What Social Media Might Look Like In 2021
The past year has brought enormous change to our favourite social media platforms.
Twitter got a revamp in the form of voice tweets as well as the addition of ‘Fleets’; essentially a story feature that was first brought about by Snapchat.
When TikTok soared in popularity – its creators can thank the pandemic for that – Instagram, keen not to lose the attention of its users, introduced ‘Reels’. Much like TikTok, these are short-fire videos that are ideal for creating quick, fun content.
The biggest change of all, and one we are still getting used to, is a whole new tab dedicated to Instagram shopping.
As we move into the new year, we’ve gathered our predictions on how our platforms might change in 2021.
Some social media experts predict that the addition of extra features, such as Instagram’s shopping tab and Reels, could see platforms moving towards a one-app-fits-all approach.
James Read, founder of digital agency Giant Peach, said this is already common in other parts of the world, like China.
‘If you look at China, WeChat already encompasses that ‘one-app-fits-all’ approach with the chatting app also allowing stories, updates and buying. However – as much as western social media platforms will inevitably try to follow that platform, it’s unlikely that they will be allowed to play the role fully as in China,’ he told UNILAD.
He explains that because of data privacy concerns, increased regulation will make it too difficult for platforms to access that much control – ‘which might not be a bad thing,’ he added.
In China, it’s commonplace to not only buy everyday items through social media, but also invest in big purchases such as a house or a car simply after watching a live stream, Domenica Di Lieto, CEO of Emerging Communications, said.
It’s ‘absolutely’ possible that we will see our social media channels shaped like those in China in the future, she told UNILAD.
That’s where we are headed for, but we are a long way behind.
I think this year has been fairly instrumental in speeding up technological advancement in Europe because people have consumed more social media in lockdown, but also the need to track where people are because of coronavirus.
Sunil Singhvi, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Instagram, told UNILAD that the introduction of Shops was a response to a ‘global change in online and social media culture’ amid the pandemic.
‘We responded to evolving needs with products like Shops to support small businesses who found our platforms to be business-critical during the pandemic,’ he said.
‘Creators were a major part of the cultural shift as people increasingly found comfort and connection in individuals. More people than ever are discovering brands and shopping for products via their favourite creators; this is set to continue,’ he added.
The addition of the shopping tab to Instagram did not receive the most welcome response by users, with many voicing their complaints on Twitter.
Read said this reluctance will soon fade, as users will ‘adapt without even knowing they are adapting’.
Can you remember a time without Instagram Stories? We remember their introduction and the aversion to them – now it’s rare to go a day without uploading to stories.
It’s easy to see that the shopping tab will soon become the go to place to check what products are ‘hot’ right now, what influencers are wearing or using and brands will advertise for their customers to shop through there.
If there are two things the pandemic has brought home, it’s the human desire for social connection and the need for strong communities.
Twitter told UNILAD that Twitter ‘communities’ and ‘dedicated spaces’ for topics is something it is keen to develop in the new year.
‘Communities and dedicated spaces for people to talk about what’s happening is something we’re looking at – community spaces where people should feel safe, comfortable, heard, and connected within their communities or shared interests,’ a spokesperson said.
‘Everyone around the world should be able to see what’s happening online and participate in the global conversation no matter where they are or what language they speak,’ they added.
The next year could also see the rise of longform video on our social media networks, Alistair Reid, senior social account manager at Mighty Social said.
In August 2020, Ofcom reported that the UK lockdown had led to a surge in the amount of television and online content we are consuming.
‘Internet consumption over past nine months has sky-rocketed, and people now have a thirst for longform content over social. In the past, anything over 30 seconds was out of the question, but Facebook is now prioritising longer videos to rival YouTube,’ he says.
As the world went into lockdown in the first quarter of the year, TikTok welcomed more than 315 million new users to its app, as reported by SensorTower.
Over the course of the year, it introduced a range of new features, including giving creators the ability to go live.
One recent notification sent out to some TikTok users suggests that the platform will be rolling out the ability to create longer videos.
While TikTok remained pretty tight-lipped about this, choosing not to comment on changes to video length, the platform said 2021 will bring an increased focus on its ‘live’ function.
‘Despite the challenges this year has brought, we’re so proud that TikTok has been a home for community, creativity and joy in 2020,’ Rich Waterworth, general manager of TikTok in the UK and EU said.
‘Looking to 2021, we expect to see even more of this on our platform, whether it’s creators using our LIVE function to connect with new audiences, or new and exciting product features, like updates to Duet and Stitch, which enable even greater creativity,’ he added.
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