Sailing towards 2022: how social networks have been changing
How does 500 million new users sound? Driven by the global pandemic, generational trends and even FOMO, that’s the worldwide increase in social media users in the last year alone – 13% of the planet. These shifts have also caused or accelerated significant changes in the way we use social media – and it’s no wonder that brands and the platforms are scrambling to stay ahead. Let’s take a look at what changed in social media this year – and the opportunities for the year to come.
Source: Report “Digital 2021”, We Are Social & Hootsuite
The war of social networks
In the war for our attention, social media platforms are cloning or imitating the solutions and formats which have proved the most successful elsewhere.
An example? Instagram Reels, clearly drawn from the Chinese platform TikTok, which has been hugely popular among the Gen Z in the last few years.
It’s also interesting to consider that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Spotify have decided to launch new functions inspired by Clubhouse, a voice-based social network which, also due to the pandemic, has seen a significant rise in 2020.
A new way of being online
While platforms are copying and cloning each other to stay on top of the most successful trends, the question remains: what about us? What are we looking for when sailing the seas of social media – and how has that changed?
We’re looking for humanity
Average users may no longer consider social networks as simply a place to admire celebrities, influencers and brands from afar, according to research by We Are Social. Social networks have rather become (or are trying to become) a mirror of “the simple life”. So, enough with all those invisible barriers dividing brands from consumers, VIPs from fans. More “human” and empathetic content can really reinforce people’s sense of belonging to a community, a space for like-minded people to meet, discuss their shared interests and support each other’s personal growth. Being part of a community means finding someone who gets you even though they may not know you in real life – a real treasure in times like these.
This new way of being on social networks is reflected in the new hybrid figure, halfway between influencers and common users: the Content Creator. Easy to trust and to empathise with, Content Creators are also creative and visible enough on social media to work with big brands and deliver their messages to a wider audience. This way, brands can also get to know their target better. Sounds like an opportunity, doesn’t it?
We’re looking for information
Whereas once the radio, TV or the Internet told us everything we need to know about the world, more and more of us are turning to social media as our primary source for learning. But when memes, gifs, jokes and retorts are the strongest currency on social media, it’s only natural that people expect learning on social media to be, well, entertaining. Infotainment rules in the social space, and there are plenty of by now well established formats that give users the opportunity to stay updated on even the most complex issues and to learn new things, from recipes to foreign languages.
Ever heard about Norma Cerletti? She’s better known as Norma’s Teaching. In 2020, she began to use the hashtag #EduTok and Instagram Reels to teach English to an Italian audience in a highly creative and engaging way. It’s a huge success!
How can we not mention YouTube and its younger rival Twitch? They’ve turned into the perfect platforms for brands and Creators to discuss an array of topics with their communities. Book Tube and #Bookstagram, for example, are the informal communities of creators and fans dedicated to sharing their love of literature on those channels.
Using social networks to create informative content is a trend which is very likely to soar in 2022. It’s been said that “saves are the new likes” and many believe saves are a new strong factor in the Instagram algorithm determining which content deserves more visibility. Rich, detailed, well-crafted infotainment could be exactly the kind of posts that people want to save and come back to – and the algorithm may be taking notice.
We’re looking for convenience
When we think about shopping, this is what comes to mind: crowded shops, sales assistants dispensing advice and long walks carrying huge bags.
But if people spend so much time on social networks, why not sell right there? In response to the pandemic, all the major social platforms have provided shop owners with a way to sell even when physical stores were closed. It’s also a great opportunity for them to find new clients and make the customer journey and conversion easier and quicker.
That’s how we’ve all discovered Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping and the chance to make purchases during Lives, the partnership between TikTok and Shopify, and even Pinterest Shop.
Social networks are going through a massive change and they now serve purposes we couldn’t even imagine just a few years ago. Not only entertainment and socialisation, but also shopping and information. An ever-evolving world which, for brands that have the in-house capabilities or the right partners to help, could be a potential goldmine.