Top Social Media Trends for 2021

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Here's What You Need to Keep Your Eyes On


It's not an overstatement that 2020 was one of the most eventful years in the past few decades, and it's not just because of the pandemic. The marketing side of the world, especially social media, had drastic changes and new competitions that took the world by storm (you probably know which app we're talking about).


And guess what? Many marketers had a difficult time adapting to the rapid changes, leading them to be pulled to the bottom along with the chaos that was happening around the world.


We at AdVertize don't want anyone to go through that, as a digital agency in Tokyo, we care about your success. So, we're sharing the top social media trends, or better, the best and the only survival tactics you'll need for the new year that is 2021.


Trend #1: We ❤️ ROAS

Many marketers make this huge mistake when analyzing the effectiveness of their campaigns and promotions. They get satisfied after seeing a high number of impressions/likes/engagement. But that's NOT the metrics you should focus on when deducing whether your ad was working successfully.


Think about this; you got tons of impressions, but you barely got any sales, which create the money that your business needs to grow and survive, and overall make your ads worth it. This means you got a very low ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend), which is calculated by sales generated by the ad (or conversion value) divided by advertising spend. This value is what expresses your ads worth, and is also what YOU should be analyzing when understanding how effective your ad was.


But there's more to it than just the ad...


As learned in A Guide to Japan Social Media, Social media ads account for just one part of the customer journey. They provide the entrance to your home (website), and what happens within the home is just if not even more important. This leads to another battle…


Digital Marketing vs Ecommerce Marketing

Digital marketing is a series of techniques used online to accomplish a business goal, whereas ecommerce marketing is the ability to use all of those techniques at once to accomplish a business sale.


For example, Social Media influencers most definitely can rep your brand in 2021; you can get great impressions, however with ecommerce, each influencer is given a trackable link that leads to a website, where a purchase is meant to take place and if not, that individual is tracked and remarketed to via ads, email campaigns, and special offers until a sale takes place.


So, if influencer marketing is working with a couple of people to promote products online, the ecommerce marketing version of that is: influencer campaign, followed up with web optimization, database marketing for proper segmentation, and then remarketed ad campaign that coincides with an email marketing campaign to drive purchase.


Listening up to this point, you may feel that ecommerce marketing is much more interesting, and that digital is dead, but that's not the case. It's just changing.


What this Means for Marketers

Ecommerce is a sales driven strategy, but not all companies sell products online. For the vast majority of CPG and B2B brands that still make deals offline, your digital marketing strategy for brand awareness and lead generation is still just as intact, only now there are more ways to approach it knowing what we know from new innovations in ecommerce.


The most important thing for you to remember from this section, is that ecommerce is what it is now because, like ROAS, its opened a new portal as to how we measure ROI and performance - meaning some of the same strategies used to measure ROAS can be customized to measure ROI when it comes to impressions or even likes.


Getting The Most Out of Now

With the rapid change in the digital ecosystem, there's a few things we suggest you could do to get the most out of your ads right now.

  • Use Video Ads: Not only does video allow for you to tell more for less, it also allows you to capture viewed metrics before the click.

  • Your Ads Can Only be So Good: With conversion ads, once you can get your CTR in the 2-4% range, focus on other parts of your funnel like your website.

  • If You Have a Good CTR But No Sales: Fix your website! It’s not the ads that are the issue. It’s what is happening after the click, plain and simple.

  • Increase Cart Value: Rather than trying to run more ads, instead opt to increase average return on orders and LTV.


What This Means for Japan

First of all, the lack of consumer understanding, as well as the pre-existing outdated research signifies the blue ocean buyer market in Japan: no one is really using them. This means small businesses with a good plan has the potential to grow big and quick.


However, just because there is a blue ocean, doesn’t mean it’s that easy to navigate. Our studies show that the best (or some of) sales strategies for online in Japan are when there is a linear approach (like mobile to desktop for purchases).


Lastly, there's data that says 43% of Japanese Facebook users claim a preference for social customer service following a purchase - without it there is a possibility of brand trust decline. This is interesting because it means sales are rising, multi-channel approaches can be used, but using Social for CRM is becoming more important than ever to maintain longevity.


Trend #2: Tiktok vs. Reels

Two of the biggest new platforms/services that brought a storm to the marketing world in 2020 is here to stay for 2021. Tiktok had an exponential increase in its users going over 600% within 2020 alone.


Of course, the company that copy pasted Snapchat with a different name did not stay silent, and did what it likes to do, copy and paste. Mark Zuckerberg introduced Reels into Instagram, which also was a great success, followed by Youtube also starting Shorts, which was a very identical offering as the other two. But it didn't end there…


Wait, You Didn't Post A Reel?

A major creator got a direct update from an official representative of Instagram, that the platform's algorithm penalizes people who don't post Reels and IGTV regularly, which sounds crazy as it is. They are trying to incentivize users to post more Reels, by giving a punishment to those who doesn't use all of its features.



What This Means for Marketers

We know that following the schedule above is a ton of work, and we're not gonna be saying to follow it to the point. However, the fact stays, so we recommend to at least attempt to do every type of Instagram feature that is available, even if it's just 1 post.


However, Instagram is quickly losing its identity by turning into an "anything" platform, so we suggest you to also continue posting on TikTok and YouTube Shorts, so that you have the option to stay with whichever platform that ends up staying in demand. Focus on creating content rather than the quality, as the free reach by just doing these points are immense.


TikTok is upgrading and developing its in-app spending system rapidly and users are also being aware of it. This is crucial, as what keeps LINE as one of the most relevant platform is its ability to connect then sell different forms of games and other applications customized for the Japanese consumer - which TikTok is expected to be doing very soon and so can you.


What's made TikTok so popular is the ability for users to express themselves in a community based format, such as things like Friend Challenges. A great feat, considering Japanese users mostly like to stay anonymous. This may be a food for thought when considering how to engage with audiences.


The consumer demographic is expanding, and this is great for both users and advertisers. This means that the target reach expands to a wider array of users, and while AI is the driver, a growing user base and influencer base makes it easy to reach broad audiences across Japan.


Trend #3: Forget Followers



What many entrepreneurs like the most: followers. Well, that doesn't seem to matter much anymore in some platforms such as our best friend Facebook. The above graph shows the organic reach percentage on Facebook, and as you can see, it's basically screwing all users who worked hard to achieve a high number of followers on their pages. Why they do this? It's because they want to persuade users to use their ads to reach consumers.


But hey, it's not just Facebook, it goes the same for Instagram!


With the increase in brands asking influencers to promote their business, Facebook/Instagram got annoyed as no/barely any money comes into their pockets in these cases. So, they also decided to decrease organic reach percentages on Instagram as well! The power that these platforms hold is simply amazing (in a negative way :)).


All About the FYP



For those who don't know, FYP stands for the For You Page, and it's the curated list of short-form videos that TikTok recommends while learning your preferences using AI. Going viral is relatively not a difficult task in Tiktok, thanks to its algorithm which evaluates content very fairly for any type of user, even the very new accounts.


The algorithm screens your content through several evaluations, and decides whether to spread it to other users based on several criterias such as re-watches, completion rate, shares, comments and likes, with the priorities also being in this order.


The importance of FYP doesn't just apply to TikTok, as it also applies for YouTube.

YouTube is a search engine, and people search for the kind of videos that they are interested to view. The algorithm of the platform has become so smart, that it quickly understands the topics and channels that the user would be interested in, to the point where barely any users really have to subscribe to channels anymore. When was the last time you had to 'search' for a new video from your favorite channels?


What This Means for Marketers

  • Organic Reach: If platforms are favoring those who use the short-form videos feature, then use it. Get the free juice while it's there, and gain actual organic reach by playing along their rules.

  • Just Go Viral: For YouTube, TikTok and Instagram Reels, followers really don’t mean much. Just focus on making stuff to stoke the algorithms and search engines.

  • Followers are a Proxy: The number of followers you have is just a proxy for audience reach. Focus on distribution, not on the vanity metric of followers.

  • Ads, Ads, Ads: For most businesses, it’s a fool's errand to chase an audience when you can now more affordably pay for distribution.

  • Let’s be Honest, You’ll Have to Pay to Play: Followers don’t matter, but what other metrics do and how do you get there? Paid Media is often the answer but if the client is already paying you and now you’re telling them to pay extra money for every Instagram post (this is new in Japan) how can you prove the value?

  • ROI is the new game: Who doesn’t want a return on investment? Japan is often behind at many things because they are cautious with the expectation to do things that drive a result. So, how can you prove that everything you do can drive some form of ROI? Answer this and you’ll have the answer to more happy clients.

  • Create Proof Point Case Studies: We’ve found that at this phase if you can tell your client what the KPI’s should be and then prove why it matters- brands are actually more open to this approach, assuming you 100% deliver.


Trend #4: Video Ads

Facebook Ads Characteristics:

  • Great for first touch at the TOF to creative brand awareness and drive sales.

  • Can be targeted based on behavior / interests or customer data.

  • Allows for retargeting based on view percentage (75%, 95%, etc.).

  • Runs on both Instagram and Facebook at the same time.

  • Shareable like a normal Facebook or Instagram post

  • Pay per impression.

YouTube Characteristics:

  • Linked with Google and SEM so you can target based on user intent such as prior search behavior.

  • First five seconds are free. You only pay after 30 seconds or when the video is completely watched.

  • Does not have any means of shareability like Facebook ads.

  • Since you pay per completed view and have a captive audience for 5 seconds, YouTube ads have a set formula.


What This Means for Marketers

When it comes to approaching after a cold audience in the top of the marketing funnel, there simply is no better option than the Facebook ads. The pixel's effectiveness leaves any other platform behind, with its capability to learn who the customers are and how to reach them being of the highest level in the industry.


On the other hand, YouTube ads are great for when someone has already expressed an interest in a service offering through search or prior engagement. They are therefore far more 'intimate' than Facebook ads (which are more "open").


Align how you use both of these platforms, as each have their own ideal formats. Going against the set format hurts you more than it gives you.


Forget what you know about creative. If the point of a commercial is to express a brand but an ad is to get a click - where do you draw the line? Also, how can you create content at scale with resources that don't meet up? You develop new creatives based on the current themes that are trending.


Lastly, we've said it before, but influencers in Japan are just that - influential but not only for brand awareness - Creating affiliate partnerships is a great way to work with influencers while also increasing sales.


Trend #5 iOS 14

Apple introduced a new update to their iphones with iOS 14, where now it's gonna become harder than ever for softwares to track user data, including Facebook). Now, unless users opt in to be tracked, it is now much harder for Facebook's pixel to track what happens post advertisement click. If you're like me, then I think we can all agree that many of us will choose not to share our own info with the software side, if we had a choice! As a user, it's probably a good thing, but as a marketer, it's an issue!



That's why, to work around this, it's more important than ever to implement Conversions API on your website. It's basically another version of the pixel that does similar tracking, but functions from the server side instead of the browser side. Do note that this will take longer for data to be collected and shown, usually around a week.


What This Means for Marketers


  • Conversions API: Pixel API conversion events are handled server side whereas many site metrics are recorded by the browser. The latter is no longer going to be easy to track

  • Get Your Data: If you focus on getting your own data, you won’t need to worry as much about iOS 14 disruption.

  • Stay on Platform: Anything within the platforms will remain easy to track. It’s only once a user leaves that we are losing out.

  • Diversify: Prior to iOS 14, you could just run pure Facebook ad campaigns and do great. Now, you’ll want to look to diversify more.

  • Database Marketing: This is a popular buzzword in Japan mostly because it refers to the process of tracking, understanding and even organizing data. Well, thank you Apple, because now this is going to be a massive trend in 2021 as companies try and get in order to approach this new change more.

  • CRM Advancements: Going back to our early point, CRM matters in Japan as brand name, trust, and longevity is often what sells - or re-sells. So, how do you build that? You develop new strategies to develop tighter relationships with your current customers in ways that allow you to turn 5 loyalists into 50 and so on.


Any Questions? We're Right Here

Social Media is changing every second, and 2021 seems to be another interesting year with all these new algorithmic changes, rise of database marketing, and other new services making their appearance (looking at you clubhouse). However, in the end, what you have to do is always the same. Be prepared for the change, and adapt before anyone else in the market.


And to do that, we're here to help at AdVertize. Feel free to contact us for support for your marketing needs, or even questions to this or any other one of our top digital marketing agency blogs in Japan.

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