media update’s Taylor Goodman takes a look at five of the biggest social stories of the year. 

As many curveballs as 2020 has thrown at us, social media continues to be at the epicentre of many consumers' daily lives. Whether they are using social platforms as a means to connect with other users, to check the news, as a platform for their business or to shop, social media is indispensable. 

However, although commonplace, social media is anything but dull. Almost every week social platforms are updating, leaving a lot of room for major developments to occur throughout the year. 

Now without further ado, let’s look at five of the biggest social media advances of 2020:

1. Instagram continues to rule the social sphere

Throughout the year, Instagram reigned supreme as the most popular social media network, boasting “one billion monthly active users, 500 million of which use the app daily”, according to Maryam Mohsin from Oberlo.

If you are wondering ‘Why in the world are so many people on Instagram?’, your answer can be found by noting the appeal of visual content to social media users. This is because this type of content is easy to consume and it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. 

Considering that the photo-sharing app has grown a great deal from the 130 million active users it had in 2013, it is clear that Instagram isn't losing steam any time soon. This is proven when you take note of the major developments that the app has undergone in 2020. Let’s take a look: 


One of Instagram’s boldest moves in 2020 was introducing its short-form video feature, Reels, in August. This feature allows users to record 15-second long videos … similar to competing app, TikTok. As of November, Reels now has its own dedicated tab on Instagram’s homepage where users can explore different videos. 


Also in November, Instagram caused a major uproar when it replaced the activity and camera feature on its homescreen with the ‘Reels’ and ‘Shop’ tabs. The social media giants first launched the shop feature in May 2020. 

This allowed retailers to showcase their virtual storefronts, and enabled users to make in-app purchases. Instagram began testing the central shopping tab in July, and it proved to be a hit with users, which is likely why it is now a permanent feature on the app. 

2. The rise of social shopping

Speaking of shopping via Instagram, shopping across social media platforms has emerged as a major trend in 2020. Here’s a breakdown of how each platform has introduced shopping:


Instagram is easily the biggest player in the social shopping game. 2020 saw some major developments from the app in a social shopping capacity, as it has swapped out its ‘activity’ tab for a ‘shopping’ tab.

According to Christina Newberry from Hootsuite, one in 10 Instagram users use the app “specifically to shop or find new products.” 

Given that Instagram is a visual site, it is the perfect place for users to check out aesthetically-pleasing snapshots of products from the brands they love. Sarah Perez from TechCrunch explains that Instagram Shop “grew out of how users were already using the platform to find new things to buy.”

Instagram users can now purchase items on the app via the ‘Shop’ tab where they will find an array of shoppable posts, which allow them to tap on an image to view the price. Following this, users can buy the product via in-app checkout.  


Facebook is also a major player in the social commerce sphere, with Shopify calling it "the most influential social network when it comes to buying habits.”

The platform's biggest social shopping update in 2020 was the introduction of Facebook Shops in May, an expansion of its pre-existing e-commerce feature Facebook Marketplace. 

As the current economic climate made it difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to stay afloat, Facebook Shops were created to aid small businesses. This platform aims to be a go-to information centre for consumers wanting to find out more about how their favourite stores were operating during the pandemic

Brands can set up a Facebook Shop for free by uploading their product catalogue, choosing a cover image and customising it accordingly. Shoppers can then browse and purchase products through the shop. 


Not to be forgotten — Pinterest. Similar to Instagram, Pinterest is a visual platform, making it the perfect platform to shop through. 

Additionally, according to Shopify, Pinterest users tend to utilise the app to search for specific products, meaning they have higher purchasing intent than any other platform. 

In 2020, the app followed the developments of Instagram and Facebook by introducing shoppable pins, boards and search options, which enables users to buy things directly through the app. 

The app introduced ‘shop from search’ in May 2020. This is essentially a separate tab that appears next to the search bar when users search for retail related keywords like ‘winter outfit’ or ‘bedroom remodel’. This feature appears in addition to shoppable pins and the ‘shop from your board’ feature where users can directly purchase products related to the content on their boards. 

3. Social media regulations

One of social media’s biggest drawbacks is data privacy and security issues, which has been brought to light over the past few years. 

In 2020, one of the biggest social media trends we’ve seen is the government making serious moves to regulate the social media industry, specifically platforms like Facebook, Twitter and even Zoom. 

At the epicentre of all this is Facebook, which made headlines throughout the year for data privacy breaches. 

According to Dan Patterson from TechRepublic, the platform first came under fire in 2016 for “harvesting user data for targeted advertising” via the political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica. For more context, Cambridge Analytica is behind the pro-Brexit campaign and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

This scandal brought many other instances of data privacy breaches to the surface, causing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch their investigation into Facebook in June 2019

In 2020, this investigation came to a head as Facebook was required, by the FTC, to pay a $5-billion fine and to improve their privacy policies, not only on their platform but on Facebook-owned networks like Instagram and Whatsapp. 

This scandal had a domino effect on other social media platforms amping up their privacy policies throughout the year, due to regulation from the FTC and other governmental organisations.

4. Video content soars on social

As the majority of consumers spent 2020 at home, trying to entertain themselves, video content is all the rage. And this popularity shows no signs of slowing down according to Cisco, which reported that “by 2022, 82% of online content will be video content.”

Whether you’re talking about the TikTok boom, YouTube's sustained popularity or the unexpected rise of Zoom, 2020 was video’s year! 

Let's start off with TikTok: The short-form video app, known for lip-syncing, dancing or comedic content exploded onto the scene, reaching over two billion downloads in April 2020. The app is currently sitting at 800 million monthly active users

TikTok has proven to be majorly successful among younger generations, but as many countries implemented lockdowns and urged citizens to self-isolate, the app grew tenfold. Its major growth during the pandemic can be attributed to the sense of community and the escape it provided its users during times of isolation. 

TikTok, however, did not hog the spotlight as Youtube also triumphed with two billion active monthly users in 2020.  

An unexpected contender for the video throne was video-conferencing app, Zoom. Once again the pandemic played a major role in this app's growth outside of a business capacity as it served as a means to help users virtually connect with one another during periods of social distancing. 

Joseph Johnson from Statista reported that, at the end of November, Zoom had around 1.7 million daily users

5. Ephemeral content is booming across platforms

As video continues to be a resounding success with social media users, it comes as no surprise that ephemeral content like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories and Fleets had a major moment in 2020. 

If you're wondering what ephemeral content actually means, it is simply content that is available for a short period of time, after which it disappears. This short-form content has proven to be a hit amongst consumers as it is easily consumable and engaging. 

Some of the biggest news relating to ephemeral content in 2020 was relating to Twitter’s Fleets. Fleets are posts that appear on top of the Twitter user’s timeline and disappear after 24 hours. As with other story features, users can post images, videos and text on their feeds for their followers to see, as long as the story lasts. 

Twitter began testing Fleets in March in Brazil and later in Italy, India, and South Korea. The story feature has since launched globally as recently as November

Since its launch, Fleets has been met with mixed reviews from the public, with many users claiming it causes the app to lag, and in some instances, even crash. Many users also question how necessary Fleets are. 

Whew, what a year it has been! As much uncertainty, scandal and change that 2020 has brought, it has been a game-changing year technologically. As social media develops, one can only imagine what 2021 has in store! 

What has been the most noteworthy social media news to you in 2020? Let us know the comments section below. 

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Now that 2020 is almost wrapped up, do you want to know what 2021 holds for the social sphere? Then be sure to check out Five social media trends to look out for in 2021
Image courtesy of Pixabay