2021 Trends: Unbound Platforms

Thought Leadership
Lore Oxford

In November, we launched our annual trends 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 fifth trend covered in the report: Unbound Platforms. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here.

Amid the new content needs of 2020, users, creators, brands and platforms have expanded their social horizons.

Influencers have been forced to pivot, creating content outside their specialisms to address new cultural needs and audiences. Established platforms have gone through evolutions too, with many having introduced new functionality to adapt to these changes in real time.

People have picked up some new scrolling habits, bolstering the already prominent role of social in everyday life. And this rapid evolution is spurring people and brands alike relearn how they navigate the social landscape.

The Weeknd’s interactive show on TikTok reframed the platform as a live event space

The Behavioural Change
People are evolving the ways they organise information on social. As the reasons for using social platforms diversify, the way people explore and organise content is evolving accordingly– think organising Saves on Instagram in folders or saving recipes from Twitter for later.

People are attending scheduled digital events. Rather than opening an app or tab on an ad-hoc basis, people are increasingly shaping their offline plans around scheduled, can’t-miss, in-platform moments.

People are hanging out in games, not just playing them. It’s been argued that digital spaces, like online games, are also social networks; places where people spend time and community can be fostered. Fortnite even launched its Party Royale mode, which is exclusively for socialising.

How can brands use it?
Brands need to rethink how to use digital channels in their consumer journey and be sure they’re not being discounted as pure-play arenas for PR stunts or one-off awareness drives. 

Brands should reassess their assumptions of the most effective formats on each channel. As the purpose of these platforms evolves, the formats that define them are evolving, too.

Brands should consider moves to new platforms but integrate with sensitivity. The culture of a platform is shaped by its community. Engaging effectively with these communities is key to finding success when you’re there. When Gucci saw potential in gaming platforms, it partnered with Fnatic e-sports stars to run a campaign with gamers that felt authentic.

K-Pop band BTS launched the music video for their single Dynamite in Fortnite’s Party Royale mode

Read about Unbound Platforms and five more trends for 2021 in Think Forward 2021. The full report is available to download now.