Social media trends to watch for in 2022

May 13, 2024
Emmy Liederman
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From viral Clubhouse sessions to live shopping on TikTok, 2021 was full of new social media trends. The pandemic advanced the Age of the Consumer, which means now, to excel at social media, brands need to address consumers’ needs and demands.

“Brands will always seek a return on attention. They will continue to place, partner, and be present in all areas that people’s attention resides. From billboards, to Discord channels, to sponsoring every pixel they can get their hands on that matter to people.” -Pete Sena, founder at Digital Surgeons

So what trends can you cash in on to up your social media game in a constantly-evolving social media landscape? Let’s take a look at how social media trends are changing and what you can expect in this space during 2022.

TikTok will lead the social media race with authentic, digestible content 

If you want to amp up your social media game and come face-to-face with a significant Gen Z audience, TikTok is the place to be. 

Many other social media platforms are taking note, too. We’re seeing a shift toward TikTok’s short-form, snackable video content concept with platforms shifting focus to similar offerings (like Instagram Reels, Facebook Stories, and YouTube Shorts).

In 2021 TikTok has more than a billion active users, and brands have only just started waking up to the advertising opportunities this bite-sized content platform offers when it comes to brand/consumer interactions. This platform allows brands to get in front of new audiences while giving creators a stage on which they can spotlight their individual creative talents (and achieve impressive results).

Isle of Paradise, a cruelty-free natural beauty products brand, is an excellent case in point here. Partnering with five TikTok influencers to showcase their new product called Glow Drops, the brand then used the videos produced to run whitelisted ads from the influencers. All video ads included links that directed viewers to Sephora’s website where they could buy the product directly. 

The results: Isle of Paradise generated 45 million video views, a 500% return on investment, and a 58% revenue lift per week from this experiment. Not bad, right?

Another idea: collaborate with influencers for content that can be whitelisted as ads that appear more authentic. 

“People buy products based on testimonials from other people, not necessarily testimonials from the brand. My clients are seeing TikTok Spark Ads do better across the board than brand ads. If you are unfamiliar with what whitelisting/Spark Ads are, essentially the ad comes from an influencer instead of a brand. Just the fact that it comes from a page that is NOT the brand helps performance. Nearly every single time, the same ad performs better coming from the content creator’s page.”-Savannah Sanchez, TikTok & Snapchat advertising expert

TikTok also seems to work well for live product demos. 

Sugardoh founder and CEO Aliyah Marandiz tweeted that she saw impressive results when testing out this tactic with her hair-removal product; views spiked when she went live on the platform to share a product demo.

The bottom line here: TikTok is here to stay. If you’re a brand looking to diversify its social media strategies or one that caters to a Gen Z audience, explore TikTok in 2022 with some out-of-the-box strategies like whitelisting influencer content and experimenting with live product tutorials there.

Brand inclusivity and sustainability will be at the center of social media 

The pandemic changed the way we live our lives, moving the needle in favor of a more positive and sustainable way of living—and consumers expect nothing short of this from the brands they admire and buy from. 

In 2021, we saw many leading brands address Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in their social media content and advertising practices, including Google, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Netflix.

Next year, consumers will want to see more of this from brands; hollow claims won’t cut it. 

This means proof of brands’ sustainability efforts through social media campaigns should highlight the positive impact they’re making with their move towards it.

“Consumers today are demanding brands do more to make a positive impact and are choosing to support purpose-driven brands, even if it means switching from a brand they previously considered themselves loyal to. And it’s no longer enough to make sustainability claims without taking physical action to make a change. Today’s socially conscious consumers are spending more time on a brand’s ‘About Us’ page and taking the time to educate themselves on a brand’s social impact efforts. As a result, consumers are easily able to identify whether a brand is being authentic in their sustainability efforts.” - Jay An, Sr. Director of Growth at ShoppingGives

No matter who your audience is, the content needs to be sensitive, inclusive, and value-oriented.

This won’t just help brands drive social media engagement, but will also likely contribute to an increase in customer loyalty, purchases, brand advocacy, and awareness. 

The takeaway: In 2022, social media strategy needs to move beyond promotional branded content. Brands need to listen to the consumers’ needs, act accordingly, and create content that reflects the impact of their actions and stance on key issues.  

Rise of QR codes to create unique digital experiences

Since the pandemic, Quick Response (QR) codes have been increasingly in use—from restaurant menus to digital payments. But social media isn’t far behind on adopting this trend, either.

“With the greater adoption of QR codes, I think we’ll see more companies experimenting with connecting people who interact with out-of-home advertising, mailers, magazines, and other print materials with QR codes that lead them to different types of digital experiences. There are a lot of other creative ways businesses can drive people from the physical world to their social/digital worlds using QR codes.” -Natalie Sportelli, head of content at ThingTesting

QR codes can be shared on physical brand touchpoints to lead consumers to a landing page, social media profile, giveaway, or product. The best part? There’s only one specific call to action so the consumer can take the desired action, distraction-free. 

Pepsi is a great example here. As a part of their annual summer campaign, Pepsi featured QR codes on bottles that, when scanned, unlocked unique Snapchat filters users could instantly apply, take a picture with, or make a video to share on social media.

This year saw many brands experimenting with QR code use on social media, especially in the DTC space, where brands were struggling to create interactive experiences that translated into sales now that physical store shopping wasn’t possible. 

Beverage brand Aura Bora is a great example here. They use QR codes to empower customers and increase sales by sending their most engaged customers a fridge magnet with a QR code, which when scanned takes them to a personalized replenishment cart—automatically containing the customer’s recent orders. This enables the customers to instantly check out and refill their fridge, thus driving repeat orders and acting as a valuable touchpoint for loyal customers. 

We’re expecting to see more such QR use cases in 2022 as brands work to build engaging omnichannel experiences.

Affiliates and influencers will drive social commerce

COVID-19 shifted social commerce from ads and promotional content to innovative selling solutions. 2021 saw brands collaborating with influencers through strategic partnerships: New eCommerce-inclusive social media features like shoppable Instagram posts allow the audience to buy products without leaving the app.

This integration of influencers and social media platforms has given brands more visibility in front of their target audience; potential buyers already spend more than 145 minutes per day on social media.

Instead of promotional posts and ads by the brand itself, you can show the product in use by an influencer the customers trust to assess how the product looks in action. In fact, 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations for purchases, and over 82% of people say they rely on social media recommendations, by friends and influencers to guide their buying decisions.

Further, with the rise in one-to-one interaction features like Stories, Reels, Live Shopping, Instagram Collabs and Audio Spaces, creators now have more room for creativity, and brands have more precious real estate to reach their audiences in new ways.

“The pandemic has changed shopping habits, and at Refersion, we saw Black Friday traffic patterns kick in as early as September coupled with a 39% increase in affiliate marketing sales. With paid ads reaching saturation and ecommerce sales slowing, the next wave of growth will come from social commerce driven by affiliates and influencers powered with an ROI of $6.50 in revenue for every dollar spent, compared to paid ads at $2 in revenue to $1 in ad costs. Add to that, Refersion’s customers’ average order values climbed from $107 in 2020 to $138 in Black Friday [and] Cyber Monday 2021, showing the strength of social commerce powered by affiliate and influencer marketing!”-Raj Nijjer, CMO of performance marketing company Refersion

On top of this, micro-influencers took a lot of attention away from macro and celebrity influencers, where more brands worked with individual content creators building audiences and communities in specific business niches. The reason: Micro-influencers are more affordable, have a smaller yet engaged audience and brands can tailor their influencer content to target smaller segments for better results.

This shows how businesses—big and small—are leveraging influencer social commerce, which we’re expecting to see more of in 2022 as 69% of marketers plan to disperse more budget to influencer marketing.

More social audio features on platforms and social audio-inclusive social media strategies 

This year social audio applications like Clubhouse and Discord that completely rely on audio to interact on a one-to-one basis saw massive popularity. This demanded that brands tailor their social media strategies to include social audio and make audio-based content broadcasting a part of their audience engagement and networking plans.

Creators and celebrities started this trend during the lockdown since they couldn’t otherwise interact with fans. Social audio features took a front seat: Think Twitter Spaces joined by Elon Musk, Clubhouse sessions joined by Gary Vee, and Instagram sessions conducted by John Legend singing his song “All of Me.” 

Social media platforms are also realizing the need for such live audio features driven by consumer demand—the most obvious development being Twitter Spaces, launched in November 2020, and the popularity of Clubhouse from the early months of COVID-19.

In 2021, we saw leading brands like Kool-Aid organizing a Clubhouse session with Gary Vee and Justin Turner, for example.


DTCs are also using these audio-based platforms to engage with their audience and build their communities. 

“Social audio has a low overhead production, global audience reach, promotes one-to-one intimacy, and “live” connection between speaker and audience. Besides, it’s easier to get a celebrity to hop on Clubhouse for 20 minutes than to fly out somewhere for a television interview.”-Meg Button, the co-founder of NuScreen

In 2022, we’re likely to see more of this trend now that brands are familiar with it and aware of the low-investment, high-return opportunities it offers.

Social media trends: Get a head start for 2022

2022 is the year of the consumer. 

Social media strategies need to lean on consumer data and feedback to drive true engagement and valuable results. There are now more opportunities than ever before for brands to take the front seat and steer their social media efforts in the right direction.

Need inspiration? See how brands like Redbull and Pattern Brands are redefining modern marketing by doubling down on what works for them while being up to date with the ever-changing digital trends.

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