3 social media trends to embrace in 2021

What type of content will perform the best on Instagram? How can social media drive crucial e-commerce operations? Here’s what you must know.


Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.

For public relations and marketing professionals specifically, 2020 was transformative. All our activities shifted to digital platforms and social content proliferated as everyone, from press and customers to friends and family, craved new ways to stay authentically connected, informed and busy.

Social media experienced a bit of a renaissance. Slow-growing trends across platforms roared to life to accommodate the permanently online masses. PR pros scrambled to keep up, but we made it to the end of the least predictable year in history!

Last year’s social media transformation did not disappear as the clock struck midnight on January 1, and PR pros should anticipate that the social media trends that kicked off the decade will continue their reign in 2021. Social media will continue to infiltrate our daily routines this year, and we will see some brands shifting their strategies accordingly to better interact with their audience, share content and break into new markets.

Here are three of the most compelling trends that pros can use to take advantage of platforms.

1. E-commerce strategy is also “social.”

While we’re not returning to the hustle and bustle of after-work yoga classes, brick-and-mortar shopping sprees and in-person dining just yet, commerce is flourishing on digital platforms. Social media has introduced a brand-new intersection for customer communication and e-commerce cues. The convergence of social media scrolling and online shopping, dubbed “social commerce,” will continue to rise as a new retail channel and allow brands to leverage both organic and paid content to promote services, products and opportunities to tailored audiences.

Social commerce allows businesses of any size to drive attention to their brand, mission, products and services, but with the bonus of directing traffic to sales with interactive calls to action right in the social feed. With business-friendly account options on key platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, the opportunities for online retailing on social media will be significant in 2021.

2. Video killed the Instagram square.

With more time spent online than ever before last year, video content boomed. The rise of TikTok, the debut of Instagram Reels, and the quarantined populace’s longing for entertainment fused to cause a surge in social media video consumption. Do not expect that surge to abate this year; a recent report by Zenith Media predicts that the average person will watch 100 minutes of video daily in 2021.

Heading into the new year, social media experts should make use of the power of short videos, live streaming, and Instagram stories to define their company’s voice, put a human face on thought leadership, and create compelling content that stretches beyond a photo and a call to action. To remain competitive, brands must recognize video social media content will drive sweet victory in organic engagement.

3. It’s time to pay attention.

Active listening is said to be one of the most valuable communication skills, and when it comes to digital channels, the rule is no different. While in past years, social media strategy often took root in deep content calendars, pre-scheduled campaigns, and internal goals, social media in 2021 will introduce a greater need for open ears.

Listening on social media offers many advantages. It allows a brand to learn what people are interested in, how audiences are reacting to messages, and how the brand can best suit its followers’ needs. This deep understanding of the audience allows a brand to create truly personal content.

With this listening comes a more refined balance between reactive and proactive social. While many brands have primarily stuck to proactive content and campaigns, reacting only in a crisis or when negativity arises, scanning for opportunities introduces ways to infuse the company’s voice into current trends, issues and demands. Ultimately, this will strengthen your brand’s social presence and contribute to a more precise message, tuned to the audience’s needs.

For public relations professionals that harness the evolutions in social commerce, video content, and social listening in 2021, the opportunities are boundless.

Which trend do you anticipate will make the biggest splash this year, PR Daily readers?


Lexie Gardiner is a senior account coordinator at Caster Communications in Wakefield, Rhode Island. Twitter: @lexie_gardiner


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