We’re quickly nearing the end of another COVID-disrupted year, and while many will be glad to see the back of 2021, with a return to normal now on the horizon, we do still have some way to go yet, with the full economic impacts of the pandemic likely to play out over decades, and in varying ways.
That will also have implications for digital marketing, with the pandemic-induced lockdowns changing online behaviors, and sparking all new trends – like audio social, the accelerating growth of eCommerce and the evolving metaverse for digital connection. There’s also the work from home shift, and the migration to hybrid work models, which will also have impacts for broader digital connection. All of these elements will play a part in what’s coming next in the social media space, and from the major platforms specifically.
So what can you expect to see from Facebook, Twitter and the rest in 2022? With the pandemic disruptions easing, it seems a little easier to predict the next stages, with more stable pathways appearing – though our predictions for 2020 and 2021 were also fairly accurate, even amid the chaos.
There’s certainly a lot happening – here’s a platform-by-platform overview of key trends you can expect to see take shape in the 12 months ahead.
Despite rising challengers, and a steady stream of controversies (both real and invented), Facebook remained atop the social media heap in 2021, with its 2.9 billion active users dwarfing all others, and forming the largest interconnected network of humans ever created.
The platform may be losing touch with younger audiences, but it also continues to expand into markets, offsetting any major usage declines, while it also continues to add new ad tools and business options to build a more complete platform, and facilitate the next stage of brand connection.
And that’s before you consider its move into VR, and the evolving metaverse concept. It still faces challenges, of course, and various investigations around the world, but Facebook looks set for more growth as it continues to develop in more, and different ways.
Here are the key elements of development for The Social Network.
Facebook made a big push into eCommerce at the start of the pandemic, with the introduction of Facebook and Instagram Shops, providing another way for retailers to connect with their audiences.
In-stream shopping has since become a key element of focus for the platform, and in 2022, you can expect to see Facebook expand this even further with more shoppable posts, streamlined payment processes (potentially through the development of Facebook Pay and its own Diem digital currency), improved product discovery and more alerts for buyable products in-stream.
Live shopping will also be a key element of focus. Live-stream shopping has become a key trend in China, with the value of China’s live-commerce market rising some 280% between 2017 and 2020, and now on track to become a $423 billion market by the end of next year.
Facebook sees similar potential in western markets, and with the general consumer focus more firmly aligned on eCommerce, now is the perfect time for Facebook to make a bigger push as it looks to make live-commerce a bigger element.
It’s already experimenting with this, and you can expect to see this become a bigger focus.
Facebook’s also working to become a foundational element in the digital infrastructure of emerging markets, with eCommerce also set to play a big role in this shift. Given this, you’re going to see even more shopping tools slowly merging into the Facebook experience over time, as it works to integrate more utility into the platform to counter likely losses in ad spend.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already staked his claim to the Metaverse shift, which, theoretically at least, could provide a means to integrate its various social media and evolving tech projects.
Expect to see the next stage of Facebook’s AR glasses, more specifically integrated with Instagram, along with the emergence of more interactive tech, like wristband control for AR overlays and next-level social and workplace tools for its Oculus VR headsets.
If Facebook can own the trending Metaverse space, that will be a big win for its future ambitions, and it’s already building the foundations in this respect.
The recent ‘Facebook Files’ expose looks set to be a significant moment, not so much in terms of the revelations about the company (many of which we already knew or suspected), but in regards to the extent that Facebook itself is aware of the negative impacts it’s apps can have, and the efforts it’s then made – or not – to rectify such.
Will Facebook look to address these key areas, even if such action would run counter to its business interests?
As Facebook eyes the next stage of digital evolution, moving beyond the Facebook platform itself, I suspect we’ll see more willingness from The Social Network to experiment with things like reducing political content in News Feeds and giving users an option to switch off the algorithm, either by an easy, Twitter-style toggle, or an alternate, swipeable timeline.
Removing algorithmic amplification was a key recommendation made by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, and by providing this as a simple, optional feed alternative, that may well prove to be the easiest way forward, in that:
a) It gives users more control, which shows that Facebook is working to address this, and
b) Because most people won’t use it anyway, which lessen the impact for the company.
Facebook has tried this in the past (as per above), but I suspect we’ll see more prominent, more user-friendly feed alternative options soon, which will make it even easier for users to control this element – or at least feel more in control of their in-app experience.
Will audio social remain a long-term usage behavior within social apps, or was it a pandemic-inspired fad, which provided another way for people to connect amid COVID restrictions?
I suspect it’s a bit of both, but I also predict that Facebook will eventually win out in the audio social race, specifically because of one key element: Discovery.
As with video live-streaming before it, audio social has become less compelling as it’s been made more widely available, because as with all media, while anyone can create, the capacity to share compelling, interesting content, consistently, is not universal. Being good at audio or video live-streaming is a skill, and the big challenge that Clubhouse and Twitter are now grappling with is how do you ensure that you’re showcasing the best audio content to each individual user, to generate optimal engagement with broadcasts in real-time?
Neither is succeeding in this, but Facebook, which has taken a more measured, more cautious approach, by restricting access to its audio rooms to high-profile users and groups, is actually on a far more viable path for the option.
The open reach of Twitter may hold more appeal to some, but Facebook’s audio strategy will, eventually, see it get the most out of the option, even if it doesn’t remain a key connective option post-pandemic.
Building digital identity
Another key step that you can expect to see Facebook take action on in 2022 is digital identity, and building a bridge between your Facebook profile and your VR/metaverse presence.
We’re already seeing this with the rise of digital art-based NFT avatars, which will formulate how you’re projected to others in the virtual space, and Facebook is experimenting with its own NFT profile display options to lean into this shift. Facebook’s also gradually guiding more users towards its digital avatar creation tools, with advanced gesture and response options, and as the metaverse push continues to gain momentum, you can expect to see Facebook add more of these character tools to help more users build their virtual representation and depiction.
Expect to see a lot more 3D characters of your friends, in different forms, across Facebook’s apps, as it looks to shift focus to the next stage.
Trust the system
In regards to Facebook ads, ‘trust the process’ will be key refrain, with Facebook urging ad partners to rely more on its machine learning processes to guide spend, as the impacts of Apple’s ATT update continue to muddy the attribution waters.
Facebook’s working to build systems that’ll help brands to maintain ad effectiveness, despite data restrictions, and it’ll increasingly be looking to highlight key examples which show that it can still provide good results, but the learning period for each campaign – the early stage where it’s systems are testing and iterating results based on user response – will now be more critical than ever.
Facebook will continually push for advertisers to run longer campaigns, and to be patient, while marketers will increasingly move to a hybrid reporting approach, using Google Analytics and other methods to track response (don’t be surprised to see Facebook try to make a push on in-store QR code scanning as well, as a means to provide more direct attribution).
But eventually, with Page reach in decline, along with campaign results in many cases, more marketers will look to rising alternatives, like TikTok and YouTube CTV ads, to replace Facebook ad spend. That will impact the company’s bottom line, though it’ll be working to replace those losses with eCommerce tools, while also pointing to the next stages of digital connection.
Twitter has adopted a new, faster development timeline, which has seen it add a lot more features over the past 18 months – though many of those new updates have also fallen flat or had little overall impact.
Still, Twitter’s numbers continue to improve, both in terms of engagement and revenue. And while there are key elements that will require more focus, it is theoretically on track to meet its ambitious growth targets, which it announced earlier this year, in response to a group of activist investors taking up Twitter board seats and calling for significant improvement, or the replacement of the current management team.
In other words, Twitter needs to improve, or Jack Dorsey and Co. could soon be out of the job. So what’s Twitter going to do in 2022 to build on its momentum?
Building payment frameworks
Twitter’s main push over the past year, at least in terms of its business efforts, has been building pathways for creators to make money from their tweets, while also establishing expanded revenue streams for the platform itself.
New options like Super Follows and Ticketed Spaces facilitate direct monetization for users, while Twitter’s also developing its own Twitter Blue subscription option for access to new tweet features.
Twitter’s creator tools look set for moderate success, with users, for the most part, hesitant to actually pay for tweets, and few creators able to offer adequate enticement. But Twitter Blue, which is close to its next stage, could end up being a solid earner, if Twitter can get its offering right.
Thus far, Twitter Blue hasn’t been a big winner in testing (accessible to Australian and Canadian users), but the next stage, as you can see above, does look more promising, and if Twitter can build more value into the Blue package, it could be a key element in maximizing the app’s earnings potential – and saving Twitter’s exec team from the wrath of the new board.
Shopping via tweet
Twitter, too, is developing its eCommerce options as it looks to tap into the rising mobile shopping shift. It’s already testing new shop elements on its Professional Profiles, its variation of business pages, along with direct, in-stream buying from tweets.
Will that work out?
It largely depends on how accustomed users are with spending money in-app, which is another element of its creator monetization push. Getting money for creators is one thing, but building habitual behaviors – i.e. getting Twitter users used to paying money in the app – is another consideration, and that could extend to in-stream purchases if Twitter can get it right.
Expect to see Twitter’s in-stream buying tests ramp up in the second half of next year.
Crypto and NFTs
While Facebook leans into the metaverse concept, Twitter is taking more practical steps into the next stage of tech development, with new options that enable people to make payments via cryptocurrency, and new display tools that align with the rising trend of showcasing NFT purchases in the app.
This could be a key area of growth, if both crypto and NFTs remain more than a trend, with Twitter already being a key connective tool in both communities and establishing links with prominent users in the space. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is very keen on Bitcoin, particularly as a tool for democratizing payments in emerging markets, and if Twitter can become a key element in that shift, and that shift does catch on in a more significant way (i.e. crypto processes are not shut down by respective governments), then it could be a valuable, functional area of focus for the app.
Expect to see Twitter expand its integrations, on both fronts, in 2022.
New video tools
You can also expect Twitter to make video a bigger focus next year, as it looks to integrate the full-screen presentation options and tools leftover from Fleets into new areas.
Twitter’s already working on this, and if it can lean into the broader interest in full-screen, short-form video, that could be an engagement winner, with more focus on expanding tweeted videos into full-screen mode when tapped.
That’ll also lead to new trends in usage, where users entice viewers to tap into full-screen mode to see the full context.
Facebook’s other social app has become a key player in many aspects, though it’s hard to tell whether Instagram is still growing, considering it hit a billion users in 2018, and it hasn’t posted an update to that figure ever since.
The platform continues to chase trends, be they Snapchat or TikTok-originated, with varying levels of success, and it remains popular with younger users. But there are also some potentially concerning signals coming out of Instagram HQ – and that’s before you consider the reports of the app’s negative impacts on mental health.
What’s in store for IG in 2022?
Buy, Buy, Buy
eCommerce is the key focus on Instagram, and making all posts shoppable in the app. The more shopping options Instagram can build in, the more it can build on habitual usage, and get users more accustomed to spending.
Ideally, Instagram wants all items in all posts to be shoppable, or at the least, able to guide product discovery, and it’s working on object identification tools, in still images and video, to facilitate exactly that.
Expect to see more shopping options being tested in IG through the year, including advanced product search by image, product discovery panels in the main feed and a big push on live shopping, the same as Facebook.
That’ll also provide more monetization pathways for creators, and build a new usage focus for the app in developing markets.
As AR/VR gets more focus, Facebook is working to become a leader in the space, and if it wants to maximize its appeal in this area, particularly among younger users, it will need to integrate more AR functionality into Instagram as well.
How will that look in practice?
Instagram will be directly connected into its AR glasses and tools, and overtly communicated as the platform to showcase your captured video, while also being connected to its evolving AR experiences through Facebook wearables.
Much like how Snapchat is where you experience its AR experiences, Instagram will be the AR portal for Facebook, where it connects its developing options to users. This will also extend to NFTs (already in development) and digital avatars, which will be increasingly integrated into the IG experience.
I’d half expected Instagram to try this out in 2021, but with video becoming even more of a focus, I’m more confident that this, eventually, is where the platform is headed. Soon, Instagram will give users the option to open the app to their latest Stories or Reels, as opposed to the traditional feed of image and video posts.
Video engagement is already dominant on the platform, while Reels is its fastest-growing element. Given this, it makes sense for Instagram to put more focus on these formats, and I expect to see it first start with an optional Stories/Reels home screen option, before, eventually, retiring the traditional feed altogether.
Users would still be able to post still images in this new state, you would just share them to Stories instead, which would then remain on your profile by default. Then you’d open to a variable Stories/Reels feed, leaning into the engagement of both.
That’s a big step from the app’s origins, but broader user behaviors point to these being the future, and if Instagram wants to stay in touch, it needs to move away from the original focus.
eCommerce would be the only area in which traditional static posts are used.
That will play a key role in Snap’s next stage, while it also remains a leader in AR, despite clear disadvantages in this respect.
Here’s what’s on the horizon for Snap.
Keeping up with the big boys
As noted, Snapchat has long been the leader in AR tools and capacity, and while the bigger, and better-resourced platforms are now taking more interest, I expect Snap to maintain its position at the top of the space.
Which seems like it simply won’t be possible, given that Facebook and Apple, among others, are now developing AR glasses and advanced tools. Surely Snap can’t keep up with the pace of development, purely from a resource standpoint.
There are two reasons why I have faith in Snap here. First, Snapchat is just better at understanding its audience, and it’s consistently shown that it has far more creative and cultural nous, which has enabled it to build industry-leading AR experiences while other platforms have flailed, despite technical advantages.
Snap’s able to tap into, and even lead trends in ways that the bigger players are not, and that, in many ways, is a key commercial advantage in the evolving, creative digital landscape.
The second reason is that Snap has a defined path, and it’s not deviating from it by chasing trends. Snap decided many years ago that AR was its future, when it announced that it was a ‘camera company’ not a social app, and it’s been developing its own AR tools since then – which could, in fact, enable it to release its own AR glasses on a similar timeframe to the bigger players, despite having far less development and production capacity.
What Snap does have is an established production process, via Spectacles, while Snap also has a strong relationship with Apple, which may still yield and jointly developed, fully AR-enabled version of Spectacles in the near future.
Facebook’s collaboration with Ray Ban certainly looks promising, but don’t count out Snap as being a major player in the next stage of AR connection.
The rise of NFTs points to a new stage for digital representation, where people can better showcase their personal fashion sense and interests via their online profiles, and eventually, through digital avatars within virtual spaces.
You can see this on Twitter, with NFT fans switching their profile images to cartoon portraits of apes, robots and many others, which are actually artworks that they’ve purchased, and in many cases, will eventually be available as full 3D avatars that they can use in metaverse-aligned digital environments.
Snapchat, too, is leaning into this, though in a different form, with Snap users now able to dress their Bitmoji characters in branded clothing, providing more ways to customize your virtual self, and better showcase your interests and tastes.
This has huge potential. For example, online game networks like Fortnite and Roblox already make the majority of their income from in-game cosmetics and options to customize your digital characters, and those trends, which have steadily become embedded behaviors among young users, will eventually be major elements of the expanded metaverse shift.
Snapchat could be at the forefront of this. Already, you can create full-size digital depictions of your Bitmoji characters, and dress them in an increasing variety of fashion items from major brands.
That will, whether you understand it or not, become a major new income stream for these brands, selling virtual versions of their products, and Snap is well-positioned to be a leading facilitator in this respect.
Expect to see more virtual products for sale in the app, and more ways to use your Bitmoji avatar in different applications.
Video in focus
Snapchat’s Discover original programming has already become a key entertainment option for many, aligning with emerging viewer trends (short-form, episodic content that fits younger viewer habits).
Which is why Snap also sees potential in Spotlight, its TikTok-like feed of short-form video clips, and you can expect to see Snap investing in top TikTok stars to create more dedicated Discover shows that will help them take their content to the next level, and build Snap as the key platform for this new TV-like format.
In this sense, Snap will not so much be looking to compete with TikTok on short-form, user-generated clips, but instead, it’ll look to translate the format into a more commercial option, that can turn the best TikTokers into even bigger, legitimate, mainstream stars. It’s already working with TikTok’s most-followed user Charli D’Amelio on a Discover show, and you can expect to see it throwing even more money and production resources at more big-name TikTokers to lure them across.
That will enable Snap to build Discover, while also aligning with the TikTok short video trend, without having to rely on Spotlight to stem the flow of users away from its app.
Scanning the scene
QR codes have had a moment during the pandemic, and Snapchat will look to lean into this with more Scan options in the app, which will help connect users to additional information, special offers and other exclusives by scanning in various items and logos.
It’s already working with selected retailers on this, and if Snap can translate the habitual behavior of code scanning into a more practical, useful option for users, that’ll provide more capacity for Snap to facilitate direct connection between on and offline behaviors, which could be a big win for marketers in the app.
Expect to see Snap make a big push on Scan early in the new year – before people forget about the potential of QR codes and visual scan-in processes once again.
Of all the major social platforms, Pinterest may actually have been the biggest winner of the pandemic-led eCommerce shift, with many more users turning to the app as a replacement for the shopping mall, and a means to discover new products and trends.
The challenge now for Pinterest is to capitalize on that push, and ensure that the new users that it’s gained as a result of the pandemic don’t suddenly drift off as physical stores re-open.
So how will Pinterest do that?
Like all platforms, Pinterest is working to align with consumption trends by adding in new video display formats, including Stories, with a Pin-specific spin in each case.
Expect to see Pinterest expand on its TikTok-like options, specifically, with its coming ‘Take’ option, which will enable users to respond to Idea Pins with their own variation or attempt – the first of various trend-style tools that Pinterest will test to see how users respond.
Pinterest will also continue to highlight video content – a key note for Pin marketers – and also watch for AR placement options that will enable users to see what certain products will look like in their homes.
Live-streaming is not a part of Pinterest’s product suite at the moment, but with the expanded push on live-stream commerce, following the lead of Asian eCommerce trends, you can expect this to also be added into its Idea Pin options, likely late Q2 next year.
As you can see here, Pinterest has already tested its own variation of the format, and if live-shopping takes off as many predict, Pinterest will need to step up, and with the platform’s broader push into video, it seems like an obvious fit.
A big focus for Pinterest has been making it as easy as possible for businesses and merchants to plug their product catalog into the platform, facilitating more buyable Pins, with stock and price info updating in real-time. The platform already has integrations with Shopify and other eCommerce platforms, and you can expect to see it both expand its partnerships, while also offering even easier connection options on this front, helping more brands list on the platform.
This is a key focus to make products more universally accessible, and the more Pinterest can improve on this front, the better.
The new big player on the market, with usage that now rivals Instagram. TikTok continues to go from strength to strength, and despite lingering concerns about its connection to the Chinese Government, it looks set to become an embedded part of the broader social landscape – and as such, a key consideration for all digital marketers.
Here’s what you can expect from TikTok over the next year.
While TikTok continues to expand, and has now surpassed a billion active users, its key challenge still lies in effective monetization, both for the platform itself and for its top creators. If creators can’t make money in the app, they’ll find other platforms that will reward them for their efforts, with direct monetization in longer videos – via pre and mid-roll ads – a much easier, more equitable process in this respect.
TikTok can’t compete with this type of direct revenue generation, based on each individual video’s performance, so it needs to facilitate eCommerce and branded partnerships as much as possible, in order to maximize its earnings potential.
It’s already working on this, with various eCommerce tests and its Creator Marketplace to facilitate sponsored content, and you can expect to see even more of these options arriving in the app through 2022.
This is a fairly safe prediction, given that this is already how TikTok’s parent company ByteDance monetizes Douyin, the China-specific version of TikTok. These types of eCommerce listings are now the biggest driver of revenue on Douyin, and this is exactly where TikTok is also headed, with more in-stream buying and revenue share options, facilitating more opportunity for creators and brands alike.
Understanding TikTok is key to marketing success in the app, which is also the most significant barrier of entry for brands. On other social apps, marketers can generally re-jig their promotions from broader campaigns, and fit them into each offering. But that doesn’t work on TikTok, which requires a dedicated, platform-specific, minimally disruptive approach.
Because of this, TikTok is working to provide marketers with more ways to tap into the latest trends, and you can expect to see even more options on this front in 2022.
This will most likely come via updates to its ‘Top Ads’ and ‘Creative Center’ showcase platforms, which highlight rising trends and examples, while you can also expect to see more simplified brand tools to help marketers more easily latch into the latest viral memes.
That won’t necessarily make it foolproof, as it all, essentially, comes down to your creative, but TikTok will look to facilitate trend jacking as much as it can via automated means, and/or through creator partnerships.
Expect to also see TikTok providing enhanced options for custom branded hashtag trends and structured ways to build video challenges into campaigns.
Live-streaming for the win
This will come as little surprise, seeing as though I’ve noted it in every other eCommerce element, but TikTok too is looking to facilitate more live-stream commerce in the app, and more live-streaming in general to expand user behaviors.
You’ve likely already noticed this, with a steadily increasing flow of live-stream broadcasts coming into your ‘For You’ feed, and soon, more of these will be from brands, about products aligned with your interests, and featuring the creators you engage with most to lure you in.
TikTok’s feed algorithm is very good at showing you more of what you like. Does that extend to products too? You’ll find out over the next 12 months.
Also, TikTok shops are coming, building on its brand profiles (which are already present in Douyin).
Amid major shifts in the job market, in the wake of the pandemic, LinkedIn looks set to become a bigger focus moving forward, with the platform sitting on valuable troves of career data that could help, eventually, guide more people towards their ideal roles.
The platform is already seeing steady increases in user engagement, which it’s looking to build on with its own creator tools, while it will also seek to boost its options to help facilitate more remote work arrangements, and maximize economic opportunity for minority communities, which have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19.
Here’s what you can expect from The Professional Social Network in 2022.
Amid the broader WFH shift, LinkedIn has looked to become a bigger facilitator of live-stream events, and you can expect this to become a larger element of the in-app experience in 2022.
While physical events will return, and many will be keen to get back to in-person meet ups, LinkedIn will look to become a key partner for digital tie-ins, enabling more businesses to expand their event audiences through online broadcasts – without them having to set up dedicated websites for the same.
Essentially, this will enable more businesses to run the same types of hybrid events that the big players can, at lower cost, while also facilitating connection to a wider audience of potential buyers and business partners through the app.
Expect to see more alerts about Linked Events in your feed, and more real-time access to such as they happen.
The shift to remote work is here to stay, and will become a bigger consideration for many brands as they assess the broader economic and lifestyle benefits over time.
But within this, recruitment will face new challenges – which LinkedIn will be in a unique position to address. LinkedIn will use its unmatched database of professional and career development insights to provide better job matches for candidates, while also facilitating new video connection options for interviews and engagement.
It’s already taken the first step on this, with the expansion of its own video tools for live meet-ups, and the next phase will see LinkedIn integrating more tools to improve remote recruitment and training.
So what happens to LinkedIn Stories and the engagement insights that LinkedIn gleaned from Stories use?
As part of its announcement that it was shuttering its Stories option, LinkedIn noted that it would be building some elements of stories into new tools, while LinkedIn also acquired how-to video platform Jumprope in August.
The combination of the two points to a new opportunity for LinkedIn creators, which will enable them to create their own how-to content via similar Stories format in order to build their presence and reputation on the platform.
Establishing expertise and your personal brand on LinkedIn can go a long way in maximizing opportunities, and this new, video-aligned option will help prospective experts establish all new connections, while also facilitating a new type of video engagement in the app.
Expect to see new types of feedback processes for professional skills, based on response videos and replies, which will also help guide experts into professional training and insights careers.
These are some of the key trends that you can expect to see take shape in 2022, and while it is still hard to predict exactly where things are headed, based on the disruption of the past two years, there are some clear indicators of key trends and shifts that point to the next stage.
It’s a time of significant change, in many respects, with many people looking to evolve from the pre-COVID days, and build new opportunities in the re-building market. Which could open up major new potential for those paying attention, and these new features will look to align with those trends, and facilitate growth.