Social futures: as TikTok rises and BeReal has its moment, what’s next?
TikTok’s got competitors so worried that they’re all imitating its features, and BeReal has just broken through with gen Z. We’re certainly hearing plenty about them. We asked seven social experts from The Drum Network: what’s next?
Social is always moving quickly, but for a while a lot has felt the same. What will change next? / Rob Hampson via Unsplash
Tony Hollingsworth, director of strategy, Laundry Service
Two of the biggest challenges for any new social media brand are establishing a clear share-of-voice and building an easy, repeatable action that gets its community engaged. While I believe that the longevity of BeReal is questionable, it possesses one very game-changing feature: its approach to participation. BeReal prompts users to ‘BeReal’ and share an image to see friends’ posts on the platform – reinforcing its brand values while creating a low barrier to entry.
This call-to-action increases engagement and reduces passive or lapsed users. Consider how this may apply to Twitter: if the only way users could unlock their Twitter feed were to publish a tweet, monthly active users would skyrocket; conversations around news would increase; and that Elon Musk court case might not be coming. As the next wave of social media hits the market, I wouldn’t be surprised to see others adopt this participation method on their platforms.
Jamie Ross-Skinner, insights director, Tipi Group
Social media has got too good.
The average TikTok user will spend 13 full days on the app this year. Because the algorithm’s always learning, that number is only going to go up. If we take off our media hats for a moment and ask, ‘Is that too long to be spending on a single social media app?’ the answer is surely a resounding ‘yes.’
So, it’s interesting to see new players take a less-is-more approach to social. Dating app Thursday can only be used one day per week. BeReal encourages users to live in the moment, with two minutes to post their photo before it gets tagged as ‘late.’
Now, new vertical video-focused Weare8 is allowing users only eight minutes of scrolling per day. It pays users for watching ads, and donates a fixed percentage of ad revenue to charity. Social media that respects consumers’ time and rewards them for spending it with them is a refreshing concept.
Lindsay Dayanik, head of social, TrunkBBI
The most exciting thing in social is social commerce finally showing its potential. Predicted to be worth a whopping $1.5tn over the next five years, it’s going to change the game for retailers and brands selling products on social.
Currently, to shop a product you see on Instagram, you’re directed to the website to buy. With the rollout of fully functioning ‘social shops,’ customers will be able to purchase directly from their feeds without having to leave the app. That means organic content will have the power to drive sales, making it easier for businesses to attribute value to social. Having an engaged community could result in more sales. We’ll see brands investing more into organic content, creativity and community management.
Even for smaller brands this is a game-changer. You don’t need a huge website or brand behind you to drive sales – just a passionate community.
Laura Street, head of social, Tug
Despite Kylie Jenner’s swipe at Snapchat in 2018, the platform is seeing a resurgence, with huge demand for ages 15-25. The number of daily active users continues to grow; Snap Plus has been a surprising success (1 million paid users joined in six weeks); and its augmented reality (AR) features are very popular with e-commerce brands, especially in beauty. Just this week, Snap launched Snapchat for web for everyone (previously a subscriber-only option).
Snap is one of the few platforms to stay true to what it has always done: filters and AR. The web version even gives more options to video call and sync between devices.
Despite reports that Snap plans to lay off 20% of employees, something tells me we shouldn’t be writing off this social platform just yet.
Sarah Fritz, UK senior digital strategist, Momentum Worldwide
The times of polished, promotional content on social are long gone. People are craving authenticity. They want spaces where they can get real. Any social platform that provides a space for genuine conversations and connections has good chances, by helping people to tell their authentic stories and build deep relationships.
We’ve already seen a rise in platforms centering real people and experiences. BeReal, gen Z’s new favorite app, takes ephemeral content to the next level with time limits to ensure the content provides honest impressions.
Younger people have privacy settings protecting their content from the public eye as they fear being judged in today’s cancel culture. They share thoughts privately via messaging platforms such as Discord, where they’re part of a tight-knit, smaller community. It will be challenging for some brands to be part of these conversations without invading such genuine, personal spaces.
Ellie Hanson, marketing manager, Rawnet
I was late to the party with BeReal. I thought it just wasn’t going to stick, but my opinion has changed: it’s here to stay. It’s been topping the app charts for a while now: unedited and unfiltered, allowing users to capture real moments in their everyday lives.
I believe that BeReal is a threat to the likes of Instagram and Snapchat, especially with gen Z. It has taken a step back, focusing on connecting with your friends and family once again. It’s good to see platforms that encourage and show the importance of authenticity on social.
It’s finally time to say goodbye to fake realities and welcome back genuine content. For brands, reinforcing empathetic marketing materials and approachable campaigns, while avoiding distorted imagery and other fake communications, is the way forward.
Ruth O’Brien, paid social strategist, Found
The next big thing on social is social-exclusive shopping and paywalls.
Instagram and Twitter are already implementing subscription-style models for creators, and the shopping elements across many channels are increasingly becoming trusted by customers. In the long term, we’ll see audiences willing to pay for exclusive access and to curate the content they follow.
Social is becoming busier and more exhausting. We’ll see people willing to pay for higher-quality content, exclusive access to creators (and brands) and even social-exclusive products. Arguably, NFTs are already facilitating this in some spaces; I expect Discord to continue to grow as a result and an increase in brands looking to cultivate communities there.
Social shopping isn’t new, but as costs go up for businesses (and the likes of Meta continue to add accessible tools and e-commerce options), we may see a shift away from websites toward social-only products. Expect to see a ‘shop’ tab on the big platforms, and smaller businesses using it as a low-cost alternative to a website.
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