Social media predictions for 2021

Social apps are changing rapidly. Really rapidly.

Here are a few of my predictions as to how social apps will continue to evolve in 2021.

  • There will be more censorship (ie: Twitter) and less censorship (ie: Parler)

Parler is like Twitter but with zero censorship. It's the Mecca for the deplatformed, the Rome for the cancelled. It's been consistently a top 5 app over the last few weeks. As more and more people get deplatformed, they will naturally look for new places to express themselves. This truly is the Wild West of social media.

Twitter and Facebook have gone in the other direction, towards censorship. We can expect to see even more of that — this is just the large social incumbents growing up from an untamed teen to a grown adult.

  • Community and commerce will converge

It used to be that there was a place to transact, and a separate place to be with your community. Those lines will become more and more blurry in 2021.

The social internet will look a lot like the shopping mall of the 1990s. Is the shopping mall a social hangout or a place to transact? It's both. The social internet will make it natural to pay and play in the same place.

Communities will arm their members with the new tools to transact. It will be easier and easier to make impulsive community purchases. This is a major win-win for both community leaders and members.

Instagram Shop is doubling down in this category and we'll see new immersive shopping experiences purpose-built for communities in the next 12 months.

  • The rise of implicit social networking

As the social internet becomes more intimate with the rise of vertical networks and social networks for your best friends, features that auto share implicitly will be en-vogue.

Taking a step back. There are two types of social networks:

  1. Explicit: you explicitly decide to post on Instagram or Twitter

  2. Implicit: you automatically post to your social network (ie: location, music listening to, achievements made)

Implicit social sharing gives excuses for conversations and allows for people to feel closer to their friends and family. Think Snap Map which automatically shows your location on a map.

Hundreds of millions of people will be adopting auto-sharing daily.

  • There will be two breakout audio social networks

  1. One that is Twitter for Audio. Make it easy for creators to have authentic conversations with their communities. Clubhouse is in the lead here, Chalk in second and there are dozens of startups building here.

  2. One that is Houseparty for Audio. Design it for serendipity of friends or friend-of-friends to have audio conversations.

There will not be a 2021 billion dollar valuation audio startup, but both Twitter for Audio and Houseparty for Audio are multi-billion dollar opportunities.

I predict we will see an audio social network be a billion dollar company faster than a podcast company.

  • Paying for social will become the norm

Ad-models are out, paid social apps are in. We're going to see social apps that charge $5-5,000/month (yes, $5,000/month).

This has been a trend since 2018 and will accelerate like crazy in 2021. What's new is that there will be more of it, and people will pay more than you could ever imagine for a subscription to a community.

  • We will see one breakout crypto community

2021 is the year where we are going to see at least one popular community adopt crypto. In 2020, we saw Reddit test tokens with two subreddits (r/Cryptocurrency and r/FortNiteBR). We're going to see more platforms dabble and popular communities successfully add a crypto layer to their business.

The only thing hotter than crypto right now might be community — and community and crypto go hand-in-hand. Tokens lend themselves very well to communities with a focus on incentives (achievements, hitting goals, rewarding good behavior etc).

  • There will be 1-2 new novel ways of hanging out virtually

Facetime cannot and will not be the be-all-and-end-all of video communication. We will see novel ways to virtually hang out inspired by replicating bars/clubs online and successful worlds like Roblox and Fortnite.

These new apps will make Facetime or Zoom feel stuck in the dark ages.

TLDR; social is becoming "stretchy"

Everything stretched to the extremes; either extremely censored (i.e: Twitter) or non-censored (i.e: Parler). Extremely free (i.e. very obviously and unapologetically subsidized by ads, like FB) or extremely paid (i.e: OnlyFans). Extremely asynchronous or extremely synchronous. Extremely active or extremely passive. Extremely visual or extremely audio.

Yet despite the stretchiness, here's my final prediction: 2021 will prove to be one of the best damn years in history to build a social startup.

Happy building.

(thanks to Molly, Julian, Sachin, Tyler, Peyton for giving feedback on my Sunday thoughts)

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