2020 is soon to be a thing of the past (good riddance!), so we’ve taken some time to reflect on what happened in the world of #social. As we all know, it wasn’t necessarily a *fabulous* year, but we can report that it was jam packed with moments that made us cry, laugh and do both at the same time. Here’s our social media trends for 2021 and what we saw change in 2020.

Throughout this Covid-19-era, social media became the number one way for businesses to connect with their customers as it also became our way of interacting with friends and family (outside of the usual Zoom gatherings). Now that 2021 is on the cusp, we’re here to dive into what happened this year on social media and what we’re looking forward to seeing in the new year.

The Arrival of Reels

How it started (in 2020)

It was a big year for video, as TikTok garnered 115 million global downloads in March, 2020. Then we saw the arrival of Instagram Reels, a last ditch effort to keep you off TikTok. Yet, the arrival of Reels meant that we saw a lot of TikTok-watermarked content reposted to the Instagram copycat and it wasn’t a good look.

How it’s going (to look in 2021)

We all know that video will continue to captivate, so we predict that Instagram will continue to improve and update Reels to rival the creative video-making tools provided by TikTok. What they currently have going is a massive library of Instagram AR Filters made by the Instagram community and creators themselves. 

Firstly, we’re hoping to see more influencer, shopping, monetisation and ad opportunities with Reels. We’ll also be looking for a smarter Reels algorithm in the new year, helping to connect us to the content we love most, which will be a win for users and creators alike. 

We’ll also be keeping an eye out for Instagram Reels-specific challenges to rival TikTok. That means we’ll be looking out for a viral challenge that utilises a feature only available on Reels and not TikTok in order to bring more users to create content from within Instagram instead. 

If one thing is for sure, we’ll continue watching the two platforms compete for users’ attention while we also continue to see the USA-TikTok drama continue. But as with all new features, getting stuck in and using Reels will give you a favourable position in the algorithm

Inclusivity and Accessibility Online

How it started (in 2020)

We like to think of this one as more of a catalyst for change instead of just a ‘trend’. Inclusivity is something that should be on your radar no matter the year. This year, we’ve been inspired by disability and inclusion activists. It’s time to make our world, especially the digital one, accessible to all who come to see our content. 

How it’s going (to look in 2021)

Making accessibility as essential as captions and hashtags in 2021 will be one of our biggest resolutions. We’re also hoping that you’re inspired to make it an important part of your social media strategy. To get started, we put together some explanation and resources to help you understand how to make more inclusive content.

Video Captions 

Adding captions to video content is especially important to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy and learn from your content! Plus, 85% of Facebook videos being played without sound and the rise in silent auto-play videos in our feeds means adding captions will serve everybody. 

It may sound like a big task and it can take extra time if you do it on your own, but there are plenty of apps out there to help add captions for you (but make sure you double check auto-captions!). If you’re producing longer pieces of content or churning through a lot of videos, consider hiring an editor or caption specialist to help.

Some video caption tools and resources

Alt Text: Image Descriptions

Further, you should also include image descriptions, otherwise known as Alt Text, on your content for those that are blind or visually impaired. Make sure you include the essential details about the photo, including who is in it, the context, their mood, the background, colours and any graphic text. 

Other benefits of adding Alt Text to your images on Instagram is that you’ll be helping the algorithm understand the content of your post better as well as being important for SEO. To learn more about how to add Alt Text, check out this article. And to learn more about how to write great image descriptions, check this out

Example Screenshot of Instagram Guides showing a Guide called 'Product Reviews' by micro-influencer @glowyskinbabe with images of skincare creams and scrubs.
Click to visit this Instagram Guide by @glowyskinbabe

Influencer Marketing on Instagram

How it started (in 2020)

When it came to making waves through an influencer campaign, enabling influencers to have creative freedom allows the content to seem more organic and less like an ad. Effectively, aiming to roll with your influencers instead of changing their aesthetic also means they’ll create their best content. 

Social media trends of 2020 also saw the rise of authentic influencing.  Brands spent more time researching and hand-selecting creators that would genuinely love their products and also took on influencers that approached the brands themselves. We also saw, first hand, that micro-influencers outperformed more ‘celebrity’ like influencers.

How it’s going (to look like in 2021)

With the new year, the continuation of giving creative reign to influencers is to be expected for higher performance, and the micro-influencer community will continue to grow, increasing the talent pool. Though there are many new influencer partnership opportunities we predict taking off in the new year. Most notably, we think Instagram Guides and Instagram Shopping will be key social media trends which brands should be utilising. 

Instagram Guides 

With Instagram Guides, users can curate a list of places, products and posts of their own as well as other users’ posts. This is a huge opportunity, whether you’re a haircare brand asking your lifestyle influencer to curate hair care and styling routines with their products or a travel influencer whose partnerships consist of agreed hotels and restaurants to include in their ‘Amalfi, Italy’ Instagram Guide. 

Instagram Shopping

And with Instagram Shopping, brands can now work with Influencers in a way that allows the Influencer to tag the brand’s product directly on their own posts, shortening the user journey. This means avoiding link in bio requests or asking their audience to hop onto another Instagram profile for more information. Less friction and seamless shopping means brands should be quick to think about how they can include this feature in their next influencer campaign. 

Content-Packed Carousel Posts

How it started (in 2020)

From human rights to politics, this was a huge year for advocacy as many took to Instagram to activate their community. Use of graphic posts with an editorial feel took over the ‘gram, think cover with title and subtitles followed by article-esque slides. Editorial styled carousels were also very popular to relay micro-blogs, how to, educational and other forms of lifestyle content. 

How it’s going (to look like in 2021)

For high performing Carousel posts, try utilizing as many slides as possible (up to 10), try mixing in videos as well as images, and always let your audience know to swipe left in the post caption. 

We think Carousels are great for:

  • Sharing a TLDR version of your blog posts
  • Diving into a topic and educating your community
  • Showcasing other accounts, people or brands you admire (don’t forget to tag!)
  • Before and after style photos (but try to include multiple sets!)
  • Touring a product or place
  • Linear storytelling and micro-blogs
  • How-to or step-by-step posts


We hope you found these 2021 predictions of social media trends useful when it comes to helping your social media strategy in the coming year. If you’re looking for some extra help or advice, feel free to get in touch with our team, obligation-free, and we can discuss your social media potential! For more useful tips and tricks, have a look at the blog for our latest advice in all things branding, design, and marketing. Bye, 2020 Felicia! See you in 2021!