Predictions for 2021
Facebook has once again seen a year of many challenges, and has once again come through them in a stronger position than where it began. That's despite rising backlash over the role the platform has played in exacerbating political division, and amplifying hate speech, and amid a push for a break-up of the company over its anti-competitive behavior.
Yet, despite an ad boycott, a critical Netflix documentary, and the forced removal of certain concerning groups, Facebook marches on, and 2021 looks set to see some major developments aligned with the next stage of The Social Network.
The New Storefront
eCommerce will be a major focus for Facebook in the next year. We've already seen the first stages of Facebook's next big revenue push, with the introduction of Shops on Facebook and Instagram, which simplifies the process of building an eCommerce outlet on the world's most used digital platform.
That will give every business the chance to quickly build their own digital storefront, with helpful, familiar presentation options and streamlined payment tools, fueling a new wave of online business.
For Facebook, this has been years in the making, with Shops essentially being an extension of its Marketplace offering, giving more businesses the chance to connect with buyers in-stream. But Shops is also much more than that.
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The big focus here will be in markets like India and Indonesia, where Facebook is seeing rapid user growth, and where the digital shift is only really beginning. If Facebook can get in on the ground floor, and become the destination for all forms of online transactions, that could see the company become an essential platform in developing regions, expanding opportunities, both for Facebook and businesses around the world, to maximize their potential.
Expect to see further development of Facebook Pay as The Social Network looks to simplify its one-click purchasing options, and new advertising opportunities that highlight products for purchase within posts. Facebook will also look to integrate more shopping posts into user feeds, in order to entice more shopping activity, while the likely merger of its messaging apps will also provide more opportunity to facilitate eCommerce across its tools.
If Facebook can get it right, this could be a major shift, fueling a new wave of eCommerce activity - which is why looking further into Facebook Shops should be a key priority for retail providers.
Also look for further development of live-stream promotion and purchasing options, and new eCommerce integrations within Watch exclusive programs as Facebook looks to tie everything back into its transactional options.
Yes, Facebook is still working on the merger of its messaging apps, and throughout the year we've seen more and more hints of the gradual interconnectivity of Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp. That, essentially, means that every new function introduced in any one of these apps will eventually be available in the other two - which will also facilitate new eCommerce opportunities, and more ways to run cross-platform ad campaigns and pushes in order to expand your opportunities.
Eventually, that will make it very easy for brands to expand their campaigns and functions across to, say, WhatsApp, broadening their audience potential in ways that hadn't previously considered. That'll become a bigger opportunity as Facebook showcases how that interoperability works, and what will be possible as a result.
Regulators in several nations have voiced their opposition to Facebook's messaging integration plan, and it is still contingent on no further regulatory action being taken. But it seems to be well on the way now, and that will open up new potential for connection with your potential customers across Facebook's DM tools.
Back in September, Facebook announced that its 'Project Aria' wearable AR glasses would likely be available in 2021, and while that won't mean they'll be here come January 1st, you can expect to see the glasses hitting retail stores in the second half of the year.
AR is set to become a key battleground in the tech sector, with Apple also working on its own AR glasses, which are set for release around the same time.
This will be a key development for Facebook. It now has solid experience in consumer products, with sales of both its Portal and Oculus devices rising significantly in 2020, and it's in a good position to bring the first functional, fashionable AR glasses to market, teaming up with EssilorLuxottica, the makers of Ray-Ban, to build the device.
Facebook has been working towards this for years, with the development of fully immersive AR environments, and the capacity to incorporate new ad types, promotions, informational cues and more, all linking back into its main app.
There are many implications, and potential applications, here, and Facebook will also be looking to use its AR glasses as a stepping stone to the next stage of digital connection, which leads us to...
The Rise of VR
As noted, Facebook's Oculus virtual reality headsets have seen a major sales boost in 2020. With all of our regular entertainment options shut down, many have been seeking new ways to keep ourselves occupied, and VR has fit the bill for those who can afford to take the leap.
But that 'leap' is getting smaller - as you can see, Facebook has gradually been lowering the price of its standalone VR devices, making it a more accessible option, which has also helped boost take-up.
And that's a good approach for The Social Network - as Facebook adds more VR users, it also opens up new avenues for advertising and promotion, and leads more consumers into the next stage of digital connection, meeting up within fully immersive environments online.
VR also has applications beyond entertainment, with many businesses also finding new ways to conduct key operations within the simulated space. With the WFH shift expected to see ongoing momentum, now that people and businesses know what's possible, this could further increase the take-up of VR, which will see new opportunities, in many ways, to connect with various audiences.
One of the big questions for Facebook will be how it addresses concerns about its notorious feed algorithm, and whether it does anything to address concerns that it's fueled the rise of dangerous hate speech.
Facebook has already taken some action on this, banning QAnon and various related groups, which it had allowed to proliferate on its platforms for years, despite expert warnings. But under a Biden-lead US Government, it may have to take even more action, and further restrict misinformation and hate speech in order to avoid increased pressure, and penalties, imposed by Government and regulatory groups.
Facebook can do this. The New York Times reported recently that, in the days following the US election, Facebook implemented a News Feed tweak which ensured that "authoritative news appeared more prominently", while downgrading the reach of some more fringe and/or centrist sites.
As explained by NYT:
"[The change] resulted in a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, while posts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible, the employees said. It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like. Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook. In an employee meeting the week after the election, workers asked whether the “nicer news feed” could stay, said two people who attended."
As Facebook looks to more actively lobby US Senators, in order to facilitate its own growth agenda, it will need to give a little to get back, and that may well see the 'nicer' News Feed option gain traction, which could have a big impact on the platform more broadly.
That could see engagement on Facebook reduce - but maybe, if it can offset that with an increase eCommerce activity, Facebook will be able to appease both elements without losing out. Of course, any such move also won't please extremist groups. But it could be a step in the right direction to reduce societal division more generally.
Even after all these years, it's still difficult to say what Twitter is, what its key strengths are, and where it will look to grow in future. Because despite the platform's ongoing popularity, Twitter is largely unchanged, with no major innovation or updates that have altered how people use the app.
Sure, it made tweets longer back in 2018, and it's tried out live-streaming and Moments and audio tweets, among various other options. But none of them have really caught on, and Twitter, for the most part, remains what it was at its beginning - a real-time stream of short, sharp updates, great for staying up with the latest info. Not so good for much else.
So how can Twitter evolve beyond this? It's probably safe to say that we're not going to see any major change over the course of the next 12 months.
Twitter's own version of Stories - 'Fleets' - is now available to all users, and over the next year, you can expect Twitter to roll out new updates for the option as it looks to tap into the rising popularity of the format.
The notable omissions from Fleets are AR options and effects, and it seems likely that Twitter will add various tools on these fronts, assisted by its acquisition of Chroma Labs back in February. But many of these additions will be behind time - people already have a range of effects and visual tools on Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, and it would be unlikely for Twitter to surpass those and make Fleets a bigger consideration in this respect. Fleets will stick around, and some people will use it, but it doesn't seem like it's going to become a major element of the Twitter experience.
It's an interesting add-on, no doubt, but Fleets won't drive a significant uptick in usage or interest in the app.
Twitter's also working on Audio Spaces, which will be a Clubhouse-like, audio meet-up feature, giving users another way to interact. Which, like audio tweets, will be interesting for a bit, but again, it's unlikely to become a transformative feature in the app.
Of course, it doesn't have to be to provide functional value, but Audio Spaces still seems limited, even with low expectations. Still, it'll be something to experiment with, and given recent developments, it looks set to be available in early 2021.
Twitter's also been looking to expand its potential for engagement by providing users with more recommendations of Topics to follow in their feeds, as opposed to profiles. In 2021, it wouldn't be surprising to see Twitter take this a step further and add Topic spaces, where it will collect relevant tweets on a topic, curated by Twitter's team, into a dedicated page or section in the app.
This could be similar to its current listings related to in-progress sporting events and live-streams, providing a more immersive, focused listing of key tweets and profiles on each topic, which could help to improve engagement.
Status Indicators on Profiles. Twitter's been testing these for a while, and it seems like a logical addition, especially in line with the roll-out of Fleets. It's not a major element, but it could provide more opportunity for connection and engagement, especially around major events. Expect to see these arrive in the first half of next year.
Last week, Twitter explained that it's working on new categories of verification, beyond just the basic blue tick. That could see new types of verified accounts, which could include specific indicators based on what each represents.
The major addition here could be a new identifier for bot accounts - in October last year, Twitter said that it was working on a possible identifier for bot profiles, in order to let users know who (or what) they're dealing with.
That could be a big change, which could change engagement in the app. And if Twitter wanted to take it a step further...
Instagram has become the next golden goose for Facebook, and the integration of new eCommerce tools looks set to take its earnings potential into a new stratosphere. But at the same time, some have suggested that the additions of IGTV, Reels and shopping have all started to clutter what was once a simple app focused on photography.
Of course, Instagram is well beyond its initial roots now, but has it gone too far - or will it, indeed, go over the edge in 2021?
eCommerce is obviously the big focus for Instagram, with a new Shop tab and dedicated features aligned with facilitating more immediate purchase behavior in response to IG posts.
Instagram will look to continue the development of its shopping tools in order to further encourage habitual shopping behavior - expect Instagram to add advanced one-click purchasing, new AR try-on tools, building on its existing AR shopping options (and potentially linked into Facebook's AR glasses), and video tags for products, providing more ways for businesses and creators to facilitate direct buying.
Instagram is already where many people go to discover new products and brands, and its advanced shopping options could open up a whole range of new possibilities. Sure, Reels got its own tab too, but shopping is where Instagram will make a real impact.
Variable home feed
This has been speculated for a while, but with the continued popularity of Stories, expect Instagram to try out a new approach to user home feeds in 2021, with some users set to open to a Stories feed, similar to TikTok's home video stream. That would mean that the main Instagram feed would lose focus, and become a secondary element. But I don't expect Instagram to do this for everyone. Instead, what Instagram could try to do is to align the home feed with individual user preference, with the option to switch back if you choose.
For example, if you view Stories a lot, Instagram might switch you to a Stories-first home feed, with the option to go back to the regular post feed if you want. Some users might open to a Reels feed instead, some to the Shop tab. Rather than force all users into a new feed, Instagram could look to provide options, which may help boost engagement within each element.
Reels - good enough
Then there's Reels, Instagram's TikTok clone, which general consensus seems to suggest is interesting enough, but not as good as TikTok itself.
Will Reels stick around, and/or catch on with more users?
I don't expect Reels to become a major element - and definitely not a TikTok killer of any kind. But it will likely find its own niche - and it'll remain popular in India so long as TikTok remains banned in that region.
That could be enough to deem Reels a success, while Instagram will also look to further boost Reels through exclusive influencer deals and new features which could help it gain more traction at different stages. The right influencer deals could definitely help Reels boost engagement, and if TikTok doesn't catch up on its revenue-sharing options, Reels will remain a competitive concern, adding more pressure to the app. It seems unlikely that Reels will become a major consideration, but 'good enough' is likely all Instagram needs to justify its investment in the option.
Snapchat has continued to establish its own niche in 2020, especially with respect to its ongoing appeal among younger audiences. New app partnerships and interactive options have provided additional avenues of consideration, but AR remains the key to boosting the app's appeal. And despite having a more limited budget than the big players, Snap has remained a key innovator in the AR space - which could come up big in one specific way in the year ahead.
New approach to entertainment
One of Snapchat's key areas of strength has been the steady growth of its Snap Originals programming, short, vertically-aligned TV-style shows that hold appeal to younger viewers and their evolving consumption habits.
Given this, expect to see Snap put more focus on Snap Originals in 2021 - and expect to see more major publishers and studios pay more attention, and look to align with the format, as they seek new ways to stay connected to younger audiences.
That could see some major announcements for Snap Originals, with big-name celebrities coming on board. And that will bring even more viewers to Snap, expanding its advertising and exposure opportunities.
As Instagram and Facebook look to incorporate more eCommerce tools, expect Snap to also align with this shift, and look to provide its creators with more opportunity to sell products direct in-stream. Snapchat has been working on various eCommerce options for some time, including its integration with Amazon, but as in-feed shopping becomes more habitual, it makes sense for Snap to also incorporate similar tools, in order to maximize its own opportunities.
As noted, AR remains key to maximizing Snapchat's growth, and as such, you can expect to see Snap adding in more AR functionality and tools, as it looks to take its tools to the next stage.
How will Twitter change in 2021?
The Future of Instagram
The Evolution of Snapchat
Snapchat's already started rolling out the capacity to 'scan' barcodes and labels in order to provide more contextual information through its camera, and it'll look to keep adding to its database of scannable items, and connecting those scans to advanced AR tools, including promotions, offers, and more. And that will lead to another key development...
I've speculated this before, and I still think that Snapchat is working with Apple on the next stage of Apple's AR glasses - which could potentially also lead to the next phase for its own Spectacles device. Snapchat's been working with Apple for years to help develop Apple's AR functionality. Back in 2017, at the launch of the iPhone X, Apple explained how they'd been working with Snapchat to develop Lenses and visual additions based on the latest advancements in the device, while with the launch of the iPhone 12 earlier this year, Apple announced that Snap would be among the first partners for its new LiDAR capacity.
Apple's AR glasses are set to be available by 2022, but may be pushed ahead dependent on Facebook's efforts. And with that, I have no doubt that Snapchat will be working with Apple in some capacity. Could we see the two partnering up to launch a new, AR-enabled version of Spectacles?
All of Snap's AR developments would align with this, and that would be a major development for the company.
It remains speculative, but Apple-powered AR Spectacles could be a major shift, and could help Snapchat boost its presence, and tools, significantly, depending on how it plays out.
TikTok has had a wild ride in 2020. The short-form video app has gone from 500 million users in December 2019 to close to a billion today, and despite facing bans, restrictions, accusations of censorship, undergoing national security reviews. Despite all of this, TikTok has continued to move forward, and now looks set to advance to the next level in 2021. And it could be a key consideration for your digital marketing approach.
Like most other social platforms, TikTok will also be making eCommerce a focus in 2021 - though in TikTok's case, it's a little more pressing.
TikTok needs to find more ways to ensure its top creators get paid, otherwise they'll drift off to other platforms where they can make real money. That's what eventually lead to the demise of Vine - when its big stars realized they could be making a lot more on YouTube and Instagram instead, they called on Vine to establish a better revenue share deal. Vine (via parent company Twitter) refused, and those big stars left, which then sparked the decline of the app.
TikTok is now bigger than Vine ever was, but even so, it could still fall victim to the same if it can't come up with more lucrative, attractive revenue-share deals to keep its top creators around.
In China, the local version of TikTok (called 'Douyin') has seen major success on this front by incorporating eCommerce and in-stream purchasing options.
The majority of the more than $122 million in revenue generated by Douyin last year came via these eCommerce integrations, and given this, you can expect to see TikTok looking to implement the same, and fast, as it seeks to get back on track after a year of legal challenges and complications.
If the Oracle/Walmart takeover deal goes through, Walmart has already flagged its eCommerce intentions for the app - though that deal still seems only somewhat likely, given the ongoing delays and negotiations. But even if it doesn't, expect TikTok to add in a lot more eCommerce tools as it seeks more ways to maximize its revenue, and revenue-share, potential.
Look to China
You can also expect TikTok to integrate other tools from Douyin, which has been around for longer, and has a huge presence within China, enabling TikTok to roll out tried and tested new features.
Some of these could include rankings of top accounts in different categories, including celebrities, and brand and business segments, like luxury, beauty, electronics, etc. That would also facilitate more eCommerce activity, while providing TikTok with another way to incentivize business activity.
Douyin also has advanced profile display options for businesses, including hashtag challenge presentation feeds and more profile links. Most of these, you would expect, will eventually make it across to TikTok as well.
Music industry links
TikTok will also look to establish stronger ties with the music industry, in order to host more exclusive launches and events, and bring in more fans. TikTok has already partnered with several musicians on exclusive digital concerts, and its signed partnership deals with several major labels.
As musicians come to recognize the promotional power of the platform, you can expect that those connections will become even stronger, and that could lead to new opportunities, not only for TikTok, but for brands looking to tap into these trends through sponsorships and other partnership programs that can expand their promotions.
TikTok to the Next Level in 2021
More on TikTok - What You Need to Know in 2021
1. Brands and Influencers Are Embracing TikTok
Think “influencers” and your mind may immediately go to Instagram and YouTube. But the rise of influencer marketing over the past few years has been witnessed on other social media platforms, especially TikTok.
More and more, influencers are recognizing the potential of TikTok, the fastest-growing social media network ever, to reach new audiences.
According to a recent report on influence marketing trends, more than one-third (35 percent) of influencers say they have started to use TikTok more frequently over the past year (Tribe Dynamics, 2020).
Not only has TikTok become a more popular platform for influencers, but businesses are also starting to pay attention to it. In fact, 35 percent of brands that have a dedicated influencer marketing strategy have a team that focuses on just TikTok influencer marketing.
2. TikTok Trends: Focus on Social Commerce
Expect to see more social commerce on TikTok in 2021—one of the fastest-rising TikTok trends we’ve identified. In late 2020, TikTok announced a partnership with leading ecommerce platform Shopify. According to reports, the collaboration will facilitate Shopify merchants’ reach on TikTok and help them boost sales (TechCrunch, 2020).
Part of the initiative includes allowing sellers operating on Shopify to manage their TikTok marketing efforts from their Shopify accounts directly. This means that aside from creating and distributing content, businesses will also be able to monitor and track the performances of their TikTok marketing campaigns and relevant metrics.
Moving forward, analysts say the purchase process will also be streamlined on TikTok and consumers will also be able to carry out in-app shopping. Plus, to incentivize businesses, Shopify sellers are granted $300 to use for their first TikTok campaign. With so much to offer, social commerce will definitely be one of the top TikTok trends to look out for (and take advantage of) in 2021.
3. Branded Hashtag Challenges
If you’ve never heard of a hashtag challenge, then pay close attention because this is one of the most popular TikTok trends there is now. In a nutshell, a hashtag challenge is when consumers are asked to carry out a particular task, record themselves doing it, and posting it on social media with a specified hashtag. Though hashtag challenges are common across different platforms, TikTok is where it got popularized.
Because of its potential to go viral and thus boost brand awareness, businesses big and small have been quick to take advantage of it. Even Universal Pictures themselves have jumped on the TikTok trend, launching a branded hashtag challenge, #FindYourMagic, to promote an upcoming film. The result? They bagged more than 1.3 million likes, 19,000 participants, and 11,000 new followers (TikTok, 2020).
4. More Video Ads To Come on TikTok
In 2019, consumers spent nearly seven hours a week watching videos online—59 percent more time than just three years prior in 2016. Given the surge in demand, it’s no surprise that companies have been stepping up their video marketing efforts. According to the latest reports, the number of businesses engaging in video marketing has increased from 61 percent in 2016 to 85 percent in 2020.
Coupled with TikTok launching its “TikTok For Business” platform in summer 2020, we’re expecting video ads to be one of the rising TikTok trends in 2021 (TechCrunch, 2020). Plus, TikTok is also going all out to encourage and help brands advertise on its platform. It’s launching a new e-learning center to host guides, resources, and tips on running video ads on TikTok—basically everything and anything a business needs to succeed with video marketing on its platform. If you’re serious about succeeding on TikTok, this is definitely one of the top TikTok trends to take notice of for 2021.
5. TikTok Trends 2021: #Memes
It would be an understatement to say that memes are part of social media culture. Users eat, breathe, and live memes—and those on TikTok are no exception to this rule.
They’re easy to consume, fun, engaging, and extremely shareable, which explains why they’ve become so popular. The statistics around TikTok memes are proof of this: The #memes hashtag has been used a whopping 34.4 billion times on the platform (SMPerth, 2020). In fact, this TikTok trend has gotten so popular that it’s transcended even TikTok’s own borders. TikTok meme compilations can now be found all over the internet, including YouTube and Facebook. Accounts dedicated to publishing TikTok memes have also been created on Instagram. Looking to engage on TikTok in 2021? Having established itself as one of the hottest TikTok trends today and beyond, memes are definitely your answer.
6. Remixing Is the New User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is certainly no new phenomenon. But with TikTok, users now have new ways to jazz up this content, also known as “remixing”—and they’re loving it.
Defined as “the art of taking existing formats, templates, or ideas, and recreating them to express a user’s own personality or ideas,” remixing has grown in popularity in recent months and especially on TikTok (Talkwalker, 2020).
Thanks to TikTok’s built-in editing features and tools, users are able to get much more creative with the type of content they produce. Adding music to their videos is just a first and basic step. TikTok also offers AR effects for content creators to add interactive and engaging special visual effects to their videos.
Reports show that mentions of remixing linked to platforms like TikTok skyrocketed during the COVID-19 lockdown. As people were kept indoors by the coronavirus restrictions, they needed to get more creative with their physical constraints and limitations. Enter: remixing. Experts reckon that this is only the beginning of this TikTok trend and are fully expecting it to grow even more in 2021.
7. More Celebrities To Jump on TikTok Trends
Given the platform’s massive reach, an increasing number of celebrities have also decided to jump on the TikTok bandwagon (Izea, 2020).
From singers and actors to reality stars and even politicians, there have been some pretty big names that have joined TikTok. These include the likes of Will Smith, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and more. Though it’s more popular among the younger generation (Gen Z, in particular), these celebrities know and are harnessing the power of TikTok for them to become more involved with younger fans. Some have even taken it one step further by documenting their learning experience with TikTok itself. Perhaps the most famous of them all is Reese Witherspoon’s. Last year, the actress posted a video (which went viral) of her son teaching her what TikTok’s all about. Today, she’s not only on TikTok but has also amassed a 3.7 million-strong following.
8. Promoting Music on TikTok
As we head into 2021, expect one of the hottest TikTok trends to be the promotion of new music.
In September 2020, TikTok announced the launch of a brand new feature, Stitch. It’s a new editing feature that allows users to reuse content from fellow TikTokers. Selecting chunks of up to five seconds, users can integrate these video snippets into their own content.
This encourages a new sort of collaboration between TikTok content creators, which experts say has never been seen before on social media (Music Promo Today, 2020). That said, going forward, it’s very likely that we’ll see more artists, especially musicians, taking to TikTok to advertise their music, merchandise, and events. As one of the biggest TikTok trends to watch out for in 2021, it also presents new opportunities for businesses to reach untapped audiences and get themselves in front of new eyes.
9. TikTok Trends: The New TV
Known for its short-form content, TikTok may not be similar to television shows in the conventional way most of us know TV programs to be. But where it’s able to draw parallels is the consistency and regularity of new content, much like upcoming TV episodes (Influencer Marketing Hub, 2020).
Because the majority of TikTok content is found through hashtags, its users have a direct path to new content that’s published and tagged under the same hashtag and know just how to access it. This works in the same way TV viewers would turn into the same channel at the same time each week for a new episode of the TV show. Analysts say such an approach works wonders for brands as it helps to hook users in and leave them wanting more. As we head into 2021, expect this to continue into the new year and possibly beyond.
10. Giving Your Brand an Identity
TikTok prides itself on real and genuine content. In fact, TikTok marketing experts agree that authenticity is the way to go to achieve success on TikTok and it’s what TikTok audiences really relate to.
This is exactly why content like “behind the scenes” videos has worked so well for brands on TikTok. It provides viewers with a real look at what the brand is about, the people behind it, and in a way, an unfiltered, direct view of the brand’s identity. Analysts say that such content is particularly appealing to the younger, Gen Z crowd, who’s a dominating force on TikTok (Influencer Marketing Hub, 2020).
There you have it: the top ten TikTok trends that will probably continue into 2021. With 800 million users and rising, there’s so much to take advantage of on TikTok. But it’s one thing to be on the platform and posting content regularly, and a whole other ball game to be jumping on and leveraging TikTok trends to grow your business. We hope that this breakdown of these TikTok trends has been helpful for your social media and brand strategy