As 2020 comes to a close, it’s hard to ignore the pivotal way a pandemic impacted this past year’s digital marketing and social media updates and trends. While cities and states were implementing lockdowns and safety precautions and people adjusted to new normals, social media platforms were also making adjustments of their own.

We saw big shifts in e-commerce features, remote and live-streamed events took center stage, and TikTok gained a whole new audience during quarantine. Here’s a look back at some of the top social media and digital marketing updates and trends from 2020: 

E-commerce Features

As non-essential businesses, both large and small, were forced to close their doors to foot traffic in the midst of the pandemic, new life was breathed into existing social media e-commerce features as new features continued to roll out to meet the needs of businesses and users. 

In May, Facebook launched ‘Shops’ on Facebook and Instagram. The feature allows business owners to set up a single online store for users to access and shop on Instagram and Facebook. Most recently, Instagram added shopping tags to Reels, their short-form video feature that also launched this year

Pinterest also upped its e-commerce game by adding new shopping tools to the platform. In March, they rolled out their Verified Merchant Program which adds a ‘verified’ blue checkmark to brand profiles that have met certain e-commerce requirements. Then in April, they launched options for Pinterest users to shop from boards with product recommendations based on their Pins. They also launched a shop from search option with the introduction of a new ‘Shop’ tab in search results as well as a shop from Pins option in their ‘Shop Similar’ button that allows users to find items that are in stock and can be purchased online.

Facebook and Instagram Live

Although the Live feature on the two platforms wasn’t new in 2020, Facebook and Instagram’s Live features were utilized in a whole new way this year. We all became very familiar with remote meetings and virtual happy hours on Zoom, Facebook’s Messenger Rooms (new in 2020) and Google Meet, but once industries realized that large gatherings were out of the picture for a while, adjustments were made to fit this new remote lifestyle. 

Large conferences streamed their updates with virtual keynote speakers through Facebook Live and bands and musicians sold tickets to live-streamed sets and shows from their homes and studios on Facebook via Facebook’s newest paid live event feature. Runway shows were no longer invitation-only as designers opened their audience-free runway shows to the public via Instagram Live. And although many in-person graduation ceremonies had to be sadly canceled, the class of 2020 could choose from a wide array of famous commencement speakers to watch live on the platforms. This year has come with a whole host of challenges, but the resilient (and creative) nature of people shone through as we figured out a brand new way to utilize Facebook and Instagram Live. 


Although the short-form video app was first released in September of 2016, TikTok reached new heights in 2020. In April this year, the app surpassed 2 billion downloads globally. In the first quarter alone, the app had more downloads than any other app in a single quarter.

We wrote about TikTok here and analyzed whether it was the right move for your brand. But no matter if the app is a good fit for your brand’s presence or not, there’s no denying the skyrocketing success organic content has seen on the platform.

Once seen as an app for Gen-Z, 2020 has proven that there is indeed a place for other generations on TikTok as well. In addition to the sponsored content and shoppable content that are available on the app, niche organic content is not lost to an algorithm and can be found on the ‘For You Page’ of users with similar interests. 

Looking Ahead to 2021

While 2020 seemed to simultaneously be the longest and shortest year that presented numerous challenges, social media platforms stepped up to the plate. They saw a need for change and adjustments to the “normal” way we operated on social media and they delivered. We look forward to 2021 and we’re excited to see what this new year brings to the digital marketing industry. These are the trends and changes we expect to see in 2021: 

E-commerce Features

As we mentioned earlier, Instagram released multiple e-commerce tools that helped struggling small businesses bring their business online. Brick and mortar stores are embracing the new normal as numbers are continuing to rise with online processes. According to the Social Media Examiner, it’s predicted that “your local gym and yoga studio will offer classes online in a range of formats—from free Instagram Lives, Zoom calls, or their own integrated and propriety platforms. Grocery stores will have 1-hour turnaround online shopping, professional services like banks and lawyers will offer online meetings, and your favorite retail stores will offer local delivery or curbside pickup.” Overall, if you haven’t started yet, all brands should consider the following:

  • Sign up for Facebook Shopping and link your products and services.
  • Sign up for Instagram Shopping and link your products and services.
  • Survey your audience and set up retargeting ads for their wants and needs. 
  • Focus on your website usage and make sure you are optimized for mobile, running at a fast speed, and that your checkout and return processes are running smoothly. 

Instagram Reels 

What was Instagram’s response to the overtaking TikTok took in 2020? Instagram Reels. While this is still a fairly new feature the connection with the community and businesses is expected to grow. Millennials and older generations have been making moves on the app as numbers are rising. We are seeing a large shift into short-form video which is catching the attention of those with shorter attention spans. We look forward to brands showcasing their products and services in new and creative ways!

Instagram Guides

Instagram’s latest feature, Instagram Guides, is expected to hit the ground running in 2021. This user-friendly service gives the ability to create gift guides with an interactive way of sharing content with your viewers. Once exclusive to a limited number of health advocates, Guides are now available for all to put into use! According to, you can choose from three different guide formats:

  • Places: Recommend places in your city and beyond.
  • Products: Recommend your favorite products from your own shop or others.
  • Posts: Recommend posts you’ve created or saved.

Are you ready to start creating your own Instagram Guide? Take a look at Later’s step by step tutorial on YouTube or contact us at TargetMarket.  

SEO Trends

Besides the e-commerce tools, Reels, and Instagram Guides being something big that marketers should take advantage of in 2021, Instagram is now becoming more search-friendly without the use of hashtags. Now, if you search for a keyword in the search bar, content such as posts, profiles, and videos will start populating. This will occur over time, so we recommend implementing keywords into your captions moving forward. To further increase SEO on your Instagram account, rework your bio to include keywords related to your industry. 

There’s no doubt about it, 2020 was a year that gave us all some challenges and during this time we saw that social media and online connections were key to most brands surviving. But, it’s safe to say that we are looking ahead to 2021 as we anticipate these new marketing trends and features ahead. If you haven’t gotten on board with these changes occurring, the time is now! If you’re looking to jump in, get in touch to schedule a free consultation.  

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