FIVE of the most explosive social media stories from 2021

2021 has been packed full of social media headlines, hasn’t it?

We’ve seen blackouts, bans, meltdowns, letdowns, and even digital fisticuffs – and the year isn’t even over yet!

To tie in nicely with Fireworks Night here in the UK, here’s my pick of the 5 most incredible (and EXPLOSIVE) social media stories from the last few months. Enjoy!

1. Facebook disappeared – and boy, did we feel it

OK, let’s start with the serious stuff. Facebook has suffered outages before, but it beat all previous records back on 4th October, when it went offline for a whole 6 hours.

And because Instagram and WhatsApp are part of the wider Facebook group, these tools went kaput, too. 

It was an absolute disaster for social media managers like me. And it was pretty inconvenient for millions of users who rely on these apps to keep in touch with friends, family members, prospects and clients, too. Apparently, all the disruption was caused by a faulty configuration change – proof that even the simplest of things can bring down the biggest of social media giants!

2. Colin the Caterpillar-gate got major brands talking

Oh, Colin. You caused quite the stir in April, when your creator, Marks and Spencer, decided to take rival supermarket Aldi to court, all in a bid to protect your good name. Apparently, Aldi’s ‘Cuthbert the Caterpillar’ infringed Marks’ trademark, because its design was too close to the original.

But the legal stuff wasn’t what got me chuckling. The moment the case was announced, social media – and Twitter in particular – erupted with literally thousands of sarky slogans and micky-taking memes.

Aldi’s #FreeCuthbert campaign, though tinged with ever-so-slight seriousness, kept us all amused for a few days. The clever input from rival chains like Morrisson’s and Co-Op kept the conversation fresh, too.

If you somehow managed to miss the whole thing, get up to speed with this great run-down from The Tab

3. Beans on Weetabix nearly broke the internet

OK, I may have exaggerated slightly there. But there were absolute scenes over on Twitter back in February when Weetabix posted a frankly criminal photo of its breakfast wheat biscuits drowning in beany goodness.

What resulted was an explosion of banter between some of the world’s best-loved brands. Everyone jumped online to share their opinions; Domino’s, Xbox, Sainsbury’s, KFC, and even the British Embassy in Washington were some of the users who took to Twitter to voice their outrage at this preposterous food combination.

Weetabeanz was relatively short-lived – but what a laugh it was! Here are some of my favourite screenshots from all the madness.

4. Instagram released an insane number of updates

I’ve lost count of how many updates Instagram has thrown our way in 2021. From TikTok-style feeds for Stories to professional dashboards for hardcore content creators, the platform has evolved to such an extent that you can’t describe it as a photo-sharing app anymore. It’s so much more than that.

Some of my favourites include the global launch of Reels (you know I love Reels, right…?); the new Instagram Shopping integration, which keeps purchases in the platform; the ‘pin top comments’ feature; and the fact that you no longer need an active Facebook ad account or profile page in order to set up a presence on Instagram.

5. Facebook’s algorithm was a pain in the backside

Facebook changed the goalposts a lot this year. In many cases, it made it harder for companies to reach their audience organically, without paying for ad space. The reach has been incredibly restrictive on business pages, which has made it challenging for my clients to hit their exposure and engagement goals at times.

Plus, Facebook has been full of SO many heated opinions recently – both personal and political – that it’s not been a particularly nice place to hang out.

It’s not all bad news, though. Facebook did prioritise posts in Groups and Events, meaning marketers who use these features to spread their message should have seen greater engagement from these sources. Also, the Facebook Pay option is making life easier for businesses that want to increase in-app purchases from both desktops and mobiles.

Are things likely to get better? Well, time will tell… but Facebook Reels have just launched in the US, so that’s something to look forward to!


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