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It’s not an understatement to say that 2020 shaped up to be one of the craziest and most unexpected years ever for social media. Amidst a global pandemic, a tumultuous presidential election, and social unrest in cities across America, the biggest social media networks – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – constantly found themselves in the center of the national debate. So what can we expect with social media in 2021?
More tweaks to newsfeed algorithms
Let’s start with the easiest prediction to make for the New Year – we’ll see plenty of new tweaks to the newsfeed algorithms. In 2020, the story was all about platforms like YouTube and how they were tweaking their algorithms to censor out various types of content and content creators. So get ready for another round of changes in 2021. The big bonus here is that the volume of political content found in social media news feeds is sure to decline next year, leaving it up to companies like Facebook to decide how they will spur us on to greater engagement.
New experiments with AI
For awhile now, social networks like Facebook have experimented with artificial intelligence (AI), in everything from determining what to put in our newsfeeds to spotting friends and family in photos. Now comes time for some really big experiments with AI. Facebook, for example, recently announced that it would be using AI to summarize news articles in order to give users condensed news nuggets throughout the day. (Who reads the full article anymore anyway, right?) Combine that with new experiments using AI tools like GPT-3 to compose content, and things could get very interesting on social media soon: bots summarizing articles written by bots, and other bots determining which of these bot summaries should be placed in user newsfeeds…
New experiments with AR and VR
This could finally be the year that AR and VR make it into the social media mainstream. Facebook is preparing not only another round of Oculus VR headsets for users, but also a set of “Project Aria” AR glasses that will enable entirely new experiences with social media content. Think about it, too – with so many school kids learning from home now, and so many corporate office workers working from home now, we need new types of learning, training and up-skilling experiences. Could AR and VR be the answer?
And finally, the big news in 2021 could be the expanded set of e-commerce shopping opportunities available on the big social media platforms. Facebook, for example, is continuing to roll out its “Shops” initiative for both Facebook and Instagram, and a number of social media platforms are now experimenting with live-stream purchasing and promotion options. The logic here is simple: if people are consuming a lot of live video content these days, why not give them the chance to buy the exact products they are seeing on the screen? Not that we want Facebook to transform into another QVC or Home Shopping Network, but wouldn’t it be cool to buy products you see from top social media influencers with a simple one-click button?
Add it all up, and 2021 could be the most exciting year yet for social media. Companies in Silicon Valley have been among the fastest to respond to the new pandemic reality, and it’s likely we’ll see plenty of new features and options that make it easier than ever before for people to shop, game, hang out and communicate all from within their favorite social media apps.