December 22, 2020:

Happy (almost) new year! I think we can all agree that 2020 came with its fair share of hardships. At Mavrck, we want to acknowledge the bad while focusing on the good that the year brought and move into 2021 with a fresh mindset. 

2020 was a big year, with an increased focus on influencer marketing. So, we are going to break it down with the top 10 influencer marketing and social media news stories of 2020.

1. COVID-19 Accelerates Social Media Trends

COVID-19 and the subsequent stay-at-home orders have affected just about every industry — social media included. We are now turning online more than ever before — to learn, to shop, to connect, to distract, to entertain and so much more. 

  • More Time Spent on Social: Since the start of the pandemic,  social media usage has skyrocketed, with some platforms reigning supreme over others (cough, cough, TikTok). Between 46% and 51% of U.S. adults are using social media more since the outbreak began. Not only are people spending more time online, but they are also engaged at a higher rate, even on sponsored posts — engagement rates on sponsored posts activated through the Mavrck platform in 2020 have risen nearly 70% since March
  • Posting with a Purpose: When the pandemic began, the majority of influencers recommended brands focus their messaging around COVID-19. Fast-forward to now, and the same sentiment holds true, with users looking to promote content that is more uplifting and inspiring.
  • Corporate Responsibility Meets Mental Health: In September, Netflix released The Social Dilemma which, for a split second, made us all question our social media addictions.


2. A TikTok Saga: to Ban or Not to Ban?

In August, the White House formally announced TikTok’s impending U.S. ban due to concerns surrounding information privacy. President Donald Trump signed an executive order proposing a ban. Has that actually happened yet? Nope.

  • The ban was announced in early August — Many companies put their hat in the ring to buy the U.S. arm of the company: Microsoft tried, but Bytedance rejected them and wanted to move forward with the dynamic Oracle and Walmart duo. 
  • The latest update: As of September, President Trump approved a deal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart, with the latter two companies sharing a minority stake (20%) in TikTok.
  • As December comes to an end, we still don’t have a final answer if TikTok is safe or not. If TikTok were to be banned, this would negatively impact 73% of marketers and their social media plans for 2021.


3. TikTok Copycats: The Rise of Short-Form Video

2020 was a big year for short-form video content as creators mimicked the success of TikTok. 

  • Instagram launched Reels: In August, IG debuted their copycat feature highlighting 15-second videos that can be set to original audio or music.. (Sound familiar, right? Check out our webinar for our take on TikTok vs. Reels.)
  • Quibi’s short life: In April, Quibi, short for “quick bites,” launched with a focus on high quality, celebrity-studded short-form original content to compete with the likes of Netflix and Youtube. A short 6 months later, they announced they are closing their doors
  • Read our guide to learn why short-form video content has taken the spotlight for brands and creators alike, plus for comparisons between most popular channels.


4. Live-Streaming Gains Momentum

Live-streaming platforms are only getting hotter. Audiences watched 7.46 billion hours of live-streamed content in Q3, which is slightly below the 7.71 billion hours watched in Q2. Year-over-year, however, the live-streaming industry grew by 91.8%, compared to the 3.89 billion hours watched in Q3 2019. Additionally, more and more brands have begun partnering with influencers, using their trusted voices to bring their brand to life on various live streaming platforms. 

  • Twitch Leads Live-Streaming Wars: Twitch accounted for 63% of total hours watched and 91% of total hours streamed in Q3, 2019. Also notable: following the shutdown of Microsoft’s Mixer, the majority of creators appeared to have migrated to Twitch. 
  • YouTube Gaming Earns Most Improved: YouTube Gaming experienced the most growth for hours watched, with an increase of 156M from Q2 to Q3 and a 132% increase year-over year. 
  • Instagram Updates Live-Streaming Features: Instagram Live usage has jumped 70% over pre-pandemic numbers in the U.S. As such, the platform has made significant updates to its live-streaming capabilities, primarily around ease of content creation and improved discoverability, to compete with the likes of Twitch and YouTube. 


5. Creator Funds to Attract Creators

While the social networks competed with each other on features, 2020 was also the year they ramped up efforts to compete for the attention and retention of creators. Why? The social platforms that have the engagement of creators and influencers will capture the attention and time spent from users (and ultimately advertiser money).

Some highlights from the race to attract creators:

  • Snapchat now pays creators for their Spotlight videos to go viral
  • TikTok pledged $1 billion for its creator fund over the next 3 years
  • Instagram offered TikTok creators money to create Reels for the feature’s launch
  • Twitch, Facebook Gaming, & YouTube compete for gamers to sign exclusivity


6. Creator Monetization Advances

We’ve always said the platform that optimizes for creators’ experiences will become creators’ platform of choice. 

  • YouTube, for the first time ever, disclosed how much it pays creators. The platform also announced new and expanded monetization options for creators, including: more subscription options, additional merchandise partners and new ways to receive tips on live-streams. 
  • Facebook also made significant updates for creator monetization this year, including more paid groups, ad placements, tips.
  • Instagram announced it will finally share revenue with its creators (yes, finally). Instagram also launched ads on IGTV videos, digital badges that fans can purchase through IG Live, merchandise sales through IG Shopping and an expansion of Brand Collabs Manager.


7. Social Commerce Surges

With lockdowns and quarantines becoming the norm, brands have relied heavily on social media influencers. Luckily, many social media platforms have kept up and made updates that allow for an easier shopping in-app experience.

  • Shoppable Reels: Instagram integrated shopping features into Reels allowing for creators to include product listings in their Reels and consumers to purchase the item all while staying in the app. 
  • TikTok & Shopify: The app’s new global partnership with Shopify will allow Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard.
  • Pinterest Shopping Tools: Just in time for the holiday season, Pinterest released several new tools for brands on its platform. TLDR; click here to see them all.


8. Facebook Boycott Gains Traction

In June, a widespread Facebook advertising boycott began. It was largely spearheaded by a campaign called #StopHateForProfit, where businesses were urged to show they will “not support a company that puts profit over safety” by ceasing Facebook advertising through July. 


9. Influencers against Social Injustice

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been at the forefront of political and human right discussions in 2020. As people took to the streets to protest social injustice and racial inequalities, many Influencers took to social media to help with the fight. 


Here’s what influencers are doing:

  • 78% have shared content specifically related to diversity or social injustice since the start of 2020. 
  • 93% said they would engage in a collaboration if the campaign included messaging around social justice that they aligned with. 
  • 84% agreed it’s important that brands work with a diverse group of influencers.


Here’s what brands are doing:


Here’s what social media platforms are doing:

  • YouTube pledged $1M towards police reform.
  • Facebook said it will donate $10M to organizations focused on racial justice.
  • Reddit founder/former CEO, Alex Ohanian, stepped down from his position on the company’s board, calling on the company to fill his position with a Black board member.
  • TikTok announced plans to donate $3M to nonprofits that help the Black community and a separate $1M to address racial injustice and inequality.
  • And SO much more…


10. Virtual Community Building

In a year of lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, people are searching for a sense of togetherness. Various platforms have found virtual ways for people to find their community and be together from the safety of their homes. 

  • All-hail Zoom! Zoom has made virtual gatherings seamless in 2020, providing friends, families, schools, and companies an excuse to only need to look nice from the waist up.
  • Facebook has expanded its Brand Collabs Manager to include Facebook Groups, which means the opportunity for more targeted advertisements for the 400 million users currently in Facebook groups.
  • Twitter has acquired Squad, an app that lets users hang out with friends via video chat and screen-sharing.
  • Increased use and functionality of Instagram Live features due to 70% increase in usage in the U.S. in April.