2021 was a big year for metaverses, inclusivity and short form video content. All of the major social media platforms introduced a slew of changes that upped the competitive ante between them and ushered in the first steps towards the way we will all communicate with each other in future.
With so many changes, it’s easy to lose track of what is happening across the social media channels, so let’s recap some of the standout changes across the main social platforms in 2021.
- Instagram’s answer to the ever-growing social platform TikTok came in the form of Reels, introduced in 2020. Described as “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram”, Reels gained popularity not long after its introduction due to the rise in focus on short-form video content. Following the success of Reels, Instagram has also now introduced Reels Insights and Reels Video Replies, a function allowing users to reply to comments on a post in the format of a Reel (another feature similar to TikTok - I think we are seeing a pattern here).
- Instagram introduced custom pronouns and automatic closed captions to user accounts, focusing on accessibility, inclusivity and diversity for the platform’s users.
- After 3 years of IGTV being a fairly popular feature on the platform, in 2021, Instagram said goodbye to the video feature, rebranding it instead to Instagram TV. Videos are now all uploaded into the same video tab no matter the length (unless you’re using Reels, of course).
- Instagram has finally listened to its users and allowed all accounts the opportunity to add new link stickers, removing the Swipe Up feature that was previously only allocated to accounts with 10,000+ followers, or verified accounts.
- Perhaps the biggest change to Facebook in 2021 was the announcement that its company name would be changed to Meta and that the company will expand into the virtual-reality world with the creation of its own Metaverse.
- Similar to its counterpart Instagram, Facebook saw the introduction of Facebook Reels - taking short-form video content on the platform to a new level.
- Facebook’s Audio Spaces launched across the US - allowing users to host rooms with up to 50 other people, to provide their own discussions and panels. It also provided a space for users to host podcasts.
- Towards the end of 2020, Twitter introduced Fleets (Twitter’s attempt at a stories feature). The name seems rather fitting, considering the fact that less than a year later, in July 2021, Fleets were to become a fleeting memory in our lives - with this platform feature being disbanded.
- Twitter also introduced Spaces in 2021, similar to the audio spaces on Facebook, but unlike Facebook, this feature is available worldwide. Spaces now sit at the top of a user’s feed where Fleets once did, allowing users to tune into live conversations from their favourite creators. A new tab in the centre of the navigation bar now also allows users to explore Spaces across the platform, signalling a rise in the popularity of audio content.
- Another useful feature introduced by Twitter this year was Voice Tweets. Ever wished you could speak your tweets? Well, now you can. Once again this suggests that audio content will continue to rise in popularity.
- LinkedIn added custom pronouns to their platform, allowing users to easily share their pronouns with their connections.
- Remember LinkedIn stories? Well, they are no more. This feature was removed in 2021, just one year short of its introduction.
- Similarly to what we already had on Facebook, earlier in the year, LinkedIn introduced the function of boosting organic posts to reach more users and achieve higher engagement. A great way to softly introduce paid budget behind your social content.
- Pretty much everybody and their cat (yes, really) joined TikTok, making it the fastest growing social platform and influencing some of the trends we have seen across other platforms in 2021.
- Although TikTok is known for its short-form videos lasting between 15 and 60 seconds, the platform added the option to record 3-minute videos.
- TikTok’s Spark Ads were introduced, meaning that brands can now boost organic content in a user’s feed. According to TikTok, these ads can pull in over 3x as many likes and 240% greater views.
- Focusing on empowering creators and building communities, Pinterest introduces 'Takes', a new way for Pinners to respond to a creator's idea with their own 'Idea Pin'.
- Pinterest also made 'Idea Pins' more shoppable, by integrating them with the platform's augmented reality beauty 'AR Try On' feature (itself a feature introduced at the beginning of 2021). Creators have the ability to search over 10,000 'Try On'-enabled product links to add to their Idea Pins.
- Pinterest announced their acquisition of the video editing app, Vochi, in order to bring higher quality video content to the platform and to improve the user experience when shopping and/or browsing Pinterest.
- YouTube introduced Video Chapters, a feature that breaks up videos into individual timestamped sections. This allows content to be easily navigated and makes rewinding/fast-forwarding a million times easier!
- After TikTok's success with short-form content, YouTube launched YouTube Shorts which, as the name suggests, are short videos that are 15 seconds or less. These videos can be directly captured on a smartphone and uploaded to YouTube instantly.
- Shopping experiences have been given a fresh perspective, with the introduction of Live Shopping experiences on YouTube. It’s no secret that famous YouTube influencers have a superpower when it comes to product placement, so as e-commerce grows it will be interesting to see how video content plays its part.
Social media is an ever-changing landscape, with constant improvements in accessibility and user experiences, and platforms always trying to one-up each other. The biggest change in 2021 was the introduction of Facebook's vision for the Metaverse, a significant paradigm shift which will fundamentally alter the way in which we will all communicate in future. Times are changing, and social media is only to get bigger.
If you’re wondering what’s in store for 2022, why not check out our blog post highlighting the predicted social media trends for next year.