The Social Media Ups and Downs of 2021

Kiera Connick

Senior Digital Executive

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Since the pandemic began, the amount of user activity across social media platforms has increased rapidly. During lockdown, lots of people retreated to social media for entertainment and a way to pass the time. We saw lots of trends and some platforms rose to popularity very fast. But with every up, there is a down and not all platforms and trends excelled.  

The ups:  

TikTok  

TikTok has continued to take the social media world by storm this year and has managed to keep users engaged even out of lockdown. With over 689 million monthly active users and rising, it is the third most used social media app after Facebook and Instagram and receives the highest level of engagement per post across all social media platforms.  

We have also seen lots of trends stem from TikTok this year – from viral dance trends such as, ‘The Whole Shack Shimmy’, ‘Up’ and ‘Cut the Check’, to viral challenges, including, ‘Tell me without actually *telling* me’, ‘the Bezos song and ‘I understood the assignment’. Of course music artists have continued to create catchy songs that can be used on TikTok to increase streams, for example, ‘Woman’ by Doja Cat, ‘love nwantiti’ by CKay and ‘INDUSTRY BABY’ by Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow (it’s hard to go anywhere now without hearing a song made popular from TikTok!). 

Instagram 

Instagram stories for advertising purposes have grown exponentially this year. Have you been tapping through users’ stories on Instagram and found a product that you like the look of this year through a ‘sponsored’ story? 50% of Instagram users find out about a brand’s product through the story feature and around 85% of users follow the brand after they viewed their ad. This marketing tool is extremely effective for brands to get their products out there to a new audience and gain easy exposure.  

Live streaming 

Live streaming became extremely popular during lockdown, allowing celebrities, influencers, and anyone with an audience to connect with their following and provide live entertainment on all major social networks. Even after lockdown, live streaming remained a huge focus across many social media platforms. Adele even jumped on the trend recently with her debut Instagram live stream. 

Live streaming hasn’t just been used by celebrities this year though, many brands and businesses have used live streaming services for product launches, live meetings and as a way to interact with others without being in the same room.  

And the downs:  

When social media stopped… 

This year we saw a huge outage on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp due to a faulty configuration change, which left only one platform for users to use…Twitter, who quickly capitalised on the situation.  

This was one of the longest outages in Facebook’s history, leaving businesses unable to post content and continue ad campaigns, and left individual users without access to those platforms for hours. We are used to social media sites having outages from time to time but this was notably a massive issue, with three of the biggest platforms being down for over six hours 

YouTube  

This year, YouTube announced they would be removing the dislike button on videos to decrease the amount of online negativity users receive. Within the YouTube community, this wasn’t taken well, creators on YouTube like to know what their audience enjoy watching and what they don’t, without the dislike button they wouldn’t know if something they created was received well or not. The dislike feature also helps users know whether a video is worth watching before they click – for example, if you wanted to learn how to build a desk but the video you clicked on had more dislikes than likes, you are more likely to click off it, as other people have suggested it’s not worth the watch 

YouTube recently confirmed that the dislike button would remain for now however the actual dislike count would be made private and only available for creators to see. We have also recently seen this with Instagram – some posts now say ‘liked by others’ rather than the actual number of likes, although this isn’t entirely helpful for influencers and creatives who use their likes and followers to build a profile. Instagram’s main focus for this platform change was to help improve users’ mental health by reducing the pressure on the number of likes you receive. Time will tell if this was a successful change. 

What about Twitter? 

Since we looked at the ups and downs of specific social media platforms this year, it would be rude not to mention some specific campaigns that flew to popularity on Twitter and had everyone talking for all the right reasons.  

Weetabix posted a tweet earlier this year about putting Heinz beans on Weetabix – this shock tactic created conversations on the platform and other brands also got involved in the discussions too. This was an effective marketing tactic to create brand exposure by encouraging users on Twitter to discuss the different brands and ultimately increase engagement. 

Another notable Twitter moment this year was the controversary around Cuthbert the Caterpillar. M&S publicly accused Aldi of copying their Colin the Caterpillar on Twitter – there was a lot of back and forth between the brands, even threats of legal action, but both brands benefited from increased exposure. 

Even though the shock factor tactic worked for Weetabix, it didn’t go so well for Burger King on International Women’s Day! They posted a tweet with the sentence ‘Women belong in the kitchen’, which was intended to direct women to apply for jobs at the fast food chain. Although intended as a satirical use of a sexist term, it still caused outrage amongst many users forcing Burger King to delete their original tweet and issue a formal apology. Not all publicity is good publicity!  

We have seen lots of great ups and a few downs this year in the ever changing social media world. We look forward to seeing the trends of 2022! 

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