The 2023 social media forecast for brands

The 2023 social media forecast for brands.

We say it every year: brands can’t afford to ignore the importance of social media any longer. Those who already have it, are getting ahead. Fast.

We all live online, as well as IRL, these days. The good news is this advancement in social and human sophistication is a great opportunity for your business and brand to thrive – as long as you’re keeping pace. 

COVID-19 (dare we say it) triggered and accelerated digital trends already in motion before lockdowns and social distancing mandates., etc. We saw online use surge by between 50%-70% in 2020 alone, while consumers were busy building their new normal, digital life – with social at the core.

In  a super-saturated social space, it’s hugely important to have access to the right knowledge. Our data on social insights comes from the highly respected Sprout Social Index. We’ve scoured this for the most significant industry insights from 2022, so you can plan for 2023. Here’s what you should know:

Think about your platforms.

It doesn’t hurt to stop and have a think about where your customers are spending most of their time. Over in the UK and USA roughly one-third of consumers say they spend over two hours on social media a day. 😱 You should always focus your attention on the platforms your customers care about and use. Obvious, right? Unsurprisingly most marketers and consumers rank Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as the top three platforms  they anticipate using the most over the next 12 months. 

But this is not always the case, and opportunities could be missed. Interestingly, the biggest divide between consumer and marketer social media is happening on WhatsApp. This messaging platform now accounts for a massive amount (41%) of user activity, but only 7% of marketers anticipate using it over the next year. WhatsApp is a place to connect with friends and family, but it could easily be a chance to provide a superior customer care experience, too. 

If everyone is doing the same thing it’s hard for a brand to stand out, so think about the opportunities. You may have to do something a little different.
Example: During the height of the COVID-19, European supermarket brand Lidl launched its WhatsApp presence to help customers identify quieter times for in-store shopping. They found huge success with this model and soon expanded their strategy to meet the needs of on-the-go shoppers looking for quick customer service. Now, they’re able to provide support for everyday queries in 30 minutes or less!
This follows suit with increasing expectations of consumers, now most likely to connect with brands via public social engagements, followed by direct messages (DMs) then live chats. For most, gone are the days of picking up the phone to have a chat with a customer service person. Digitals like us have been anticipating this moment for the last 20 years – and it’s finally here. Social media is now the most human (and preferred) part of customer experience right now – seize the day!  
Of course it’s hard to have this conversation without TikTok entering the chat. 38% of consumers plan on using TikTok this year. That's more than double the 17% who were planning on using it in 2020. Food for thought, eh?

Stand strong. None of this tall poppy BS.

Knowing and embracing your communities personal values can really affect a consumers’ decision to pick a brand over a competitor.

Consumers rank having a distinct brand as the single most important factor to stand out on social media. Marketers however, place more importance on embracing social issues (51%), championing diversity, equity and inclusion (47%), and engaging with their community (47%).

It’s simply not the case that consumers don’t care if brands take a stand or not. Many expect it. In developed markets, most consumers (70-80%) agree or strongly agree that it’s important for brands to raise awareness and speak out on sensitive topics. If you have a stand, take it and stand tall.  
Example: Adidas proved this point in February 2022 with their “Support Is Everything” sports bra campaign. Featuring 25 sets of bare breasts of all shapes and sizes, they sparked a conversation around body positivity across the globe.  Remember though, your position has to be authentic to your brand culture – or this could backfire. Your brand values may not always align with every user's personal values, and that’s OK. But always be prepared for a reaction. Build and nurture your community, don’t let the haters get you down!
Pro tips: Add consistent language and visuals, an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion to help your customers identify and resonate with your brand in their overcrowded newsfeeds.

Be present.

Another increasingly important value to consumers is how quickly brands respond to communication.

What do customers actually expect in 2022? More than three-quarters expect a response within 24 hours, extra brownie points for less than that. If a brand takes longer to respond it could have detrimental consequences, too. 36% of consumers say they’ll share that negative experience with friends and family. For e-commerce brands, 31% won’t complete a purchase, and 30% of consumers will buy from a competitor instead!

A space where consumers and brands are in sync, is their preferred platform(s) for customer care. Consumers are currently using Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, while brands are largely turning to Facebook and Instagram. Of course, this can (and will likely) change with WhatsApp being the great example - on, and how convenient, being part of the Facebook and Instagram family and all! Keep your finger on the pulse with trends and changes in social media, and move with the times. 
The days of calling to speak to a rep or emailing support are coming to a close. 60% of US and UK brands say private/direct messaging now plays a role in their customer care strategy. Kiwi’s take note: 55% of US and UK brands are using DM’s for marketing purposes, a huge opportunity for SMEs Community Management is clearly based in customer care. Year on year, consumers are favouring a more personalised and conversational social customer experience – good direct messaging can be a lucrative way to provide this! 
Example: US Loungewear brand MeUndies has taken its customer care model to the next level, with a major focus on direct messaging. Their team maintains an average first response time of 19 minutes on Instagram, where they receive a mammoth amount of inbound direct messages, comments and mentions. How well is your community management (a.k.a customer care) doing on social media?

Round up of what to focus on in the year ahead

The values that underpin a brand's effort on social are more important than ever. Apps, the internet and technology all work better when tailored to the users expectations and patterns - social media is the perfect place to achieve this.

Now’s the time to double down on customer care in social. It’s mega important your brand's social media presence feels like a natural extension of a social circle. Marketers that pay attention will have a really clear picture of what their audience likes, where they like it, and can rely on this to build a thriving digital community. The more users feel you understand and care, the more likely they are to engage, participate, and pay it forward.

Everything starts with strategy here at The Social Shop, so if this is something you need a hand with, we’d love to help. Keen to know more? Get in touch, let’s chat.

Download the full Sprout Social Index (US) for 2022 here.