A Quick Look Back at Social Media in 2020

2020, the year of the lockdown! And what did we do with ourselves during this down time? We turned to our phones. Some of us took the time to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill, like doing puzzles or baking bread. Others decided to spend countless hours learning new TikTok dances online. Many of us were the victims of influencers, encouraging us to buy things that we definitely didn’t need, but really really wanted. It was shopping therapy... right?

The number of social media users jumped by more than 13% in 2020, with nearly half a billion new users. That took the global total to almost 4.2 billion by the start of 2021. On average, more than 1.3 million new users joined social media every day during 2020. That’s roughly 15½ new users every single second. Woah!

Here’s a quick look back at what happened to social media in 2020.

Instagram Updates


As you may or may not know, in November 2019, Instagram announced that they would start hiding the number of likes displayed underneath users posts. This meant that 2020 was the first full year where you yourself could see how many likes you had, but other users were completely unaware to how many people had liked that content.

The move was made in an effort to improve the emotional and mental health of Instagram users.

Did it work? Unlikely. Users have found new ways to ensure their engagement rates are high, stories are being watched, and followers are on the rise. Social media is still a fight for attention.


Instagram stories are not new to the game. In fact, stories have been around since 2016! Today, more and more users are drawn to watching stories, over actually scrolling their Instagram feed. This is because you’re fed content from your closest friends, family and most well-loved influencers right off the hop. You know the stories are relatively recent, and once you finish one story, the next will automatically start to play without you having to lift a finger.

Stories are only made public for 24 hours, and then disappear from your platform, allowing you to constantly be creating new and exciting content for your viewers. Almost every other app out there started copying this structure, creating their own story features that you’ll continue to see rising in 2021. It looks like short-lived content is here to stay!


Social media shopping became even more popular in 2020. Not only could users find unique items to purchase, but they were also able to make those purchases from within the app itself.

Previously, users who were interested in purchasing an item they found on social media, could “swipe up” or click on a link that drove them to other businesses websites and away from the app itself. In May 2020, Instagram introduced “Instagram Shops” where each business now has the options to create a virtual storefront that enables them to sell their products directly from the app, keeping users engaged and in one place.

TikTok Boom

While we were all “bored in the house” and wondering what was happening to the world last year, many of us discovered the black hole we now call TikTok. Some say they named it this because time flies as you scroll through thousands and thousands of short form videos. Before you know it, you’ve spent the entire day on your phone.

In March 2020, as most of us began to shelter at home, TikTok's global downloads jumped 51%. It’s no surprise that because of this, TikTok was one of the most downloaded apps in 2020.

Video is King

In 2020, video continued to take over social media, as it has been for years now.  A study performed by Cisco concluded that by 2022, video content will be making up a staggering 82% of all online content. Crazy, right? That means that if your social strategy does NOT include videos yet, you better get on it. And fast!

Social Media Trends on the Rise in 2021

A new year means new change! And what’s social media without a little change now and again? It’s safe to say that these platforms will continue to grow and morph with the times and we will have to do the same. New platforms will emerge, others will fail. Trends will come and trends will go, just like skinny jeans and side parts, or so every Gen Z has claimed on TikTok recently, upsetting many millennials who aren’t ready to let go.

Your goals this year should be to stay fluid, stay informed, and stay open to change.

Here are some of the trends that will dominate the social media landscape in 2021 and beyond.

Instagram’s New Algorithm

Up until today, Instagram likes were a strong indicator of a post’s performance. 

But today, brands need to look further into their performance metrics and track comments, saves, shares, Instagram Stories views, and even Direct Messages (DMs) to understand how their content performed.

Think of Instagram saves as the new “Super-Likes” if you will. Saving a piece of content for later means the user really resonated with your content and would like to re-visit it down the road. This means that the best way to improve your engagement in 2021 is to create more content that encourages your audience to tap that save button!

Short Video Snippets

It’s becoming more and more apparent that users are enjoying short 15-30 second pieces of content that quickly entertain and engage. It seems our attention spans are getting even shorter, if you can believe it!

Brands who don’t include apps like TikTok in their 2021 strategies could very well fall behind.

To compete with the rise in popularity of these short videos, many other social channels are introducing their own ways to highlight micro-content.

Instagram launched Reels, a new form of video content delivered in 15–30 seconds to create quick, attention-grabbing moments in a creative and entertaining way. Instagram’s new user interface (UI) update, which put IG Reels front and center, should hint to marketers that Instagram Reels will be here to stay in 2021.

Embracing the Shift to Online Shopping

Social commerce, or otherwise known as social media shopping, is not a new concept, but with the development of Pinterest cataloguesFacebook and Instagram shops alongside increasing online shopping behaviour during the Pandemic, 2021 seems like the perfect time for social e-commerce to flourish.

Social media shopping allows consumers to online shop while still communicating with their friends and family along the way. They don't have to back the car out of the garage, spend time stuck in traffic, park in a parking lot, and then wander around the mall with thousands of strangers (all the while worrying about whether that person sneezing next to them has COVID-19 or not).

This shift towards contactless shopping will allow eCommerce stores to thrive even further in 2021. With social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook already beginning to integrate in-app purchasing, the steps traditionally required to convert a user to a customer will be reduced and the gap between ‘scrolling’ and ‘shopping’ will be significantly blurred.

If you’re a business pushing product online, it would be wise to start developing your virtual storefront now.

Influencers Are Here to Stay

Influencer marketing is not a new trend, but it is one that is going to stay around for a while. Social media today is dominated by influencers who are getting paid insane amounts of money to promote brands on their social channels. I’m talking anywhere from $80 - $700 per post!

The reason influencers aren’t going anywhere fast, is that many companies have actually begun budgeting influencers into their marketing strategies now. Marketers are also not just collaborating with 1-2 influencers, but working with a whole network of small, relevant, niche influencers that fit their target audience. This kind of influencer gets much higher engagement and costs much less. Going forward, more and more businesses will use this strategy and work with multiple smaller influencers instead of one celebrity. Which means, you guessed it, more and more Influencers!

I mean, who wouldn’t want to get paid to be on Instagram? And the free #gifts and #sponsored products are a nice bonus too.

The main reasons you’ll want to add influencers to your marketing strategy this year, is that they are much cheaper than running paid ad campaigns, and if your influencer has the right audience, they can deliver some pretty amazing results for you!

Live Streaming

The pandemic forced many businesses to find creative ways to interact with their customers digitally.  

Face-to-face meetings turned into Zoom meetings and live concerts turned into live streams of artists performing from their homes. If you didn’t want to lose your customers, you had to be quick on your feet!

Naturally, there’s been an uprising in the use of live streaming features on social media over the last year. Facebook saw a massive rise in messaging and live streaming, especially in COVID-19 hotspots like Italy. For instance, the number of views on Instagram and Facebook Live doubled there in just one week.

While the situation continues to evolve into 2021, people have gotten used to being able to interact with brands over these live features, without having to leave their homes.

So live streaming will likely continue to gain popularity and should definitely be a part of your social marketing strategy for the future.