Given that so much of 2021 in real life frankly sucked, let’s take a trip to social media land. Over the last 12 months, the landscape has evolved, bringing new functionalities, an even greater focus on video and the rise of social listening. It was all interesting stuff and 2022 is shaping up to be just as fascinating. Join us as we say goodbye to ’21… and peer into the future.
A year in social media…
More users than ever
As the pandemic raged, social media use rose. With billions of people stuck in lockdown, it climbed by 10% in 2020 and another 9.6% by April 2021. There are now some 4.33 billion social media users, with every lockdown generating more. No surprise that businesses have been tripping over themselves to reach this audience, especially with the pandemic hitting bricks and mortar sales hard.
Companies made social media their main marketing stream
As users flocked to social, businesses followed, making social networks their primary focus. And encouragingly, many thought long and hard about how best to connect. This resulted in more engaging brand personalities and closer examination of who exactly is buying on social media. The answer might surprise you – hint: it isn’t the TikTok crowd. In fact, stats show that it’s the Baby Boomers who have been flexing their cards online. Although the pandemic has hit everyone financially, boomers have been less severely affected.
Brands listened and learned
Social media strategists also took a more thoughtful approach to output by using social listening tools. Instead of blindly pumping out social media content, they sat back and read the room. This helped them gauge the public mood and create content accordingly (see Netflix’s ‘Netsox’). Think about it: who would you prefer at a family get-together? The cousin who listens and makes helpful suggestions or the loud uncle who likes to talk about himself?
Social listening provides intelligence, giving brands a better chance of connecting. In 2021, it became a key part of a brand’s social media marketing strategy, helping them establish who users engage with, so they could create accurate target audience personas.
Social media became the new mall
So, brands are listening, but they’re anything but passive. They’ve adopted social commerce with gusto, sending retail sales rocketing. The figures in this domain are growing all the time:
- In 2020, the United States was home to approximately 79 million social buyers. By 2025, this figure is forecast to grow by almost 37 percent, with 108 million U.S. Americans expected to make purchases through social networks. [Source: Statista]
Social media platforms have been quick to support this social commerce revolution by introducing a slew of shiny new functionalities. Now, a shopper can go through the entire customer experience, from browsing to check out, without leaving their chosen channel.
Video (still) rules
Meanwhile, brands have been making the most of top social media features such as Instagram Stories and Reels, IGTV, Facebook Stories, live streaming and short-form video. As platforms increasingly prioritise video content over images – as Instagram have announced – this is a trend that’s likely to run and run.
The year ahead: social media trends for 2022
So, what about the coming year? With social media evolving at warp speed, what can we expect?
The death of the cookie
2021 saw some monumental changes in in terms of data privacy, with tech companies and governments introducing tighter measures around the collection and use of personal data. This is a trend that will continue into 2022, with Google Chrome blocking third party cookies by default from the start of the year. As tracking users across different apps, browsers, devices and platforms gets more difficult, online advertising could become a headache, with black holes in customer journeys. That could send brands running into the arms of social media and influencers – more about them in a moment.
Invasion of the social media influencers
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, influencers are here to stay. They’re cheaper than a paid ad campaign, with the flexibility to help you achieve a range of marketing goals. Instead of blowing the budget on one celebrity, marketers are thinking smart and spreading it across a network of niche, relevant influencers. The key is to identify which influencers will be the best fit for your brand and reach your target audience. Get it right, and ker-ching! Better use of your marketing spend and higher engagement. As influencer marketing continues to flourish, the choice of influencers is likely to grow and expand.
One of the most interesting and important developments in influencer marketing is ‘the creator economy’. A loose definition of this would be influencers who use social media tools to create user generated content. They could be anyone from writers, musicians or DIY buffs to gamers, cooks or videographers. But, the one thing they all have in common is that they’re monetising their skill or passion via social media platforms. The social media giants have spotted this trend and rushed to roll out suitable tools. For instance, there’s Creators (Instagram); the Creator Portal (TikTok); Meta for Creators (Meta/Facebook); Idea Pins (Pinterest); and Media Studio (Twitter). Meanwhile, the internet has quickly spawned all manner of new, niche platforms for aspiring creators: Chartable and Redcircle (Podcasts); Twitch and Discord (social gaming); and Substack and Revue (blogs and editorials) – the list goes on. It will be interesting to see how these specialist platforms fare against the more established social media options.
For brands, creator-influencers bring an extra dimension to the existing influencer party. As well as a loyal following, they offer the ability to demonstrate the benefit of a solution. Whether you go with traditional influencers or the emerging micro-trend of creators, you stand a better chance of gaining the trust of target audiences than with standard marketing.
Social stores open their doors
As we mentioned earlier, social commerce has been warmly embraced worldwide. The trend is only set to grow, with direct selling on social media becoming the norm. Platforms have developed to support this shift, with features such as shoppable posts and social storefronts enhancing the customer journey and experience. Spotted something cool on a live streamed shopping demo? You can have it bought and bagged up in a matter of seconds. In fact, in the future, clicking out to an eCommerce site may even be seen as a hassle – just one click too many. Brands that incorporate social commerce into their social media marketing strategies in 2022 are therefore likely to see big benefits. The proof? The global social commerce market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.4% from 2021 to 2028, according to GVR.
Social listening: when brands are all ears, everyone benefits
If you thought social listening was big in 2021, wait until 2022. This year, it won’t just be standard practice; social listening tools will become crucial to brand campaigns. The pandemic has turned all kinds of audience preferences upside down and that means brands must listen carefully to what’s being said about them. It’s no good just throwing a campaign out there and hoping for the best. If you want to hit the mark – and avoid appearing tone-deaf to today’s culturally and politically aware users – you need to listen to the word on the (virtual) street. And of course, the more you listen, the more you’ll understand your target audience and what they want. Budweiser gets a gold star for eschewing last year’s Superbowl ad in favour of a vaccine awareness campaign.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, TikTok Is Cool. Last year, the platform hit 1 billion users in a record-breaking five years (three years faster than Facebook and Instagram). That means one in 7.5 people uses the site every month, with more converts signing up all the time.
TikTok is a particular favourite of Generation Z, who have enthusiastically adopted its short-form video format. The platform’s masterminds have been quick to capitalise on its popularity, bringing out a number of new features. ‘Resume’, ‘Q&A’, ‘Auto-captions’, ‘TikTok Playlists’, live streaming and live shopping have all drawn new fans, with TikTok Stories set to attract even more. And that’s only half the picture. TikTok is stuffed with monetisation features, a partner to Vimeo, Canva and UniLad, and an increasingly popular way to discover talent, find a job and achieve celebrity. In today’s fragmented media world, TikTok creators are stars, competing for attention with traditional TV and media. Watch out, planet: TikTok’s here.
Meta the devil you know
One of the most ambitious and potentially far-reaching changes for 2022 is Facebook’s switch to ‘Meta’. This isn’t just a rebrand, or brand awareness trick, it’s a move towards something entirely new. The “metaverse” describes an online world where people can game, work and connect in a virtual setting using VR headsets. Although it’s still a long way off – five to ten years at the earliest – Meta founder, Mark Zuckerberg, believes this is the direction in which society’s heading. With his company is now pouring money into the venture, Zuckerberg is confident that the metaverse will be a reality in the not-too-distant future.
“Our hope is that within the next decade, the metaverse will reach a billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers,” he said last year.
Although brands and consumers alike are hesitant about VR and Augmented Reality (AR), interest is starting to grow. With Microsoft launching Mesh – a metaverse for its Teams platform – the virtual meta world could soon be on its way. Get your VR goggles on and stay tuned.
What do 2022 social media trends actually mean for brands?
- As social media has stepped up during the pandemic and become a central sales and marketing channel, measuring its ROI has become absolutely vital. In the past, this hasn’t always been easy, with marketers struggling to link social media use to the bottom line. But today, with advanced social media analytics, it’s possible to pinpoint exactly how social media is contributing to the balance sheet. According to Hootsuite, 83% of marketers feel confident in quantifying the ROI of their social efforts, up from 68% last year. The most forward-thinking have realised that sales and conversions are only the tip of the iceberg – they’re taking into account social media’s holistic benefits.
- Greater use of social media also means greater attention to engagement. How do brands connect with target audiences, promote their products and still appear authentic? By now, you’re probably getting bored of us banging on about social listening, but there’s so much to be gained by analysing user comments and adapting campaigns accordingly.
- If you want to make the most of social commerce opportunities, you need to think about customer care. Consumers are used to fast, hassle-free transactions – whether it’s arranging delivery of groceries or scheduling appointments – and they expect the same efficient standards when it comes to service. Successful social selling means thinking about the entire customer journey. Miss out customer service, and miss out on valuable sales.
- Not all platforms are equal and brands must understand this. Content should not simply be re-sized and re-formatted to fit all social media channels. Audiences differ from platform to platform and want different things. A killer TikTok video will get a very cool reception somewhere like LinkedIn.
The digital landscape is constantly changing and social media’s no exception. Take your eyes off it for a minute and it’s morphed into something even more complex and interesting. As the pandemic’s grip continued into 2021, even more users logged on, creating a vast audience. It was an unprecedented cultural shift and the brands that really thrived were those that approached social media thoughtfully.
2022 represents a chance to consolidate that growth and make the most of all the features that platforms have put in place. If you’d like a hand in navigating this ever-changing world, we’d be happy to help. Whether it’s short form video content that needs attention or your social media strategy, The Maverick Group’s social media mavens will have it firing on all cylinders and turbo-boosting engagement. Get in touch.