For those who don’t know it, We Are Social’s annual Think Forward looks to the social trends that they predict will be foremost in the coming year.

Frances, our Director of Integrated Production, has pulled out some key learnings from this year’s report.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year has been hard for everyone in so many ways, but before Covid hit, social trends were starting to emerge that have been accelerated by the global pandemic. 2019 saw the emergence of a real backlash against social media – cyber bullying was on the up, data harvesting was increasing, governments were threatening to get involved, and influencer fraud was being reported.

Enter the pandemic stage left and the role social has played in people’s lives has been reset – we’ve craved personal interactions, we’ve had a lot of time on our hands, and we’ve started holding our influencers to a higher account. So what does that mean in practical terms?

Innovation is the mother of necessity

I don’t remember a time when platforms expedited new releases with such speed, probably not since social was first on the scene. There have been flash-in-the-pan arrivals and exits (bye bye, Houseparty), and new big hitters (take a seat at the head table, TikTok). Keeping abreast of new platforms is important, but brands can also benefit from new-format innovations on existing channels without needing to stray onto platforms they aren’t yet comfortable with. Facebook has removed the penalising 20% rule for example on text content in ad images, and Twitter’s new carousel ads promise brands greater flexibility of format on platforms they are probably already using.

Don’t forget the little things

Grandiose statements and epic production budgets are taking a sidestep (the John Lewis & Partners Christmas ad is well judged by not being their traditional fare). Brands need to remember that the everyday, accessible moments are especially valued at the moment. It’s why gardening movements on TikTok are taking off, and why #cottagecore is such a trend. People are using social to inspire the small real-world moments they crave as an escape from day-to-day news.

Everyone’s a creator – harness it, don’t squash it

The need for connection, coupled with the demand for content, has led to creators interacting more closely with communities. If you can find a TikTok creator who fits your brand aesthetic and work with them to create a TikTok cult, you’re onto a winner. Dua Lipa’s Levitating has proven what a rich pool of talent TikTok has, if we didn’t realise it already. But whichever platform you’re on, brands should be ready to accept there is some serious talent out there whom they can work alongside if they let their brand guardian’s guard down a little bit.

Learn, and keep learning

There is a real opportunity for brands with the authority to educate their audiences and be an authoritative voice on a wide variety of societal topics. But for those who don’t have that authority, accepting that you don’t know everything and learning from your audience is more important than ever. Instagram 101s have helped people to realise how little they really know. Read the articles your audience shares. Learn about societal trends properly. Don’t pay lip-service to a trend you think you should. And remember to pick and vet any influencers you work with thoroughly up-front. We’ve seen a shift in people following real experts (doctors, therapists, gynaecologists) to try to cut through the fake news doing the rounds. 69% of social media engagement spreading false claims about coronavirus comes from politicians, celebrities and prominent public figures, so you need to be confident your influencers are who you want your brand to be associated with.

Create a community

Armchair activists have been replaced by practical advocacy – people using their social community to enact real world change. Sorry not sorry, Trump. A strong community is a powerful tool for any brand. There is a real opportunity for brands of all kinds to collaborate closely with their fans, using comments and community management to directly inspire, or as inspiration to create new content (think Glossier). Growing a strong community of advocates for the smallest brands just starting out will always help, whatever your brand. Find those who should be really interested in what you’re doing and take them on the journey with you.”

You can email with any questions or comments you have.