January is a busy month. As we find ourselves at the start of another year, we’re focusing on strategies, building our content calendar, and figuring out how we can show up with more value and impact. To help you build a solid strategy, I’m sharing my thoughts on what’s trending on social media in 2021.
What’s Trending on Social Media in 2021
Understanding what we can expect in the year ahead means looking at what happened the year before. Instagram saw huge shifts and changes. 2020 taught influencers about the importance of owning your own platform. If you recall, Instagram disabled hashtags in November to reduce the spread of misinformation. We also saw a dip in engagement on posts as Instagram pushes out Reels. Aside from updates within the app itself, we’re moving into a world where being silent on important subjects pertaining to human rights, politics, and systemic racism will no longer suffice.
The message is loud and clear: things are changing.
Between technical and social updates, the very way we interact with social media is starting to shift. And if you’re ready to show up for your community in a bigger, better, and more impactful way — here’s what you need to know about what’s trending on social media in 2021.
TikTok and Instagram Reels
If you’re not on Reels yet, you’re losing out on a huge opportunity. Hopping on the Reels train can be intimidating. It’s a new format with learning curves, but starting is the best way to adopt and adapt. Think about it this way — what would you give to start growing your Instagram community back when the app first launched? Instagram Reels is evening out the playing field. Meaning early adopters are heavily rewarded as Instagram places emphasis and importance on this new feature.
Similarly, if you aren’t on TikTok yet, what are you waiting for? TikTok is the social media platform of 2020, and it’s not slowing down. Not only is it showing tremendous opportunities for virality and explosive growth, but the platform allows creators to monetize their content in a way that Instagram doesn’t.
A Shift to SEO
Instagram officially announced that the platform will start becoming more search-friendly. The first step in optimizing your Instagram profile for searchability is to write a great Instagram Bio. Be sure to add keywords in your name field that would trigger Instagram’s search results, directing searchers to your profile.
Similarly, you’ll want to ensure that you’re writing descriptive, relevant, and keyword-rich captions. You can also add important and relevant keywords in the alt text of your post to improve your search rankings. Just like the alt text on images on your blog, the alt text on Instagram should be packed with relevant descriptions about the photo. The more richly descriptive your alt text is, the better.
To add alt-text to your post, click on “Advanced Settings” then “Write Alt Text”.
Value over Aesthetics
A photo can only provide so much value. If the release of Instagram Guides is an indication of anything, it’s that Instagram users will start gravitating towards information over aesthetics. As an influencer, this means your captions need to be packed with value, tips, or advice. A short caption with a few emojis will no longer cut it. And it doesn’t matter how pretty your photo is if your audience isn’t gaining anything from it.
This isn’t just hearsay. Value-driven content is taking charge and it’s reflected in the coming of the widely popular new social media platform — Clubhouse. Clubhouse lives and thrives off of rooms where users speak on topics they’re knowledgeable in. Consider it the TedTalk of social media. There isn’t a visual aspect to Clubhouse beyond your profile photo, emphasizing the importance of value over aesthetics. This brings me to my next point…
Infographics and Information Heavy Carousel Posts
Placing more value on information means swapping out photos for infographics or carousel posts. Not only are these incredibly helpful for your audiences, but infographics are extremely shareable. Pack more information both in your image and in your caption space. Instagram users are becoming more mindful about their social media intake. With the release of films like “The Social Dilemma” users are moving away from mindless scrolling. Instead, they’re seeking more intentional, more informational, and more value-driven content.
Less Curation, More Authenticity
The halt in travel this past year has changed the way we approach creating content. Prior to 2020, influencers were jetting off to photogenic locations and “Instagram hotspots”, snapping gorgeous shots with similar poses. To be honest, as a travel influencer myself, the quest for the perfect, jaw-dropping shot was a stressful one.
Now more than ever, Instagram users are craving less curation and more authenticity. Maybe it has something to do with how the majority of us are spending our days indoors wearing the same sweatpants. No matter, audiences everywhere want to see images that are relatable, instead of shots that portray a fantasy.
What Do You Align With?
The days of influencers remaining silent on important subjects are long gone. And despite what a small number might say, it is absolutely your place to vocalize and share your thoughts on events that affect your community and the world. Your audience wants to know what your values are. Do you share the same beliefs? Are there commonalities in your morals and values? Overall, Instagram users demand transparency. They want to know who they’re following and supporting.
The Need for an Evergreen Platform
There’s no denying that TikTok was the platform of 2020. But remember when the app was under threat of a ban in the United States? The truth is that at any given point, TikTok, Instagram, and any social media platform can shut down or disappear. If that wasn’t the wake-up call you need to own your own platform, I don’t know what is.
This is why I’m a huge advocate for either starting a blog or podcast. Influencers and creators have full control of their blog at all times. With a blog, you don’t have to deal with drastic changes to the platform or algorithm. And similarly, you control the entire user experience from start to finish.
Take it a step further and build your email list. Imagine sending your Instagram content out to every single person who follows you — giving them the choice to read or skip your content. With your email list, you can ensure that your content is delivered to every single subscriber. Leaving the choice to consume your content entirely in their hands.
Focus on Long-Term Partnerships
When it comes to social media marketing, we can expect brands to invest more in long-term partnerships versus short-term, one-time collaborations. Trends reports are already seeing user-generated content play a more important role in a brand’s social commerce strategy. Long-term partnerships will ensure that a brand’s product or service will see better results. When compared to one-time posts, long-term collaborations will drive more awareness, traffic, and sales for companies.
Quality Over Quantity
Social media became a vital part of our lives in 2020. With lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in place, people relied heavily on social media for the social aspects of their lives. In 2021, we can expect a focus on building relationships, not numbers. There will be a continuous push towards deeper, more meaningful relationships and conversations. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics such as likes or the size of your following, focus on actionable metrics. Pay attention to what people are saying in your comments, what they’re saving and finding valuable, and how you can continue to serve the community you already have.
The Importance of Video
In 2021, video content will continue to reign supreme. According to 2020’s marketing trends, videos became the most common social media marketing tactic. Although the demand for snackable, short-form video continues to grow, live streams and long-form videos like IGTV should not be ignored. Just be sure to remain incredibly focused on your niche, appear more human and less curated, and deliver as much value as you possibly can.
Change is the only thing we can really expect in this ever-evolving world. As such, social platforms will change according to what social media users demand. In 2021, we can expect more vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency. We’ll see a more conscious approach to social media consumption and hunger for value and information. And when we want to be entertained, we’ll look for bite-sized pieces of short-form video content, be it on TikTok or Instagram Reels. And as an influencer, digital marketer, or brand — inclusivity, accessibility, transparency, and value-driven content needs to be at the core of your content strategy.