February 10, 2023

10 Social Media Trends in 2023: Your Consumers Are Now In the Driver’s Seat

While brands have been placing customers at the center of their decision-making process for years now, the pandemic has created an unprecedented upwards shift in the influence and impact that customers have. In the past 3 years, more than “half a billion new people are utilizing social media,” and brands are seeing more of these customers step into the driver’s seat. Not only are consumers demanding more personalized content, faster service, and a more simplified customer journey, but they are driving real change by actively seeking out connections, communities, and brand accountability. As such, now more than ever, 2023 is the year that brands must focus their campaigns, strategy, and content solely on the consumer. Here are 10 social media trends that brands need to pay attention to this year.

Social Media Trends in 2023 Illustration

1. TikTok Is Dominating the Social Sphere & It’s Here to Stay.

Probably the most notable app in recent history, TikTok started gaining momentum in late 2019 after a steady following in the years prior. Afterward, it quickly gained momentum that developed into a rolling thunder of new users, making it the first app besides Facebook to reach over 3 billion users by July 20211. That being said, it is now the number one app for reaching out to consumers, past, present, and future alike2.

So why exactly is this important for your brand? First, consumers often express their dislike for ads, so a more social approach is necessary if you want to gain any attention. Second, and this is key, TikTok features a highly personalized content suggestion system. This means that every user will receive different content recommendations based on what they choose to view, rather than what follows a specific algorithm. Producing creative and thoughtful content is now highly encouraged, as any content can gain a social following, especially when it aligns with its viewers’ social values. Additionally, the platform allows for instant feedback, giving you even more insight into what your audience expects of you at the click of a button.

The key takeaway here is that traditional methods, however effective they used to be, are simply no longer viable in the modern market. Embracing what TikTok has to offer will provide you with a highly valuable tool with which you can connect with a vast audience, and allow them to help you grow your brand via user-generated content. However, keep in mind that TikTok is going to continue to innovate, which means that there may be a new monetization model on the horizon as the platform continues to find success in its momentum. Finally, be aware that the expansion of TikTok has brought with it new restrictions on direct messaging for teens, so make sure your brand is in compliance.

2. Social Ads Must Get Personal. Google Says Goodbye to Cookies.

With Google looking to phase out cookie tracking by 20243, the future of how social advertising will work is going to drastically change, and it’s likely that social platforms will become an even bigger asset to advertisers and brands as a result. Why? Companies that have become lazy and are profiting off of privacy-invasive data will be forced to rethink their strategy, as the data from cookies will no longer be available. This means that in moving forward, brands will need to develop a more direct relationship with customers, and as such, the internet’s ability to collect billions of data points on social media users will become crucial to how social advertising is done.

For brands to come out on top in this type of ad landscape, they will need to take advantage of interactive content, micro-moments, and on-brand content that is specific to their channel. For example, GoPro is dominating on all social media platforms because they run consistent marketing campaigns that drive consumer engagement, and they make sure their content is channel-specific, always. Why does this make GoPro successful? Because “49% of internet users are more likely to buy from brands advertising during their browsing time,” which gives brands a massive opportunity to grow4.

The key takeaway here is that brands will need to tap into and trust user-generated content, gain a deep understanding of your audiences’ preferences, and create extremely targeted advertisements that are highly personalized, and hyper-relevant. The way to do this is by analyzing social metrics, and using them to create engaging, entertaining, and educational content.

3. Seamless Social Selling Is a Must to Simplify the Customer Journey.

For the most part, social commerce has always been about advertising and promotions, but platforms are beginning to think outside the box and move to creating a more simplified customer journey so that buying becomes easier.

An example of this is Instagram’s new shopping feature, which allows users to purchase items that they see within the app, without ever leaving the app itself5. Not only is this incredibly convenient, but it massively shortens the purchasing paths that users must take to grab an item that is relevant to them.

For brands to take advantage of social selling opportunities like this, they need to engage with influencers who are endorsing brands by creating and implementing strategic partnerships that promote products and services to their loyal fan bases. However, this type of social commerce is not just about shortening the purchasing path or selling products through an app, but more so about generating consistent interactions that lead to consumer interest in a brand’s products or services. This is why “69% of marketers plan to disburse more money on Instagram influencers than any other market this year,”6 and why brands must get creative when keeping their consumers engaged (more video, live streams, promotions).

The key takeaway here is that if your brand is using social media to sell, the visuals must be attractive, the experience must be personalized, and the consumer must be able to easily navigate your platform in a seamless manner. Further yet, you must look into using user-generated content as a way to connect, sell, and keep up with current social media trends. After all, “90% of consumers say that UGC influences their purchasing decision”7.

4. Post-Pandemic Media Consumption Trends Shape Consumer Needs.

While the use of social media is already a daily part of our lives, the pandemic drastically increased how many users were jumping online and engaging with content. With almost a “14% year-over-year increase amounting to close to half a billion new users compared to the same time last year.” This has led to a change in how media is consumed. While the presentation of text-based information garnered the most results, it was actually images and video that had more engagements per mention, with “images hitting a 2.85 and video a 1.5.”8 This is the likely result of consumers looking for stories, connections, and engagements that are shaped for them, containing the information they want to consume in the format that they want to consume it in, resulting in more engagements with live audio and video.

What does this mean for brands going forward? Brands really need to take a look at and shift their digital business models to meet the demands of consumers’ lives as they shift from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic behavior. The content that brands are curating needs to be specific to gender, location, generation, and hobby, otherwise brands may not stay visible to target audiences and social media users.

The key takeaway here is to focus on building communities with your followers through content that bolsters connections and tells engaging stories. Add interactive elements like live audio platforms to your strategy that spreads positive news, focuses on mental health, or invite special guests that your audience can relate to. By creating easier-to-consume content that is rich with emotion, but delivered in a bite-size way that focuses on your specific audience, you’ll be able to create a meaningful relationship built on shareable experiences.

5. Consumers Are Engaging With Omnichannels Differently Due to the Rise of Misinformation.

With social media having such a heavy presence in our lives, it comes as no surprise that “64.5%” of us get our “breaking news from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram,”9 rather than from traditional means like the news channel or radio. While this is great for brands looking to expand audiences and grow connections with consumers, it also means that there is the risk of running misleading content or perpetuating fake news. To put this in perspective, there were over “8 million results in misinformation in online conversations since the beginning of 2021”10 which means that if you end up telling the wrong story, your consumers are going to look elsewhere.

It is important to note here that social listening and social intelligence are essential for brands that don’t want to fall into perpetuating fake news. To counteract the increase in misinformation, brands need to rely on tried and true reputable associations, so that popular topics are being retold in truth. Twitter did this by partnering with The Association Press and Reuters to ensure only high-quality content appeared at the top of their search results.

How does the misinformation spread? Through a lack of attention on both brand and consumer parts. A study posted on Nature.com revealed that “51% of misinformation came from a lack of attention,”11 and as such, brands need to keep an eye on what their audience is reading, and commenting on and engaging only with factual information.

The key takeaway here is that brands need to provide the content that their audience is looking for, but tackle disinformation by keeping your social media channels filled with honest, informative, factual information that resonates with your users. By doing this, you keep or gain your audience’s trust, and prevent yourself from losing them to someone else.

6. Influencer Marketing Has Less Risk, More Regulation, and Higher Impact.

With the growth of TikTok and “unfiltered” content, influencer marketing has not only become dominant as a methodology, but it’s definitely disrupting and blurring the lines between social media and e-commerce. With “67% of respondents using Instagram for influencer marketing,”12 there’s no wonder as to why brands are making the most of these opportunities and flourishing with immediate results.

The weight of the pandemic has caused consumers to gravitate towards influencers, as a way to connect with their favorite brands, and since nearly half of consumers depend on influencers’ recommendations, they are able to reach consumers on a level that brands cannot. As a result, brands need to look at influencers as a way to run effective campaigns that are tailored to specific segments of their audience.

The key takeaway here is to consider influencers of all sizes, as a micro-influencer may provide your brand with a higher conversion rate as their reach may be more personal than a celebrity with a larger audience. You also need to define your goals when using influencer marketing; are you looking for more exposure, more e-commerce conversions, or a higher engagement rate? Finally, make sure that the influencers you work with are authentic, and don’t underestimate the value that they can bring to your brand. Also, before launching an influencer campaign, make sure that your consumers are on the same page as you, by running a sentiment analysis.

7. Brands Can Have More Community Control by Decentralizing Social Media.

The pandemic really did a number on all of us with regard to being unable to maintain in-person connections with our families, friends, and peers. While the pandemic made connecting complicated, social media allowed us to maintain a semblance of social connection to others while in lockdown. Brands need to make sure that they are continuing to support the social connection that consumers have found, by creating stronger interactions through excellent customer experiences.

However, brands will need to take this step further toward social media decentralization. It is proven that when consumers are “able to interact with their social group in an app, the overall engagement and retention increases,” and as such, brands and social marketers should look into building their own in-house social networks, in-app forums, payment options, and social components in order to take back control of their audiences. Think of your company as a connection to others rather than just a brand. By providing social components within your own apps, you give your community a way to interact, engage, and communicate without using a third-party network.

A great example of this is Venmo, which keeps its users organically engaged by allowing inter-user conversations and connections. For instance, they allow their user base to stay socially connected when sending money transfers to friends, family, or causes they care deeply about.

The key takeaway here is that consumers want to connect deeply with one another, and as a brand, you can provide that by being a connection. Use consumer insights to figure out which social aspect would work well with your brand, and then implement it. While you’re at it, centralize all of your customer data to build a strong community, and make sure that your user experience is as smooth as possible. Finally, be aware that by decentralizing social media and building your own networks directly into your brand, you will need to give users control, as censorship will not be tolerated and user-generated content will rule.

8. Metaverse Momentum: This Is The Next Place for Interconnectivity.

The metaverse is simply the combination of virtual reality, augmented reality, and the physical world meshed into one digital space. While the gaming industry has been leading the way towards a digital reality like the Metaverse for a long time with the advancement of VR games, we’ve already seen AR in work through virtual dressing rooms, digital meetups, and AR social media filters.

But, the pandemic has shown us that there is an acute need for more online socialization, as in-person connection has been limited for so long. And the younger generations are showing us that offline and online experiences can merge into one, providing an environment for increased competition, collaboration, and creativity.

For brands looking to be competitive in this space, the Metaverse offers up a unique solution for connecting to users through yet another means. As VR and AR continue to develop and advance, brands may be able to use these features as a way to alleviate the barriers that stand between them and reach their customers on a deeper level. Throughout 2023, there will be a keen interest in the “physical space”, and brands need to be aware of it as it’s their future playground.

The key takeaway here is that virtual reality is driven by consumers and their communities, and as such, you need to be aware of what your audience is thinking and saying at all times. To do this, you need to understand the communities you’re trying to reach and be invested in building a brand, platform, or space that suits their interests and needs. But, make sure that you err on the side of over-inclusivity, as being successful in the Metaverse and reaching as many communities as possible, requires you to consider everyone within it. You’ll need to make sure that you’re cordially competitive, and because there are so many unknowns, you’ll need to keep an open mind and be ready to get creative.

9. Brands Must Walk the Walk With Inclusivity Proof.

Consumers want more from the brands they support, and as such, brands need to engage in topics that surround the social issues that matter the most to their audiences. This requires brands to be value-oriented, personal, and relevant to their audience by engaging with real-world topics like harassment, sustainability, mental health, and social justice. By taking corporate social responsibility seriously, eliminating “purpose marketing”, one-time donations, and performative allyship, brands can align themselves with what is truly important to their audiences.

To do this, brands need to thoroughly analyze their actions, deeds, and culture and find ways to make the changes necessary in order to become socially conscious and inclusive.

The key takeaway here is that real people make real connections, and a brand that can be relatable, genuine, and consistent with listening and acting on social issues that matter to their audience, is going to find success when they can be held accountable. However, just in case, it is important to be prepared for the next major issues and have a PR-crisis plan12 in place to limit damage, and protect your brand’s reputation. Otherwise, just remember to always listen to your community before you speak, and remember that actions, like pledging to causes, always speak louder than words.

10. Consumer Communities Are Active & Driving Real-World Change.

As we move away from the social isolation of the pandemic, the urgency and need to connect and socialize with others will continue to foster online communities that cultivate relationships around like-minded needs. If we take a look back at some of the social issues that have been in the spotlight over the last 2 years, like the Black Lives Matter Movement and the MeToo Movement, the one thing that these have had in common is the collective communities behind them. As these communities came together, they grew quickly, and brands that tapped into these communities and aligned themselves with the cause’s mission and intention, found success.

In 2023, it is important for brands to recognize that these communities are growing outside the “brand bubble” and as such, brands need to be strategic with the content that they shape around their consumers. Brands can no longer hope that something “might stick”, and instead should aim for content that truly strengthens these collective spaces. If done correctly, brands can establish a loyal, engaged, audience that scales.

The key takeaway here is that every aspect of your brand needs to be transparent, genuine, and respond positively to criticism by allowing for organic engagements. Tap into communities that can give your brand a boost, but don’t expect community growth to explode overnight. When engaging in discussions about social issues, be wary of the potential for social crises, and only pursue issues that are central to your brand’s mission.

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