What to expect from social media in 2020

We Are Social managing director Suzie Shaw
By We Are Social managing director Suzie Shaw | 15 January 2020
Suzie Shaw

The noughties was truly the decade of social media. We saw the rise and rise of an array of social and messaging platforms, from the most mainstream like Facebook, to the very niche like Nextdoor, and the number of active users climb from 1 billion to 3.5 billion globally, or 45% of the world’s total population.

With Australians now spending one in every three online minutes on social, exceptionally high penetration of subscription video-streaming services that don’t feature paid advertising formats, 47% of the world’s internet users employing ad blockers, and an overall decline in consumer trust towards media and advertising, social has become one of the best ways for marketers to reach and engage their audience.

But it’s an ever-evolving landscape, so here’s a look at what’s likely to be hot in 2020.

TikTok takes on the titans
The two things you need to be successful as a social media platform are a big user base and a strong way to monetise it. TikTok has nailed both. The trending video-sharing app, lovechild of Musical.ly and Vine, is not just the new kid on the block, it’s here to stay. Popular with Gen Z and famous for its addictive algorithm, TikTok is all about self-expression, creativity and entertainment, and has been able to rapidly attract millions of young users across the globe. In just a few years, it has grown to be the most downloaded free app in the world, and one of the world’s top 10 most-used social media apps, ahead of more established platforms like Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

Its growing popularity marks a moment when we’re moving on from the need to project a picture-perfect lifestyle to our friends and followers. TikTok is driving a new behaviour of mass participation and consumption of content purely for the sake of entertainment and connection. As its penetration continues to soar, brands will need to learn this new social language, as the audience, which is ageing-up daily, increasingly can’t be reached on any other platforms.

The new Influencer Economy
This year will mark a significant shift in how influencers monetise their popularity. A new influencer economy is emerging, with talent starting to make money via direct selling, subscription and membership models, and tipping and gifting. Influencers will be selling directly on established platforms – either their own products or products from preferred brands – using tools like Instagram’s Shopping from Creators. Influencers are also exploring ways to sell access to themselves, their content, and creative output. Some are charging people to be added as ‘close friends’ on Instagram, for example, or exploring platforms like BuyMeACoffee that enable creators to receive support, share exclusive content, sell digital downloads and more.

Brands will need to consider how to tap into this shift - for example, they could look to provide exclusive products for individual influencers to market to their followers. Brands will also need to re-evaluate their influencer advertising metrics, ensuring they are appropriate to these emerging monetisation strategies.

The age of zero-party data
Last year saw a rising tide of global privacy regulations, with certain browsers introducing stringent privacy controls like blocking third-party cookies. 2020 isn’t looking much ‘brighter’ for brands. As YouTube announces it will no longer support 3rd party pixels, marketers are looking to new ways to target audiences who want increased privacy controls, and the right to be forgotten. This year, we expect to see a shift in brands’ reliance on 3rd-party data to zero-party data, i.e. collecting data that is intentionally and proactively shared by the consumer. Whether via a quirky Insta story, or a fully customisable campaign marketing experience that incorporates data-capture capabilities and incentive mechanics, marketers will have to quickly and easily collect zero-party data at speed and scale. Brands must become more customer-centric in order to connect with consumers who expect tailor-made content and personalisation. For advertisers and publishers alike, the coming year will present new opportunities driven by a customer-first approach grounded in privacy and brand experience.

A return to longer-term brand building
Many marketers are finally realising the damage that short-termism and an excessive focus on performance marketing strategies can cause to their brands and, in turn, to their bottom line. Brands like Adidas, Pepsi, TripAdvisor and Booking.com have all realised the need to course-correct and refocus on brand-building in order to ensure sustained growth.

This is not to say performance driving activity is not important, but it’s about ensuring there’s a ‘full-funnel’ approach at play. However, with audiences shifting away from traditional brand-building domains, like TV and print to digital and social channels, which operate differently when it comes to building brand equity and affinity, organisations now need to crack the code of building brands in a digitally connected world.

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