Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Social Media Trends: What’s coming next & what does your brand need to know

By Corrie Jones, Founder at Untapped Digital

It’s a big question. So much has changed over the last decade in social (check out this nifty video for proof) that it’s hard to comprehend where the digital landscape will be even in the next 12 months. Add to that the fact that 2020 accelerated online communication at a record rate, as the offline world had to shut down in the pandemic, and it’s a very interesting time for marketers. 

Over at Untapped Digital, we’ve been sharing our predictions for what’s coming to social media next and how brands should take advantage of these trends to best connect with their consumers, in a time where genuine connection matters more than ever. 

1. Prioritize authenticity over perfection

People are starting to tire of the overly-polished, impossibly-so curated feed. As the impact of social media on mental health becomes more widely spoken about, there’s an increase in engagement with content that is more genuine. Perhaps it’s a behind-the-scenes look at how your business or team operates; perhaps it’s an apology statement that sounds like a human (not a robot) wrote it if your brand drops the ball. Consumers gel with content that reflects the times they’re living in – and for most of 2020, consumers have been stuck indoors, dressing smart from the waist-up for Zoom calls, and worried about the basic needs set out by Maslow rather than their usual day-to-day concerns. It’s more acceptable now than ever for your brand to lower their production levels and turn to filming content from home, on iPhones, rather than investing thousands in fancy photo and video shoots. Be more concerned with the content being relatable, offering value, and brightening your audience’s day, than how perfectly polished it looks. 

Get inspired: Check out @dudewithsign on Instagram as evidence you don’t need to spend thousands on production to post content that consumers will love

2. Focus on Stories over the newsfeed

Over lockdown, the amount of time consumers were spending daily on social media more than doubled compared to the same time period in 2019. People were turning to social media to stay connected and up-to-date with the outside world, and Instagram Stories is an ideal way to do so. Of the one billion people that use Instagram every month, 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day and one-third of the most viewed Stories are from businesses. In the same vein as trend one, Stories provide the opportunity to speak more authentically with your audience and to more frequently show up on their feed. Any responses and replies to Instagram Stories count positively towards the algorithm too, so your feed content is more likely to get better engagement if you’re actively engaging with your audience via Stories. 

Get inspired: Check out @sarahakwisombe for an example of how to show up every day on Stories to connect with your audience, convey your mission, drive engagement and showcase testimonials in a fun and natural way 

3. Gamify your content

The definition of gamifying your content is “to apply typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to an activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service”. Gamified content can drag your audience out of scrolling apathetically through social media and push them towards actively engaging with your content. This could look like setting up treasure hunt games between multiple profiles, running polls that lead to a win/lose outcome, or hosting competitions with multi-level prizes in exchange for the audience taking action. Your brand should set this content up so that users naturally feel inclined to engage with the game – if you have to repeatedly make an ask for the engagement, then you haven’t nailed it and need to think further about what your audience wants to see. 

Get inspired: Check out Samsung’s Galaxy Note10+ gamified launch (click on their first Story highlight to play along) 

4. Create an episodic content series

Episodic content is like social media’s answer to a Netflix binge. Rather than posting one-off styles of content again and again, hoping they will gain traction in the newsfeed, through using episodic content your brand can create a series of content that your audience knows will be posted on a certain day and time each week or fortnight. The aim is to become a destination page on social media, where your content series encourages your audience to seek you out and return to engage with the brand on a consistent basis. Instagram itself has encouraged this kind of content; Jon YouShaei (Product Marketing Manager of IGTV) says that your brand content should have a “repeatable theme and style that your audience can expect in every episode”. To decide what episodic content to create, be hyper aware of what your audience wants to see and what they will benefit from. Perhaps you could solve your audience’s problems and create a “how to” series; perhaps you could entertain them with feel-good stories where they need to tune in next time to see what happens next. 

Get inspired: Check out First We Feast’s “Hot Ones” series on YouTube to see why they have almost 10million subscribers with 500 videos