In November, we launched our annual trend report -Think Forward 2021: The Social Reset. It features the six key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the second trend covered in the report: Practical Advocacy. For more, check out Think Forward here

Amid the constraints of 2020, digital advocacy has undergone a practical transformation and people are realising that online action can translate to tangible offline change.

We’ve witnessed this throughout the year, with the digital resonance of Black Lives Matter leading to the largest-ever organisation of real life protests in support of Black communities.

This evolution means that platforms have veered away from their reputation as passive advocacy spaces, instead becoming active spaces for accountability, learning and impact.

The teens of TikTok made headlines in the run-up to the US presidential election for their very real trolling of Donald Trump

The Behavioural Change
People are getting an education on social justice via Instagram sideshows. These long-form explainers are changing the way we consume information, and pushing Instagram's role as a source of legitimate education.

Teens are coalescing into powerful online communities to boycott real political campaigns. We’ve seen in the very real trolling of Donald Trump in the run-up to the US presidential election.

People are calling out virtue signalling. The black squares of Blackout Tuesday raised questions around why people are really posting. Hint: it's not for social justice.

How can brands use it?
Brands must get comfortable with the fact that whatever they say or don’t say could be met with criticism. In the short term, there are already some interesting examples of brands adapting to a landscape in which social has become a more practical tool for advocacy and education.

Brands should educate people where they can, including using campaigns as a catalyst for change, as seen in P&G’s ‘The Look.’

Brands should use this shift to educate themselves. Starbucks learnt from conversations among trans people on social about trying out their new names when ordering the brands drinks, consequently launching it's ‘What’s your name’ campaign.

P&G’s campaign ‘The Look’ released a number of educational resources outlining the research that underpins its content

Read about Practical Advocacy and five more trends in Think Forward 2021.The full report is available to download on mobile and desktop now.