How brands can keep up with the shifts on social

Christina Miller, Head of Social, examines the recent evolution in social media habits and how brands can adapt to these changes in the year ahead.


2021: the year that was supposed to be filled with renewed creativity and living life with a YOLO mentality.

What we ended up with was another year of challenges, and the platforms that kept us entertained during the various lockdowns remained as portals for the connection, entertainment, and experiences that were not always possible in real life. The trends that began during these past two years have gradually become our standard ways of living, and social platforms have innovated and progressed to fit new consumer behaviours and expectations.

With digital touch points having penetrated further into society, now, more than ever, it’s crucial for brands and businesses to keep their fingers on the pulse of these fast-evolving trends as they look to authentically engage in cultural moments within increasingly influential digital communities.

So, what do we think is in store for the year ahead? Well, everything from digital self-care to in-app shopping, as well as the comeback of simplicity and the rise of sound.

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Spiritual self-care

Spirituality slipped into the digital space in new ways in 2018. Meditation apps were hot investments and platforms like Co-Star, which pings users' phones with daily astrology readings and zodiac-inspired tips, hinted at exciting things to come.

With the pandemic putting society in a tailspin, digital spiritual practices increased, giving people the space to find meaning during challenging times. On TikTok, videos tagged #spiritualtiktok now have 4.9 billion views, and #spirituality has 8.6 billion, reflecting long-term conversations and societal changes.

More than ever, people want to grow and contribute to society in a meaningful way. The pandemic has made us more introspective, aware of our state of being and more outward-looking. From the rise of purpose to the great resignation, people are now considering the bigger picture, the broader purpose and meaning of life, and communicating this on social.

For brands, there is an opportunity here to grow and care for their audiences in 2022. By creating authentic content and experiences that allow consumers to care for themselves, brands will be able to build loyalty as they are seen to have shared values and priorities. Crucial, really, as purpose is seen as a growing competitive differentiator for brands and a driver of consumer willingness to buy or boycott products.

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Simpler social

In a period of chaos, we have seen a yearning for simplified social in our collective consciousness. Nostalgic conventions have made a return, such as the creation of collages, journaling and the Y2K aesthetic, coupled with new trends like ASMR and mukbangs.

A simplified content and connection approach is a welcome shift in a social world where more was more for so long. It will allow brands to take a step back and rethink their content strategy to connect with what audiences are craving.

Simpler social can be an opportunity for brands to connect, or reconnect, with both young and older generations through nostalgic activations and become relevant through these born-again, simplified trends.  

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Sound is the future

With 40% of Gen Z and Millennials trusting podcasts more than traditional media sources and 117.8 million people listening to podcasts monthly in the US alone in 2021, the rise of the more intimate, audio-focused features such as Twitter Spaces will continue this year. In fact, the platforms are betting on it. Meta is in the process of building an audio product to rival Clubhouse's 2021 success, and LinkedIn announced the launch of a similar product, Audio Rooms, in 2022. Podcasts and audio-led social interactions continue to be a key source of entertainment, information, and advertisement.

Having an audio channel embedded into a brand's strategy will be a key point of development. Brands have started creating sponsored Twitter Spaces rooms or interacting in popular audio-chat rooms such as #SingYourDialect (which attracted 300,000 listeners over two nights). But this is only the beginning.

In the UK specifically, for brands who are affected by the new HSFF regulations [high in fat, sugar and salt] coming into effect later this year, podcasts will be one of the only mediums that are untouched by these new marketing regulations. Yet, despite consumers now spending a third of their media time with audio, according to a recent WARC LIONS Intelligence study, most brands spend less than 10% of their media budget on it.

2022 needs to be the year of audio investment and getting the right size of media investment as part of that.

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Shopping in-app

Social platforms have found a new purpose over recent years as in-person shopping took a significant hit during the pandemic and more people turned to them as purchase points. As people continue to increase their time spent on social, they are looking for entertainment through new experiences that marry joy and convenience together in one place.

When it comes to shopping, people will shop more on - and in - video-sharing apps and through livestreams as they move to new shopping experiences via platforms like TikTok and Pinterest. With these platforms rolling out more ads and shopping features, and the rise in the adoption of technologies like augmented reality, social will be one of the fastest-growing channels for brands selling to Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

With nearly one in four young people also expected to take an interest in global sustainability by frequenting digital thrift stores like Depop and Etsy, it’s easy to see how social media can be a positive trend for the planet. As platforms accelerate their commerce solutions, consumers and brands alike will no doubt quickly adapt to and adopt these new and exciting ways of engagement.

So, digital realms in 2022 will continue to be vast, ever-evolving and dictated by users. This means brands are going to face a somewhat unpredictable challenge to build connections with their audiences. Yet, by monitoring trends and honing in on specific ones that make sense for their customers, brands can reap the rewards of ‘keeping up’ with shifts on social.



This article was originally published in Shots.

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