Summarizing: Think forward 2021 – The social reset

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Now in its sixth year, the global socially-led creative agency We Are Social contributes with their valuable annual trend report "Think forward". In this blog post, we are summarizing the most interesting insights and key takeaways of the report. Happy reading!

In the beginning of 2020, our world was turned upside down when the pandemic broke out. We have faced a conscious climate crisis and a global pandemic and changes, which have put society on a test. We have had to adjust, and slow down our pace. Many cities around the world have lived in lockdowns and the status has been uncertain in the world.

Social media has played a major role over time and enabled us to live on, but in a digitalized society. When the pandemic had its first wave in early March 2020, over 3.9 billion people worked from home and digital tools and communication became our everyday life. Digitization meant that we developed our way of using the digital tools through, for example, live shopping.

Now in its sixth year, we are social‘s annual trend report unpicks the complex and ever-shifting web of consumer behaviour online, and explores the role brands can play in reflecting and shaping it. Compiled by their team of cultural insight experts from each of their 15 international offices, the 2021 report adds global context to local trends.

Let’s have a look at the most interesting insights of the report, chapter by chapter.

A short recap: 2020 – Events “shaping” social.

January.

  • More than half of the world’s population uses social media.
  • Australia’s fires are a devastation to climate change and are attracting a lot of attention and people are acting online.

February.

  • Covid-19 begins to affect the world economy.

March.

  • Covid-19 is spread outside China and the WHO classifies it as a pandemic.

April.

  • TikTok breaks records as the most downloaded social app in a quarter.

May.

  • SpaceX launches its first crew crew – Dragon 2 which was live-streamed for the world population during an online event.

June.

  • Statues linked to slavery are taken down due to BLM protests.
  • J.K. Rowling ends up in a digital quarrel over trans rights.

July.

  • India bans Tiktok and 58 Chinese apps.

August.

  • Jeff Bezos will be the first in history to have a network in excess of $ 200 million.

September.

  • The global death toll from Covid-19 exceeds one million.

CHAPTER 1

The simple life – People use social platforms to return to their core values.

A third of the world’s population felt stressed in 2019, according to a report from Gallup Global Emotions. What has happened in 2020 has made us reflect and think about what’s important to us. But it’s not just about health or family, it’s about simple needs as well, such as cooking from scratch or feeling the comfort of being part of a local community. We use social channels differently now and choose to prioritize what we want to see is of value by becoming more aware.

Changes in digital behavior.

Local communities.

People choose to stay in touch through social channels during the lockdowns of communities, they have been able to maintain a community. Groups have been created in WhatsApp and on Facebook and in this way have been able to continue to stay in touch.

Virtual realities.

We see a trend from a Facebook group where people want to escape to virtual realities in games, where they pretend to be ants and where they can pretend that the pandemic does not exist. This is to escape the anxiety surrounding everything around the pandemic.

Offline pleasures.

There has been an increase in sharing simple everyday events on social media, such as work in the garden.

What to keep in mind as a marketer in 2021:

Understand the meaning of small things, not just the big ones.

We see that what engages is content of value, it does not have to mean that it should include the larger events in life, but small events in everyday life are also important to share in this way, you get down to a human level. You want to access the personal in content that creates emotions.

Invest in the local communities.

Through the digitalisation of society, social media plays a major role in how people engage in local activities. An example is Heineken, which used social channels to collect small sums from various sources in order to invest in local small businesses during the crisis.

CHAPTER 2

Practical Advocacy – People find practical ways to mobilize from within their feeds on social media.

In 2020, many social movements have circulated in social media and the activism that has existed in the past has developed into practical action. Many groups have joined together via social platforms and made it possible for more people to raise their voices and make a global impact.

Whether it is about counteracting repression or supporting those affected by natural disasters. This has also led brands to reorganize their flows as a result of #PullUpOrShutUp, an initiative of UOMA Beauty that urges companies to be transparent in their internal diversity. The digital response that took place in connection with Black Lives Matter became the largest protest ever in order to stand up for blacks’ fair freedom in the world.

78% of American Gen-Zers have used social media to express support for Black Americans  Yubo, 2020

Changes in digital behavior.

People are becoming more educated about social justice.

Increased involvement has taken place in social channels for social justice in society. Vox has published a “powerpoint about activism” for instagram in carousel format and the way we receive information looks different and Instagram plays an important role in sorting out legal education and reading about social issues.

Teenagers engage in politics through TikTok.

Young people used groups on TikTok during the US presidential election to try to exclude political campaigns by President Donald Trump.

What to keep in mind as a marketer in 2021:

Brands can educate people through social media.

Educating people means that they understand what they themselves can do for a better society. Social media has a big impact and your reliable company can create change in society by making more people aware and more actions in the right direction can take place.

Brands can educate themselves through social media.

By learning from transgender people’s conversations on social media, Starbucks created a campaign – “whats your name”, where their were working transgender people, and made a video for Youtube in collaboration with “Trans Charity Mermaids” in order to make everyone welcome all the people as they are. This is something more brands should do because values ​​play a greater role in a conscious society today.

CHAPTER 3

In-feed Intimacy – People want the digital communication to be more personalized and human.

We spend a lot of time online, and there have been concerns that this is affecting our physical relationships. Netflix’s documentary: The Social Dilemma shows excerpts from recent years’ use of the impact of social networks on us humans as a “wake-up call”. But during the pandemic, there was a change, and our social platforms took on a new meaning, they have been accepted and made so that we can keep in touch with our loved ones. During the pandemic’s progress, Facebook was updated with a reaction emoji in order to care, as a personal interaction. “Small Gestures” was introduced by TikTok, which allows users to send gifts to other users. When everyone has since started with video communication, Bumble launched a video chat feature that received a good response. Video conferencing in Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Zoom has become part of our daily routine.

Live streaming platforms have aroused a lot of commitment and shown that a warm target group feels a more personal contact with influenced profiles. Madonna wrote her movie with screenwriter Diablo Cody on Instagram Live. While Jacinda Arden used Twitch to connect with her followers. We see trends in how social media users create a personal contact via video.

Changes in digital behavior.

Avatars personalized interactions in chat mode.

Through Memoji that Apple created, Facebook has launched avatars and a VR playground, where people become virtual versions of themselves and can personalize interactions.

Audio format for communicating.

The trending format is sound and through the format you can create a personal feeling that you are talking to a person in question. Previous apps like Chalk and Space test the way to connect with people around the world via audio calls. These are also similar to the trending Clubhouse app. Other channels have followed the trend and Twitter has launched audio-based tweets and Linkedin has developed a voice feature in the chat.

Like-minded people gather in private digital forums.

People like to join forums where they find people who have similar interests in addition to their feeds who feel they are brought together. In a difficult time, a community is a high priority. Many people seek human contact because they feel alone in a prevailing pandemic.

83% of people globally think that brands should use their social channels to create a sense of community and support.

Trust Barometer Special report, Edelman 2020

What to keep in mind as a marketer in 2021:

Personalize customer service.

Because of the current pandemic it hasn’t been possible to meet people face-to-face, which means that human contact has disappeared and the natural relationship that is built with people then disappears. That is why personal communication becomes even more important. An example is IKEA in Italy, which organized an Instagram Live with their employees.

Take advantage of the shift for an exclusivity.

By creating this personal feeling for the customer, it also gives an exclusivity of the brand. One example is that during Fashion Week, Gucci’s own creative director Alessandro Michele sent out invitations via WhatsApp as an audio message.

CHAPTER 4

Reliable Idols – People want public profiles to use their platforms responsibly.

People become more picky about which accounts they follow and think about why they follow the accounts they do. What is considered important is that the information that goes out is reliable. There are studies that show that during the pandemic, public profiles – influencers were responsible for 69% of the misleading information shared. This means that people will lose trust and become increasingly source-critical because everything has become easily accessible on our digital platforms.

Many influencers have grown businesses through beauty, success, travel and it’s about creating a nice flow and creative content. But there is still a responsibility to show integrity and be responsible by, for example, like others during the pandemic taking responsibility for restrictions in society.

During BLM, Selena Gomez used her platform to raise her voice for profiles within the movement that deserved it. To show that she is so much more than a beautiful woman and to show that they are worth their place in the flow.

For example, after the explosion in Beirut in August 2020, a cartographer published a correct map of the size of the explosion.

Trustworthiness is the #1 trait people have looked for in influencers and creators, following the outbreak of Covid-19 GWI, 2020

Changes in digital behavior.

Follow people who inspire to de-dramatize problems.

One trend we are seeing is that people want to follow influencers’ accounts where they can get help solving complex problems. One example is the self-taught economist Nathan Tankus, who according to Bloomberg has become a “must-read” to understand economic status. This creates opportunities for companies that are not as attractive to review their services.

Follow expertise for new knowledge. 

We want to follow the people who are knowledgeable about specific areas, to be inspired and get “free” lessons. During the course of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci has been an important person, among people online, by talking about the status of society in an uncertain time. There have also been other healthcare staff who have stepped forward on social media.

Influenced profiles are expected to give up their digital platforms for important problems.

Expectations have arisen of the large profiles in the social channels. That they should use them in the right way, such as Marcus Rashford, an English football player who helps fight poverty among children.

What to keep in mind as a marketer in 2021:

Important issues in society through brands.

We can see the use of brands to raise important issues in society as a new trend. Fortnite organized a series of events called “We The People” in order to counter racism where you could listen to selected speakers with authority.

Review brand identity

Companies must examine and be clear with the public figures they choose to work with because, through their cooperation, they are also the front person for the brand. It can otherwise be problematic as in a conflict like when Lui Yifei who plays Disney’s “Mulan” went out with his personal opinions on social media.

CHAPTER 5

Unbound platforms – People expand their way of engaging in social media.

During 2020 there has been a development in social media. Influencers make more creative content, the social platforms come out with new features. Brands and platforms have had to adapt to a need for new content. Players on Twitch have had to adapt by producing lifestyle content while Youtubers have learned to use the trending app TikTok. Through a change in the behavior of the target group that the platforms need to come out with new functions in order not to lose users. The gaming platforms are being developed to reach a wider audience and for streamers to be able to watch movies with their fans and then discuss, “Watch Parties” was launched.

Changes in digital behavior.

Change in the way of getting information in social media.

Twitter has developed its quote function of retweets to track conversions and we see that those who have saved posts on Instagram sort content that they want to go back to. Social platforms are used for various reasons and the way of exploring and organizing content is changing.

Increased participation in digital events.

Live streams have grown and given creators more room to perform and we have seen social platforms with new eyes in that they have become a central part of our everyday lives. We plan for our online events.

Socialization on gaming platforms.

Gaming networks have developed from just being about games to becoming platforms where socialization is a priority.

What to keep in mind as a marketer in 2021:

Review the formats you use in social media.

Digital platforms are being developed, which means that the formats need to be reconsidered, what worked yesterday may not work today in the social channels. On instagram, we see that more informative, long posts work on instagram. While ads are being developed and Facebook has introduced a “20%” rule in order for an ad to contain a maximum of 20% text.

Include new channels in your media mix.

In order to be visible to your target group, it is important that you keep up with which platforms they are on, so you need to review your media mix from time to time. The tone of a platform is also created by its audience and engaging with its target audience can enable you to achieve results where you are. One example is when Gucci saw potential in an e-sports platform run by the organization Fnatic and Gucci created a campaign with players.

CHAPTER 6 

Open-source Creativity – People engage in forms of collaboration for the creation of creative content.

Creativity flows in social media and the process of creative creation is becoming increasingly common. The young target group has a collaborative mindset when it comes to trying out new developed tools and formats. The content of social platforms is starting to become more reusable. An example is Tiktok where users follow trends by reusing other people’s content with the same music, dance, etc. Another example is Youtube where Youtubers use other Youtubers’ ideas to create content for their channels. You do not need to create new material all the time, but can save significant time by further developing trends with your touch.

Changes in digital behavior.

Public figures collaborate via social media.

There has been an openness on digital platforms – between public figures and their fans. An example is Charli XCX who together with her fans on Zoom during lockdown wrote her latest album.

Collaboration between content creators & followers.

During lockdown, Tiktok has been a collaborative content creator and follower. This is done by creating content based on comments and requests. An example is Melissa Ong aka @chunkeysdead who creates content through creative opinions.

Sharing the challenges of popular content streams.

Challenges in social media have evolved and we tend to reuse other people’s content by testing other followers’ challenges by then using hashtags so that other followers can easily catch on to the trend. One example is #euphoriamakeupchallange on TikTok, which received almost 1.4 billion views where users did make-up and tutorials inspired by HPO’s TV program “Euphoria”.

What to keep in mind as a marketer in 2021:

Open up to dare to create creativity.

Only your imagination can stop you in creative creation, your brand must dare to try and play with the tools available. During the lockdown, many young people were influenced by Reese Cooper, a designer who launched DIY, a collection of patterns and instructions for young people to be able to sew their own clothes.

Use response to create new content. 

On instagram, we see trends where companies follow their target group. An example is Gymshark who published a photo of a plus-size model, got mixed reactions which then they chose to respond to each comment. Where they stood up for their values.

Summary.

2020 was about digitalisation of society, through pandemics and distancing, digital platforms became part of our everyday lives. But we use them in a different way than before, we are more creative and dare to take inspiration from others to recreate content. Our social media has a great influence on us, but we are critical of sources and want to follow accounts that convey value to us.

Social media is a changing climate and what works today may not work tomorrow. A tip is therefore to stay up to date on trends through frequent external monitoring.

Hope you enjoyed the article. Don’t forget to stay updated by subscribing to our newsletter!

The blog post is a summary of Think Forward 2021, thank you We Are Social for sharing your knowledge and insights as well as being one of the most inspiring front leaders when it comes to thought leadership in our industry. Keep up the good work!

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