Social media is going through a time of significant change – from fine details like the rollout of new features and apps, to bigger shifts such as increases in account deletion by users and migration across social platforms.

This guide will take you through five key trends that could redefine social media in 2022. And to help you make sense of it all, we’ll give some advice on how marketers can factor the evolving situation into their strategies.

Trend #1: New monetisation options will drive innovation in brands’ social media use

Social media platforms have traditionally made their money by gathering data about users, and then selling that data to third parties, sometimes in the form of advertising products like Instagram for Business and LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

In recent years, public awareness of this model has become more widespread and more nuanced. Many users have become uncomfortable with how their data is used – sometimes, to such an extent that they’ve deleted their social accounts.

This pushback against user-data-intensive monetisation has spurred social platforms to explore other approaches to earning revenue from their popular services.

In 2021, Twitter started trialling a product called Ticketed Spaces, which enables “creators” to charge other users a ticket price for joining a private space, where the creator might provide professional advice, tuition, or access to other valuable interactions. The creator gets to keep most of the ticket price; and Twitter gets a cut too.

Another key recent development in social media monetisation has been the arrival of features that enable users to send a tip to content creators. Many platforms have introduced tipping in recent years, including YouTubeTwitter and Clubhouse.

These developments could be just the tip of the iceberg. Further upcoming monetisation features include Instagram subscriptions, and virtual conferences held via LinkedIn Events.

The big question for marketers is how will this shift towards on-platform monetisation affect the role social media plays for their brands. Features like tipping and gated social media groups are well suited to certain sectors, such as entertainment and B2B services, but are perhaps less relevant for others including FMCG and personal finance.

For the right brand – one whose customers are happy to pay for social media content – the shift to new forms of monetisation could transform the role of social media. Where social media was once primarily a way of acquiring leads and communicating with customers, it could now have a greater role to play as a direct source of revenue.

Trend #2: Migration across social platforms

In 2022, we expect to see meaningful changes in how people divide their time across multiple social media platforms.

The year started with the bombshell news that Facebook’s number of daily active users (DAUs) had decreased for the first time – from 1.930bn in Q3 2021, to 1.929bn in Q4 of the same year. While it’s too early to say whether this slight dip will mark the beginning of a sustained decline for Facebook, it is clear to see that the social media landscape is more complex and multilateral than it once was (although Meta does own a cluster of the top platforms).

According to a Deloitte survey of consumers in the U.S., the average person in 2021 was an active user of five social media services. A significant proportion of younger age groups were using an even wider spread of platforms, with 24% of gen z respondents and 26% of millennials claiming to use 10 or more services.

Marketers should be watching closely to see how their own audience is using social in 2022. Consider which platforms they use, and what their objectives are when using each platform. Each combination of audience and platform brings unique conditions for marketing, and it is no longer safe to assume that most of your audience are using the same handful of leading social platforms in the same ways they were a few years ago.

With this in mind, we suggest that you dig down into your web analytics to discover any change in which social platforms are driving traffic to your brand’s website. Additionally, you might consider doing some market research into which social platforms your customers are using, and what they like to do on each platform. The facts you uncover should help you to formulate a social marketing strategy that fits how your audience actually uses social today.

Trend #3: Pre-installs could drive uptake of social apps for TVs

For many years, marketing theorists have been talking about the potential of ‘social TV’, where a social app runs on a user’s smart TV.

Such apps have often been based around ‘dual-screening’, the user behaviour of using social media while watching TV, which usually involves a smartphone, tablet or laptop. In theory, social TV can better cater for these simultaneous consumer wants by serving both within a single view.

Social TV apps have yet to gain major traction with consumers, relative to the popularity of social media and television in their own rights. However, that could soon change. In 2021, TikTok launched a smart TV app for western audiences which, crucially, is focused on the platform’s own content. TV owners can use the app to watch TikTok content on their television, with a far larger screen and potentially better visual specs than a smartphone would allow.

In February 2022, TV manufacturing giant Vestel announced that TikTok would now come pre-installed on its Linux-powered smart TVs, while users of the brand’s Android-powered smart TVs would be able to download the app from the Google Play Store. The smart TV version of TikTok is focused around viewing TikTok content, rather than creating. Its user interface splits up content into 12 categories including comedy, sports, animals and food.

Vestel’s brands, which include Toshiba, Hitachi and JVC, are not the only ones offering the new TikTok smart TV app. Other makes supporting the tech include Samsung and LG. With several leading TV brands now promoting social TV – in some cases through pre-installation – the coming months could provide intriguing insights into the potential of a new kind of social TV.

When questioned about TikTok’s move into smart TV by Wired[https://www.wired.co.uk/article/tiktok-android-tv-smart-tv], TikTok UK and Europe Managing Director, Rich Waterworth, said: “You have this new dynamic of discovery and growth and pushing things into the mainstream, and you bring that to the very established behaviour of sitting down together on a chair or sofa around a shared screen, which has been a cherished part of family life.

“When you bring those things together, it gets really exciting. You get this combination of niche internet trends which are now mainstream parts of culture, and you enable people to watch them together on the big screen.”

Trend #4: Continued growth in social video

It’s not just TikTok for smart TVs that will be changing the way people consume social video content in 2022. Several other platforms are adding new features to augment their video offering, including Twitter, which has added capability for users to watch video clips from a TweetDeck column while continuing to use the app, and TikTok, which has been experimenting with new video avatar tools.

These updates have layered on top of major developments in the preceding years to collectively boost the capabilities of social video across all the key social platforms.

Alongside the ongoing flurry of social video developments, advertisers’ spend on social video ads is forecast to rise.

According to Business Insider, advertisers are set to spend $24.35bn on video ads served on social networks in 2022, rising to $28.21bn in 2023. This would mark a significant increase on the totals spent in 2021 ($20.28bn) and 2020 ($14.68bn). An increase in line with these projections would also see video ad spending increase as a proportion of total ad spending on social networks, from 33% in 2021 to 34.4% in 2023.

These figures seem to paint a rosy picture for video advertising on social. However, it’s worth noting that the forecasts suggest the long-running growth of social video ad spend is starting to slow. Whereas 2021 saw a 38.1% year-on-year rise in spend, the growth rate is forecast to slow to 20.1% in 2022, and 15.8% in 2023.

Business Insider’s forecast raises questions for marketers who promote their brands on social. Those who are currently using social video ads are likely to face increased competition within social advertising platforms, in the form of higher competing bids and a higher benchmark in terms of ad quality.

A different question faces marketers who don’t currently use video ads on social. On the one hand, they may have the sense that “if our competitors are doing it, we should be doing it too.” On the other hand, increased competitor spend and potentially higher ad quality will present formidable barriers to entry for prospective social video advertisers.

Our advice to marketers who are struggling with these questions, is that you should follow your customers first, your competitors second and the social networks themselves last. By all means, start experimenting more with social media video ads, but be sure to analyse your audience’s response closely. Look for indications that your audience responds well to this form of advertising (e.g. a low cost-per-conversion relative to other advertising approaches) before you commit a significantly increased share of your budget to social video ads.

Trend #5: Early experiments in social VR marketing

Some social platforms are betting big on social VR, an emerging technology which usually involves people socialising within a VR-headset-powered virtual world. It is widely theorised that social VR could play a key role in the ‘metaverse’, a successor to the mobile web that places users “inside the internet”, and for which Facebook – or should we say, ‘Meta’ – is now named.

Social VR platforms are still in their infancy – but some are gaining users fast. According to The Verge, Meta’s social VR products Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venue acquired 300,000 users in the three months starting December 2021. This still leaves the Horizon products a long way behind gaming-focused competitor Rec Room, which lays claim to over 37 million users and was valued at $3.5bn at the turn of the year 2022.

These user counts pale in comparison to the numbers of people using the most popular social media platforms. Nonetheless, the growth in social VR does suggest that the technology could present opportunities for marketers to interact with customers in novel ways. Some brands, including Gucci, have already started marketing on social VR.

Some final thoughts of social media in 2022

Every year, we think long and hard about what’s next for social media.

Way back in 2017, we talked about how influencers were going to become more important in social media marketing. The following year, we predicted that QR codes would start to become trendy again, thanks in part to their increased use on Snapchat.

There have been countless changes to the social media landscape in recent years, big and small. But 2022 feels different. From changing attitudes towards social media to the expanding role of video ads and social VR, the shifts underway could transform how people use social, and redefine the ways marketers can use social to communicate with audiences. Some commentators have gone as far as to herald the dawn of “Social 2.0” – and we think they may be right to do so.

Change is happening fast, and at an exponentially accelerating rate. The good news for marketers is that much of the data we need to adapt and thrive is available almost instantly. Keep following your audience data closely; adjust your methods to meet emerging trends; and continue to reap the benefits of social media marketing, no matter what social looks like by the end of the year.