2020 Social Media Trends That Marketers Need to Know

Brent Barnhart

January 4, 2020

Brent Barnhart

January 4, 2020

No matter how you slice it, social media is all about trends.

Fresh features. New promotional tricks and tactics. Platforms booming and dying. 

The good news? The potential for marketers to grow via social is insane right now regardless of your goals.

That is, only if you understand what’s changing in the social space and what marketers are doing to adapt their strategies.

If you’re looking for a breakdown of the top social media trends for 2020, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s our list of the top trends, opportunities and challenges for marketers to know in the New Year.


1. Video Content Takes Center Stage

Although the power of video content is well-documented, the amount of video being consumed by the average social user is staggering.

And that momentum isn’t slowing down in 2020.

From Facebook videos to Instagram vlogs and beyond, video content still represents the most-shared across social media at large.

1. buzzfeed australia
Most notable is the fact that mobile video consumption continues to increase by 100% year-over-year. This not only highlights the popularity of emerging platforms like TikTok, but also the continued growth of videos via Instagram Stories.

The expectation for marketers to be on board with video is crystal clear. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of options of what you can create regardless of your budget.

Long-form or bite-sized? Produced or off-the-cuff? Vertical or horizontal?

All are totally fair game depending on your audience. Let’s look at some examples.

Whether or not you see YouTube as a social network, the platform’s user-base is actually bigger than all other social platforms. As a result, expect to see more brand and up-and-coming influencers continue to flock to YouTube.

Although Instagram might best be known for short-form video and Stories, the platform’s video features are evolving. 

The addition of landscape mode to IGTV in 2019 is telling, as is the addition of IGTV within Instagram’s Creator Studio. Expect more brands and marketers to experiment with IGTV and longer-form video on the ‘gram.

2. igtv benefit

Even LinkedIn is becoming more video-centric, both through organic content and ads. Simply put, the need for video is universal across all platforms as marketers fight tooth and nail for their audience’s attention.

3. canva linkedin video
If you’re been sleeping on video, don’t sweat it. 

As highlighted in our guide to getting started with video marketing, the barrier to entry is arguably lower than ever.

“The way we consume video content is changing. We are predicting an explosion of longer-form video content in portrait dimensions across all channels. Notice that new platforms (hint: TikTok) are video-only and YouTube is booming for younger audiences.” 

Simon Pilkington, Digital Marketing Manager


2. Social Ads are Only Getting Smarter

The fact that Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn continue to roll out new ad formats and features is telling.

Let’s be clear: social ads are the best way to reach your target audience directly without having to worry about fickle social algorithms.

And don’t let anyone tell you that Facebook ads are dead. 

In fact, Facebook ad impressions and general engagement were both on the rise at the close of 2019.

What is Facebook doing to keep its platform effective in 2020, though? For starters, consider how they introduced machine learning as part of their dynamic ad platform.

Simply put, Facebook ads can adapt to serve different products, ad copy and call-to-action based on the browsing behavior of the person they’re being seen by. Below is an example from Bellroy. 

4. bellroy dynamic adTranslation? Your ads are able to better serve your customers at each step of the customer journey. 

Whether you’re interested in remarketing or reaching someone for the first time, Facebook is making it way more effective with these updates.

More advanced social ads make social media even more of a valuable place to gather business intelligence. From breaking down demographic data to figuring out with products and creatives convert customers, ads can clue you in on what you need to know about your audience.

Machine learning and marketing automation features are developing to serve dynamic product ads across more networks with smarter algorithms. This has been pushed by Google Ads over the past year or so with smart shopping campaigns. We’ll likely see ecommerce advertising becoming more automated on social platforms, too.”

Simon Pilkington, Digital Marketing Manager


3. Instagram is Evolving as a Shopping Hub

Instagram is a prime place social network for showing off products. 

Duh, right?

But brands don’t need to be so subtle anymore when it comes to direct selling on Instagram.

As noted by our guide to marketing to teenagers, Gen Z is glued to the ‘gram and relies on the platform to research and purchase products via influencers. Same rings true for many millennials. 

Additionally, the continued growth of social commerce explains features such as Instagram Checkout which essentially turns your Insta feed into a shopping window.

5. aje shopping ig

Although users can’t technically buy products directly from Instagram, we’re almost there as shoppable posts drive traffic right to your website versus funneling folks through your bio link.

With the introduction of Instagram Checkout, ecommerce brands and retailers are empowered to drive more sales and assess a clearer ROI from their Instagram presence. 

6. thw horse ig shopping

However, more shopping and commerce also signals the need for brands to make meaningful connections with customers and followers alike. While Instagram users don’t mind being sold to, winning them over starts with authenticity and consistent engagement.

That’s exactly with Stories are still so important.

For example, the boom of interactive Stories clues us in on how brands can use Instagram’s organic features to engage followers. From product questions to playful polls, there’s perhaps no better way for brands to show off their personalities. 

Maybe that's why interactive Stories are being recommended to businesses by Instagram themselves.

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Stories are still a place for brands to show off products organically, too. 

For example, Urban Originals manages to find a balance between promotion and authenticity by highlighting influencers in their “swipe up” Stories.

8. urban originals stories + ugc

Expect Stories to represent the “personal” piece of ecommerce brands’ Instagram presence while photo feeds focus more on sales.

We predict consumers will soon be able to buy directly through Instagram. This includes products from influencers, too.”

Laura Slendzak, Account Director


4. Consumers are Watching What They Say on Social

Due to privacy and security and concerns on social media (particularly Facebook), you might notice that social consumers might not be as “open” as they used to be.

Chalk to up to the nature of social ads “following” you or the widespread worry over hacks and data breaches.

Either way, there’s a reason why we’re seeing more and more posts like this pop up:

quitting facebook

Don’t let this freak you out, though.

Remember what we said earlier: Facebook engagement is actually growing. Pretty much every major social network is actually on the rise in terms of new users, too.

That said, it’s important to understand that customers on social need to be nurtured and approached with care. 

The growth of smaller, private communities and tribes is one of the more unspoken 2020 social media trends. 

Rather than bash someone over the head with sales messages, consider content and channels which all for authentic back-and-forth (think: Facebook Groups and Instagram Stories).

People are already becoming more protective of what they’re saying on social media. That’s why they’re opting to communicate their opinions through Messenger, DMs and private groups on Facebook and Instagram. Brands have to find ways to ensure that they’re part of the conversation.”

Laura Slendzak, Account Director


5. The Definition of an “Influencer” is Changing

The need to invest in influencers isn’t changing in 2020, but the way that marketers approach influencers is.

Consider first that Instagram themselves are looking to take a more active role in managing influencer relationships. 

In fact, they’re already testing an influencer collaboration tool which treat influencers like ad-targeting where brands can see engagement metrics from their promoted influencer posts.

Not only will this make it easier for brands to understand their ROI from influencer marketing, but also require less jumping through hoops to connect to find the right influencers.

9. Uniqlo influencer post

Pssst! Check out our updated Australian influencer guidelines for reference!

Of course, Instagram taking part in the influencer marketplace potentially removes the sense of authenticity that make influencers so appealing to brands in the first place.

This explains why brands are actually looking for smaller influencer accounts. 

We’ve talked in the past about micro-influencers

But now we’re in the era of nano-influencers (think: > 10,000 followers).

10. quay Australia nano influencer

The concept is simple: smaller, highly engaged influencers serve as an authentic alternative to larger influencer accounts laser-focused on social selling. 

Notice that even massive brands like Quay who could partner with just about anyone are on board with nano-influencers.

As more brands invest in influencers, establishing  relationships with both up-and-coming and established accounts is a smart move. 

11. nano influencer 2

That said, this all speaks to one of the biggest 2020 social media trends at large: the need to back up your decisions with data. This includes choosing which influencers to follow.

Ideally, influencers need to be able to back up their rates with hard numbers. This includes engagement, proof of purchases and so on. Simply having a sizeable follower count or the occasional spike in “Likes” isn’t enough anymore.

And hey, this actually leads us right to our next trend!

Legislators are slowly but surely catching up with advertising laws around brands working with influencers. It’s still sort of a grey area. With platforms introducing more features to formalize sponsored content, this seems to indicate that soon platforms will hold themselves accountable for enforcing rules over advertisers.”

Simon Pilkington, Digital Marketing Manager


6. Marketers are Moving on from “Likes”

It’s hard to imagine a social space without “Likes,” isn’t it?

However, that seems to be where we’re headed.

Well, sort of.

In case you haven’t heard the news, Facebook began experimenting with hiding “Likes” in July 2019 in Australia. Soon after, Instagram “Likes” underwent the same treatment.

Although “Likes” aren’t totally dead and buried, the fact remains that they aren’t the be-all, end-all of social engagement anymore.

Consider recent research which shows that many marketers are less-than satisfied with social media as a lead generation channel. 

Marketers are rightfully looking for an ROI from social media, but they’re not seeing it from “LIkes.” Instead, they’re looking toward traffic numbers and revenue attribution to determine what they’re actually getting out of their social presence.

Now’s the perfect time to rethink your social media goals and align them with the metrics that matter most to your business. 

Think about how social media serves as a larger part of your funnel rather than what it does by itself. Tools such as Google Tag Manager and your social analytics can help point to the overall impact of your social presence on your bottom line.

“We’re moving away from engagement metrics, but we’re seeing great success with brand awareness objectives such as CPM and Cost-Per-Reach. We can’t stress enough the importance of having end-to-end, full-funnel and digital integration to highlight the value of social media. Instead of pulling PR stunts without business objectives in mind, brands must produce snackable content that leads people to a landing page which fires on a Google Tag and so on.”

Josh Tan, Director of Strategy


7. TikTok is Taking Over for the Younger Crowd

We can’t talk about 2020 social media trends without giving TikTok the spotlight for a moment.

Even if you don’t quite “get it,” the potential of the platform is hard to deny.

Recent TikTok marketing statistics note that 60% of the platform’s 1.5 billion users are Gen Z or younger millennials. This again highlights the growth of video marketing and overall visual nature of social media.

12. australia tiktok

Brands are still testing the waters of TikTok, but the platform is already home to its own hub of influencers. Most TikTok content is reminiscent of Vine, primarily consisting of memes, “challenges” and other humorous videos.

The business potential of TikTok remains to be seen. That said, we recommend marketers focused on younger audiences to keep an eye on it in 2020.


8. Brands Blending Social Media and IRL Experiences

In a day and age where so many people are trying to “unplug” from social media, brands need to find new ways to mix social with real-life experiences. 

We’re seeing a lot of this through AR and VR. Although such technology is primarily reserved for bigger brands, there’s no denying its potential for making social media more integral to users’ personal lives.

For example, check out how Tinder’s recent experimentation with Snapchat filters and choose-your-own-adventure scenarios. This is just a glimpse at how brands are creating unique experiences via AR.

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Another great example is ASOS’ “virtual catwalk” to view products in real-world settings, all the while encouraging users to share their fits on social media.

Even if you can’t take advantage of such technology, ask yourself: how can you make your social presence feel more “real” to your followers? 

Trends such as encouraging in-person tagging and user-generated content are a solid place to start.

Brands will see bigger successes by producing AR, VR and IRL activations that can have a build-up and narrative dictated by social media. We’re already seeing the blending of real-life and brand marketing from companies like Tinder, Airbnb and Uber Eats.”

Laura Slendzak, Account Director


Ready to Tackle 2020’s Social Media Trends?

Listen: marketers today have no shortage of opportunities to attract new customers and build their audiences in 2020.

As long as you have a pulse on the latest promotional tactics and types of content that today’s users love, you’re already way ahead of the curve.

Now’s the time to put together your content and ad strategies to crush your social goals in the coming year.

And if you need any help with that strategy or any of the technical aspects of your social presence, make sure to contact Hello Social today.

Oh, don’t forget to have a happy New Year!


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