Tanya Cruz

Social Media Trends of 2020 So Far

By Eliza Mehr, Taylor More and Tanya Cruz

When we looked into our imaginary crystal ball six months ago, we all may have agreed that TikTok was going to be a rising star in the new decade. However, none of us could have predicted the social media trends to follow or the mammoth role it would play in keeping the world connected while we were all more physically apart than ever. 

2020 may only be halfway through, but the social media trends that have emerged have already reinvented the digital realm. Social media is continuously redefined by the world around us; its capabilities are never static as we interact through our devices. So it’s no surprise that when COVID-19 changed the world in an unprecedented way, these platforms became even more essential for interconnectedness during a time of distancing. A common theme that arises as we delve into year’s trends is the elimination of geography as a boundary for communication, influence, and economic activity. 

While the year is far from over, here are the social media trends that have defined the year so far and paving the way for months to come: 

The Golden Age of Live Video 

While the concept of live streaming isn’t new, the digital phenomenon has quickly become one of the world’s primary sources of entertainment as in-person experiences became a thing of the past for the first half of 2020. Through platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch — brands, companies, celebrities, and creators have been able to connect with audiences of any size in real-time.

In April, Instagram announced a 70% increase in live streaming over the last month since COVID-19 started shutting down cities across North America. Canadian rapper Tory Lanez led the way in viewership with his show Quarantine Radio, breaking initial viewing records of over 300,000 in late March when Drake made a surprise appearance. The record was later trumped in May when rapper Tekashi69 made his first video appearance since getting released from prison, garnering a whopping 2 million live viewers. The record was shattered again later that month by popular Turkish TV personality Acun Ilıcalı, who garnered over 3 million views in under two minutes for appearing on-screen with the cast of Survivor 2020, a popular Turkish TV show. 

While Instagram has seen incredible growth in live streaming viewership these last few months, the real underdog story comes from the platform Twitch which is now up 1.645 billion hours watched per month. The leading streaming platform for gamers saw viewership skyrocket since the start of COVID-19, with an increase of 50% between March and April, which resulted in a full 101% increase year over year. While gaming has been on the rise for quite some time, the boost on Twitch is largely attributed to the big A-listers, predominantly sports figures and musicians, making appearances on the platform since their day jobs (i.e. touring, sports games, performances) were put on hold. 

The huge uptick in live streaming is seen across social platforms, which has opened endless opportunities for marketers. Live streaming gives users the ability to give instant feedback or ask questions that immediately pop up in a public chat stream, allowing for engagement and community building in real-time. From live Q&A sessions, DIY tutorials, musical performances, and free workouts — the uses for live streams are endless for businesses, brands, and people looking to promote themselves while entertaining audiences in the process.  There’s even a collaboration feature where users can go live with each other, which often equals double the engagement and audience participation.

While social distancing rules start to loosen in cities across North America, it’s unclear if the rising trend of live streaming will continue to stay for the long haul. But regardless of what happens, the success of live streaming has proven that connecting with an audience is no longer bound to face-to-face interaction. Live streaming eliminates the boundary of distance as instant connections can be made from a remote location and requires nothing more than a device with a camera and internet connection. If you haven’t taken advantage of self-broadcasting yet, there’s no better time than now to get started! 

Humanization of Business Brands 

For a long time, social platforms have been made up of polished and curated feeds. From aesthetic flay lays, modeled product shots, to picture-perfect moments caught on camera — many brands relish in creating flawless content. But as soon as COVID-19 hit and remote work became the new normal, a dramatic shift began to take place in the social space. Brands let their guard down and began showcasing their teams behind the business, giving an audience a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be working from home or as a means to showcase the unique pivots they made during that time. 

From Tik Tok challenges, screenshots of Zoom team meetings, #WorkFromHome selfies to interactive live streams — businesses big and small found new and unique ways to connect with audiences through humanizing their brand. 

And it doesn’t stop there! The humanization of brands is far more nuanced and also attributed to the continued success of influencer marketing during this time. There’s no question the impact COVID-19 has had on brands slashing marketing budgets, but for those that have been able to keep up the momentum especially during a pandemic has probably seen a great return. According to Later, nearly 80% of influencers reported that their audiences were more engaged with their content during the first weeks of the global shutdown — which makes sense given the increase in screen time amongst users. Getting products in the hands of influencers to help promote them is a great way to extend the reach beyond your own networks, and tap into new audiences. 

Not only do people more frequently rely on social media for trends and purchase advice, but there is a lot of trust put into the opinions of people users follow. Influencer marketing can be activated on three different tiers: nano, micro, and macro. A nano influencer is someone with a following less than 10K where brands rely on their tight-knit social circles to help establish trust amongst smaller but highly engaged audiences, creating a “word of mouth” effect within the community.  

A micro-influencer would be someone with a following of 10-50K where a brand relies on close relationships and social circles for meaningful exposure amongst larger audiences. Meanwhile, a macro-influencer would be someone with a following of 50-900K +  broader audience and extensive reach. Whichever tier of influencer a brand uses, one of its largest benefits is getting a brand’s product or service in the hands of real people which only further establishes that trust, keeps them top of mind in hopes to eventually influence their purchasing decisions. 

Whether it may be a behind the scenes look into a brand, an ambassador program, or a widespread influencer campaign, attaching a face to the brand and implementing it through different social media channels not only helps establish trust but a greater connection with audiences. Even while things slowly go back to normal, businesses big or small should continue to add a personal touch into everything they do. 

The Transition to Digital Storefronts

Online shopping is nothing new, but after weeks of retail closures across North America, COVID-19 proved to be a harsh reminder to many brick and mortar businesses that the future is largely e-commerce and in the state of a global pandemic, it might be one of the only chances to stay afloat.  According to reports, as of April 21, American and Canadian e-commerce orders saw a 129% year-over-year growth followed by a 146% growth in online orders. 

Online shopping is something we all know and enjoy, and recently the integration of shopping features into social feeds has made the process even more of a breeze. Most notably is the launch of Facebook Shops earlier this year, a partnership with Shopify that’s aimed to help businesses create digital storefronts through Facebook and Instagram integrations that provide users with direct access to a product, streamlining the sales funnel dramatically. 

This eliminates the steps of having to find the brand’s website, navigating the e-commerce store, and locating the product among all the other items available for sale, which can distract a user from their original purchase intention. The ease of shoppable Instagram pages creates an incentive to make a purchase at the point of interaction, rather than putting it off and potentially abandoning the shopping process before checkout.

Similar innovations have also found it’s way on Pinterest, making it easier to shop from business both big and small from Pins, boards, and searches.

Updates across platforms as well as the increased demand for online purchases has made it easy for small businesses to thrive and for people to discover new brands that they previously would not have contact with. While shopping in-person won’t phase out completely anytime soon, the transition to digital storefronts has proven that brick and mortar are no longer required for success, in fact, it’s a sign of what the future of shopping has in store. 

Niche Platforms Skyrocket In Popularity 

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been reigning supreme for years but many niche platforms such as Linkedin, Reddit, and Twitch have continued to grow in popularity throughout this year. But no one can beat the coolest kid on the block – TikTok. 

Although the app has only been active since 2016, the increased popularity of video content this year has led to the dramatic increase in downloads and in-app users, with the platform now hosting about 800 million people. While it’s possible to say that much of TikTok’s continued success can be accredited to the current social climate and COVID-19 pandemic that has left many of us bored and searching for new forms of entertainment, the wide range of content created by TikTok users means there is something for everyone, no matter their interests or age. 

TikTok is widely recognized as the originator of many popular dance trends, such as the dance challenges for the tracks “Renegade” by K CAMP or “Say So” by Doja Cat. However, the app has so much more to offer than just that. It consists of pranks, DIY’s, photo trends (like the outdoor mirror selfie challenge), and much more.

Niche platforms are thriving this year and as we continue to navigate the current social climate, they are providing much-needed entertainment and aiding us with staying connected when we cannot physically be together.

The Rising Influence of Stories 

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have had the story feature integrated into their platforms for quite some time, but over this past year and with all the major events happening in the world, the feature has seen new ways of being used.

It continues to be used as it always has — as a tool for individuals and companies to keep their followers up to date on daily activities, sales, and promotions, and to provide behind-the-scenes glimpses into day-to-day business operations. The integration of new stickers on Instagram stories including the Donation, Gift Card, Food Order and Support Small Business stickers increased the sharability of stories, while also making it easier than ever to support local businesses.  The use of stories has also made an impact on spreading the word on social and worldly issues.

2020 has opened the floodgates for many major worldly events, and the way stories have been utilized has shifted along with it, into a deeper discussion of these concerns. The most recent example of this is the role that Instagram stories have played in the Black Lives Matter movement, allowing users to post important, up-to-date information about the situation —  from articles, resources, artwork, and other forms of content to spread awareness, educate, and keep audiences informed.

This trend can also be noted in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic where people have been using their stories to share critical government updates and information from organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Social feeds across the globe are being used as a tool to share information about important issues, which is not necessarily something that has been seen in the past, and stories are leading the way in bringing people together through these confusing times. While social media has often been seen as an effective tool to spread information and educate, the concern about the spread of misinformation and fake news continues to be major concerns.

At-Home Content Increases in Popularity

Home-workout videos have always been present on social media, especially on platforms like Youtube that are more traditionally geared towards long-form video. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prohibits people from going to a public gym and has forced us all to stay inside a little more than we’d like. This has led people to search for alternative ways to stay active, inviting a whole new audience to home workout videos. We are seeing people turn to social media as a way to find a variety of workout routines that fit their needs, whether this is yoga, HIIT workouts, strength training, and more.

While many influencers are sharing their own routines, Chloe Ting’s workouts are amongst the most popular with her Instagram audience of over 2 million followers. Moreover, her top YouTube video has hit over 153 million views and her branded hashtag #ChloeTingChallenge has amassed over 34.3k posts. In specific, people are loving her “2-Week Shred” and “2-Week Abs” routines that help you get in shape fast. She utilizes Instagram and YouTube to share her exercise routines and has a blog and website for people to purchase her workout plans. She is definitely a leader in this trend, but many other influencers like Kayla Itsines, Viviane Audi, and Helen Owen are not far behind.

We’ve taken notice of the influx of at-home workout routines as well as the influencers who are leading this trend. As we continue to wait on world leaders and government organizations to decide on our course of action moving ahead in the wake of COVID-19, there is no doubt that the worldwide pandemic has shaken up the way we stay fit in our homes with limited access to equipment but unlimited access to online content that encourages us to stay healthy indoors.


The social media space is constantly in a rapidly-changing state, with 2020 proving to be one of the wildest roller coasters yet. At the height of social distancing, social media platforms aided us in the way that we communicate information and stay connected during these crucial moments. It acted as a source of entertainment and opened our eyes to a digital community that has left us feeling more connected than ever. While there’s no telling what the next six months have in store for us in the social landscape or in real life, we’ve certainly demonstrated how resilient we can be even when we can’t physically be together all thanks to the world that’s been opened up to us with social media.  

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