Even if it was a slightly more ‘normal’ year than its predecessor, 2021 has had its fair share of surprises! As the year draws to a close, we’re reflecting on the key changes and trends in social media in 2021. Here is our round-up of four developments that made a splash and are worth keeping an eye on in the coming year…
1. The rise of audio-based content
Although video content has been creating a buzz on social media platforms for years, audio hasn’t had much of a profile – until recently. Following the emergence of Clubhouse, a formerly-exclusive app for audio-only communications, audio content can now be more widely seen on social media.
After the short-lived Fleets, Twitter introduced Twitter Spaces in the spring, allowing users to create and participate in live audio conversations. Facebook followed suit with its Live Audio Rooms, which uses the same concept. Although these features are experimental, the social media titans are clearly keen to make more of audio content’s potential!
It may be a recent development, but businesses are already considering its value for marketing. For instance, social audio can be a great opportunity for conversational marketing as it’s a new way to present customers with authentic discussions and support – which you just won’t get from a soulless chatbot!
2. Facebook’s rebrand and Metaverse plans
Since launching in 2004, Facebook has become a household name and remains the world’s most-used social media platform. However, following many highly-publicised controversies, the company rebranded in October from Facebook Inc. to Meta Platforms, Inc.
Importantly, the social media site itself will still be called Facebook. There won’t be any name changes for Meta’s other apps, Instagram and WhatsApp, either. However, the rebrand encompasses the company’s ongoing ‘Metaverse’ endeavours, which involve digital avatars and spaces in a VR-like concept. Considering the state of social media in 2021, this may seem a bit far-fetched! That said, it’s still a major development for the company.
Facebook isn’t the only business with an interest in the Metaverse or what some people are now calling “Web 3.0”. Microsoft is working on an “enterprise metaverse” with the digital and physical worlds converging in systems like Xbox, and via online games such as Minecraft. Even John Lewis recently got in on the act, with a virtual shop available in the popular video game Fortnite. The full realisation of the Metaverse (and what it all really means) might still be a few years away, but with almost three billion users internationally on just Facebook alone, it’s worth paying attention to.
3. The continued popularity of livestreaming
Although livestreaming features aren’t new at this point, they continue to be significant for businesses of all types. Streaming live video is clearly an effective social media approach, with 80% of customers preferring to watch live video content from brands rather than reading blogs!
One recent trend in live content is live commerce, which has been popular in China. This concept involves businesses running live videos where customers can instantly enquire about and buy products from a livestream. This year, both Tiktok and Facebook launched live shopping features, so live content is clearly a trend that’s gaining traction!
4. Social media’s ongoing growth
Although we’ve spent less time locked down due to COVID-19 this year, social media usage hasn’t dropped to pre-pandemic levels. Globally, it remains true that over half of the world’s population uses social media. Estimates from October suggest that there are now over 4.5 billion social media users, a notable increase from the 3.8 billion active users in January 2020. This indicates that businesses who might have been reluctant to invest in social media really can’t afford to neglect it!
We predict there will be plenty more new trends in 2022 and social media will only become even more popular! Stay tuned to our blog for the latest updates on social media developments throughout the new year.