**Originally published March 28th, 2019. Updated January 28th, 2020**

Social media is always evolving, as are the habits of its users. Mark Zuckerberg once famously said, “Figuring out what the next big trend is, tells us what we should focus on.” And while that seems somewhat obvious, the task itself is no walk in the park. Influencers, brands, and marketers alike are all keeping their finger on the pulse of social media, attempting to both influence and gauge the landscape while navigating the choppy waters of social in search of a beacon: that being the next ‘big thing’.

2020 has already brought about many changes in the digital landscape. But what will be the most important social media trends this year for brands and businesses? A bevy of new formats, challenges, and abilities to engage your audience is making this year an exciting time to work in social media. We have some insight into the coming trends for this calendar year, and tips for navigating and thriving on social.

1. Brands Storifying Social

influencer doing branded Instagram Stories

According to a study from Block Party, Stories—the vertical, disappearing videos made popular by Snapchat—are now growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing.

Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, shared a chart showing that Stories are set to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends on social media within the next year. Currently, nearly a billion users across Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat turn to Stories to share their content.

Stories are inherently visual and designed to be created and consumed on the fly with nothing more than the camera on a smartphone and an eye for creativity. And because Stories are often ephemeral—most disappearing after 24 hours—there’s more room for experimentation. Stories feel authentic, immediate, and incredibly personal.

So what does this mean for brands in 2020? It means this social media trend will require a major shift in focus.

High-production-value posts are still vital to the digital marketing landscape. But it’s imperative for brands to balance different content styles. We are seeing more and more brands embrace the intimate look and feel of Stories. Media outlets like The Guardian and Tictail are discovering that less polished, more realistic Stories actually perform better than heavily edited content filled with heavy-handed calls to action do. In turn, even the biggest brands with the deepest pockets are adjusting their content approaches and dipping their toes in the water.

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2. User Trust Is Being Rebuilt

2018 was a year of crisis in terms of trust in social media. Reeling to recover in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a Congressional hearing, Facebook encountered immense pressure from users and regulators to improve the app’s security, transparency, and accuracy.

Facebook Scandal Erodes Trust in Social Media Companies

Shift your attention to Twitter, meanwhile, and you see the controversies over the large presence of bots on its platform, resulting in the purge of millions of fake accounts.

It’s no surprise that in recent months, both consumers and regulators have publicly questioned the privacy, accuracy, and ethics of nearly every social network that exists today, the results of which are very concerning for the networks. According to studies conducted by Edelman, 60 percent of people no longer trust social media companies.

For better or worse, this shift presents new challenges for brands on social media. But it also creates an opportunity. As users have grown increasingly distrustful of many media and celebrity influencers – whose followings it turns out have often been found out to be bought or fake – trust has reverted back to our immediate friends, family, and acquaintances on social media, as well as traditional and trusted media outlets.

The brands that are keen on this trend have been focusing less on maximizing reach and more on generating quality engagement in a transparent fashion. So how can your brand adapt accordingly? Here are some tips for this trend.

Create a unique branded hashtag for Instagram

To generate conversation around your brand, create a short, easy-to-remember branded hashtag that brings your community together around a common interest.

Include micro-influencers in your marketing strategy

Micro-influencers improve the quality of your outreach with more niche audiences. Unlike well-known or celebrity influencers, micro-influencers have smaller, highly engaged social media audiences. They are both more affordable for brands and viewed as more trustworthy by consumers. Micro-influencers are the new ‘cool kids’ of influencer marketing.

Activate employee advocates and brand ambassadors

If your brand is seeking to share technical info and unique insights around your industry, tap into the experts already on your team. This can be anyone from your product specialists to your CEO. Encourage employees to reshare branded social content that’s relevant to their unique audiences.

3. The Gap In Paid Media is Closing

We are fully immersed in the pay-to-play era on social. In turn, marketers are increasing social ad spend and producing more ads than ever before. Data shows that one of every four Facebook Pages now use paid media. And Facebook already accounts for 23 percent of total U.S. digital ad spending.

Percent of Social Media Marketers Using Paid Ads

However, rising ad costs and fleeting consumer attention have been limiting ROI for advertisers. As a result, social teams are pairing ad money with equal time investment and targeting savvy, while also paying to boost their best performing organic content.

The biggest players are already jumping in on this trend. Spotify and Netflix are trailblazing the path with creative social ads that are both personalized and entertaining, rather than just cookie-cutter banner ads weaved into a news feed. The primary goal is to generate user discussion and engagement, and not just “broadcast” an ad at an audience with no personalization.

4. Messaging is taking over

Messaging apps are no newcomers to the social scene. The top messaging apps—Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, QQ, and Skype—combined for nearly 5 billion monthly active users at the end of last year. That total surpasses that of the total the traditional social networks have globally. According to Digital News Report, users are spending more time on messaging and less time sharing news on social. And as this shift from public to private spaces is occurring, so is the shift in consumer expectations.

survey of 6,000 people globally discovered that 9 out of 10 consumers would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses. In the U.S. alone, messaging is already the most preferred customer service channel. In a 2018 survey of 8,000 people conducted by Facebook, 69 percent of respondents said that directly messaging with a company helps them feel more confident about the brand. Mastercard is doing a fantastic job with this with their Facebook Messenger bot.

mastercard customer service bot on Facebook Messenger

Consumers don’t want more advertising channels. No one does (well, except marketers, of course). So the smart brands are already using messaging apps as a vehicle for more high-value conversations.

So, how does your brand adapt?

  • Enable Facebook Messenger for your Facebook Business Page
  • Use DMs and/or messaging apps to streamline customer service queries on social
  • Set up bots and/or in-app assistants for frequently asked questions
  • Run campaigns that incorporate messaging apps
  • Experiment with Facebook Messenger ads


2019 will likely prove to be challenging as marketers seek to adapt to these shifts in social trends. But new tools and options will enhance the consumer process, and provide new ways to connect and convert in real-time. Many of the above social media marketing trends have a common theme – they focus on improving the customer experience. Features and trends that add value to the user and engages them will be adopted and embraced at a new level this year.

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