Halfway through 2021, we realized a common theme across social media: platforms were focused on evolving and establishing what they really want to become. 

For example: 

As the platforms continue to find their identities, several other themes have emerged this year. Instead of a typical year in review of each platform, we’re taking a dive into these themes: 

A Shoppers Paradise

At the end of 2020, we predicted that shopping would get easier on social media. And indeed we were 100% right about that! This past fall, experts predicted that half of consumers would turn to social media for holiday shopping this year. 

eMarketer expected social commerce buyers to grow 12.9% this year to 90.4 million. 

Here are some highlights from 2021: 

  • Around mid-year, TikTok expanded its partnership with Shopify to work with merchants to create content that sends consumers directly to online stores. A few months later, TikTok hosted an online event called “TikTok World” where it announced numerous other features, including a live shopping option. 
  • Livestream shopping is available on just about every platform now, with YouTube jumping on the bandwagon in November
  • Twitter launched Live Shopping with Walmart where users could shop on the retail giant’s Twitter page while an influencer reviewed products. 
  • Through Pinterest TV’s shoppable series, users can chat with hosts and ask questions about products. Numerous brands are offering discounts through this feature. 

Short-Form Video is Here to Stay

Remember in 2020 when we questioned whether TikTok would even be available to users? Well, it survived … and thrived. The platform best-known for its short-form video now says it has 1 billion (yes BILLION) users.

The platform says users are spending the equivalent of an average length movie in its app every day. Nearly 90% of users in the U.S. say they’re planning to use the app the same amount OR MORE in the next 6 months. 

The growth and app usage on TikTok have led to other platforms playing the copycat game and putting their focus on short videos. 

A sampling of what has happened this year: 

Enhancements to Broadcasting Live 

Broadcasting live from social media has been around for several years now, but this feature has evolved quite a bit during the pandemic. Here’s a sampling of what’s happened this year: 

  • TikTok expanded its LIVE capabilities by allowing users to co-host events and host Q&A sessions. As 2021 draws to a close, TikTok is testing a desktop live streaming app, with the primary focus on gamers. 
  • LinkedIn Live expanded to more users. The company says videos on LinkedIn Live get seven times more reactions and 24 times more comments than other videos produced by the same broadcasters.
  • Instagram launched a Badges feature for users to support creators on Instagram Live.
  • To close out the year, Meta announced several enhancements to Facebook Live: Polls, four-person broadcasting, new commenting features, and live streaming in Stories.    
  • YouTube’s live feature also added a few enhancements with polls, a subscriber-only chat, and an expansion of its Clips feature. 

The Audio Boom Levels Off with Copycats

Clubhouse busted onto the social media scene last year with its audio app, but the popularity of listening to people talk about various subjects leveled off quickly. Even Clubhouse’s CEO said the app grew “way too fast” in 2020. 

“We’re finally at the point where we can take a breath and really focus on the long term, focus on steady growth,” Paul Davison said.  

Clubhouse is essentially live podcasting. Its growth last year led to several apps copying this format with mixed results. 

This includes:  

In addition to the major social media platforms, the audio boom is full of “other” players in this space. This includes Discord Stage Channels, Telegram Voice Chat, and Reddit Talk. An article HERE takes a deep dive into all the options that have expanded in 2021.  

Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Here to Stay

When many people hear the terms “virtual” and “augmented” reality, they think of funny videos with people wearing weird goggles, or they have flashbacks of the Pokemon GO phenomenon from a few years ago. 

These forms of technology, though, are here to stay and will change social platforms in the future. In 2021, it’s become more evident that VR and AR aren’t going anywhere. This year’s trend is more one of curiosity that will continue to transform into 2022.  

For example: 

  • This YouTuber “wore” virtual clothes for a week. The video has 3.4 million views. While it sounds incredibly strange initially, trying on clothes virtually appears to be headed mainstream. 
  • Several other social media networks are testing ways to use AR for users to scan real-life items and then browse and purchase similar products. 
  • Google is building a new AR device and operating system. Job listings suggest that the platform will reach “billions.”
  • Facebook changed its name to Meta as CEO Mark Zuckerberg promises that the company is evolving its platforms for the virtual and physical worlds to intertwine. 

What’s Ahead in 2022?

The next 12 months will see platforms solidifying their identities and trying to separate themselves from each other. Copycat trends will surely continue, but perhaps not at the same intensity as the past couple of years. 

Take a journey into our crystal ball to see what we think will happen in the coming months: 

  • Shopping through social media is going to double in the next year. Social media platforms are already making it easier to shop, but bigger brands are going to hop on this bandwagon in the next 12 months. 
  • Privacy restrictions that impact how social media sites track and target you will become more enhanced. While we didn’t mention it as a top trend for this year, Apple’s iOS implemented several changes this year that allowed users to opt out of being tracked through various apps. This will expand outside of Apple. (Of note, recent research shows that 54% of social media users don’t trust the platforms they’re using.) 
  • User-generated content will soar. With the emergence of platforms paying creators to produce videos this year, user-generated content from “influencers” will skyrocket. While not everyone will be the next YouTube star or product reviewer, many will try. For many brands, this is an extremely cost effective way to market products.
  • Platforms will focus on personal experiences. Personalized ads, direct message and live chats are all already things that are happening, but next year social media networks will make it easier for brands and users to connect. Studies show that nearly 70% of shoppers say that interacting with a company through messaging makes them feel at ease. More than 70% expect brands to offer customer support through online messaging or social media. 
  • For Meta, Facebook will see a decrease in activity, while Instagram will see a major increase. Along these same lines, we think that brands will shift more of their advertising dollars to other platforms. The percentage increase in ad revenue will be much higher on other platforms, like TikTok, LinkedIn and Pinterest. 

We’ll be sure to check back in 6 months to give a mid-year review and a check-in on these predictions!

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