Social media is a relatively new invention, yet we have seen it grow exponentially over the past decade, becoming the most important tool in marketing and promotion.
Our prediction is that the social media trends of 2021 will be less superficial and focus on technological or ethical concerns. From legal issues to e-commerce to deep fakes, many of the trends are a product of the increased personalisation of our social media experiences. Although a more curated experience sounds more entertaining, it could introduce changes to our social media environment that may be controversial.
Say goodbye to “likes”
In late 2019, Instagram began testing the option of removing likes from users’ photos. Users would be able to see the number of likes, but they had the option to hide the number of likes from followers’ vision. Instagram is hoping this feature can depressurize the competitive nature of the app. Facebook is trying this method out as well by testing out removing likes in its core app. This is a challenge businesses and influencers with have to overcome. If Instagram decides to remove likes for good, it will completely change the way users interact with the app, meaning those who rely heavily on social media marketing will have to reimagine their digital strategy plan.
As more users find algorithms and large platform policy to be frustrating, there has been an increase in niche social platforms such as gated communities within messaging apps and private networks. More and more people are indulging in Finstas and OnlyFans. Finstas are a more private, secondary Instagram account that have become a popular trend among younger Instagram users. Usually a Finsta is where a user posts more private posts about their day-to-day lives instead of a highlight reel. OnlyFans is a platform where users have to pay to gain access to another user’s content. One way to think of it is as a private Snapchat account with a subscription charge to enter. These two examples are just the beginning of special access communities we will see expanding in 2021.
Escalation of legal issues
As social media becomes more widespread, so will the legal issues behind it. Facebook and Twitter have taken stances on political ads throughout the 2020 election, and we will continue to see these types of issues in 2021. Whether it is business, government or individual cases, regulation will be the next hot button issue of social media. Businesses that use social media marketing will have to pay close attention to the legality of platforms as issues of privacy, ad transparency and surveillance become more important in the coming year.
VR multi-player worlds
Integrating virtual reality and social media will start to pop up in 2020. In September 2019, Facebook announced it was building Horizon, a VR playground of sorts that is reminiscent of “Ready Player One” OASIS. Users can play and socialize with friends in a computer-generated landscape they create. In 2020, Horizon has launched in closed beta testing – starting a new trend in VR and online social interaction. This blend of VR and social media will be the next box to check off for social media. As companies are trying to find new ways to bring in new users, this may be an innovative way to do so.
Deepfakes and the robot social
In the past year, we have seen a rise in robotic profiles, virtual influencers, misinformation and deep fakes. Deep fakes are media that alters an existing image or video to someone else’s likeness. With so much misinformation floating around the web, users and social media companies will have to think about how to counteract or coexist with it. Social media marketing will have to look out for fake profiles and even robotic accounts. Online influencers are at high risk of having their likeness and image used without their permission, so they too will have to pay more attention and find ways to protect their digital persona.
But it’s not all bad news when it comes to robots and social media. In 2021, we will see machine agents creating more personalized experiences for users. They will be suggesting online communities for use to join, potential dating profiles and other social media experiences. In the coming year, we might be seeing a very personalized social media experience thanks to machines behind the scenes.
Retail meets social media
E-commerce and social media will become more seamless in the upcoming year. With companies like Etsy, eBay and Amazon trying to take advantage of social media platforms, digital shopping is getting a whole new life. In 2021, we will see more Instagram storefronts and tailored platform ads. Social media data will be used to personalize ads, making them all the harder to ignore.
Overall, there is a lot of innovative social media features to get excited about in the coming year. We will see a more personalized experience thanks to increases in technology, but at a cost. With more machine learning running behind the scenes to figure out our tastes, we run into issues of privacy, legality and credibility. In the future, we will have to figure out how to balance all the new technology with our basic desires to feel in control.