In the second instalment of our two-part series, our global leadership team in the UK, Europe and North America share their thoughts on the trends that will shape marketing, and social media, this year.
Listen Up! Audio social goes interactive
Roberto Collazos Garcia, CEO, Germany
Over the course of the pandemic, marketers have had to quickly adapt to shifting content and media trends which have challenged the existing rules of customer relationships and brand building, making social media an even more competitive space to play in.
This year alone, we’ve seen new opportunities and formats emerge from the likes of Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, as they’ve taken audio content to the next level. Audio was the perfect lockdown medium, as it meant brands were easily able to share valuable content and connect with their audience through live conversations – without the need to be on camera or have fancy equipment.
Over the next 12 months, brands will have to revisit their audio content strategies (or, more likely, create one) to identify not just the type of content their consumers want to hear, but also how they can offer an exciting listener experience – with an interactive element – if they want to remain visible in this new frontier of social.
Social becoming a primary screen
Alberto Pachano, Managing Director, Madrid
Over the years we’ve witnessed how social has been a complement to traditional media. But recently we’ve seen how it has displaced it. What once was a “let’s find out more” kind of media has evolved into a primary source of information and facts. Platforms are doing their duties in trying to keep themselves straight and fact full. Creators are constantly creating more pure native content and events, from sports, to entertainment, news, or just for fun. And people (audience, consumer, spectators, you name it) rely and trust exponentially more in social as a decentralised, independent and “not controlled” source. Culture today is crafted in social and its primary character will keep growing over the years (hence Web3). Social will now become a primary screen for the vast majority and not just the “young ones”.
New ways of working with creators
Gabriele Cucinella, Stefano Maggi and Ottavio Nava, Regional Lead EU
In 2021, we’ve seen big changes in the way creators can develop and sustain a business, further highlighting their centrality in people’s lives. This is largely thanks to changes in content consumption habits during the pandemic.
In response, the more established platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Twitch have developed more tools to help creators monetise their channels. Meanwhile emerging platforms and tools – such as Discord, Crypto, and NFTs – have allowed creators to start building up their communities and monetising their success in a decentralised way; unrelated to a specific platform.
In 2022, these trends will accelerate, and brands who want to work with forward-thinking creators will need to become fluent in decoding the culture of creators’ communities and understanding their platforms, tools and projects. All while finding relevant ways to add value that supports each community’s individual wants and needs.
Social connection fuelled by (audio) conversation
Vincent Reynaud-Lacroze, Managing Director, Paris
2021 started with the hype of the first exclusive social audio network, Clubhouse; and while it might’ve only lasted three months – what we could consider a flash in the pan – there’s a background trend here that’s reinventing social networks, besides video creation.
A new, seamless way to connect with each other, inherited from the pandemic. A tool that allows us to live a true social conversation, as we would do around a cup of coffee. And a new approach that allows for content creation that is less demanding and intrusive as video and maybe more natural and authentic.
From small talk on Discord, to attending a conference and sharing ideas on Twitter Space, in 2022, I expect to see all platforms flexing their audio features, and each with different strategies. However, it will also prove a creative challenge for brands; finding the right tone of voice to be heard properly.
Social as a space for self directed learning
Jim Coleman, Regional Lead UK & North America, UK CEO, London
The emergence of ‘in feed syllabuses’ is a trend we covered in our Think Forward 2022 report. Learning has always played a role on platforms like YouTube or Reddit, but after a year of online work and schoolwork, social media is gaining new in-roads as an educational tool. From in-feed upskilling, such as learning-focused Facebook Groups, to the ability to learn at leisure through initiatives like the TED and Clubhouse partnership, immersive content formats and a renewed appreciation for innovative learning solutions are opening social up as a hub of education.
This has created opportunities for brands to impart knowledge to audiences from within the feed. For example, Ally Bank’s educational world in Minecraft sought to improve financial literacy among young Americans. Google developer, Anna Lytical, has taken to teaching coding via TikTok. While the infrastructure, process and behaviour that’s required to formally learn or train online is not quite ready, this kind of informal learning is thriving in the feed and is here to stay.
The Vibe Economy
Benjamin Arnold, CEO, We Are Social US
We’re seeing a new form of content creativity, best defined by a brand’s ability to evoke very specific, emotional responses, repeatedly and consistently. This ongoing curation of moods and feelings is becoming a coveted creative skill in marketing and now there is a growing sense of urgency around defining your brand’s “vibe” – because it both connects you to your audience and unifies them on a deeper level.
There are similarities in the approaches being taken by brands on TikTok to that of Tumblr and MySpace in the past. But it is now becoming a far more prominent and valuable trend for brands and influencers alike.
Focusing on vibes, rather than traditional marketing constructs, allows greater freedom of expression and connects brands and users to a barrierless world of like-minded people. From curated moodboards to brand sub-pages, we’ve seen vibe curators turn into brands themselves, and brands in turn become the curators, because they’re recognizing the long-term merit of adapting a strategy that focuses on this new way of thinking.
For brands, there is endless potential to inspire emotion and build long-lasting connections with people in meaningful ways, setting them apart from trying to be everything to everyone all at once.
Coby Shuman, Managing Director, Toronto
Social media has become an inverted parody of itself. Creators that call bullshit on social tropes have become icons, brands who engage in self-mockery have been lauded, and all the while, the influence of the everyday user has never been greater. 12 months ago, I suggested that 2021 would see the end of Big Social, and I believe through the decentralization of the internet and 3.0 we’re seeing just that.
While this might sound damning, think of it more as a wake-up call. Creators are pushing back against social’s status quo to manifest a more creative social landscape. For brands, it’s creating opportunities to move further away from traditional advertising and deeper into breaking new ground. The likes of adidas, Heinz and McDonald’s are embracing this new wave – either by diving into the metaverse head first, or through self-reflection and even poking fun at themselves and the social stereotypes of their industries. I see 2022 as an opportunity for more brands to embrace self-awareness on social, and think outside the box in a way that allows creativity to thrive.