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Despite all the uncertainties the past two years have presented, there have been plenty of growth areas. Evolving consumer behaviour has unearthed plenty of new white spaces for companies to paint in areas such as social commerce and short-form video. Other areas that are fast emerging this year are the likes of the metaverse, propelled by the gaming community.
One thing that has remained constant however is consumers’ want for personalisation. This has accelerated now beyond the realms of email marketing and loyalty apps, and marketers must now think of personalisation across most touch points. This will require companies to break down silos and democratisation of data. They want more personalised content. They want faster service. They want better experiences. And they want it all now.
For brands to survive, they will have to listen to, and respond, to their demands. Based on Talkwalker’s latest social media report, we have highlighted 10 key areas in social media for marketers to focus on this year.
#1. TikTok will take over social media: If there is one trend that is almost guaranteed as we move into 2022, it is the continued domination of TikTok.
The short form video platform has broken download records, quickly becoming the go-to app for connecting with current and future consumers. Powered by a highly personalised content recommendation system, TikTok can help brands gain exposure to and connect with a qualified, engaged audience.
TikTok’s awareness has grown greatly since its inception and in the first half of 2021, there was a 61% increase in mentions year on year and conversions into new users, said social intelligence company Talkwalker. It is also the first non-Facebook app to reach three billion global downloads. As the app looks to introduce an eCommerce aspect and monetisation model, brands that want to connect with consumers need to be TikTok savvy.
#2: Social ads will develop, as cookies get crunched: The cookie is dying. As Google works to phase out cookie tracking by 2023, the future of social advertising remains to be defined. For brands, this means learning to balance the need for personalised services and the need for consent and compliance.
While the “cookieless future” seems bright for advertisers, good publishers, and consumers, those that have been profiting off of privacy-invasive data collection from users will need to rethink their strategy. The demise of the cookie has also seen social platforms become a huge asset for advertisers to reach consumers in a more personal and direct way.
“The internet’s ability to collect billions of data points on users is an absolute gold mine for brands. Advertisers have realised the importance of social ads and how crucial they will be moving forward,” said Talker in its latest report.
#3: Social selling will simplify the customer journey: While social media was previously focused on ads or promotions, platforms are beginning to provide new and innovative selling solutions that focus on making the journey easier for buyers.
For example, Instagram introduced new shopping features which allow social media users to purchase items without ever leaving the app. Moving into 2022, brands should reevaluate the purchasing paths they offer and consider taking advantage of social selling opportunities through Instagram posts, Reels, Stories, and more.
As social media platforms are starting to provide eCommerce merchants with new shopping features, channels such as Instagram have become synonymous with social media influencers.
Influencer marketing push marks a big opportunity for brands to align their products and services with relevant influencers to meet new audiences in a place where they are already spending most of their day. In fact, Talkwalker’s report found that 69% of marketers plan to disburse more money on Instagram influencers than any other market this year.
# 4. Post-pandemic content will shape up to consumer needs: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers have had to adapt to the content trends that followed, challenging the existing rules of customer relationships and brand building.
Social media was already an integral part of our lives, the pandemic drastically increased usage all over the world. There are over half a billion more people using social media worldwide than at the same time last year, indicating an almost 14% year-over-year increase, said the report.
Although text conversations have the highest amount of results, engagement per mention tells a different story. Text results receive 0.91 engagements per mention while images receive 2.85 and video results receive 1.5.
Media consumption trends have been accelerated by the lockdown. With consumers stuck at home, they’ve turned online for information, entertainment, and connection. This has driven an uptick in content creation, to fill the growing demand.
In order to remain visible to their potential customers, brands must communicate in local and detailed terms in a personalised manner. With more consumers understanding that companies have their own personal data, expectation of tailored experiences across the entire customer journey has also increased.
(Read also: Opinion: Indonesia's growth in OTT streaming sparks solutions and new challenges for marketers)
#5: Omnichannel engagement will change the way consumers engage with social media: There are over eight million results of misinformation in online conversations since the beginning of 2021. Around 64.5% of internet users receive breaking news from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram instead of traditional media.
With this rise in information comes the opportunity to expand audiences, and grow consumer connections, by providing the information consumers want. However, there’s also an increased risk of fake news and misleading content. So if brands aren’t telling the right story, consumers will find it elsewhere, with content that is possibly detrimental to your business.
For brands to keep up or stay afloat for the next year, it’s imperative to exploit every advantage. This means getting your hands on consumer insights. Misinformation continues to affect our day-to-day conversations, regardless of the industry.
#6. Influencer marketing will finally grow up: Influencer marketing is now a dominant marketing methodology. As the impact of social media continues to grow, so does the weight and influence of influencers. New rules have resulted in increased influencer regulation and responsibility, while many influencers have thrived with drastic audience and engagement growth. Influencer marketing now offers better results, with fewer risks.
Influencer disruption was already starting to happen, but the pandemic definitely quickened the pace. The incredible growth of TikTok, “unfiltered” or unscripted content, and the rise of everyday influencers have all witnessed huge breakthroughs in a short amount of time. The Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 survey reported 67% of respondents are using Instagram for influencer marketing.
As the line between social media and eCommerce becomes increasingly blurred, influencer marketing connects with consumers, allowing brands to flourish and see immediate results.
#7. Brands will lead in social media decentralisation: The most important things about social media - socialising, connection, and maintaining relationships. Brands need to double down on making sure their platforms, apps, and channels include a social component to them. Communities are key, but they’re not just limited to the main social media platforms anymore. Many brands are now building their own in-house social networks, with in-app forums and features to take back control of their audiences.
Decentralised social media has a different infrastructure with no central server and no company controlling the site. The coming year will see a continuation of brands leading the way with a stronger interaction aspect to the customer experience.
Moving into 2022, consumers will continue interacting through social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. However, it’s likely that we’ll begin to see more brands - specifically those in the travel, payment, and navigation space - incorporate social components directly into their user experience.
When consumers are able to interact with their social group in an app, the overall engagement and retention increases.
#8. Metaverses will be the next consumer connection: The metaverse is an amalgamation of the physical world, the augmented, and the virtual. An unknown word a few years ago, the metaverse is gaining momentum fast. This catch-all term combines subsets of technology, merging them into a single entity. Brands were already slowly moving towards virtual reality when COVID-19 hit, resulting in an acute need for online socialising and interaction.
Led by the gaming industry, access to digital reality has really spiked thanks to its ability to connect people in our new reality of limited in-person interactions. The widespread availability of technology and social media gives AR games a strong incentive to create and maintain a digital space or metaverse of their own. Competitive brands can then insert themselves into these virtual realities.
Across industries and markets, advertisers have realised the unique potential of the metaverse and what VR can offer. If carried out correctly, companies can connect with their audience on an even deeper level.
In 2022, we will see an increased interest and value in brands investing in the phygital space - a term already mentioned 62.5k times in the last year.
Like many of the trends that we will see driving 2022, the inclusion of virtual reality is being spearheaded by the younger generations. This emerging trend is proof that offline and online experiences are slowly merging, creating even more opportunities for brands.
#9. Brand inclusivity will be critical: For 2022, brands are going to have to listen to, and act on, the social issues that matter most to their audiences. Companies are going to be integral to global change in the future.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) was a huge topic of conversation in 2020- and even bigger in 2021. In 2022, brands need to focus on their commitment to CSR by listening and acting on the social issues that matter most to their audiences. Consumers have high expectations, preferring brands that take initiative to foster connections with their audience, as well as bringing together people with differing opinions.
The pandemic has forced consumers and employees to re-evaluate their priorities. Around 70% of employees claim they would not work for a company without a strong purpose, and this belief is affecting the way brands tackle brand inclusivity and rolling out their campaigns in 2022. To be a part of those that witness success as opposed to stagnation, or even decline, you’ll need consumer insights to keep up with the speed at which changes are now happening.
#10. Communities will develop: Many businesses tackle social media incorrectly by hoping something will stick. Brands need to be more strategic, with content shaped around the consumer, with the aim of establishing loyal and engaged communities. However, brands don’t always have control of these communities.
Social media allows them to form outside of the brand bubble and 2021 has already shown the power of these communities, with them causing disruption across several markets. It is critical to strategise digital infrastructures and collective spaces, with the strengthening of these online communities continuing to be a priority well into 2022.
Social distancing has increased our need to socialise and connect. This year will witness the continued increase of online communities, and these groups will become more crucial for businesses to cultivate relationships and address their needs.
Photo courtesy: 123RF
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