2020 has been the year of self-imposed isolation – many of us working from home, skipping favorite events and holidays, and shopping online for everything in the fridge and the bathroom closet. The social aspect that has accelerated, though, even as our face-to-face interactions have dwindled, is our use of social media. And it’s not just keeping up with friends and family. Smart advertisers have taken notice of how much social media driven marketing has evolved in just a year, and where it’s heading for 2021.

User-Generated Content Is Becoming More Creative (and Compelling)

Everybody these days is a TikTok star, and if your brain can conjure up even the craziest image, Instagram has a filter to help you create and post it. Creative videos, sound clips and other inventive UGC posts are creating an army of A-list influencers. Advertisers who engage with these Internet Picassos and Spielbergs – and stroke their egos by re-posting their content and encouraging them to create more – are fostering their own no-cost brand ambassadors.

Set Sail On the High C’s

Community. Compassion. Cleanliness. Contactless. These are key social media themes that have gained traction due to the big C of Coronavirus. People take notice of advertisers’ messages that highlight the “four-C mix” emphasizing empathy, understanding and day-to-day practicality. Ironically, there are even more opportunities these days, through the right social media tone, for advertisers to bring a human touch in a touch-free world.

Maximum Meme Messaging

Emojis and GIFs still have their place in social communication and marketing, but clever memes are the new wave in visually-driven messaging. Marketers who let their ad agencies and in-house design departments run wild with the most attention-stealing memes will cut through the mind-numbing screen clutter that now fills almost every waking hour for people locked in front of their computers.

Nostalgia Brings the Good Feels (and Great Marketing Results)

When slogging through the bad present days, it’s only human nature for people to crave the good old days. Advertisers who tap into this sentimental longing and tug on potential customers’ heartstrings have a much better chance of tugging on buyers’ purse strings, too. The good news is, this kind of nostalgia-themed messaging doesn’t have to be sickeningly ooey-gooey to be effective. These days, warm nostalgia can be instilled just by giving people a feeling of the normalcy that we all once took for granted.

A Conversational Advertising Style Will Speak Volumes

Many advertisers have long touted the idea that marketing outreach through social media is an opportunity to create two-way conversations with customers. However, all too often advertisers have talked that talk but not really walked that walk. Sales and special offers are still important message points, of course, but in a pandemically-hindered world, people crave the natural, interactive discourse that they can’t get as often because of lockdowns and social distancing.

Get in the Game(ing)

Everyone seeks more outlets for distraction in times of uncertainty (and boredom), which explains why online gaming has expanded so much during the COVID pandemic. People of a far broader age range are participating in gaming as a way to maintain a sense of social interaction, and even those who don’t consider themselves “gamers” are more likely now to be captivated by interactive, game-style social marketing messages. Especially when delivered through platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook, where people are spending more and more time, this style of game-flavored/engaging advertising is a powerful tool for building engagement and brand loyalty. 

The Social Platform Giants Will Stay Huge

As social media platforms and channels go, yes there will always be upstarts. Even today’s most ubiquitous venues like Facebook or LinkedIn were once new kids on the block. The thing is, though, familiarity breeds contentment. While it may be worth it for advertisers to experiment with newer platforms that have a smaller share of the social media landscape (especially to reach niche audiences), the tried and true, big name platforms will continue to be the safest bets for social media marketing.

Digital Disinformation MUST Be Combatted

We end our forecast for social media trends in 2021 on a point that is equal parts challenge and opportunity. “Fake news” and opinions disguised as facts aren’t just pervasive in current events; they’ve wiggled their way into brand messaging, too. While all effective advertising, including on social media, must have an emotional appeal, today’s smart consumers will gravitate to demonstrably factual content just as much. Appealing to buyers’ intelligence shows that advertisers respect them, and that’s a psychological button that should always be pushed.

In short, the most effective social media marketing in 2021 will provide what people have come to crave over the past year:  interaction, personal connection, clear facts, and a tone that eschews hyperbole for a more down-to-earth sensibility. More than ever, the “common touch” will be the common denominator for successful social media marketing outreach.