taken off. People are interested in seeing what goes on behind the scenes, they love to know how things are done, or to watch explainer videos.

You only have to look at YouTube to see how much people enjoy demos, hints and tips – from how to change a lightbulb, to how to apply makeup, to how to clean limescale from the loo!

If you can tap into video, but make this live video and interactive – guided tours, Q&As, live streaming your work – you’ll bring your brand closer to your audience.

6, Include social content

This year of all years has seen an explosion in a desire to step up and help. From clapping for carers, to volunteering to help in the NHS, to taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter, the pandemic has brought out a social conscience in many of us.

People want to see this reflected in their social media. You may have noticed that Marks & Spencer on its food advertising has been featuring different stellar actors (Jeremy Irons, Olivia Colman, Tom Hardy among them) and in return making a sizeable donation to a charity of their choice. In total, M&S is donating around £2million.

A study by Merkle found 56 per cent of consumers say they have no respect for businesses that remain silent on important issues.

It is a hard balance to strike, however. Paying lip service to social issues – adding the odd hashtag, for example – will lead to accusations of being ‘woke’. So ensure social awareness is truly part of your business first, then use this for social content. Again, it goes back to the need to be authentic

7, Memes

We all love memes don’t we? Sharing them with others in our ‘tribe’ to make a point or an in joke? Consider using them as part of your social media, because their popularity is increasing.

However, beware which ones you use and how you use them. Many have negative connotations, so proceed with caution. Get it right, though, and you could find your posts being shared widely among your audience.

8, People power

Put people at the heart of your social media. The people who make up your audience, the people in your business, the people who will become your advocates.

If you put people first, by talking with and engaging your audience, you’ll increase you likes, shares and follows. The algorithms always love people engagement, so this exponentially boosts your profile.

9, Using social commerce

We’re all familiar with ‘traditional’ commerce – selling our services through our website, and driving traffic from our social media posts to our online shop.

The trend now, though, is towards cutting out that website stage. If you can sell online, then why not sell directly from your social media platforms, as well as through your website?

Using social media as part of the sales strategy shortens the buying process and takes advantage of the ever-increasing time consumers spend on social media.

So if you can sell from your Facebook or Pinterest page, if makes sense to do so.

10, Engaging the gaming community

Gaming no longer carries the stigma of association with teenagers stuck in their rooms for hours playing Call of Duty. The pandemic, and the time spent at home, has lead to an explosion in gaming, which is now being regarded as a social activity. People play with people, socialising online and forming entire communities based around popular games.

Engage the gaming community and you’ll reap the benefits for your business.

At VE we keep our finger on the pulse by spotting trends in social media and adopting them for our clients. If you would like any help, support, or advice on social media in 2021 – making it a truly social business strategy for your organisation – please get in touch with the team.