2021 was a busy year for social media platforms and 2022 is shaping up to be even busier. Earlier this year I offered up some predictions on what I thought the year would hold for social media. Here’s how I see social media shaping up in 2022, along with what strategies marketers should develop for a complete customer experience.
Trend 1: The Evolution of the Main Feed Has Begun
Algorithmic main feeds in Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest have long connected people to news. But the attention-baiting tactics they practice have come under scrutiny, leading to an outcry for changes in platform strategies to focus on bringing value to the people who rely on them for connection. Several changes meant to curate posts with more personalization and privacy in mind are on the way. Twitter, for example, stated its roadmap for future products and features will double its revenue by 2023. Moves like this lessen the dependency on targeted advertising for revenue while creating features ostensibly to better serve its customers.
What This Means: Marketers should expect — and plan to leverage — more features that enhance customer experiences. Most rollouts of these features will be a trial, however. The next trend explains why.
Related Article: Is Social Media Marketing Dying?
Trend 2: Yet Social Media Remains Addicted to Ad Revenue
The parade of ads shown alongside news feeds is showing its age, yet the revenue created has grown to new heights. One forecast from eMarketer predicted Twitter will reach $2 billion in U.S. ad revenue during 2021, despite flat growth. That is a 38.5% increase over 2020. The site also forecasted that Instagram will for the first time make up over 50% of Facebook’s $50.30 billion in net ad revenues in 2021.
What This Means: Marketers should not pause any awareness for new ads features just yet, as digital ads will still likely provide effective customer journey messaging. But an evolution in options will address increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI.
Trend 3: Slimmed-Down Media Models Will Turn Up the Competitive Heat
We all know the firmly established social media platforms with massive audiences. Facebook, for example, reported in its earnings report a year-over-year increase in daily and monthly active users, despite public criticism of its practices.
In contrast, newer platforms have emerged which offer a fundamentally slimmed-down media model, meant to make socializing among niche audiences more convenient to moderate and safer as a community. Interestingly, not all are social media platforms. These upstarts include the podcast platforms like Spotify, livechat platforms such as Clubhouse, newsletter platforms like Substack and sub-communities in the established social media platforms, such as Twitter Spaces. All aim to allow people to forge meaningful connections with their favorite creators or community rather than relying on algorithmic recommendations for engagement.
It's unlikely any one platform will be the “next Facebook” any time soon — no one is asking for it. The challenge for these slimmed-down business models is generating revenue. It's a last mile problem that promises huge upsides for influencers and platforms through shared revenue on subscriptions, tips or ticketed events. Twitter and Spotify could potentially leverage this benefit faster, for either current business models (podcasts on Spotify) or for emerging features (such as Twitter Tips).
What This Means: These platforms ultimately mean marketers must cultivate customer experience options that do not appear as attention-grabbing content.
Trend 4: As Social Commerce Continues Its Ascent, So Will Customer Service
As discussed previously, social commerce features will continue to roll out to keep up with how people shop for goods and services. Customers have become accustomed to initiating a purchase online — be it curbside pickup of groceries or scheduling an appointment — but now want fast responses to customer service needs as well. Social media channels dedicated to customer service have long existed. The pandemic has only accelerated adoption of these channels.
What This Means: Marketers should look to refine customer service to gain the most benefit of new social media platform features.
Trend 5: Calls for Social Media Accountability Will Increase
Public calls for social media platform accountability will increase, buoyed by the fallout from the Facebook papers and the findings implicating Instagram as a negative influence on young users. The findings, first brought to light in a Wall Street Journal report, found 32% of teenage girls surveyed "indicated that when they had negative thoughts about their appearance, Instagram made those feelings worse." Fourteen percent of teen boys reported similar sentiment.
The big question is what kind of legislation will emerge. Antitrust debates will reveal clues on legislative progress. Antitrust scrutiny can constrain the major platforms' ability to copy features from smaller platform or outright acquire other platforms, as seen with UK's regulators telling Meta to sell its Giphy acquisition. This differs from the quick acquisition and dissolution of platforms, as seen when Twitter acquired Periscope. That scrutiny can keep smaller platforms among marketers' strategic choices.
What This Means: Expect more fallout in 2022 to shape what digital media marketers use to connect with customers.
Trend 6: The Rise of the Creative Influencers
The proliferation of creative tools have allowed for a new kind of influencer to take shape: the Creators. Creators differ slightly from traditional influencers, who rely on experiencing the world around them, by producing original materials using these tools. The pandemic has changed what influences are valuable on the go. As a result, creators have gained a sizable follower count in a world with limited gathering options during the pandemic.
What This Means: Marketers now face two kinds of influencers for branding and leveraging engagement. Creators offer a way of demonstrating the benefit of a solution, creating an additional micro-influencer opportunity.
Related Article: Social Media Influencers: Macro, Micro, Nano
Trend 7: The Augmented Reality Buzz Grows in the Wake of the Metaverse Hype
People's interest in augmented reality (AR) is starting to grow, though reservations remain. A number of studies have indicated a mixed consumer reaction to augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). "Nearly four in 10 US adults have not used and are not interested in using AR and VR while shopping, per Bizrate Insights. However, 23% of those who haven’t are very interested in doing so," according to eMarketer.
Hesitancy may change as growing competition in the metaverse continues in 2022. While Facebook rebranded as Meta to better leverage its investment in AR, Microsoft announced Mesh, a metaverse for its Teams platform. The high-profile interest in the metaverse matters because of its potential to draw downstream AR developers and suppliers into the tech spotlight.
What This Means: Marketers should be open to experimenting with AR as a way to enhance customer experiences. Snapchat has shown clear examples, such as opening virtual pop-up stores for Wal-Mart and Coke.
Trend 8: Short Video Adoption Will Shape Video Metrics
TikTok dominates the social media environment today, triggering a heated competition to introduce short videos and live streaming capabilities, such as YouTube's introduction of YouTube Shorts and Instagram declaring its emphasis on video over images.
What This Means: Marketers need to analyze if link playback leads to conversion activity. This means correlating data from social media to sales or conversion data. Look for correlation features in reporting or for third-party alternatives ranging from open source data models made with R or Python to plugin dependencies for business data solutions like Power BI or Google Data Studio.
Related Article: TikTok Marketing: Are You Ready to Flip the Switch?
Trend 9: Addressing Mental Health Flaws in Social Media Metrics
People's increased reliance on social media during the pandemic has created a new-grown awareness of the impact excessive social media usage has on mental health. The aftereffects can leave people feeling drained, manipulated and exhausted.
Social media platforms have been experimenting on how best to respond. For example, YouTube decided to remove dislike counts from public view of its videos. While a dislike count is not a conversion metric, making it private attempts to cut back on harassment.
The private dislike count also reflects a move among social media platforms to clean their feeds of bad actors. Creating an environment suitable for customer service means preventing troll-like behaviors from plugging up the DMs and filtering social media feeds against abusive behavior. Twitter has been leading the fight on its platform, introducing Safety Mode, a filter against abusive tweets when a user is getting negative attention. Brands are responding as well. In one case, Lush Cosmetics announced it would pull all its social media profiles to show its concerns around mental health wellness on social platforms.
What This Means: Marketers should expect more coordination among the social media platforms to prevent cross-platform abuse.
Trend 10: Choosing Where You Forge Better Customer Connections
There's now a dizzying array of social media choices, but brands are recognizing they may have to be selective to which platforms connect them best to an intended audience. For example, during National Black Business Month I noted marketers have an opportunity to connect investments in supplier diversity to customer impressions of their brand. Many customers scrutinize those efforts through social media, so marketers need to know which platform provides the right exposure for connection and messaging.
What This Means: Marketers should evaluate metrics that show where engagement align with conversions when making major decisions.