Today, we launched Think Forward 2022, our annual trends report. Here, our Global Head of Cultural Insights, Lore Oxford, explains the five key trends that we expect to shape social over the next 12 months.

As we adapt to life with Covid-19, 2021 has been about renegotiating the rules of home, work and play.  Blended working. The Great Resignation. Vaccine passports. Broken-system sentiment. The urban exodus.

The way our societies, cultures and economies function is undergoing rapid change, and it’s driving an evolution of our relationship with digital: a re-evaluation of which aspects of life can legitimately play out online, when we need a physical lived experience, and – increasingly – where the two might overlap.

This is the backdrop to this year’s Think Forward report, which explains how we’re stepping into Brave New Worlds. 

The report unpicks the complex and ever-shifting web of digital culture and behaviour, and explores the role brands can play in reflecting and shaping it. It’s based on a series of trends identified by our Cultural Insights team, a network of 50 analysts and strategists globally, and supported by a survey of 3,000 people aged 18+ who use social media daily from the US, UK, France, Italy, China and Australia.

Below we’ve summarised each trend in brief, and you can see the full report here.

In-Feed Syllabuses: Across the globe, social media users are more likely to say they’ve learned practical life skills from social platforms than university (57% vs 51%). Now, social media is being repurposed as a platform for self-directed learning, driven by immersive content formats and a renewed appreciation for innovative learning solutions. This creates opportunities for brands to impart knowledge to audiences from within their feeds.

The Vibe Economy: The rise of social video combined with a heightened desire for connection post-pandemic is seeing a new form of creativity move into the fore, defined by an ability to evoke specific emotional responses. Social has never been better equipped to do this, especially given that 30% of 18-34s say they use social with sound on more now than before Covid-19. For brands, it’s an amazing chance to inspire emotions in audiences – the ultimate goal of many long-term marketing strategies.

Prime-time Platforms: In a fragmented entertainment landscape, social has become the lynchpin of shared media consumption, with data from TikTok showing that 35% of its users say they’ve watched less TV and streaming services since downloading the app. Broadcasters can use this trend to their advantage by working with influencers and creators to come up with social-first formats. It’s also creating opportunities for brands to engage audiences more in online storytelling.

Social Cynicism: Social media has become a little predictable, with 43% of Gen Z users globally agreeing that the algorithms which determine what we see on our feeds have a negative impact on their media diet. In response, creators are pushing back with content poking fun at overdone tropes and worn out memes, much to the delight of audiences. Brands need to do the same – novelty has never looked better.

New Materialists: From NFTs to designer Fortnite skins, a growing number of people are seeing the value of digital goods and putting hard cash behind them, including the 33% of Gen Zers who have invested in digital clothing. This is the new new money, and it’s redefining the status symbol for life online – the potential for brands to get involved is unlimited, but the rush to be in the first wave might not be the smart strategy.

Think Forward 2022’s predictions about the directions social content is headed highlight some exciting trends for the creative minds in our industry. We’re on the brink of a renaissance in creativity on social, in which brands and creators alike are going to have to work harder and better to make us laugh, move us, and connect us.

Read Think Forward 2022 here.