Facebook IQ released The 2021 Topics and Trends Report earlier this month, its fourth annual look at the types of conversations that gained momentum on the social network and how marketers can use that information to prepare for the coming year.
However, the previous three installments of the marketing research team’s analysis didn’t have a pandemic to factor in.
“In this time, people are prioritizing what matters most, be it community or time spent outdoors,” Facebook IQ said in its introduction to the report. “They’re caring for themselves and each other more intentionally and getting crafty with limited resources. Digital mediums are helping people connect in new ways, accelerating the adoption of nascent technologies in new markets. While the pandemic will eventually pass, many of these trends may prove to be fundamental shifts as people discover new and more authentic ways of being.”
The marketing research team examined thousands of topics that saw growth on Facebook—and Instagram, for the first time—from April 2019 through September 2020 “to capture some of the major changes in people’s lives during the pandemic,” turning to third-party research and credible media sources where necessary to augment its findings.
The two topics that stood out the most in the U.S. were racial inequality and the more casual culture brought about by the pandemic.
“Racial inequality in the U.S. has been top of mind, and many Americans are leveraging their voices, votes and wallets to support the Black Lives Matter movement in their local communities,” the report said.
The marketing research team found that protests demanding racial equality took place in more than 2,000 cities and towns across all 50 states during the time period it analyzed, and people are turning to social media to share social justice slideshows meant to educate on systemic racism and allyship, as well as instructions for contacting elected officials to advocate for policies that will benefit their cities, towns and neighborhoods.
People are also donating to related causes, with almost $50 million raised on Facebook and Instagram between late May and July 2020. There was even a renewed focus on and “unprecedented embrace of” Juneteenth, the holiday that marks the liberation of the last enslaved Americans.
Facebook IQ found conversations about racial inequality in the U.S. had a year-over-year increase of 440%, while discussions of local governments on its platform were up 360% and advocacy talk saw 150% year-over-year growth.
On casual culture, Facebook IQ wrote, “For ages, people have worked to present polished versions of themselves, putting on an outfit and a smile to head into the office, an appointment and even the store. With in-person meetings largely on hold and the video screen providing a virtual window into peoples’ home lives, Americans are prioritizing authenticity over appearance, even if that means being vulnerable.”
With access to services such as hair and nail care limited or unavailable altogether, Facebook IQ found that 46% of people on the U.S. have chosen to either engage in at-home grooming of some sort or to forego it and let their beards grow out, along with their gray hair.
Cycling shorts have become the “uniform of the year,” and people are opening up about their needs and challenges during video chats.
Facebook IQ also found that conversation about hair care was up 160% year-over-year, with self-compassion seeing the same increase and cycling shorts up 140%.
“This year’s report explores how the major changes of the last year have affected individuals and communities and how they have led people to embrace authentic connections, find creative solutions to everyday challenges and build skills to last a lifetime,” The marketing research team wrote in a blog post introducing the report. “We hope marketers will use these insights to understand the people they serve and to connect meaningfully in the future.”