Trend One : Textured Discovery

At the end of last month, we launched our annual trends report- Think Forward 2023: Fragmented Futures. It features the five key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the first trend covered in the report: Textured Discovery. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here.

People want search to be less precise, and more exploratory.

We are experiencing a shift in how people explore the internet and discover new content. Users are questioning the old ways and capitalising on the rich data social offers, supplementing traditional modes of search with ones that are visual, collaborative, serendipitous, and brimming with personal experience.

People once trusted platforms to usher them through the search function. Now, however, users are growing dissatisfied with the guidance they’re getting – whether they’re furious about Instagram’s revamped feeds, or frustrated by Google Search’s SEO-skewed results. 

Deciding what to eat, what to watch, or where to go is becoming less about the coldly informative, and more about the immersive and unexpected. 

In this context, effectively guiding people around the internet means adapting to new modes of discovery – ones that are visual, collaborative, serendipitous, and alive with personality. 

The Behavioural Change

1. Search is about curating info not collecting it
In a swelling sea of content, search and discovery have become less about information-seeking, and more about curation. And while people have always gravitated towards content guided by subjective human experience, they’re now coming to it earlier in the journey.

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2. Users want to search by ‘feeling’
Rather than a clear or specific search term, people are hinging their discovery journeys around a mood, aesthetic, or feeling.

3. People want the unexpected, not the predictable
Users want to peer beyond the curtain of their own feeds and For You Pages, in search of a more random and unforeseen glimpse of what the web has to offer.

Brand examples

Learn from Spotify
Spotify let people collaboratively discover music: its ‘blend mixes’ let people peer outside of their own algo-recommended filter bubble, pushing them onto a pathway of discovery guided by their music partner’s taste. 

Learn from Meta
In collaboration with Universal Pictures and Monkeypaw Productions, Meta launched Nope World on its Horizon Worlds platform – based on the Jordan Peele film of the same name. This type of spatial, multi-sensory virtual landscape lends itself well to an emerging style of discovery process.

Read more about Textured Discovery, and the four other trends featured in Think Forward 2023: Fragmented Futures.