Four Social Media Marketing Trends In 2021

Peter A. Liefer II | Posted: February 15th, 2021 | Updated: June 4th, 2021

As we move into 2021, one thing has become more critical than ever: connection. The events of 2020 kept us apart physically, and many turned to social media for human interaction, even if virtual. 

Whether they’re interacting with friends and family or keeping up with their favorite brands, people want a genuine, personal experience on social media. Here are the five main trends that will shape social media marketing in 2021.

Social Commerce

If there’s anything that exploded in 2020, it is online shopping. The COVID-19 pandemic, which kept much of the world at home to avoid face-to-face interaction, dramatically accelerated the existing trend away from brick-and-mortar retail. While online shopping is nothing new, social commerce is a specific, growing subset of this enormous market. Social commerce refers to transactions that take place entirely on social media, from researching products to adding to cart and clicking ‘buy.’ 

Currently, social commerce happens through the Shop feature on Instagram and Facebook. While Pinterest does offer Shops and Product Pins, they take the user to an external site to complete their purchase, making them almost social commerce, but not quite.

Why will social commerce matter in 2021? Social commerce is an $89.4 billion market and growing rapidly. That market share is expected to increase fivefold over the coming decade, and last year alone, Facebook’s advertising revenue leaped almost 30%. There shouldn’t be anything surprising about the rise of social commerce. 60% of US millennials have Instagram accounts, and Pinterest’s user base is 322 million. 

We’re spending more time than ever online, and 30% of that on social media. Moreover, social commerce is a natural extension of user behavior; consumers already use social media platforms for product research, especially Pinterest and Instagram.


Influencers are already integral to social media marketing. But in 2021, effective influencer marketing will turn everything we thought we knew upside down. Instead of seeking out influencers with the largest possible following, innovative brands go the opposite direction, choosing nano-influencers with small, niche followings that are highly engaged. 

Usually considered to have between 1,000 and 5,000 followers, nano-influencers build greater trust with their audiences through relatable authenticity. They’re more cost-effective, too: most nano-influencers are receptive to gifted products instead of monetary compensation. Smaller influencers are emerging as the prime solution to declining organic reach across all forms of social media.

The perfect nano-influencer for your brand may already be out there – it’s just a matter of finding them. Even if you can’t discover any influencers that are already talking about your company, you can still use social listening to your advantage.

By using social listening, you should be able to assemble a pool of potential influencers so that you can choose the best ones. Nano-influencers may need more guidance in some ways, but their messaging is likely to be very specific – find ones aligned with your brand due to their audiences’ niche nature. Think of nano-influencers as user-generated content (UGC) – a way to provide genuine, authentic content that feels social rather than promotional.

Short-Form Video

The term ‘short-form video’ may seem self-explanatory. But on social media, this is a type of video content that’s not just short but also informal, engaging, and accessible. Short-form video is usually created quickly and easily using in-app editing and publishing tools. It may include music, GIFs or stickers, and text to share content in a way that’s both entertaining and informative. 


Last year, users showed us that they love short-form video content. Like the past explosion of Snapchat followed by Instagram’s Stories feature, TikTok rose in popularity this year and then saw new competition from Instagram Reels. Even less video-centric platforms have gotten in on the action, with LinkedIn and Twitter introducing Story or Live-like capabilities. 

Driven by user preferences, TikTok and Instagram Reels has shown that short-form video is the future. Along with formats like Stories and Live, this is where brands need to concentrate their content efforts if they want to stay relevant in customers’ feeds. A short video offers an immediate connection, making it the perfect way to humanize your brand and engage directly with your audience.

By thinking outside the box and taking advantage of the latest tools, professionals can share authentically, connect with their customers, and keep up with the competition.

Personalized Social Ads

As online competition ramps up, ads are becoming more niche and personalized to capture audience attention effectively. Brands communicate with their customers in more personalized ways, such as private messages and customizing the image, video, and text content in their marketing content. The more tailored your marketing communications are to the potential customer receiving them, the more likely they are to break through the noise.

With the events of last year affecting many consumer’s financial health and discretionary spending, the stakes are high. Paid advertising is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve a positive ROI, especially for smaller brands with limited ad spending. Consumers aren’t spending the way they were a year ago. Your brand needs to appeal to the right people with the right messaging.

Look for ways to create connection points, whether personalized video messages or sending personalized inbox messages via DM. Use social media to build relationships, including promotion across platforms. 

Personalized marketing is all about quality over quantity, finding your audience, and genuinely resonating with them, rather than trying to please everyone or reach as many people as possible. It’s less about getting the biggest audience but more about finding your target group and adding value to their lives. Your audience is made of individuals. Keep that in mind in every form of communication, whether on platforms that reach a bigger audience or in one-on-one communication.

In 2021, the social media landscape will keep evolving, but social media marketers are used to keeping up with rapid change. Social media has been around for over 20 years now. We’ve seen every shape and form of social media change. The challenge for marketers is still prioritizing channels that yield the highest value and ROI.