PREDICTIONS How marketers will change the way they use social media in the coming year

Each year, InternetRetailing starts to look ahead to the coming new year in a series of predictions. Today’s predictions, from a wide range of industry commentators, look at how marketers are now using social media to engage with shoppers – and what is set to change in the coming year. 

The rise and rise of social commerce

Kristof Neirynck, global chief marketing officer at beauty brand Avon, says that in 2023 “we will see a continued rise in technology and data to enhance and elevate the shopping experience both online and offline. This through advanced diagnostics that enable personalization, the further rise of social commercethat started in Asia but is now gaining traction across the world and last but not least technology that enables constant communication, support and advice throughout the customer journey, whether online or in store.”

Changing focus on social channels

Alex Frolov, CEO and co-founder of HypeAuditor, says: “Two platforms remain the leading ones for brands when it comes to influencer marketing: Instagram and TikTok. Instagram’s reputation remains undisputed when it comes to influencer marketing. It continues to offer brands the most potential for their influencer marketing strategy. However, competition remains sharp with the ever-growing popularity of TikTok among the Generation Z. According to recent analysis, 40% of those aged between 18 and 24 prefer to use TikTok, instead of Google, for their online searches. The reason for the platform’s continuing hype is the many opportunities for influencers and users to express themselves creatively.

“Marketers have already understood, a long time ago, the potential of these two platforms to authentically connect with their target audiences. However, in the next year, they will increasingly adapt and diversify their marketing strategy to the specifics of these two platforms, to fully reap the benefits they offer.  

“On Instagram, for example, the number of followers an influencer has remains a key metric to evaluate their popularity, however brands need to continue to be mindful of bots and inauthentic accounts before agreeing to any partnerships. According to our data, only 60% of accounts on Instagram are estimated to be owned by real people. Short format videos are the most successful on this platform as they effectively catch the short attention spans of audiences across all demographics. TikTok ticks differently: on this platform, marketers should prioritise creative and entertainment content to generate the most engagement. The focus is more on the content rather than the influencer. “Authenticity” is in the foreground at TikTok, which is why nano- and micro-influencers are increasingly taking the reins. 

Jack Richards, brand and consumer intelligence expert at Talkwalker says: “The year ahead will see consumers become more willing to explore new shopping channels, as the rising cost of living drives increased demand for affordability and a greater focus on price.

“With the rapid growth of social media platforms like TikTok, the coming year will see consumers influenced by an even greater number of micro-influencers – everyday people. Social commerce strategies will become crucial to help drive sales.

Much like the popularity of influencer marketing a few years ago, there is a growing emergence of social commerce. In regions such as China nearly half (49.5%) of social media users have made a social purchase and the UK is set to follow suit in 2023.”

Sara Varni, chief marketing officer at Attentive says: “Tried-and-true ad channels like Google, Meta and Twitter have seen declining or stagnant performance in 2022, and there will be a significant shake up to come as marketers explore new channels.”

That, says Varni, will mean that in 2023 marketers will be investing in “privacy friendly, loyalty-building channels” such as text messages will help to drive immediate revenues. 

“Where and how brands gather data will be more of a priority, as well as how they use it,” says  Varni. 

The rise of user-generated content

Ed Hill, SVP EMEA, Bazaarvoice, says: “Today, brand trust is at all time lows, and what you say doesn’t hold as much weight as it once did. You’re not who your shoppers want to hear from about your products – they want to hear from each other. The Influence Economy is here, and there’s no escaping it. Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing has transformed into consumer-to-business (C2B), or even consumer-to-consumer (C2C). Now facilitating, encouraging, and amplifying the voice of your customer is the best way to market products. Through user-generated content (UGC) a shopper learns more about a product or service from another customer, someone just like them with no agenda, creating an authentic experience and building a foundation of trust between the customer and the brand.

“In fact, according to Bazaarvoice research, 78% of consumers say that UGC is the type of content they find most influential when used by brands or retailers. Not allowing this C2C exchange, and flooding your website with fake five-star reviews, destroys customer trust. And once trust is lost, 82% of consumers will avoid using that brand ever again. In the next 12-18 months, the ‘C’s in C2C will even begin to include “community” along with “consumer”. Brands will continue to build loyal communities of devoted customers who will sing their praises far and wide – either incentivised or not. These engaged and adoring fans will be integral in selling going forward.”

Gaming influencers as an emerging social channel

 Alex Frolov, CEO and co-founder of HypeAuditor, says: “Gaming influencers are a rapidly growing segment of influencers, globally, with a large audience on most social media platforms. They can range from skilled players who stream their gameplaying to millions of fans to professional video game players who compete in the up-and-coming esports space.  

“Gaming influencers are more accessible than they may seem at first glance. Their fans not only follow them for their high-level video game skills, but also for the tight-knit sense of community they have built both with the influencer and fellow fans. One example is Markiplier, a gaming influencer who has racked up almost 30 million followers. Markiplier’s popularity results from his funny commentary while playing horror video games, keeping his large audience entertained. Other popular Twitchers include Ninja, who despite being followed by only 11 000 followers, his streams can gather up to 18.4 million views, each time. 

This phenomenon is also encouraged by the legitimacy esport has gained, being valued at 1.38 billion dollars in 2022. Overall, it is estimated to grow at least another billion by 2025. Marketers will increasingly prioritise partnerships with gaming influencers, even if no obvious direct ties to the gaming community exist. While the gamers’ main platform might be Twitch or similar streaming service, they often have a following on other social media platforms, such as Instagram. For instance, Nissan, Wix.com and G Fuel are some of the brands who already have partnerships with Mongraal, a top gaming streamer on Twitch and YouTuber. In 2023, more brands are expected to follow this path.”

Focus shifts to micro-micro-influencers 

Zarnaz Arlia, CMO at Emplifi, says: “We’ve long been saying influencer marketing will continue to play a more important role in marketing campaigns. And that’s happened. Companies of every size have leaned in, cooperating with influencers to help drive brand awareness and online sales. We watched the footprint of micro-influencers grow, but what about micro micro influencers? Think everyday customers here. 

“Authenticity is such a powerful force with customers. Brands don’t always need to pay out of pocket for materials that can make a real impact on their KPIs. In 2023 we will see more brands embrace word-of-mouth marketing, using social media as a vehicle to source user-generated content from customers. With UGC resulting in 29% higher web conversions compared to campaigns or websites that lack this format, it’s a no-brainer for brands to utilise the treasure trove of real-life testimonials. Not only does this save valuable time and resources (as content is plug-and-play) but it shines the spotlight on a brand’s most loyal customers while at the same time helping prospective buyers make informed purchasing decisions. 

The role of video

Zarnaz Arlia, CMO at Emplifi, says: “Marketers have been hearing it for years: ‘video will become the number one content format brands need to leverage.’ In 2023 this will still be the case – but luckily for brands, it will be the scrappy, unpolished clips that will be what audiences want more of. Ditch the high-budget campaigns featuring celebrities and pick up a cell phone to start recording and editing in-app. Not only are brands publishing more Reels, but it’s paying off. According to a recent study, the interaction count for Reels was almost 40% higher than for traditional videos

“But the burden of video content creation doesn’t need to fall on brands. More and more content creators are turning to platforms like TikTok to showcase products. With hashtags like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt growing to nearly 27 billion views, it’s clear this format has become a perfect fit for influencers and users to share their experiences in an engaging way. Brands will take this a step further in 2023 and get savvier about partnering with video-first influencers who can help amplify messages relevant to audiences while helping scale production.”

Expansion of live shopping on social

Bethan Rainford, head of paid media, Vervaunt, says: “TikTok is putting more into live shopping elements, which is soon to launch in the US meaning creators and brands will be able to sell directly on the platform. This is an interesting one though as Instagram has scaled back in-stream shopping elements in September, as it didn’t pick up as much as expected. Different platforms seem to be taking a slightly different approach, so it will be interesting to follow how successful TikTok is.

“Short form video reigns in social media at the moment for ‘scrollable’ and short-term commitment content. Instagram and Facebook introduced short form videos which have proved popular, and now YouTube Shorts is growing and will be given more prominence next year.”  

Alex Frolov, CEO and co-founder of HypeAuditor, says: “We expect retailers to increasingly prioritise live shopping in the year ahead, however they will face the challenges to adapt to the likes of Instagram and TikTok to attract shoppers on these platforms for shopping, while also providing them with a great experience throughout their purchase journey.  

“Among the hurdles retailers will face, we can mention the necessity to provide a seamless omnichannel experience and adaptability of traditional retail features on social media platforms. TikTok and Instagram do provide good creation tools that retailers can rely on, but they also need to ensure an optimised integration with their own website. 

“Another key point: it’s great to attract new customers in addition to the ones already retained in their website, but this also means retailers will need to be able to handle the increase (sometimes quite substantial) in numbers of users and generated orders. Scalability needs to be at the heart of their live shopping strategy. Finally, companies will also need to make internal adjustments in terms of how they work transversally with their colleagues: sales teams will need to be even more integrated with marketing teams in order to ensure the success of their live shopping strategy. 

“If retailers manage to achieve all this, live shopping is bound to turn into a major source of revenues for them in 2023.” 

Digital advertising on social

Zarnaz Arlia, CMO at Emplifi, says: “TikTok is doubling down on revenue generation with digital advertising. The relatively new platform is seeing tremendous results owning the title of the world’s fastest-growing media app making more than $6.2 billion from in-app spending since it hit the scene in 2017. Boasting nearly 30 million daily active users globally, it’s no wonder that brands are beginning to explore the potential TikTok has – not only in generating brand awareness but in its contribution to the bottom line. Already, brands that have tapped into TikTok advertising are seeing promising results. According to a recent study conducted by Triple Whale, brands increased their spending on the platform by 231% in Q2 of 2022 compared to the same time period the year before. And even more impressive, the same study found that direct-to-consumer brands that were leveraging TikTok were generating revenue from $1 million to $5 million dollars. In 2023 we will see an increase in the number of brands and industries that will put more of their budget towards digital advertising on TikTok, which maps to the platform’s constant innovations in the digital advertising space. “

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