Social Trends: The rise of intimacy, closed communities and audio apps
January 16, 2021

Industry AnalysisSocial Trends: The rise of intimacy, closed communities and audio apps

2021 will see the rise of intimate and closed group communities and audio-first content.
    • If you’re a consumer-focused brand, you don’t need to feel confined to Instagram just because it’s the “done thing”
    • Social media is constantly changing. Experiment and see which channels work best for you. Just remember the value of community, a closer relationship to your audience, being able to give them what they need and want, and the fact there are more media out there than just visual.
    • Remember, sound is getting bigger
    • Consider the ethics of the channels you are choosing to use – privacy, transparency, positive community, and mental health impacts.

2021 is the year closed group communities grow even bigger, and audio will continue to grow in popularity. Facebook is steadily being toppled from the throne of its monopoly.

Everyday I see one more person tweet about how much they hate Instagram, how they loathe how it’s become a shopping app, or how they are thriving now they’ve deleted it! Welcome to the clubbbb! I deleted my Instagram back in November 2020 and I am LOVING IT.

Less unconscious time spent scrolling through narcissistic crap from people I don’t care about (no one likes your thirsty selfies and outfit pics desperately flogging products. Plz stop). More time spent off my phone, on phone calls to my closest mates, sending and listening to voice notes, sending pics and sharing meaningful words on private messaging apps or writing for my super smart readers on the Anthro Substack.

The trend here is a move away from the Facebook owned brands, and a move towards tighter knit close group communities, as well as audio. Finally, it appears Facebook’s immoral business model, the commodification of our attention – our attention for profit – is starting to get left behind.


Parallel to the growth of importance placed on sustainability with physical products and practices, so we see the rise of ethical business when it comes to operations and services. So really, does it come as any surprise that WhatsApp has seen a “mass exodus”, with users beginning to favour competitor app- Telegram? Telegram recorded 25 million new users over a 72 hour period last week according to the founder Pavel Durov. He shared updates in the app stating how many national Heads of State have also migrated to the app, including the Presidents of Brazil, Turkey and Mexico among many others. The founder explains:

“Unlike other networks, Telegram doesn’t use nontransparent algorithms to decide whether a subscriber will see content they subscribed to or not. As a result, Telegram channels are the only direct way for opinion leaders to reliably connect with their audiences.

By removing the manipulative algorithms that have become synonymous with 2010s technology platforms, Telegram channels restore transparency and integrity to public “one-to-many” communication.”

At a time where WhatsApp requested users to accept a privacy policy that results in data sharing with Facebook it’s telling that people care about the ethics of these apps. People are increasingly against giving away their data for free to the likes of Facebook.

WhatsApp currently has approximately 2 billion users worldwide, and Telegram’s usage has now gone up to around 500 Million, that’s just a quarter of the size of WhatsApp. Although, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing this situation evolve, and Facebook’s monopoly over social apps disperse.

Similarly, we have also seen the rise in popularity of Discord and Substack over the course of the pandemic, as well as more mainstream adoption of the live streaming app, Twitch, and of course, TikTok.

Discord has grown to over 100 Million monthly active users, Substack has surpassed over 100,000 paying newsletter subscribers, Twitch has been used by the likes of fashion brands Burberry and KFC lately and TikTok has taken the whole world by storm. We’re entering a new age of social media.

Businesses move away from Instagram

Alongside a move away from WhatsApp to other apps, we’re also seeing a move away from Instagram

There has been an increasing appetite for business and individuals alike to move away from Instagram.

Fashion brand Bottega Veneta is just one example of a brand that decided to delete its Instagram on 5th January this year. While every other top fashion brand is continuously oversharing details there, Bottega decided to go against the trend and go dark on social. Good for them! The brand hasn’t commented on why exactly they did this, however, speculation suggests the decision to end mass oversharing on public platforms is long overdue. There is zero mystery or sense of intimacy when brands share on social media on a mass scale, only to have every influencer and their mum imitate the aesthetics… So users log into the gram to see a sea of square toed heels, puffy jackets and puffy handbags. Detracting from the beauty and initial uniqueness of Bottega Veneta’s designs (which, might I add are BRILLIANT by the fabulous Daniel Lee – no surprises given he worked under Phoebe Philo at old Celine. LOVE!).

Image credit: Christian Vierig, Getty Images

Daniel Lee has also previously been quoted explaining:

“I look at Instagram and social media sometimes, but I think too much can be quite dangerous and detrimental to the creative process… Everyone seeing the same thing is not healthy or productive. It doesn’t breed individuality.”

Visual oversharing to mass audiences is no longer cool. Hopefully the brand’s move away from Instagram will create an air of mystery, intrigue and hype – needed given the brand will still need a way to get people to search for their brand online and generate sales.

While clicks from social media are currently fundamental for sales, especially in a locked down, socially distanced pandemic world, the platform’s decision change the app layouts have made it feel like its only raison d’etre is shopping. Considering the app’s roots of pure photo sharing, it’s sad to see Insta descend into a brutally capitalist vehicle for mass consumption. This is particularly prescient given the western world’s sustainability agenda. The cultural conflict between that and Instagram’s modus operandi is huge.

Oversaturation and amplifying the amplified

As the 4th most used social media app, behind on Facebook, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, the Instagram is hugely saturated. It’s hard for new businesses to grow organically because they are drowned out by so much noise. This is further reinforced by two things. First, the algortihm is such that brands are encouraged to pay for ads in order to get cut through – this isn’t ideal for brands who value organic reach, and for brands without massive advertising budgets. Second, let’s focus on the simple concept of link sharing for a second. Don’t you think it’s actually mad that an Instagram account has to reach 10,000 followers before being able to share links in stories? That swipe-up functionality is crucial for sales conversion.

And to think, other sites let brands post links freely as they wish.

Topicals is a skincare startup for eczema and acne prone skin, or for “itchy girls and spotty hotties” as they describe themselves (love it!).
Instead taking to the gram like every other beauty brand out there, they decided to go back to Twitter. Uncommon for D2C brands. They started off by posting about topics relevant to their prospective customers, such as how to manage mask-induced face acne during the pandemic. Taking a different approach to social media, without Instagram, Topicals gained half of their revenue from Twitter in their first month after launch, where they’ve gained 17K followers in under a year.

The rise of audio apps

Twitter being a first choice social channel, leads us nicely onto the growth of audio social media. 2020 saw the launches of Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. Clubhouse, being an invite-only audio app where you can move between different “rooms” or conversations and join discussions about anything from venture capital, mental health or fintech, to marketing and music. Clubhouse’s user growth has already amounted to 600,000 users. and growing.

In response to Clubhouse’s success, Twitter has launched its own answer to Clubhouse – Twitter Spaces, but it’s currently in its beta testing phase. In total transparency, from my experience of both Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces so far, I am LOVING Twitter, which appears to be nurturing real intimacy and authentic conversations with high quality and depth. Clubhouse on the other hand seems overhyped, with less passion coming through in the “rooms” I’ve joined so far. Now I don’t know if it’s because of a cooler, varied audience on Twitter Spaces vs a tech/SF/venture/business-obsessed crowd on Clubhouse, but let’s see. It’s still early days for both.

Ultimately, it’s worth noting, just like podcast creation and listening has skyrocketed over the last few years, especially over 2020, these audio apps are only set to rise in popularity. The intimacy of the human voice, being the main highlight.

And intimacy is key. In an era where we’ve all been shown how valuable human connection is, and how much we miss it when it’s taken away, society is looking for deeper connections, and closed wall communities and audio are two ways of trying to achieve this.


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