2021 has forged a unique customer base with special requirements – and the social media trends follow suit. As people have adapted to virtual living, technology has advanced in numerous ways, and consumers are pushing hard to bring societal change along with it. Any marketing strategy must recognize and adapt to these forces or die trying – because if they can’t adapt, they won’t last very long.
Here, we’ll dive into the 15 social media trends for 2021 and beyond – trends that your marketing department should be actively engaged in. If you’re not ticking off all of these boxes yet, that’s okay – it’s never too late to get started. These social media trends are white-hot right now, so get fluent in them and get moving. That way, you’re meeting your customer in a manner that’s timely, relevant and forward-thinking. Specifically, we’ll explore:
- TikTok’s continued takeover
- Livestream’s power to connect with consumers
- Mainstream virtual reality
- Augmented reality is everywhere
- Audio chat is taking the world by storm
- Video content is king
- Instagram stories for strategic marketing
- Reddit for real-time market intelligence
- Everyone needs artificial intelligence
- The value-based buying boom
- Psychographics are the new demographics
- It’s all about inclusivity
- The sustainability showdown
- Flexitarians take a seat at the table
- Influencers and KOLs push the social throttle
And before we get rolling, here are a few social statistics to keep in mind as we go:
- The average social media user is engaging with social media for over two hours per day.
- As far as monthly active users go, Facebook comes in on top with 2.7B, followed by Instagram at 1.15B, TikTok 689M, Snapchat 433M, Reddit 430M and Twitter at 353M.
- Of all social media platforms, posts on TikTok receive the highest level of engagement per post.
With that, let’s jump into the hottest social media trends!
1. TikTok’s Continued Takeover
Last year saw TikTok top the charts in app stores and blister past numbers that took other social media platforms years to achieve. The platform now has topped 689 million monthly active users that average nearly an hour on the platform whenever they use it – that’s a social media trend with staying power!
Don’t be fooled into thinking the platform is just for young audiences either – or let that dissuade you from getting your brand involved there. Point your social listening tools in the right direction to understand the best ways to approach your consumers with content that hits the mark. TikTok is not done exploding.
If you need inspiration, look no farther than men’s “below the waist” grooming brand Manscaped. They have social media trends locked down. Not only do they use NetBase Quid to inform their efforts, but they’ve also hit a homerun on TikTok by engaging with tongue-in-cheek humor that resonates with fans of the brand.
@manscapedsomehow I found a way to make “ba|| trimmers” a personality trait♬ original sound – andie
2. Livestreams to Connect with Consumers
Last year was the year that everyone got comfortable with livestreaming. The social media trend has been around a while, but it wasn’t something that consumers used on the regular. Now with most of the crippling uncertainty of the pandemic behind us, we find ourselves in a world where Zoom, Facetime and Instagram Live are like putting on a well-worn pair of jeans. Since everyone is comfortable with it now, your brand should get in on the action. You can tell your brand story while humanizing your brand and addressing consumer needs at the same time.
Let your social listening tools point you in the direction your consumers are talking and craft your content to meet a need. For inspiration, check out how Chewy, an online pet supply retailer. It’s leaning into this social media trend and churning up engagement via livestreams. Among their other content styles, their Chewy Vet Q&A live show is resonating the most with their fans.
3. Virtual Reality Becomes Mainstream
VR went from being a curiosity last year into mainstream adoption since many longed to get out and about but couldn’t. Yes, VR headsets and gaming lead the charge, but many other creative uses have come to light as leading social media trends. People get their workouts in remote locations, toured far-flung locales like the Vatican via VR tours and even did their car buying virtually with Vroom.
Virtual reality kicks up your brand messaging into a whole new level. Every brand has a story to tell – why not tell it virtually? That’s what Patrón Spirits did with their Virtual Hacienda Tour. The experience explores the production, aging, and bottling process of their tequila from a bee’s perspective. They initially produced the tour for the Oculus Rift headset. They then expanded to include Google Cardboard as well as being able to view via smartphones and tablets. It’s a super exciting way to show your consumers around and tell your brand story.
4. Augmented Reality’s Increased Adoption
Everyone is super familiar with AR through social media apps like Snapchat and TikTok. But the technology is capable of far more than putting animal features on your grandparents – ahem, kids. Forward-thinking brands are already using this social media trend to put AR into their marketing mix, and it’s worth taking a look to see if it’s a good fit for your brand.
The implications for AR and CPG retailers are enormous. For instance, Ikea has introduced an AR-capable app that allows consumers to visualize Ikea products in their homes. Similarly, Converse has an app that allows users to pick a shoe style and then superimposes it on them by pointing their tablet or smartphone at their feet. It’s forward-thinking marketing for sure – and there’s bound to be much more on the horizon.
5. Audio Chat Platforms Find Their Place with Businesses
Audio chat platforms like Clubhouse and Twitter’s Spaces are incredibly nascent. Clubhouse is still invitation-only and is insanely popular among its growing number of users, particularly as it just became available to Android users. Twitter’s answer to Clubhouse came in the form of Spaces, which is still in its rollout process.
Clubhouse is earning its sea legs and isn’t quite a viable channel for a hard sell – yet. However, that’s bound to change. Meanwhile, brands are paying attention as the platform speaks to a hot social media trend and is packed to the gills with influencers. Some brands and institutions are already making accounts to engage on the platform whenever it inevitably opens up to some form of marketing angle. And this is a great idea, as participants are passionate about it – sharing a solid love/hate for the immediacy of the channel and real conversations they have there.
In the meantime, many brand managers and c-suite executives are already taking part in Clubhouse conversations, bridging the gap between brand and consumer in a unique forum. There’s going to be a whole lot more of this social media trend as the year stretches on.
6. Video Will Reign Supreme
Video content is the undisputed king of social media content – and dominates social media trends, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Facebook users consume roughly 100 million hours of video every day. According to YouTube, users of its platform load up on an astronomical 1 billion hours of content a day. Additionally, platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are heavy on video content – each with its own personality.
In addition to understanding the nuance of each platform you intend to upload video to, you also need a deep understanding of your target audience and the social media trends that are resonating. Your social listening tools will be invaluable to this end. For instance, Groupon does an excellent job with video content that targets unique aspects of its consumers. They have a broad consumer base but put out content on travel or videos with recipes when they need to directly target segments of their audience. Doing this while tailoring content to each platform you use makes for sophisticated marketing.
7. Instagram Stories for Strategic Marketing
50% of Instagram users learn about a brand’s products through the story feature, and 85% follow at least one brand. This is a social media trend that isn’t going away any time soon. However, not every brand uses it, and that’s like setting one table in your restaurant when there’s room for two. First of all, stories appear at the top of the app and are a great addition to your regular posts. Instagram Stories allows you to feature your consumers, tell your brand story, work with influencers, create polls and quizzes and even go live.
Brands are increasingly turning to IG Stories to add variety to their content and keep things fresh. Stories offer a rich resource for brand marketing that you’d be silly to overlook. For example, here’s a snapshot from an NYX Cosmetics story featuring one of their products and a link to purchase. It’s super easy for your fans to scoop up the products you feature.
8. Reddit as a Real-Time Marketing Intelligence Pool
Reddit is often overlooked by brands, but it shouldn’t be as it’s a social media trend unto itself. It’s not in your face or flashy like many other social media platforms, but its users take it very seriously. Your brand should also since it’s a goldmine for voice of the customer (VoC) intel.
There’s a lot of that to be had as well since Reddit boasts 430 million active monthly users. Get this – that’s 77 million more than Twitter. Users discuss brands and products at length on the platform, and it’s a go-to platform for many people doing their due diligence on new products or ideas. And since discussions and content are primarily text-based, it should be a breeze to pull Reddit conversations into your social media listening tools to extract market intelligence and find weak spots in your category that you can step in and fill. It’s easy to do in NetBase Quid at least!
9. AI-Informed Efforts Will Be Everywhere
Brands that aren’t using social media analytics powered by artificial intelligence are getting left in the dust of those that do. It matters that much. How else are you staying on top of these social media trends after all? Today, there is so much social media activity that it’s far past human capability to absorb it all.
Artificial intelligence allows you to capture every brand mention for the ultimate in consumer, competitive and market intelligence. Brands that aren’t on board simply can’t compete. Just look at the sentiment drivers in the online conversations about artificial intelligence over the last thirty days. The word ‘help’ says it all. When it comes to AI, brand managers need it to help them sort through all of the online noise and make sense of these endless social media trends. So, be sure your brand has it!
Keep in mind though, not all artificial intelligence is created equal. Don’t settle for low-quality and pretty graphs – top-shelf AI ensures your brand health metrics are trustworthy.
10. Value-based Buying Boom
At this point, consumers are well-adjusted to e-commerce and familiar with a handful of the brands that will give them the most bang for their buck. While we’re not totally out of the woods yet with the pandemic, consumers still want to make sure they’re stretching their dollars the farthest – and that’s not a social media trend, but a fact of life.
Consumers have had a lot of time to rethink how they purchase and who they purchase from. Part of the value that they perceive in addition to cost includes customer service, customer experience, how other users feel about the brand, personalization, and loyalty rewards or discounts. Brands missing the mark in any of these areas stand to lose out to consumers demanding holistic value from start to finish.
And another side of those values revolve around sustainability and inclusivity, which we’ll address below.
11. Psychographic Insight as a Differentiator
Gone are the days when brands just sliced consumer data by demographics and ‘understood’ their customers. That’s because today’s social listening tools rely on artificial intelligence that goes a lot deeper than just gender, race, geolocation, etc.
Some of today’s social analytics tools are capable of extracting psychographic data on consumers talking about your brand to understand their values, attitudes, interests and personality traits. These psychographic elements paint a vivid picture of your audience that cuts far deeper than standard demographics. Knowing your audience in this way keeps you a cut above the competition, so your marketing messaging and product placement are laser specific. Be sure your tools make the cut here.
For example, if we explored some intel around those posting about Clubhouse, we would see a much younger crowd here than probably anticipated – and that is just one slice of the many pieces of the psychographic pie that we could explore about this audience.
12. Inclusivity in Form and Function
Inclusivity has gone past the realm of social media trends into the category of a movement. Inclusive marketing is a must these days for brands, and that means not being tone-deaf either. Too many brands have endured an unnecessary crisis because of poor social listening skills.
Diversity and inclusivity are monumentally important to consumers, and brand messaging that reflects these principles is what they are looking for. For example, a 2018 survey found that 70% of millennials were more likely to choose a brand over a competitor if they found them to demonstrate diversity and inclusivity in their brand messaging. That’s a huge reason to get on board.
Disney recently announced that they are relaxing their appearance guidelines in the name of inclusivity. Their statement said the measure will allow for “gender-inclusive hairstyles, jewelry, nail styles, and costume choices; and allowing appropriate visible tattoos. We’re updating them to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work.”
Of course, there was a small amount of blowback over Disney’s inclusivity efforts. Still, social listening reveals that those social media users represented a super small minority and the social media trend is firmly on the side of inclusivity. And that means this is a move in the right direction for all involved. That’s form and function.
13. Sustainability Showdown in Some Categories
Climate change and socio-economic factors have propelled the sustainability movement front and center. It’s been an ongoing trend for years now, but every year it picks up more momentum. It’s most notably hit a fever pitch in the food and energy sectors since everyone on the planet consumes both.
We are in the midst of a veritable arms race for renewable energy that seeks to achieve long-term sustainability to counteract climate change and dependence on finite amounts of fossil fuels. The food industry is rethinking what we put on our plates as consumer’s tastes shift to more sustainable and healthy alternatives to the resource-heavy meat and seafood industries.
The movement has hit critical mass, and it’s a social media trend that users are paying close attention to. Here’s a look in NetBase Quid at the most pressing topics being discussed over the past month. Climate change is obviously top of mind.
Education is also highly represented in the science and engineering clusters, and the fashion industry isn’t far behind.
14. Flexitarians Influence Food
Let’s be honest – today’s vegan options are light years ahead in quality, availability and desirability than they were just a few years ago. Conscious consumers are exploring veganism in record numbers, and the trend is on fire. But some aren’t ready to go all-in and prefer to ease into it. Others are just fine setting aside meat more often in deference to a healthier lifestyle.
Social platforms are awash with curious ‘flexitarians’ looking for recipes, diet tips and establishments with vegan options. Flexitarians are health-conscious and often sustainability-minded. For one reason or another, they’re not quite ready to make a drastic lifestyle commitment. As such, the vegan landscape will draw commentary and exploration from more than just hard-core vegans.
Your social listening tools should reveal these conversations – what they’re looking for, what makes them hesitant, what they would like more of and what they don’t like. So, if your brand is approaching this space from any angle, make sure that you’re keeping an open mind to the part-time meat-eaters in your midst. You just might have the opportunity to win them over to your table.
15. Influencers and KOLs in Driver’s Seat
Social media trends often get their start through influencers and KOLs. At the very least, they help to push them along into the mainstream. With the speed and flux of social, it’s a juggling act to keep tabs on all the voices influencing conversation in your category. Your social analytics tools should put you on top of these discussion leaders quickly so you can adjust your influencer and KOL marketing accordingly.
Most brands don’t have an unlimited marketing budget, so working out a deal with every potential influencer isn’t a possibility. It’s probably not necessary either. But what is essential is knowing who they all are and where they’re speaking, and to whom.
These conversations and their volume are changing rapidly, and newcomers are popping up regularly. So, to keep the face of your brand fresh, your social media monitoring tools should be dialed in to alert you to the metrics around influencers and KOLs in your category. That way, when another influencer begins getting better traction with part of your target audience, you can adjust quickly to capitalize before your competition does.
All in all, a lot is changing in the social media landscape. While not every one of these social media trends will apply to every brand, dive into those that are so your brand doesn’t grow out of touch. The voice of the customer awaits, and savvy brands adapt to meet them where they’re at. Is your social listening game on point? Reach out to us for a demo, and we’ll show you how next-generation artificial intelligence can electrify your social media listening.