The future of social in 2023 looks like…
Steven Franklin, Social Media Manager, National Archives talks us through his predictions for social media content form and platforms for 2023. First published on the Cultural Content newsletter of digital specialists One Further
It’s been said before, but the landscape of social moves fast. Trends come and go within days. New features are continually rolled out, and algorithms regularly tweaked. As both content creators and users of these platforms, we’re always behind the curve of change.
So what changes in content form and platform usage will we be required to react to in 2023?
Short Form Will Continue to Dominate
2023 looks set to see short form video content form a major part in the landscape of social. Industry commentators suggest that production of short form might increase this year. Hootsuite have predicted that TikTok will become the largest social platform in 2023. Whilst others have played it slightly safer, styling 2023 as the year of YouTube Shorts. It seems clear then that cultural bodies should be going all in on short form this year, with vertical video at the centre of all content strategies.
How to stay ahead and on trend?
If you’re yet to dip your top into short form video content, my advice to you is as follows:
- Before producing your own content, spend some time seeing what others are creating and what’s working for them. Read and learn from the experiences of others because they’ve made the mistakes that you don’t have to. Think about how you could iterate on existing ideas and content formats in the context of your organisation.
- Give thought to how you can make this sustainable long term and how this can be built into existing work practices / structures.
- Keep things simple at first. Concentrate on one content format and hone your craft. Consider style of presentation and tone of delivery in respect to your audience.
- Think about the channels. Do you need to establish a new channel or could you publish to existing platforms? For example, why make a TikTok when it could be a Reel or YouTube Short?
If you’re already producing this kind of content, then I think the challenges are strategic, looking something like this:
- How can your organisation maximise the value and gain the most ROI on the content that’s being produced? And this is probably more complicated than simple cross-posting.
- How best to establish a connection between short and longer forms of content?
- Where does short form video fit more broadly into our audience journeys and organisational content strategy?
Will the exodus of Twitter continue and should we establish new profiles on other platforms?
I wouldn’t be surprised if over the coming months we continued to see moments where people left Twitter en masse, prompted by the pantomime antics of he who shall not be named. It looks unlikely that the platform will completely crumble, though. The Twitter shenanigans of the last couple of months have highlighted three things. First, our social followings are fragile entities and events that are outside of our direct control can easily influence them. Second, decentralised platforms such as Mastodon are growing in appeal for many. Third, there’s no shortage of alternative platforms for people to head to, but how best to know which is the best for your organisation.
How to stay ahead and on trend?
Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to provide definitive counsel here, which I’m aware is entirely useless of me. Adam Koszary’s thoughts on ‘What Twitter’s future means for cultural organisations’ remains the best blueprint of the practical steps we can take to reduce the potential impact of the platform’s implosion. It’s entirely possible that we see many organisations scale back their usage of the platform, as changes conflict with our own brand values.
When it comes to setting up Twitter alternatives – be that Mastodon, Post, Hive – decisions should be informed by both data and audience need. More often than not, you’ll find the answer is not another social platform.
Much like Adam, I would advise on a combination of contingency planning and horizon scanning. It might also be worth having internal discussions about how your brand’s ethos aligns with this new version of Twitter and how this might change how you utilise the platform.
Social SEO on the rise
Some of the latest internal research from Google, suggests that 40% of 18 – 24 year olds are using social media as their primary search engine. September 2022, saw the New York Times proclaim, ‘For Gen Z, TikTok is the New Search Engine.’ This trend can be seen across all age cohorts globally. More people are turning to social as their primary search engine.
TikTok recently announced it had increased its caption length to allow for fuller video descriptions, in line with their work to improve the platform’s SEO. All of this points to discoverability being less about hashtags and more about strategic use of keywords.
Rather than thinking about what hashtags are applicable, invest your time in keyword research. Instead of making content for the fun of it, be more strategic and create content that answers things people are already searching for. This approach could be particularly effective for anyone in the game of YouTube Shorts, given that YouTube remains the second largest global search engine. Aligning your content to audience need will, at the very least, increase chances of discoverability.
Other things to look out for
The list of potential content trends that might emerge in 2023 are endless – far longer than I can do justice in this post. Here are some of the main things to look out for and think about as we progress through 2023:
- AI (think Chat GPT or OpenArt) looks set to become more mainstream and these tools could benefit social media workflows, helping with the production of our cultural content.
- Sustainability & environmental issues will be more of a priority for audiences and thus brands that can demonstrate action in this area are likely to see wins. Taking a strong stance on social could be a good way to increase brand loyalty and help you stand out from the crowd.
- Social shopping is here to stay with many platforms looking to offer retail experiences on-platform. Something to consider for organisations that have a prominent commercial offer?
- UGC (User Generated Content) Creators on the rise? We already know that UGC is an incredibly effective marketing tool. However, it’s difficult to organically source. This is where UGC Creators could come in. Essentially, this model will see creators being paid to create UGC-inspired content for brands. This move will see an explosion of Nano creators, capitalising on this newfound market. But it could prove to an effective marketing strategy within the cultural sector as we continue to underline our contemporary relevance and cultural value. Hearing these messages from likeminded people invariably will help to strengthen the power of the central message.
- AR & VR isn’t going to go away. Who knows what the future holds in this area, but AR & VR technologies will become more mainstream in 2023 as the technology becomes more affordable. In terms of how this might impact social, I think we’re already seeing the early signs of ARs potential in the form of short form filters, which add characters or transport you to different settings. Currently, it remains very gimmick, but it won’t be long until we start to see more impressive uses of the technology be integrated into the platforms.
The Final Take
I’ve wittered on for long enough. Let’s face it, half of the predictions above might not lead to anything. But that’s sort of the fun of the being in the game of social. Putting the emerging trends to one side for a second, the most actionable things to do in 2023 are the fundamentals. At its core social media is supposed to be social, and there’s no harm in prioritising that. Being authentic and true to your organisation’s brand will continue to serve you well. Maybe ‘substance over style’ should be our mantra for 2023.