3 Social Media Trends for 2020 and What They Mean for Higher Ed

New year. New decade. Bring on the predictions for 2020.

I enjoy reading trend articles in January. I particularly enjoy articles that attempt to give the inside scoop as to what lies ahead in the constantly evolving realm of social and digital media communications. Turns out, everyone will be trying to figure out TikTok in 2020. While TikTok is certainly something we’re keeping an eye on, the following three trends stand out as areas of opportunity for #CSUSocial and the broader higher ed communications space.

“For social marketers, a successful strategy involves tapping into audiences in compelling ways that can grab attention in passing moments.” – Taylor Peterson, Marketing Land

Sharable, short-form digital content


“Due to concerns over cancel culture and privacy, Gen Z is moving away from open and exposed networks to more private platforms to share content. ‘Dark social’ networking sees users sharing content via private messaging apps or encrypted channels like WhatsApp and Telegram. It is difficult for brands to trace traffic that comes from such social networks.” – Lucy Maguire, Vogue Business

Gen Z may not be as likely to share branded content as readily on social networks as other generations simply because they are not using platforms like Facebook and Twitter where branded content is more easily shared. The idea of brands creating more short, shareable content makes a lot of sense to me. This also taps into the notion that Gen Z, in particular, turns to social media for entertainment purposes. Our team has been kicking around the idea of hosting a Giphy channel for several years now. I think it’s time to commit to a Giphy strategy.

Creating GIFs and stickers for Instagram Stories, Snapchat and WhatsApp are low-hanging fruit efforts in terms of providing fun branded content for fans to share on their personal networks. Many universities, including athletic departments, have their own Giphy accounts. West Virginia U has a cool channel and it looks like a blend of institutional, athletics and campus scenes content. At CSU, our Athletics department does a great job with their CSU Rams Giphy channel and our Office of Admissions has one, too. I think for an institutional channel, our stickers and GIFs could feature our mascot CAM the Ram, the celebration of our 150th birthday, fun assets for Admissions and Commencement, and design and icon elements from our brand campaign. The creative execution on this initiative will be critical. The pieces have to look good in order for fans to adopt them and use them in their stories and messaging apps.

Long captions on Instagram

Top 7 Instagram Marketing Trends for 2020

“In 2020, our (Instagram) feeds will be filled with an average caption length of 405 characters — which averages out to about 65-70 words. It gives you an opportunity to tell a deeper story, have followers spend more time reading your posts (which is one of the factors of the Instagram algorithm), and increase engagement.” – Taylor Loren, Later

According to Later, the caption length on Instagram has doubled since 2016. I’m all for gaining a deeper level of connection with fans. One of our team’s core principles is to build community. Pairing a strong visual with a long-form caption that tells a story takes an Instagram strategy to a new, more meaningful level. Successfully integrating long-form captions will largely be contingent upon diligently carving out the time to develop robust captions for strong visuals that lend themselves as stories. I’d like to explore opportunities to partner with the talented writers on CSU’s PR team to approach digital storytelling from an Instagram Feed-first perspective.

Video on LinkedIn


“LinkedIn users are 20x more likely to share a video on the platform than any other type of post. Combine that with the fact that LinkedIn members spend almost 3x more time watching video ads compared to time spent with static Sponsored Content, and it’s fairly safe to assume that LinkedIn is going to make video a key focus heading into 2020.” – Andrew Hutchinson, Social Media Today

It’s not surprising that LinkedIn is focusing on amplifying video. Video content is king across other platforms. This is good news for brands and organizations that are already investing in video production – LinkedIn is another valuable outlet to distribute that content.

CSU’s LinkedIn page has more followers than any of our other institutional profiles, and content posted to that page drives around 2,000 sessions to our university news/info site on a monthly basis. We typically post profile articles that feature our alumni, faculty, staff and students along with research and discovery pieces. Interestingly, we’ve found that our LinkedIn audience engages with Athletics content (profiles on student athletes, teams). This presents an opportunity to share video created by our Athletics communications team — particularly stories showcasing current and former Ram athletes.

There is so much potential to connect with alumni on this platform given that all LinkedIn users who list their alma mater are automatically fans of that university’s Company page. Further, the opportunity to build thought leadership and highlight people, programs and research/discovery stories are among the platform’s top attributes and key differentiators.

What trends have caught your attention for 2020? Have you plotted out a TikTok strategy 😉