The 9 trends that will determine social media usage in 2021
OMD Germany
7 December 2020

This article was originally published on Horizon T.


94% of Germans used the Internet regularly this year – a new record. This means that almost the entire population is now online – and four out of five online users use social media . Social apps like WhatsApp, Facebook or YouTube are well ahead in daily use, and new challengers like TikTok are paving the way. The variety of social media platforms has never been greater! But how will social media develop in 2021? The experts Negin Khaladj and Stephan Naumann from OMD take a data-based look at various aspects, trends and developments in social media communication and derive nine relevant trends in their guest article at HORIZONT Online that advertisers and agencies should have on their radar.


  1. The need for a multi-platform strategy

Consumers will still have Facebook in 2021, but will also be using more social apps. In 2020, 45% will visit at least five or more social media platforms – and the trend is rising. Loyalty to individual apps is falling. Brands and agencies are therefore getting less and less around a multi-platform strategy – both for owned content and paid social and influencer marketing.

This not only means closer screening of consumer behavior and networked campaign planning on the agency side, but also the courage to make decisions and experiments, including the provision of an innovation budget on the part of the advertising company.


2. The intensification of social media usage in all age groups

People spend an average of three and a half hours online every day and spend longer and longer on social networks. The intensification of social media use is not a one-off phenomenon, but rather a sustainable change in behavior – this development will also continue in the third quarter of 2020.

For consumers, social media will no longer be just a medium in 2021 to keep in touch with friends or to be entertained. The motives for use are expanding – for example to include social shopping on Instagram or in the future via WhatsApp or e-gaming on Facebook. For brands this means: They have to defend their share of the social media time budget and compete for the attention of consumers on the multitude of social apps.


3. The evolution of short form video content

TikTok is the buzz word of the social media world in 2020 and is synonymous with entertaining short video content. According to the Global Web Index, 18% of online users in Germany visit the platform every month. This corresponds to an increase of 10 percentage points compared to the previous year. No app grows faster! The success story will continue in 2021 and more brands are looking for their place on TikTok.

The results of the OMD netnography “TikTok – The Explosion of Creativity” show that TikTok has long been able to do more than lip sync or dance videos. The analysis identified 18 mega-communities – above all e-gaming, animals, sports and even art. All of these topics reach billions of views – the element of the remix is ​​central. In a remix, TikTok users mix existing videos or songs together again and create something new

In 2021 we will see fresh creative ideas, more sustainable TikTok media strategies and innovative content creators on the brand side. In order to prevent wear and tear due to the umpteenth hashtag dance challenge on the user side, advertisers, agencies and content creators should develop new concepts together.


4. The path from messaging to conversational commerce

The winners in online use in recent months clearly include WhatsApp or Telegram messaging apps – the latter even overtook WhatsApp in October 2020 in the German Google Play Store with 424,000 downloads. In a YouGov survey in March, 37% said that they use messaging services more often than before COVID-19. Facebook’s efforts to expand business features, such as a product catalog directly in chat, will bring brands even closer to consumers in 2021 through pure customer care applications. Experts are already talking about conversational commerce – communication between companies and consumers with the aim of ultimately getting the consumer to buy. So all dialogue-oriented channels contribute to this.

2021 is the right time for brands to set up a conversational commerce strategy. Smart approaches for linking personal or personalised communication, sales via dialogue-oriented communication and the supply of traffic to these dialogue channels via high-reach media channels are very popular!


5. The great creative phase of social commerce

Social networks have long been the digital storefront for online shops. The proportion of online shops with their own Instagram profile has never been higher – in Germany it will be 72% in 2020 – and more and more consumers are being inspired by “shoppable posts” and made to buy.


Particularly promising for brands and influencers: the live shopping trend. Above all, Facebook is going on the offensive with a seamless and uniform shopping experience in all Facebook apps. These include the launch of Facebook shops, Instagram product markings, new shopping ad formats and the recently announced WhatsApp buy button . Another driver for social commerce in 2021 is augmented reality with lenses or virtual try-ons.

There is exciting potential for brands here, for example we can address consumers personally and according to their environment via social dynamic content optimisation and thus contribute to improving conversions.


6. The new pleasure in live streaming

This year at the latest, all of the major social networks have launched their own live streaming features. During the first COVID-19 wave, Instagram live in particular experienced an upswing. We also saw real records on Twitch and YouTube this year. On both platforms there is a new desire for the live stream with fresh format ideas.

The trend is particularly clear at Twitch: The platform is moving away from the gaming-focused portal. Even beauty brands such as EM Cosmetics launch products there in the live stream.

In addition to Twitch, the new desire for live streaming is also evident on YouTube. Sport 1 even achieved over a million views in October with the livestream for the DFB Cup game between FC Bayern Munich and 1. FC Düren. Both platforms offer exciting options for scaling live streams and realizing product placements: Livestreams are certainly one of the very hot topics in 2021.


7. The change from LinkedIn to “Facebook 2.0”

One of the biggest winners of the past months is LinkedIn with its currently 15 million members in the DACH region. 14.5% of online users visit LinkedIn and, according to the Global Web Index, growth is almost 10% within one year. The content has also changed in the past few months: the feed has become more authentic and personal. In addition, with a fresh design and new features such as LinkedIn Stories, LinkedIn offers a user experience that is increasingly similar to Facebook.

The growth of LinkedIn creates opportunities for brands: The spectrum of LinkedIn content will expand in 2021 and, in addition to the classic B2B approach, new perspectives for B2C communication will open up. A Facebook 2.0 with high quality target groups is currently being developed.


8. The polarisation in social media tonality

Twitter, Facebook & Co have not only been fighting against hate speech, cyber bullying, discrimination, anti-Semitism or fake news since 2020 – apparently only Pinterest is “the last happy place” in social space. 60% of online users already perceive the Internet as a so-called dark place where people argue. COVID-19 has intensified the polarisation in the comment columns on social networks.

All major social networks have reacted to this trend in the past few months with an update of their security guidelines. Labeling and even deletion of content relating to misleading coronavirus topics takes place on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok, for example.

On the part of brands and agencies, hate speech means additional effort in community management when monitoring social advertisements. There must also be greater sensitivity in the creation and in the selection of cooperation partners. In addition, the topic of brand safety plays a bigger role in the selection of the social media platform and brands have to decide individually on which platforms they want to be active with what level of commitment, based on their ethical principles and corporate values.


9. The greater relevance of niche networks

Under the radar of the major social networks, a new ecosystem of old and new social apps is developing. In particular, the Potsdam start-up Komoot hits the nerve of the times and has already reached 15 million users after months with top placements in the app stores, according to its own information. Komoot is a mix of route planners, navigation for hikers or cyclists and social media features such as comments, likes and nano-influencers. Exciting for all brands in the outdoor, tourism, mobility or food segment. Komoot is also a hot candidate for new ways of brand communication for 2021 – because the trend towards outdoor activities is unbroken.

A second climber and the niche networks is Discord – a topic-based chat app that Twitch users in particular use for parallel chatting. According to Airnow, Discord is in third place in the Germany ranking of communication apps with 217,000 downloads on the Google Play Store in October. And the search interest for Discord also suggests sustainable success in 2021.

The number of possible touchpoints in social media will therefore continue to increase in 2021. Agencies support this with close monitoring of platform and content trends. OMD customers benefit from the “brand new” format, which explains innovative social apps, classifies them numerically and already shows the first best practices and possible brand cases.

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