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Monday, December 28, 2020

Social Media Predictions For 2021 And Beyond

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Even though a lot has changed in 2020, it looks like some things really are going to stay the same for 2021 and beyond. One of them is that social media will still be a great way to get your brand out there and noticed. That said, the rules of the social media game are likely to change in some important ways. With that in mind, here are some key predictions for 2021 and beyond.

Platforms will update their rules on acceptable behavior

There are probably going to be two key areas where brands will tighten their rules. These are cyberbullying (in its many forms) and identifying commercial content. Both sets of updates are likely to be driven partly by regulators and partly by what a social media platform thinks its customers want.

If you're planning on investing your resources in building a social media community, then you'll need to make sure to stay on the right side of these rules at all times. If you're not clear on what they mean in practice, then try talking to a social media lawyer.

Social media platforms will push for exclusivity

You own the copyright to anything you create for social media. In principle, there is nothing to stop you from taking the same content and reposting it over several platforms. In practice, the platforms are increasingly doing whatever they can to make this inconvenient.

For example, when Instagram introduced IGTV, it used portrait format for the videos. This means that it’s very obvious if you just repost videos made for YouTube.

Again, there's nothing to stop you from putting a YouTube video through a format converter. You would, however, then have to ask yourself if it was worth the effort or if it would be better to create a new video in the IGTV format.

If you opt for the former, then Instagram doesn't really lose anything, but it doesn't gain anything either. If, however, you opt for the latter, then Instagram gets unique, exclusive, content and may reward you for creating it with organic (free) promotion.

There will be more recognition for serious creators

This is already happening but will become more obvious in 2021 and beyond. It links in with the social media platforms' desire (and need) for exclusive content.

If all features are made available to all content creators, then it's easy for you just to do a bit here and there as and when it suits you. If, however, you have to earn access to certain features, then you have a potential reason to focus, exclusively, on one platform.

It will become increasingly difficult to insert outbound links

Social media platforms want you to make content that will keep people on their site, not send them to yours (or anyone else's). They are therefore much more likely to offer organic promotion to posts without outbound links than to posts with them.

There is a bit of nuance here, particularly with regards to links that are non-competitive and non-commercial. For example, if a post is on a "your money or your life" topic, platforms may tolerate links to authority sources to back up claims.

If, however, you want to use your social media posts to drive traffic to your own website (or a partner site) then assume that you're going to have to pay for promotion or put in all the promotional work yourself.

Photo by Anton from Pexels

Social media platforms will push for time-limited content

All social media platforms want to be "destination sites". In other words, they want to be places people feel they need to visit and visit regularly. If all content is available all the time then there is no real time-pressure on users to visit a site regularly. That's why all the main social media platforms are pushing time-limited content.

Currently, time-limited content is so important to the social media platforms that some of them are offering generous sweeteners to create it. For example, YouTube allows creators to monetize live streams directly through "Superchats" and Instagram allows direct links in Instagram stories.

There's also nothing to stop you from reusing time-limited content. In fact, YouTube allows you to convert a live stream to a permanent video. You can then monetize it again through adverts.

It might, however, be more pragmatic to treat time-limited content as a dry run for the long-term content you want to produce. It'll only be up for a short time so it doesn't matter if it is a bit rough around the edges.

There will be less emphasis on video

Video is a great format for some purposes and there will hopefully always be a place for it. It is, however, massively resource-intensive to create and consume. Regular photos, audio, and text are much less demanding.

This means that going forward, video is increasingly likely to be kept for situations where it excels, like visual tutorials. Other content will move (back) onto other formats, like photos, podcasts, and blogs.

In fact, there is a strong possibility that podcasts will overtake video as the most popular social media format. Already a lot of the "videos" on YouTube are effectively podcasts. Some are even openly described as such.

If a company (like Spotify or Amazon) offers a free hosting service with equivalent functionality, the format could explode. It has all the mobile-friendliness of video with much lower overheads.

Social media still won't beat blogs

The social media platforms have been battling blogs for years and, overall, the blogs are still winning. What's more, there's nothing to suggest that this will change and a lot to suggest that it won't.

At the end of the day, social media platforms rely on third-party content creators. If you have the skills to create great content for social media, then you have the skills to create great content for your own blog.

On a social media platform, you own the copyright to your work but the platform owns the relationship with the viewer. On your own blog, everything is yours. So make the most of everything social media can offer you but make sure to take good care of your own blog as well.

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