We’ve been deep in the ‘Age of the Consumer’ for some years and the pandemic has only added to the acceleration of their takeover, putting them firmly in charge moving into 2022 and beyond. They crave more personalised content. They want faster service. They want better experiences. And they want it, now. For your brand to survive, you will have to listen to and respond to their ever increasing demands.

HubSpot and Talkwalker reached out to global experts, industry veterans, and their audiences to collate a list of the top trends they see influencing Social Media moving forward into a new year. Here’s what they concluded.

TikTok will lead the ‘Age of the Consumer’ and others will follow

If there is one trend that is almost guaranteed as we move into 2022, it’s the continued domination of TikTok. The short term video platform has broken all 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 and engaged audience. As the app looks to introduce an e-commerce aspect and monetisation model, brands that want to connect with consumers need to be jumping on the TikTok train.

TikTok awareness has grown greatly since its inception. Conversations grew steadily until the end of 2019, and the app then spiked in popularity as people spent more time indoors during the pandemic. A 61% increase in mentions year over year during the first half of 2021 converted into new users, making it the first non-Facebook app to reach 3 billion global downloads.

Social Ads will develop, as we say goodbye to cookies

As Google moves 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 for publishers and consumers, those that have been profiting off of privacy-invasive data collection from users will need to rethink their strategy.

Advertising has come a long way with social media and brands are able to reach far larger audiences than before, increasing brand awareness and engagement. This past year social platforms have become a huge asset for advertisers, reaching 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.

Social selling will simplify the customer journey

While social commerce was previously focused on ads or promotions, platforms are beginning to provide new and innovative selling solutions that focus on making the journey a lot 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 e-commerce merchants with new shopping features, channels such as Instagram have become synonymous with social media influencers. These influencers endorse brands through strategic partnerships, promoting their products and services to their loyal fan base. This 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. If you’re not already considering this strategy, now is the time: 69% of marketers plan to spend more money on Instagram influencers than any other market this year.

Content will shape up to customer needs after COVID-19

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, but the pandemic drastically increased usage throughout 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% increase over the year.

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.

Consumers want stories shaped for them, not only containing the information they need, but also in a style they can consume. This led to a particular increase in live audio and video, but now with added interaction and engagement. Brands will have to expand their content strategies in 2022 and beyond, both identifying the content, and style of content.

Omnichannel will be a game changer in the way consumers interact with Social Media

Over two thirds of internet users receive breaking news from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram instead of traditional MSM. With this rise in information comes the opportunity to expand audiences, grow your consumer connections and provide the information consumers want. For brands to keep up or stay afloat for the this year, it’s imperative to exploit every advantage. This means getting your hands on consumer insights.

The maturing of Influencer Marketing will finally come of age

Influencer marketing is now a dominant force in marketing methodology. As the impact of social media continues to grow, so too does the importance of influencers. New rules have resulted in increased influencer regulation and responsibility, whilst influencers have thrived with huge audience and engagement growth. 

Influencer marketing now offers better results, with lower risks. The brands that make the most of these opportunities are those that take time to understand what makes their consumers tick and identify the right influencers that will give the best exposure. Every serious brand is now engaging with and using influencer marketing moving into 2022, don’t miss out on this effective and lucrative marketing route.

Influencer disruption was already starting to happen, but the pandemic definitely upped 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 e-commerce becomes increasingly blurred, influencer marketing connects with consumers.

Brands will lead in Social Media decentralisation

The core things about social media — socialising, connection and maintaining relationships, are the very things that the pandemic made much more complicated. 

As a solution 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 like Instagram and Facebook, but it’s likely that we will 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. They won’t need to go to their favourite social media channel to add a comment on that ‘blocked road’ or message their friend to thank them for paying for last night’s meal, they can do it directly in the app.

The Metaverse will be the next consumer connection

The metaverse: an amalgamation of the physical world, the augmented and the virtual. An unknown word a few years ago, the metaverse is gaining momentum and 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. It’s become increasingly clear that VR and the metaverse are here to stay.

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. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced in July this year that Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi, a world known as the ‘metaverse’. 

Whether it’s Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, or metaverses that are yet to be created, the key to staying relevant is consumer intelligence. 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.

A lot of the brands Gen Z players are invested in serve as social spaces, as well as gaming communities. These environments allow for creativity, collaboration, and competition, which is keeping it at the forefront of the digital age.

Brand inclusivity, will be brand critical

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 are no longer interested in ‘performative allyship’, empty promises, or one-time donations. They have high expectations, preferring brands that take initiative to foster connections with their audience, as well as bringing together people with differing opinions. Brands need to thoroughly analyse their actions, deeds and culture to stay on top in 2022.

The pandemic has forced consumers to make changes in how they live their lives, and as a result they want more from the brands they follow and buy from. Nearly three-quarters of CNN’s audiences value companies that behave more sustainably, it needs to be more than skin deep. They want consistent proof that brands are walking-the-walk as well as talking-the-talk. As a result, many brands are looking towards employees, consumers and the communities they make up, not just shareholders or C-level management. 

About 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 the roll-out  of their campaigns in 2022. To be a part of those who want success as opposed to stagnation, they’ll need to keep on top of consumer insights, to keep them ahead of the game.

Communities will develop and take control

Many businesses tackle social media incorrectly by hoping something will stick. Brands need to be more strategic with content shaped around the consumer and have the aim of establishing loyal and engaged communities.

But brands don’t always have the control of these communities. Social media allows them to form outside of the brand bubble and last year has already shown the power of these communities, causing disruption across several markets. It is critical to strategise digital infrastructures and collective spaces, allowing the strength of these online communities to continue to be a priority well into 2022.

Isolation and 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.

The social issues that have been in the spotlight such as, BLM movement, the #MeToo movement, sustainability and many more have one major thing in common, they all have a driving force of communities behind them. 

Social communities can come together and grow at a fast pace and successful brands will be able to access into these communities with the right messages. Companies like Lunch on Me, FounderGym and Black Women Tech Talk, amplify social communities and messaging.

what do you think?

We’d love to hear your views and thoughts about what are going to be the game changers in Social Media for 2022. Let us know by emailing thrive@418group.com

Edited from the Hubspot/Talkwalker 2022 Social Media Trends report.

You can learn more about our social media services by contacting us at thrive@418group.com.

Doug Norman

Author Doug Norman

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