Year in Review: Here's What Happened on Social in 2020.

This article covers a vast line of social media moments and a month by month look into the most engaged social media brand posts of 2020.
Veena Ramakrishnan
December 11, 2020 - 10 min. read

Oh, what a ride 2020 has been! From a global pandemic to…, you know what? Scratch that. I’m so not going down that road ever again. EVER!

Social media in 2020

Marketers and business owners were all struggling with the impact on their business of the 2020’s event ranging from the Australian bushfires, to the BLM movement, to climate change, to political elections, to COVID-19 and beyond.

To post or not to post? That was one of the biggest questions that have run through every social media manager’s mind during those disruptive global events.

As mentioned in our 2021 Digital Marketing Trends eBook, social media marketing required a great deal of tact and sensitivity to deal with the happenings of 2020. The ability to ‘read the room’ was the overarching imperative that helped social media managers to get through these unprecedented times and navigate social media.

Throughout 2020, we saw a number of revolutionary changes from social media platforms and businesses alike. From global politics taking center stage to everything being cake on social, this article covers a vast line of social media moments and a month by month look into the most engaged social media brand posts of 2020.

Read on for a recap of what happened on social media in 2020.

Ephemeral content

Digital-first experiences reached new bounds in 2020. Raw, unfiltered, fleeting content overtook picture-perfect newsfeed posts as the preferred format to engage with. Iterations of Story-like features like LinkedIn Stories, Twitter Fleets, and Pinterest Story Pins made their debut in ephemeral content.

Social e-commerce

Social e-commerce flourished in the hands of at-home shopping and a surge in social media usage during lockdowns. Major social media platforms facilitated social commerce with more seamless, in-app buying experiences like Facebook and Instagram Shop, Snapchat’s shoppable ads and AR features for virtual try-on, and TikTok’s in-app purchases, to name a few.

The TikTok wave

2020 wasn’t a great year for TikTok either. From facing a ban in India and Pakistan to a possible ban in the United States, TikTok’s future in the social realm was just one big question mark.

Quick to grab the opportunity and snag a piece of TikTok’s mammoth size success in short-form video, almost every platform came up with their own take on TikTok. Instagram Reels, Snapchat’s Spotlight, and YouTube Shorts are the three TikTok clones that emerged in recent times.

Despite TikTok’s compromising situation, the platform emerged as one of the most downloaded apps of 2020. App Store and Google Play customers around the world downloaded TikTok almost 115 million times in March 2020 – the most the app has ever achieved to date in one month.

Social during civil unrest

Of the many events that 2020 gave us, one monumental event stood out from the rest. The Black Lives Matter movement. A global rally against racial inequality and police brutality and social media was at the forefront in spreading the message about BLM.

On social media, we witnessed a huge number of brands coming in support of the Black community and demanding justice for the murder of George Floyd. From partnering with organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality and social justice to donating to causes that further social justice, 2020 was the year global politics and brand activism took center stage on social.

While brands did their part to support the advancement of racial justice and equality, social media platforms did theirs by taking a harder look at how their products impacted Black communities. Almost every social media network shared resources on supporting at‑risk Black-owned businesses, topics that cover the history of racial injustice, how to be an authentic ally, how to diversify your content and hire Black creators, and much more.

Everything was cake

In the summer of 2020, everything was cake. When a video posted by a Turkish baker featuring everyday objects as cakes went viral, people of planet Earth started questioning themselves if they were even human or in fact cake.

And in true internet fashion, everybody, including brands, took to Twitter to create memes about everything being a cake.

Now, onto the month-by-month look into the most engaging brand social media moments in 2020.

January

Little did we know (back in January) what 2020 had in store for us. Social media in January was all about welcoming the new year, running extended new year’s offer, sharing product-related updates, throwing shade at competitors on Twitter (I’m looking at you Wendy’s), and announcing the arrival of new products.

Posts and tweets of brands paying homage to late American basketball player, Kobe Bryant were also some of the most engaged-with posts in January.

1. Wendy’s

2. PlayStation

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by PlayStation (@playstation)

3. Nike

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Nike (@nike)

February

Don’t worry, the 20-second handwashing public services announcements hadn’t rolled out just yet and brands were still going on with their regular social media activity.

Bush’s Beans chili commercial featuring ‘Kevin Malon’ from The Office, Sony’s take on an ideal relationship status for Valentine’s Day, and Google’s heartwarming Superbowl commercial were some of the top contenders on social that month.

4. Bush’s Beans

5. Google

6. Sony

March

March, aka the month of early COVID-19-related PSAs and canceled events. This is pretty much when things started to take a drastic turn for the worse on social. Brands had to hit pause on their regular postings and review their pre-COVID content plan to stay relevant and not go viral for the wrong reasons.

So, here are the top contenders for March that managed to strike a chord with their audiences by staying relevant and informed about the pandemic.

7. Shedd Aquarium

8. Abbott

9. H-E-B

10. West Virginia University

11. Trader Joe’s

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Trader Joe’s (@traderjoes)

April & May

April and May were all about lifting each other on social. By then everyone, including brands, knew that we were in for a long haul. Staying indoors, thanking front like workers, and doing their part to fighting this global pandemic was the overarching theme and focus of brands on social during this period.

12. Walt Disney World

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Walt Disney World (@waltdisneyworld)

13. Louis Vuitton

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

14. USPS

15. Steak-umm

16. Dove

17. Uber

18. Nike

19. Dublin Airport

20. Sephora

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sephora (@sephora)

June

The murder of George Floyd by police officers led to millions of Americans taking to the streets with what would later become known as the Black Lives Matter Movement. During June, the Black Lives Matter Movement was in full swing on social. A lot of brands came in support of defending the Black community and ending systematic racism on social.

21. Ben & Jerry’s

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys)

22. Nike

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Nike (@nike)

23. PlayStation

24. Lego

25. Starbucks

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks)

July

We all know what happened after President Donald Trump’s controversial statement on the #BlackLivesMatter movement blew up on social media. While Twitter chose to put a warning on the President’s tweet, Facebook chose not to respond.

Facebook’s inaction in this case made a group of civil rights groups and brands hit pause on all paid advertising on Facebook. A campaign in the name of #StopHateForProfit was launched to call on major advertisers to pause their Facebook ad spend in July.

26. ADL

27. Ben & Jerry’s

28. Levi’s

August & September

’tis the season of early election talks, the arrival of pumpkin spice latte, and Halloween giveaways.

29. ColorPop

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ColourPop Cosmetics (@colourpopcosmetics)

30. USPS

31. Starbucks

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks)

October

October rolled in and so did the divisive US Presidential Election talk.

It’s no secret that social media has become a powerful political tool in presidential campaigns and elections in the past decades. Some of us (myself included) get our daily dose of political news from social media and other digital sources rather than tuning in to the local news channels.

While candidates were doing their part to amplify their message and spread election information, brands were doing theirs’ by sharing important election updates and urging citizens to register to vote.

32. Levi’s

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Levi’s (@levis)

33. ThirdLove

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ThirdLove (@thirdlove)

34. Beauty Bakers

November & December

Ah, this is pretty much where we are at right now!

During Black Friday and Cyber Monday, brands turned their social feeds into a digital storefront to deliver not just amazing deals but also a wonderful shopping experience for people.

35. Cult beauty

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Cult Beauty (@cultbeauty)

36. Color Pop

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ColourPop Cosmetics (@colourpopcosmetics)

And with holidays just around the corner, brands poured in their holiday-themed content showing off their products and their usage, especially during the holidays.

37. Starbucks

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks)

38. Bath & Body Works

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bath & Body Works (@bathandbodyworks)

We even saw Burger King pull a major one to show how every fast-food chain, including McDonald’s, employing thousands of staff could use all the support at the moment.

39. Burger King

Soon after the spotting of the mysterious metal monolith that popped out of nowhere, brands like McDonald’s were quick to jump on the meme wagon.

40. McDonald’s

And finally, while we’ve still got a good chunk of December left, I’d like to leave you all with Target’s post on Spotify wrapped 2020, that struck a chord with BTS fans.

41. Target

Final thoughts

Well, that was social media 2020 in a nutshell!

Hope our version of ‘social media wrapped’ gave you a brief walk-through of the biggest moments from a year we’ll never forget even if we tried.

Here’s to 2021 being a lot less about viruses and masks but more about equality and lifting each other on social and IRL.

Happy holidays everybody!