Across the enormous spectrum of five billion mobile users globally, there’s a similarly staggering size of social media users; an estimated 3.2 billion, growing by 100 million on a daily basis, according to reports.
Social media hasn’t just changed the way we interact with friends, however—it’s created an entirely new way to consume content of all types, including news, photography, fashion and even poetry.
We’ve seen algorithmic quietly work their magic, measurable ‘likes’ come and go and platforms of frenzied popularity explode (TikTok) and some dim a little from the spotlight (Snap).
Social media may seem like a beast that’s unpredictably operating as its own entity but as a brand or influencer, you’re really in the position to create targeted and relevant content, as well as cultivate the right audiences to match it. Don’t forget that behind these collectives are individuals just like you; they’re looking for connection, authenticity and also a bit of fun—which continues to make social media the best place to engage with them.
If you want to tap into some new trends and build stronger, more engaged audiences, here are seven social media trends to try in 2020.
1. Private groups
An extended exposure of our personal content on social channels, combined with a number of data privacy and security concerns have helped to plant the seeds with a whole new type of connection; private groups or smaller, ‘gated communities’ of content.
For most of us, we’ve been investing in over a decade of dedicated social media use. There are several prominent platforms with which we now engage socially, including Facebook, Instagram, Snap, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, YouTube and TikTok and daily usage of these in addition to other time spent on apps and emails has translated into a kind of content overload.
As we become hungry for more time offline, our time online has become premium and therefore something that must be filled with worthy content, rather than a consumption that fails to yield any real results for us as users.
In short: Users will be spending less time engaging with social media and when they do, they’ll want meaningful interactions—this is a theme that’s driving several trends across platforms, as we’ll explore later. The private group is one of them.
“Fundamentally, we see the continuation of a trend that began several years ago, but has picked up in earnest: The continued rise of velvet-rope social media communities, private communities and collectives. In short, people want to spend time with people more like them, with a common interest, rather than in the general public where discourse has descended to rancorous incivility.” co-founder and chief innovator at Trust Insights explain
A strong example of this can be seen in family and lifestyle influencer Courtney Adamo, who boasts over 265,000 followers on Instagram, has recently introduced an extension of her personal brand that harnesses this particular strategy. Creating The Loop community, an e-course of lifestyle tips and tricks that allows access to a private group of fellow e-course ‘students’ where tips and tricks continue to be shared amongst this more exclusive collective.
Make your private group even more desirable to be a part of by using on-brand graphics and applying them to everything that appears on your channels. Templates such as Pink and Grid Fashion Influencer Nostalgia Youtube Channel Art and Green, Peach and Violet Shapes Mom Influencer Youtube Channel Art are a great way to make your content truly yours.
2. Embracing imperfection
Chances are, you know the Instagram aesthetic. It’s perfect without being too precise. It’s aspirational without being exclusive. It’s light-drenched and presents everything in its path—a flat-lay of the world’s chicest packing list, an expertly crafted coffee or plate of avocado toast—in an unspoilt state of desirability.
Travel, fashion, beauty and food influencers have been particularly effective at harnessing the power of visuals to eventually sell slightly related products, endorsing like-minded brands in a manner of disclosure that hasn’t yet been regulated. Already, a driving trend to reject this aesthetic is mounting and 2020 will see this escalate.
In the place of heavily filtered, edited and altered photographs that depict people and products in a consistently desirable light, influencers who approach social media with a stronger degree of authenticity will gain in popularity. Joana Ceddia, a Canadian-Brazilian influencer who gained popularity as a teenager, has over 656,000 followers on Instagram, over 3.3 million subscribers on YouTube and over 952,000 followers on Twitter, quickly gained popularity following her unfiltered, purposefully unflattering and comedic approach to social media.
More and more influencers will adopt this less groomed approach to their content to generate a more authentic connection with their followers.
3. Content with no sense of time
As mentioned above, time spent on social media is declining in an attempt to reduce information and digital overload. Earlier this year, Trust Insights outlined the overall drop in engagement rates specifically with regards to Instagram and stock price falls for Facebook, Twitter and Snap suggest a similar effect across social media in general.
In order to combat this decrease in interest as people choose to spend more time offline, the adoption and increase of ephemeral content is a trend that’s seen interest, expected to rise in 2020. Content that exists for a short period of time is one such approach, best demonstrated by Instagram Stories and Snap. The demand for such content is expected to increase, lending more weight and value to ephemeral content as it becomes ever elusive and ultimately, more premium.
TikTok, one of the fastest growing social media platforms that now harnesses over a billion users worldwide, captures the feel of ephemeral content in a slightly different way; by presenting content of users in a non-chronological way. In opposition to the structure of social media platforms we’ve come to expect that arrange posted content to display the most recent additions first. By randomly arranging content in TikTok, the content is essentially timeless, giving users the feeling that it’s evergreen and consistently valuable.
Make your content more eye-catching by using unconventional designs to your posts such as the Red Circle Photo Collage Your Story template
4. The rise (and rise) of the micro influencer
In the same way that big brands are having trouble connecting with picky, discerning consumers, the same goes for influencers that reach followers in the hundreds of thousands. Without the consistent regulation of paid content on social media platforms, users are becoming wise to the push of brands through major influencers who are going off-piste with their own branding in order to support their salaries, which interestingly, now depend solely on social media.
Expect a turn of focus to the micro influencer, where followers will only reach the thousands. Even the nano influencer is expected to have more impact than their counterparts with ten times the amount of followers, as they’re depicted as being more authentic and honest. It’s a rejection of the ‘bigger is better’ mentality and allows for content with more integrity, as well as more focused for both the creator and consumer.
“I'm always saying it - people buy from people,” points out Samantha Kelly, Board Member of @Bitaireland and owner of @WomensInspireIE.
“And finally brands are realising that they can't just sell to one big pot; they need to get others who are active and influential in communities to help them reach their audience. People buy from people they know, like and trust. And it's not just Instagram. The micro influencer and nano influencers will finally get a piece of the pie, as brands start to see results.”
5. Tapping into TikTok
Any social media strategy in 2020 must include TikTok. The platform is particularly popular with children and teens but also with growing global markets—43% of the app new users were from India, according to stats from January this year.
Key trends from TikTok that continue to ripple through the platform are viral challenges, such as the cowboy-themed content that heavily contributed to Lil Nars X’s Old Town Road becoming a mega hit, as well as the ‘purple shampoo’ challenge which gave rise to an obsession with using toning shampoo in an attempt to lighten hair. (If it actually achieved this outcome, this could be a fabulous branding opportunity for Clairol, for example).
Authenticity isn’t a trend on TikTok per se, it’s more a piece of the platform’s DNA. Users are often without makeup, with no backdrops or perfect clothing—it’s stripped back and spontaneous, creating a great opportunity for brands who want to make a deeper connection with their users and consumers.
6. Less is more
‘Digital detox’ has become the ultimate buzzword. Increasingly, we’re switching off our smartphones and plugging into the world of IRL, where social media and its brands can’t get to us. As we mentioned, this theme is expected to drive so many of 2020’s trends, including a more considered approach to content.
Frequency is no longer the name of the social media game, with respect to a social media wellbeing strategy; it’s not how often you post but the quality of what you post. Resist the urge to flood your feeds with meaningless content in an attempt to beat the algorithm and stay at the top of people’s pages. You’ll need to work harder to stay in people’s minds than just being a content machine.
Interestingly, it’s also become less and less important to chase the likes and measurable engagement of users, too.
“Only two firms can monetise traffic at scale—Facebook and Google,” Professor Scott Galloway from Stern School of Business. “Everyone else needs to build a group of loyal followers.”
Considering this, it’s far more important to strengthen and galvanise your group of followers rather than cultivating a mass of meaningless support through likes and engagement.
Make your content more impactful by creating less opportunity to engage but by offering more value when that opportunity does arise; a ‘social media day’ per week is a great example of this. Canva has templates dedicated to this, such as Pink Laptop Social Media Day Social Media Graphic and White Text On Photo Minimal Social Media Day Social Media Graphic.
7. User-generated content
The rate at which content is generated in recent years to feed the beast of several social media platforms has built a cycle of burnout for both creators and users of these platforms. In 2020, a reliance on UGC, or user-generated content, is expected to increasingly fill that gap.
"Decades of data leaks, product recalls and false advertising primed the world for real authentic user voices,” explains Tim Hanslow, Head of Social and Community at Preface Social Media. “The mega influencer movement rose from it and has begun to fall. UGC is becoming more and more critical for businesses to demonstrate social proof and a trustable voice. Influencers like brands are too big and broad. Consumers want and need to hear many voices to know which product to choose.”
In this way, as we mentioned things getting smaller and more focused on value than frequency, UGC will support a cycle of trust between brands and their consumers, while also releasing the brand from the exhausting obligation of creating an exhausting amount of content.
The question of how to best harness and monetise UGC content is expected to become one that’s frequently asked in 2020, especially with the continued rise of UGC-driven platforms like TikTok which relies on a plethora of diverse voices.
Put your stamp on UGC that you’ve harnessed for your channel with an injection of your own branding, such as placing a rotating image on a template like Canva’s Blue Spring Sale Social Media Graphics or Cream Spring Social Media Graphics.