Today marks the launch of our annual trends report, Think Forward 2021. In this post, our Chief Strategy Officer Mobbie Nazir explains the six key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months.

With lockdown shaping much of our experience in early 2020 – at its peak, the first wave of Covid-19 saw over 3.9 billion people confined to their homes – the role of digital tools and communications have been pulled into even greater prominence.

As we move into 2021, we’ll see people re-evaluate the role platforms should play in their lives, rethink which sources they engage with, and relearn how to use social in line with tectonic shifts in the drivers that underpin our screentime. This is the social reset. And it's levelled the playing field, presenting a major opportunity for brands and creators.

In Think Forward 2021, our sixth trends report to date, we explore how brands will have to re-learn to navigate the ever-evolving role of social platforms. By offering an insight into the trends expected to shape social media over the next year, the report sheds light on how brands can best use their platforms to ensure their relevance in social spaces.

Below we’ve summarized each trend in brief, and you can see the full report here

The Simple Life
People are re-evaluating what’s important to them, sharpening a desire to pay more attention to life’s simple pleasures, and reconsidering the role social can play in enjoying them. 

Where we’ve seen it: There has been a rise in communities like Gardening TikTok and the cottagecore movement – a Tumblr-born aesthetic defined by mostly-city based women participating in quaint, agricultural aesthetics and hobbies.

Practical Advocacy 
Amid new constraints, ‘armchair activism’ has undergone a practical transformation, bolstered by global communities who’ve realized the power they wield can translate to tangible offline change. 

Where we’ve seen it:People are getting an education on social justice via Instagram slideshows, with high-design 101s created for the IG carousel format.

In-Feed Intimacy
The notion that screens and social have a negative impact on our offline relationships is falling away, as people begin to overcome the inertia attached to tools designed to humanize our digital interactions. 

Where we’ve seen it: Facebook updated its suite of reactions with the ‘care’ emoji to facilitate more intimate online interactions and people are using TikTok to discuss complex subjects with empathy and nuance. 

Reliable Idols 
People are being more discerning about who they follow, and why. They’re not unfollowing beautiful people, but they are putting more emphasis on the tangible value these figures can bring to the feed. 

Where we’ve seen it: Medical professionals are blowing up for democratizing information that typically comes with a consultant’s fee, while specialists in niche fields are gaining traction for combating misinformation.

Platforms Unbound 
Amid the new content needs of 2020, people have evolved the way they engage with social platforms, repurposing old tools for new purposes, and expanding their already prominent role in everyday life. 

Where we’ve seen it: Games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing have transformed into social hubs and live content has seen social feeds evolve into 24-hour events venues, whether for catwalks from Louis Vuitton on TikTok or micro drag shows aired on Instagram Live.

Open-Source Creativity 
In a landscape of duetting and out-of-context soundbites, major social platforms are increasingly spaces for people to co-create content, not just engage with it. 

Where we’ve seen it: Charli XCX collaborated with her fans via Zoom to write her latest album, and on Instagram, film industry polymath Miranda July has been crowdsourcing entire scripts from her followers.

Read the Think Forward 2021 report in full, here