2021 was a busy year for social media platforms and 2022 is shaping up to be even busier.
Earlier this year I offered up some predictions on what I thought the year would hold for social media. Here’s how I see social media shaping up in 2022, along with what strategies marketers should develop for a complete customer experience.
The Evolution of the Main Feed Has Begun Algorithmic main feeds in Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest have long connected people to news. But the attention-baiting tactics they practice have come under scrutiny, leading to an outcry for changes in platform strategies to focus on bringing value to the people who rely on them for connection.
Several changes meant to curate posts with more personalization and privacy in mind are on the way. Twitter, for example, stated its roadmap for future products and features will double its revenue by 2023. Moves like this lessen the dependency on targeted advertising for revenue while creating features ostensibly to better serve its customers.
What This Means: Marketers should expect — and plan to leverage — more features that enhance customer experiences. Most rollouts of these features will be a trial, however.
The next trend explains why.
Yet Social Media Remains Addicted to Ad Revenue The parade of ads shown alongside news feeds is showing its age, yet the revenue created has grown to new heights.
One forecast from eMarketer predicted Twitter will reach $2 billion in U.S. ad revenue during 2021, despite flat growth. That is a 38.5% increase over 2020. The site also forecasted that Instagram will for the first time make up over 50% of Facebook’s $50.30 billion in net ad revenues in 2021.
What This Means: Marketers should not pause any awareness for new ads features just yet, as digital ads will still likely provide effective customer journey messaging. But an evolution in options will address increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI.
Slimmed-Down Media Models Will Turn Up the Competitive Heat We all know the firmly established social media platforms with massive audiences. Facebook, for example, reported in its earnings report a year-over-year increase in daily and monthly active users, despite public criticism of its practices. In contrast, newer platforms have emerged which offer a fundamentally slimmed-down media model, meant to make socializing among niche audiences more convenient to moderate and safer as a community.
Interestingly, not all are social media platforms. These upstarts include the podcast platforms like Spotify, livechat platforms such as Clubhouse, newsletter platforms like Substack and sub-communities in the established social media platforms, such as Twitter Spaces. All aim to allow people to forge meaningful connections with their favorite creators or community rather than relying on algorithmic recommendations for engagement.
It’s unlikely any one platform will be the “next Facebook” any time soon — no one is asking for it. The challenge for these slimmed-down business models is generating revenue. It’s a last mile problem that promises huge upsides for influencers and platforms through shared revenue on subscriptions, tips or ticketed events. Twitter and Spotify could potentially leverage this benefit faster, for either current business models (podcasts on Spotify) or for emerging features (such as Twitter Tips).
What This Means: These platforms ultimately mean marketers must cultivate customer experience options that do not appear as attention-grabbing content.
As Social Commerce Continues Its Ascent, So Will Customer Service As discussed previously, social commerce features will continue to roll out to keep up with how people shop for goods and services. Customers have become accustomed to initiating a purchase online — be it curbside pickup of groceries or scheduling an appointment — but now want fast responses to customer service needs as well.
Social media channels dedicated to customer service have long existed. The pandemic has only accelerated adoption of these channels. What This Means: Marketers should look to refine customer service to gain the most benefit of new social media platform features.
Calls for Social Media Accountability Will Increase Public calls for social media platform accountability will increase, buoyed by the fallout from the Facebook papers and the findings implicating Instagram as a negative influence on young users.
The findings, first brought to light in a Wall Street Journal report, found 32% of teenage girls surveyed “indicated that when they had negative thoughts about their appearance, Instagram made those feelings worse.” Fourteen percent of teen boys reported similar sentiment.
The big question is what kind of legislation will emerge. Antitrust debates will reveal clues on legislative progress. Antitrust scrutiny can constrain the major platforms’ ability to copy features from smaller platform or outright acquire other platforms, as seen with UK’s regulators telling Meta to sell its Giphy acquisition.
This differs from the quick acquisition and dissolution of platforms, as seen when Twitter acquired Periscope. That scrutiny can keep smaller platforms among marketers’ strategic choices. What This Means: Expect more fallout in 2022 to shape what digital media marketers use to connect with customers.
The Rise of the Creative Influencers The proliferation of creative tools have allowed for a new kind of influencer to take shape: the Creators. Creators differ slightly from traditional influencers, who rely on experiencing the world around them, by producing original materials using these tools. The pandemic has changed what influences are valuable on the go. As a result, creators have gained a sizable follower count in a world with limited gathering options during the pandemic.
What This Means: Marketers now face two kinds of influencers for branding and leveraging engagement. Creators offer a way of demonstrating the benefit of a solution, creating an additional micro-influencer opportunity.
The Augmented Reality Buzz Grows in the Wake of the Metaverse Hype People’s interest in augmented reality (AR) is starting to grow, though reservations remain. A number of studies have indicated a mixed consumer reaction to augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). “Nearly four in 10 US adults have not used and are not interested in using AR and VR while shopping, per Bizrate Insights. However, 23% of those who haven’t are very interested in doing so,” according to eMarketer.
Hesitancy may change as growing competition in the metaverse continues in 2022. While Facebook rebranded as Meta to better leverage its investment in AR, Microsoft announced Mesh, a metaverse for its Teams platform. The high-profile interest in the metaverse matters because of its potential to draw downstream AR developers and suppliers into the tech spotlight.
What This Means: Marketers should be open to experimenting with AR as a way to enhance customer experiences. Snapchat has shown clear examples, such as opening virtual pop-up stores for Wal-Mart and Coke.
Short Video Adoption Will Shape Video Metrics TikTok dominates the social media environment today, triggering a heated competition to introduce short videos and live streaming capabilities, such as YouTube’s introduction of YouTube Shorts and Instagram declaring its emphasis on video over images.
What This Means: Marketers need to analyze if link playback leads to conversion activity. This means correlating data from social media to sales or conversion data. Look for correlation features in reporting or for third-party alternatives ranging from open source data models made with R or Python to plugin dependencies for business data solutions like Power BI or Google Data Studio.
Addressing Mental Health Flaws in Social Media Metrics People’s increased reliance on social media during the pandemic has created a new-grown awareness of the impact excessive social media usage has on mental health.
The aftereffects can leave people feeling drained, manipulated and exhausted. Social media platforms have been experimenting on how best to respond.
For example, YouTube decided to remove dislike counts from public view of its videos. While a dislike count is not a conversion metric, making it private attempts to cut back on harassment. The private dislike count also reflects a move among social media platforms to clean their feeds of bad actors.
Creating an environment suitable for customer service means preventing troll-like behaviors from plugging up the DMs and filtering social media feeds against abusive behavior.
Twitter has been leading the fight on its platform, introducing Safety Mode, a filter against abusive tweets when a user is getting negative attention. Brands are responding as well. In one case, Lush Cosmetics announced it would pull all its social media profiles to show its concerns around mental health wellness on social platforms.
What This Means: Marketers should expect more coordination among the social media platforms to prevent cross-platform abuse.
Choosing Where You Forge Better Customer Connections There’s now a dizzying array of social media choices, but brands are recognizing they may have to be selective to which platforms connect them best to an intended audience.
For example, during National Black Business Month I noted marketers have an opportunity to connect investments in supplier diversity to customer impressions of their brand. Many customers scrutinize those efforts through social media, so marketers need to know which platform provides the right exposure for connection and messaging.
What This Means: Marketers should evaluate metrics that show where engagement align with conversions when making major decisions.
Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business digital analytics consultancy. He reviews data from web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability.
Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers
With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.
The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.
As explained by Meta:
“From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”
At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.
Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.
The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.
Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.
“Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.”
Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.
It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.
But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.
That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.
Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?
It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.
But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.
You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.
Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps
Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.
The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.
It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.
For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.
While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.
There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.
It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.
Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.
Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner
Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.
“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.
The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.
The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.
According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.
The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.
As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.
He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.
Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.
On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.
Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.
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