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Social Media Trends of 2023 and 2024 #YearInReview

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While much of the online discourse this year has surrounded the rise of AI and its increasing relevance, social media remains the engine that keeps the fires of the internet burning. Of course, AI will shape the future of social media but how and why is a more nuanced conversation and one that I feel deserves more insight than I alone can offer.

From the rise of AI-driven personalization to the increasing importance of ethical data practices, this year, and the year to come mark a significant shift in the social media paradigm. So, I reached out to some of the top voices in social media to delve into the trends that are reshaping the way we interact, share, and consume content online.

 

Hayley Jones: Director of Social at The PHA Group

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The only constant in life is change, and the social media landscape is an ever-changing world of platform updates, evolving strategies and emerging trends. 2024 looks set to be all about the creator economy, social listening, risk-taking, authenticity, short-form video and more.

Here are some of the top trends we’ll be considering for our clients’ social campaigns as we head towards the new year, which include TikTok for discovery, creator storytelling, the power of communities, and the arrival of AI influencers. 

TikTok for discovery

Users are leaning more and more on TikTok for sourcing product recommendations, carrying out travel research and generally learning about all kinds of things they’re interested in. This trend for using popular social platforms as search engines will grow exponentially in 2024.

Storytelling over product

With ad blockers on the rise, brands will need to give creators the freedom to tell their story in their own way. Reach should always be balanced with fit and authenticity. 

The power of community

According to Sprout Social, 51% of consumers said that the most memorable brands on social respond to their customers. It’s essential that brands share with their communities, start trends that they then jump on, and foster an online environment of trust and belonging.

Always on and always there

There’s a growing shift from simply having a constant online presence, to how you show up online and react to the latest trends and themes. In 2024, brands will need to be even more flexible and agile with their content strategies, adopting a reactive approach to comments, current affairs and the speed of cultural change, so that they can insert themselves in at the right moment.

Creator led D2C is the future

Brands are seeing real success from offering creators advisory roles and bringing them in early to inspire new product development. This ‘from Moodboards to Boardrooms’ approach will continue to grow in 2024, giving influencers more of the creative control they crave, to ensure brand partnerships are as authentic as possible and will resonate with their engaged audiences.

Social-first strategies

As we head into the new year, we'll see more campaigns that are created for social and have marketing and PR campaigns created off the back of them, rather than vice versa, which has traditionally always been the case. 

One to watch: Virtual / AI influencers

The launch of Meta’s AI chatbots, which take on characters played by celebrities, is a big step towards using AI to drive further engagement on the social platforms. This could present brands with a whole new immersive and entertaining way of connecting with their audiences. 

 

"The biggest Social Media trend we'll see in 2024 is content over promotion. The most successful brands on social media do not use their channels to hard sell products, but to entertain their audience." Gaia Tonanzi, founder at Tooti

 

Jamie Ray, co-founder of Buttermilk

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Social commerce has become the battleground for major social platforms, each striving to crack the successful code that has been so successful in China.

TikTok is channelling its product marketing efforts into TikTok Shop, while Amazon is vigorously promoting its influencer programme. However, the road ahead demands concerted efforts, prompting brands to consider aligning with agencies capable of crafting a robust social commerce strategy.

In the realm of content creation, a paradigm shift is underway from short-form to long-form content. The market, now saturated with bite-sized content, is witnessing a resurgence of interest in more extensive narratives.

TikTok's experimentation with 15-minute videos and YouTube executives' apprehensions about Shorts cannibalising long-form content underscore this trend. This shift is likely driven by income stagnation rather than user apathy, due to the enhanced ad revenue opportunities longer videos provide.

Meanwhile, the explosion of user-generated content (UGC) remains an enduring phenomenon. Platforms like TikTok, which foster the democratisation of content, will continue to have a profound impact on the influencer landscape.

Collaboration opportunities are expanding exponentially, with an influx of creators boasting a few thousand followers and producing content with endless brand value. This continual UGC explosion promises a landscape of diverse and far-reaching collaboration opportunities for brands seeking to harness the power of content creators.

 

Poor online protection, limited moderation and privacy protection, mis and disinformation have been 'acceptable' problems with social media until now. But public opinion is starting to turn and legal actions and new legislation are beginning to create serious challenges. In 2024 we will see how platforms respond and the stakes are high. Richard Jaggs, Founder at Resolution Design

 

Karim Salama, the founder and director of web and digital markting agency e-innovate

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In 2024 we should notice a further push towards video marketing techniques, whether that is through bite-sized reels posted on Instagram or stories posted on Snapchat. Social media marketing is becoming more and more integral to marketing campaigns.

One could even argue it forms the backbone of marketing efforts aimed at younger demographics. Platforms like TikTok have taken off in recent years, with several brands attempting to capitalise on the trend by adapting their advertising material to suit the format.

Speaking of TikTok, there is also likely to be a growing dependence on social media influencers to push and sell products. Celebrity endorsement is a bigger deal than ever, with young people following the interests and opinions of online personalities.

With a growing number of specialist businesses catering to specific niches, we will inevitably see a shift away from mainstream macro-influencers in favour of cult favourite micro-influencers. These micro-influencers are the key to diversifying companies' business portfolios, allowing brands to tap into new markets and forge lasting connections with more exclusive clients."

 

Time to pay the fanum tax - in 2024 the oldest gen alphas will be turning 14, and we’re going to start feeling their impact on culture. Raised on Roblox, YouTube and iPads by parents who freely shared their every move on social media, this generation is set to humble us all. As the first fully digital generation starts to take their place in the world, I’m expecting things to take an absurd, nonsensical, even punk turn, with a renewed emphasis on digital privacy and anonymity. Rachael Kendrick, creative director at Livity.

 

Keith Foggan, social media expert and Founder of social agency System

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Seeking comfort in memory is an innately human trait. It is also interesting that, especially in times of political and economic ambiguity, we turn towards the need for the things that root us in our more ‘steady’ pasts.

Nostalgia not only takes us back to a simpler and safer time, it also unites us in shared ‘forgotten’ memories’. Relatability is a huge driver of engagement on social media platforms, and especially TikTok. There is no better feeling than coming across an old photo, song or even TV ad that we can share and say ‘remember this?’ It brings us closer together in a time where we all feel a little disconnected.”

Not only does this rebranding appeal to millennials who find comfort in nostalgia, but introduces their brand to a new, younger market who value authenticity and a rich legacy. It is also a way for brands to revive interest without digging deep for new ideas.

If brands are keen to use nostalgia as a main theme for their next campaign, In an era of infinite scrolling, short attention spans, and widespread media fatigue, nostalgic content slows us down and takes us for a spin down memory lane. With this in mind, the key to a successful nostalgic digital campaign is to acknowledge the past in a light-hearted way that doesn’t make comparison between the then and now.

It is important to create an air of comedy and authenticity - if there’s space to laugh at yourself and past mistakes then you should. Find ways to tap into a viewer's emotions and memories in order to establish meaningful connections that foster closeness and highlight legacy. Creating a digital campaign based around nostalgia could be as simple as digging into your archives and identifying what has done well in the past and playing on that.

Adam Bullock, Managing Director at Contented

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2023 has seen a material change in audience behavior in relation to content and how it’s consumed. In a saturated market awash with vanilla content, personalisation is now a key marker for cut through. The demand for tailored experiences catering to individual preferences is key, while the need to utilize data in order to do this is paramount in the creative space.

It’s also imperative to have platform specific strategies. Tailoring the work for the channel is key and  understanding the unique challenges and opportunities that each affords you.

Elsewhere, community building and customer loyalty should also remain a top priority; fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty among your audience will always pay dividends.

And, of course, all of this is underpinned by technology. In relation to personalisation, AI remains a key component in that trend, the ability to scale work in a cost effective way is key, and voice search is still surging as a key component in the content mix.

 

Abi Morrish, Director of Content & Partnerships at Wake the Bear

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Social Commerce – increased commercialisation of platforms

TikTok is unquestionably leading the charge in terms of driving social commerce but will it actually turn people off the platform? Its Live TikTok sales streams currently resemble a poor man’s QVC (not helpful when we know TikTok already has a trust issue with users and their data), and we know that overt commercialisation is off-putting to consumers. So in 2024 can social platforms win at commerce, whilst not losing at wider audience engagement?

An increase in brand-to-brand partnerships

The fight for organic visibility on social platforms remains a huge challenge for brands and influencers in 2024. As a shortcut to reaching new audiences we’ll see more brands partner to access each other’s social audiences and following. All the way from simple giveaways to joint NPD, we’ll see some really exciting and creative partnerships next year designed to excite and delight each brand's audiences.

Socially driven wearable tech will extend time in-platform

After previous failures, Meta is back in 2024 with its new edition of the Ray Ban Story glasses. No wearable tech has particularly cracked the opportunity of easy socialisation and connection, focusing instead on utility. Meta plans to roll out full AR glasses in 2027, so it will be interesting to see how they take consumers from here to there in the next few years - something they failed to do with the Metaverse.

Header image by Maham Rana

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