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What will social media look like in the future? Here’s What The Data Suggests

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What will social media look like in the future? Here’s What The Data Suggests

With social media moving at an incredible pace, it always feels like there’s something new around the corner.

Wondering where social media is headed in the next few years? Here are our guesses based on recent Gen-Z data and new features from the most popular social media platforms.

Search on Social Media Instead of Engines

Nowadays, when I want to search for something – whether it’s a product, a recommendation, or a review, I go right to TikTok. And data shows Gen-Z is doing the same.

According to a TechCrunch article, a Google exec recently suggested that apps like TikTok and Instagram are threatening two staple Google discovery apps: Google Maps and Google Search.

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” said Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information sector. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

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Why is this happening? Raghavan believes it’s because young adults prefer visual-forward content when it comes to discovery.

In the meantime, TikTok is adding new search features to keep users engaged, recently probing users to use when watching a video.

In August 2022, they tested a feature in which keywords from video comments are highlighted and linked to search results. This serves as an additional way for users to discover new content as they’re scrolling on the platform.

In the future, TikTok and other social platforms may take the lead in product and content discovery as they prioritize visual content if traditional search engines fail to keep up with consumer needs.

More Reliance on Influencers

In 2022, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S. consumers and found that influencers’ opinions can often weigh more than friends and family.

When asking about the most important factors in their purchasing decisions, 30% of consumers responded with influencer recommendations, compared to 27% for friends and/or family recs.

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This is likely because, with influencers who specialize in an area, their opinion is more valuable than a family member’s. Say I’m looking for hiking gear, a hiking influencer who hikes all year long and has a history of reviewing hiking products will probably offer more insight than a friend who went hiking once.

As a result, influencers – although strangers – can be deemed more valuable than loved ones. In the future, that trend will likely continue, as content creators are popping up every day.

In fact, our survey revealed that 30% of 18-24-year-olds and 40% of 25-34-year-olds call themselves content creators. While not every creator is an influencer, those worlds often intersect.

Seamless Shopping Experience on Most Socials

Instagram was one of the first social platforms to offer a seamless shopping experience and integration. However, they likely won’t be the last.

Let’s set the scene: In a couple of years, Gen Z will have fully joined the working class and will have tremendous spending power. Our consumer trends report found that most Gen-Zers prefer to discover new products on social media — specifically short-form videos

This means that to remain competitive, social platforms will have to offer integrated shopping experiences to keep consumers on the platform.

Instagram has already seen great success in this arena, it’s only a matter of time until other platforms follow suit.

Higher VR/AR Adoption

With the metaverse, NFTs, and web3 trending this past year, virtual reality will likely play a larger role in how we socialize online.

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Snapchat led the social AR movement with its fun filters and later expanded into virtual try-on features to create an immersive shopping experience (another sign that shopping and social media will become synonymous).

snapchat's AR virtual try on

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According to an Insider Intelligence report, 39% of consumers are interested in AR shopping. However, this adoption doesn’t have to be limited to shopping.

It can extend to virtual meetups for social connection, gaming, and more.

For instance, in late 2021, Meta announced the opening of Horizon, a social VR platform in the metaverse. This is a natural step for Meta following their acquisition of Oculus, the VR headset maker, in 2014.

Social media moves incredibly quickly, so we can’t say with certainty what the future will look like. But given recent data, we can say it’s likely headed in this direction.

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About The Author

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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