2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know

For today’s small business owner, it’s more important than ever to connect with your customers through well-designed, visually appealing social media content. Recent studies show a 21% uptick in monthly social media usage, demonstrating the time is now to connect and sell to your audience online.

But it can be hard to keep up with the latest social media and design trends while staying on top of the day-to-day of running a successful business. In fact, 90% of creators found trends and topics in visual culture are evolving faster than before. Pair that with rapidly multiplying content formats and platforms and it can be hard to know where to focus your marketing efforts.

Using Adobe Stock’s Creative Trends 2021 Report, an annual forecast of visual content trends that will shape the year, as well as our own proprietary analysis of where social media marketing is headed, we’re breaking down how small businesses can translate 2021’s emerging trends into meaningful communication strategies. Read on for actionable tips and even start creating on-trend content with our contextual starting points. Just tap any of the designs to get creating.

2021’s Top Content Formats

You can have the most relevant mission or product, but if you’re not posting where people are in the formats that are captivating attention, your efforts will be DOA. When developing your content and marketing strategies this year, consider the platforms and content types that are most likely to rise to the top. Then let all design decisions to flow from there. Here are the content types that people will be consuming the most this year.

Short-Form Video

Videos are a must-have for any small business. According to Limelight, in 2020, people globally watched almost seven hours and 55 minutes of online videos on average per week, up 16% compared to 2019. And in a world that’s always in a hurry, short-form video content ranging from 4-30 seconds will continue to explode in 2021, thanks to the rise of platforms like Reels and Stories on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and more.

Incorporate sensory, evocative triggers in the first two seconds of your videos to stop your customers from scrolling. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Think a soothing, eye-catching video background, for instance. Then make your video “readable” by adding text overlays. Other design assets, such as stickers, cut-outs, or gifs can also help you communicate emotion at the speed of a social media scroll. Give it a try by remixing the examples below.

Handheld Video & Live Streams

The pandemic challenged all of us to find new ways to capture content, and more and more consumers have become accustomed to handheld, spur-of-the-moment footage captured on a smartphone. Similarly, social media live streaming has become a compelling tool for brands to cut through the clutter online through a human lens — especially with some smart promotion of the stream in advance.

As a small business owner, use this trend to your benefit to produce content that connects with your community without a big price tag attached. Prioritize content value and real-time engagement over production spend. Then extend the life of your content by capturing the best moments of your livestream into bite-size bits you can share later. A simple video editing tool, like Premiere Rush, can make simple editing projects like this a breeze.

2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know

Carousel Posts & Information-Rich Content

Long gone are the days of single-image posts. Multi-frame carousels get your audience engaged by swiping, while information-rich social content goes a long way to better educate your customers. Carousel posts are most effective when sharing related images — think: images of new menu items, a product lookbook, or showcasing multiple customer reviews at once. Meanwhile, snackable posts like quote graphics and infographics quickly tell a deep story about your business in a fun, engaging, and practical way.

2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know 2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know 2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know


Podcasting has gone entirely mainstream, with more than 117 million people listening in the U.S. alone. Podcast stories can be an essential marketing tool for small businesses when it comes to reaching customers and positioning their brand as a top authority in a particular topic or field. Not only are they low-cost to produce, but with an original podcast series, you can lean on guest experts and leaders who can amplify your business to their own networks via social media.

Here’s a helpful how-to guide to get you started on creating your own podcast. Also, be sure to give it an eye-catching cover to stand out from the competition with eye-catching podcast cover art and tune in for a video tutorial on promoting your podcast.

Visual & Thematic Trends

Now that you understand what kinds of content you need to create in 2021, let’s focus on the themes that will likely feel the most relevant this year. These insights can help you make creative choices, such as what topics to cover and how to pick visuals that match. Here are the themes Adobe Stock identified in its forecast and how to make them come to life in a business context.

Compassionate Collective

After a year of emotional and economic strain, customers have turned their attention to the community — showing a desire to invest in their own backyards and support brands that do the same. 72% of those surveyed in a recent Nextdoor poll believe they will frequent local businesses more regularly. As a small business, tapping into a community-minded approach can make a huge difference on the road to recovery.

First, it’s critical to ensure your brand imagery reflects the diversity of the community where you operate. Through your visual communications, you can support, represent, and empower all voices and identities.

Another way to represent the compassionate collective is by encouraging your audience to shop small and share their favorite local spots. Shareable instagram templates are the easiest way to get the community buzzing — and recommending your business to family and friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to highlight the ways your business contributes to the local community, whether through volunteer opportunities or efforts to promote social change within your neighborhood.

Alongside this energized sense of community, we’ll continue to see the rise of pod culture in 2021 — dominated by communal programming and shared services. Small businesses can tap into this new dynamic by offering new specials or introducing new services tailored to pod life. If you’re a pet sitting business, consider offering discounted dog walking for three or more pets. Restaurants can introduce to-go meals designed for two families.

Communicate these new offerings with engaging designs for any social channel. Head to our small business recovery hub to find more templates to help you meet this unique moment.

Mood Boosting Color

Prolific painter and art theorist Wassilly Kandinsky may have put it best when he said: “Color is a power, which directly influences the soul.” Color has a surprising impact on consumer positivity, and 2021 is all about using vibrant tones to lift our collective mood with a sense of playfulness.

Even better, graphic designer and brand strategist Nicte Cuevas tells us that happier palettes – like warm tones or primary colors (reds, yellows, blues) — can lead to more sales for your small business.

It can be easy to overdo it when it comes to introducing a bold and modern look to your brand. Look no further than these 101 brilliant color combinations to refresh your palette in an evocative, but smart way.

Comfort Zone

Self-care will continue to be a major trend in 2021 as consumers flock to buy products that alleviate anxiety and find balance. Make it a topic of conversation on your social feeds.

Ask your customers how they’ve embraced self-care this week through Instagram Stories and share some of the best responses. Consider curating a guide on how you — as a small business owner — are embracing wellbeing from home. More and more customers want to hear the personal stories behind their local businesses.

With templates inspired by healthy living and wellness, your business can illustrate how you’re ensuring self-care is top of mind for yourself and your community.

Breath of Fresh Air

The new year is the perfect time to celebrate the regenerative powers of nature and the great outdoors.

Bring this fresh air approach to your social feeds. Lean into product imagery that showcases your brand in action outside. If you’re a restaurant, capture a picnic scene. Fashion brand or retail shop? Do a quick shoot in nature. Solo entrepreneur? Share photos of yourself doing some of your best thinking outdoors. If you need some extra inspiration, Adobe Spark has you covered with nature– and landscape-inspired templates to get you started.

And don’t forget to highlight sustainability initiatives. Earth Day is coming up in April, and it’s never too early to start planning how your business can celebrate with news of green offerings, in-house sustainability efforts, community-driven initiatives, and overall awareness efforts. Whether you’re planning a sale on sustainable goods or just want to get the word on how your neighborhood can take measures to become more “green,” here are some Earth Day-themed templates for your social media feed.

2021 Design Trends

Ok, so we’ve covered what to post in which format. Now let’s go a little deeper into the how–how you can make your content feel instantly relevant and current. Turn to design trends to help inform your aesthetic. The following are sure to be popular in 2021. Think about which trends work with your brand’s personality and be careful about mixing and matching. Less is more here!

Pixel Party
Digital life will dominate design — drawing on pop art inspirations, lo-fi design elements, grids, and screens to bring the internet to, well, the internet.

2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know 2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know

Austere Romanticism
As the masses binge period dramas such as Bridgerton and The Crown, we’re seeing historical aesthetics make their way into modern communication. These designs offer a Victorian-tinged take on the beauty of nature with a minimal, modern edge.

2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know

Psych Out
2021 marks the beginning of an era of new ideas and expanding minds. So it’s fitting that the psychedelic aesthetics of the 1970s are coming back around. Think funky and bold, with expansive shapes, curvaceous forms and typefaces, and dreamy illustrations. Only this time around earthy color palettes are a nod to our desire to connect with nature.

2021 Social Media Design Trends All Small Business Owners Should Know

As a small business owner, no one knows your customer better than you. These top social trends are here to inspire you to engage with your community with content that fits their new routines and desires. With these tips, you’ll unlock your creativity and drive countless new opportunities for your business in 2021.

Originally published on Adobe Spark

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Author: Amy Copperman

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