How Social Media Engagement Is Changing : What to Expect in 2021

We bring you 3 biggest trends that will affect social media engagement in 2021 and practical advice you can use to prepare and execute your marketing strategies with minimum risk.


Standing at the beginning of a much-anticipated new year, vaccines are finally being shipped to countries all over the world. Many positive changes in areas such as environmental protection and racial equality are also happening and people are cautiously beginning to feel optimistic about the new year.

However, for most companies, optimism will have to wait as they struggle to recover from lower sales and revenue caused by the pandemic. To help their companies recover, marketers are turning to social media which has taken on a much greater significance as events in 2020 have put an emphasis on digital communication. But the ways of using social media have also changed and marketers will have to adapt their strategies if they want to succeed.

If there is one thing that is constant in marketing, it´s change. But last year shook everything so dramatically that many marketers are going back all the way to checking and updating their buyer personas.

In this blog post, we are bringing you three biggest trends that will affect social media engagement in 2021 and practical advice you can use to prepare and execute your marketing strategies with minimum risk and maximum chance of success.

Social Media Engagement 2021 Trends

social media engagement

Social networks have proven themselves to be one of the most important channels that marketers can use to reach their audience and convert them into customers. Famous for its agility, social media marketing requires marketers and channel managers to be up to date at all times with the latest social media engagement trends if they want to seize all opportunities these networks have to offer.

It comes as no surprise that 2020 has caused unprecedented change in the way how we use social media but also changes to customer behavior in general. As Neal Schaffer, President of PDCA Social, nicely wraps it, “the new normal requires every company to put extreme importance on all things digital marketing. While search and email are two major components of digital marketing that can be done in-house, social media is both the most popular activity people do online as well as the most challenging for businesses. This is because companies still look at social media as a promotional and advertising channel rather than as a grand arena to collaborate with social media users, primarily customers and influencers, and work them through a relationship funnel to incite word of mouth marketing for your brand in social media." His claim is also backed by research as findings from Datareportal´s Digital Snapshot find that almost half of all respondents have increased the amount of time they spend on social medial because of the pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus.

Although this seems like a big opportunity for marketers, it also brings new varieties of old challenges: How do you keep your audience engaged? What types of content are appropriate in these new circumstances?

Since you are not the only one asking yourself these questions, we have decided to do some research of our own and bring you our vision of how social media engagement will look in 2021. From changing customer experiences to changing how brands communicate on social, it is time to dive in the social media engagement trends that will mark social media marketing in 2021.

Social Media Bridging the Gap to a New Customer Experience

Governments of 22 countries across the world have increased their fiscal spending as a percentage of GDP by around 20 percent when compared with last year, according to latest findings from McKinsey Global Institute. On the other hand, the private sector has made efforts to offer employee protections. When combined, these interventions have provided a strong economic buffer as some of the interventions have the potential to transform into long-term solutions that will protect individuals from the immediate effects of future crises.

social media engagement

As per the same research, companies are already started to focus on two areas:

  • prioritizing business building for organic growth and launching new businesses at an accelerated rate,
  • reinventing themselves through next-normal operating models in order to capitalize on the moment and the spread of agile processes, nimbler ways of working and increased speed and productivity.

For marketers, the main focus has remained the same – increased acquisition of new customers. However, the road to their goal has changed and they will need to step out of their comfort zone since it will take more for them to create memorable experiences and ensure long-term growth. In 2021, social media marketers will have to focus on two things in order to win:

  • execute marketing initiatives that deliver short-term ROI,
  • create innovative digital experiences that deliver long-term customer loyalty.

But how do you actually achieve these things?

Have you ever come across a shop with an interior that was so interesting it made you stay and browse for clothes a bit longer? Have you ever stumbled upon a sales person who answered all your “dumb” questions without making you actually feel dumb? All these and similar customer experiences that were helping brands differentiate from competition were put to rest overnight and companies had to adapt to digital-only strategy in order to differentiate from the competition. The shift to marketing initiatives with short-term ROI is more than understandable and necessary. It is critical. The reason for that is that most businesses are mostly transactional and transactions do not create memorable experiences or ensure long-term growth. Therefore, sitting and just waiting for things to go back to normal can put your company at a serious disadvantage.

Marketers that keep up with these new trends will continue to work on initiatives that deliver short-term ROI, usually through lower-funnel advertisements, but they will also work on delivering innovative digital experiences that are in perfect alignment with their customers´ expectations and purchasing behaviors. The best example of this in practice is eCommerce.

eCommerce has been quickly redefining their online customers´ experiences by putting the social media engagement to the very core of their marketing initiatives. The reason why this resulted in success is because the nature of all social media engagement is built on top of discovery, fun and connection – things that everyone started to miss once the in-person experiences and live events were replaced by lockdowns and social distancing. Going after bottom-funnel clicks in 2021 is still okay but it is far from enough and marketers have to use social media to create engagements that recreate missing customer experiences. Doing this will not only improve the value of your offering in your customer eyes but it will also help differentiate you from a rising number of competitors that are desperately trying to do the same thing.

Brands are Finding Their Place in the Conversation with Customers

This significant spike in social media use has given companies an unprecedented opportunity to put themselves in the very center of the conversation and completely overlooking the fact that people want to connect with other people and not brands.

As you can see on the video below, many famous brands used the same overly sentimental and completely boring narrative that resulted in a series of same old, same old campaigns that resulted in people mocking them on social media.

Unlike them, wise brands such as Coca-Cola stopped their advertising spend and started listening on social media. When it was the right time for them to talk, they released a series of campaigns that were both interesting and fun – aligning themselves with main reasons why people use social in the first place. According to the Social media marketing trends in 2020 report from Global Marketing Index , 32% of people from Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and baby boomers say that funny and entertaining content is their number one reason for using social media. It is safe to assume that these people will find useful and entertaining ads more relevant when making purchase decisions.

The real truth here is obvious and that is that most companies have been miscalculating the type of content that people expect from them on social media. And in 2021, marketers who know what they are doing will understand where their fit in their customers´ lives is and they will succeed in finding ways of fitting into the conversation instead of trying to own it by creating content that stands out from the pile of indifference.

social media engagement

There is a Whole Generation of People on Social that Marketers have Ignored

Last year has been a turning point for baby boomers and their online presence. Spending more time on social media, watching online videos, playing online games and conducting online payments have resulted in a new form of digital literacy that is turning into a habit set out to last even after the pandemic is gone.

Now, with the pandemic still here, many baby boomers have lost their jobs and started living on very limited budgets. However, when compared to other generations, they entered this crisis with healthier budgets than younger generations meaning that they have less financial fragility. Marketers have typically targeted this generation using traditional TV commercials. And although this is still one of the most effective ways of grabbing their attention, it is worth mentioning that households without cable TV will outnumber those with one by 2024. At the same time, according to Global Web Index , there is a 66% increase in baby boomers discovering new products and brands via social media over the last 4 years. According to the same research, more than a quarter of all baby boomers are starting to spend more and more time on social, particularly Facebook.

social media engagement

With all these statistics that show how baby boomers are becoming a noticeable buying force, why are so many marketers still overlooking this demographic?

One possible reason for that is that the social media marketing has a bad habit of focusing on new instead of effective. Yet another reason is ageism since most marketers are under 40 years of age and this reflects on all aspects of work they produce.

All in all, in 2012 marketers can´t afford to overlook older generations on social media. Using smart segmentation and thoughtful representation, those marketers who include baby boomers in their social media engagement initiatives will surely win over those who are still stuck in stereotypes.

Put 2021 Social Media Trends in Action

Having these trends in mind, 2021 is the year in which you should certainly revisit or recreate your social media policies. During a crisis such as this pandemic, having a social media policy with clear guidelines will provide everyone in your company the ability to act quickly and with confidence. Your social media policy needs to be comprehensive and outline how your company and your employees are expected to use social media when in crisis and when things are normal.

If you do not have a social media policy, start creating one today. If you do have one, now is the time to revisit and update it. Social media is constantly changing and you have seen how quickly things can change. As a first step in creating one, use first-party data that you probably have but also try to get access to feedback about your products and services, especially qualitative feedback. The insights you get from such data can be used across your entire company to improve customer service, influence product development roadmaps and even prioritize your digital transformation initiatives.

Connecting conversational intelligence with your KPIs and metrics, your social media will become much more than just a publishing tool. It will become a powerful source of data that you can easily transform into valuable insights that will help you form better and more accurate strategies.

social media engagement

You’ve read the trends. Here are the tools to help you conquer social media engagement in 2021.

HipSocial offers a full suite of tools to help you manage every aspect of your social presence. Request a free 30-day evaluation to learn how HipSocial´s content publishing, social advertising, social listening, and powerful analytics can help you succeed with social.


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