The Biggest Trends In Social Media Advertising For 2021


The typical social media user now spends 2 hours and 25 minutes on social media each day, and that number increases each year. Coupled with the amount of data platforms have on their users, makes social media advertising a very profitable solution for many businesses.

Social media advertising is just like the world of fashion: Fads come and go, but you still need to stay on top of the latest trends if you want to catch your target market's attention. Even if you don’t follow the trends, you should be aware of them. While traditional Facebook ads and Instagram ad campaigns can certainly drive traffic to your website or spur purchases, sometimes you have to push the envelope to stand out.

Since most budgets are tight, it’s important to make the most of your social media advertising spend. When it’s time to invest in your brand on social media, before jumping right in, check out these 5 trends we’ve seen the most of in 2021.

Short-form video content

TikTok has over 73 million users worldwide, which is pretty amazing considering they only launched in 2016. What they are doing is clearly working especially in the younger demographics… so much so that Instagram recently developed Reels to compete.

Short-form videos work well in social media advertising because the movement catches the eye while people are browsing and the short duration won’t lose their (already short) attention. In fact, according to Deloitte’s digital trends survey in 2018, 40% of U.S. adults spend more than one hour a week watching short-form video content on social media. And we’d be willing to bet that number has increased since then.

You have about 2 seconds to catch their attention before they scroll on. Most people are happy to watch a short video that doesn’t require a huge time investment. Plus, video content is more interactive than a static image.

Whether it’s TikTok or Instagram Reels, brands are wholeheartedly leveraging short-form videos in their social media ads. Try filming a few short videos while you’re in the action, whether they’re behind-the-scenes (BTS) footage, quick Q&As, how-tos, or hacks. They don’t have to be overproduced or edited! Chances are, you’ll see an instant lift in your campaign performance with this type of content.

User generated content

Everybody has an opinion. When a customer records a video of their experience with your brand or static image of them holding your product, that’s advertising gold right there! Shoppers want to hear from other shoppers. An unscripted, casual testimonial is more powerful than almost any branded content you can create.

Leverage user generated content (UGC) to create ads that don’t look like ads. This way, your content will flow through a user’s feed in a casual way. If you don’t have any UGC, try:

  1. Ask for it! Sometimes all it takes is making the request to your email subscribers, brand evangelists, or social media followers.

  2. Giveaway for it! People are busy and usually expect some sort of payment for their time. Try offering a $5 gift card to your store, Starbucks, or Amazon for UGC sent in to you.

  3. Pay for it! As social media influencer marketing continues to rise in popularity and effectiveness in selling products, brands are leveraging it to stand out. Yes there is a cost there, but what you get in return is a far higher quality than the other two options. Talking points are sent ahead of time and social media influencers just know how to style their images and look good in their content.



This Facebook ad by Madison Braids combines short form video, influencer UGC, and a casual brand voice in one!






Casual brand voice

Social media is for socializing, not selling. The more sales-y your tone, usually the worse your ads will perform. For example, instead of saying “View our revolutionary software that reduces the resources needed for each campaign,” try copy like, “Check out our software to save time.”

We love A/B testing (or split testing) in paid advertising for this very reason. This allows you to test anything and everything about your ads to see what really resonates with your target market including:

  • Headlines

  • Ad copy

  • Call to action

  • Offers

  • Format of the content: Video vs. carousel vs. static images

  • Subject of the content

  • Communication styles: Casual vs. educational vs. formal

When in doubt, think about how your buyer persona speaks and replicate that tone. That might mean using emojis, short sentences, non-traditional punctuation, or a little humor.

Niche campaigns

This isn’t a new trend, but it’s still even more necessary for social media advertising in 2021 as before. As people get ad fatigue because, heck, Facebook and Instagram aren’t cutting back on displaying ads anytime soon, the ad relevance is becoming more and more important in getting results.

Are you narrowing down the scope of your advertising campaigns or are you still targeting a broad swath of the general public? Hopefully you said segmented and narrow targeting!

For example, a generic social media ad for reusable sandwich bags to moms usually doesn’t perform as well as an ad talking about back to school, showing school supplies and the bags, launching two weeks before back to school, to moms that have an interest in sustainability will.

Do good

We’re willing to bet that your business has given back to the community in some way. Especially after the dumpster fire that was 2020. If so, be sure to quantify it and promote your philanthropic actions in your social media advertising!

Shoppers want to know their money is supporting a business that makes a difference. Create a campaign that promotes your gifts to charity, products that give back to the environment, or anything else you’re doing that makes the world a better place.




A New York carpenter union promotes their food donations to their local community in their Facebook ad. This is also an example of a niche campaign as a New York union promoted giving back to New York communities in Facebook ads to New Yorkers. See that genius at work?




The bottom line

Social media advertising is a fast and efficient way to grow your business if you do it the right way. With these ads you can increase conversions, grow website traffic, and boost your brand authority without breaking the bank. But before you jump in, tap into these 5 paid social ad trends for 2021 in your next ad campaign: Short-form video content, UGC, a casual brand voice, niche campaigns, and philanthropic content.



For more on Facebook ads, check out our blog on the #1 Facebook ad targeting mistake and how to avoid doing it.

Need more strategy and expertise when launching your social media advertising? Thrive Marketing Consultants is here to help. Contact us for a free quote today!