10 Predictions for Social & Digital in 2022
Another swing at what we'll see in the year ahead.
The social and digital world moves so fast it’s worth stopping once a year to look ahead at what might be next.
This past year saw faster change than most, with web3 and the metaverse entering the public lexicon, and starting to shift the way we view our relationship with the online world.
Looking back at last year’s predictions, you could say in the world of hits and misses, it was a little from Column A and a little from Column B. It’s time to gaze into the crystal ball and see what’s in store for us in the world of social and digital in 2022.
The war for creative talent will go into overdrive. As more brands start to recognize that social is their brand and their brand is social, the market for talent will be fiercely competitive. Being able to attract talented creators who get social and can produce compelling content across emerging channels will be the difference between brands who cut through and those who are left behind. We’ve seen some progressive pro sports leagues add VP, Social or equivalent roles to their org charts, and as Millennials and Gen Z continue moving up through organizations, people with deep (and current) experience in social strategy and publishing will become highly sought after and valued.
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Personal Brands get acqui-hired by Brands. Having a social identity (not necessary an influencer) on your team is a valuable asset - see Toby Howell (formerly of Morning Brew, now Launch House). He built a reputation as the voice of Morning Brew’s Twitter account, using clever tactics like jumping into Elon Musk’s replies (aka. reply guy) to gain attention and build a loyal Twitter following. He shared his lessons learned in public on Twitter, and is now leading content for Launch House.
In 2022, companies will be looking for the next Toby to come and lead content for them.
Meme Makers go Mainstream. As social roles get more specialized, hiring a Meme Maker will go from a novelty to a priority. The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has the depth of intellect to launch a space rocket company, an electric car company and and a brain-machine interface company, yet he tweets out pictures of a dog wearing a Christmas costume, NFT themed memes throwing back to the Gorillaz, and even calls for his followers to send in the memes.
Why does he do this? On the internet, and particularly on Twitter, memes stand out on the timeline - they’re a shortcut to getting a message across. Memes serve as a rallying point around which future conversation can gain momentum and shared history. When Elon tweeted about Dogecoin earlier this year, it implied support for the cult-like crypocurrency, and the price went up.
Memes are easily recognized and translate into impressions and value. Not everyone is Elon Musk, but talented meme makers can tap into the cultural nuances of an audience in a particular niche and deliver value by entertaining them and being a part of the community, hence developing brand affinity and community.
Privacy driven platforms emerge. I spoke about Discord in last year’s predictions article and since then it’s been adopted by heaps of brands, pro sports teams, podcast communities and more.
As people get more cognizant of their online privacy (from “who cares what Google knows about me?” to “I want to be more responsible with what I share online”) - messaging apps like Signal and Telegram will gain popularity, and web browsers like DuckDuckGo will become better known as people search for alternatives to Google.
Pseudonyms become mainstream. Taylor Lorenz popularized the term Finstagram in her Mic article in 2017 outlining how teens (at that time) were creating Fake Instagrams aka. Finstagrams as alternative profiles on Instagram, specifically for their close circle of friends to follow, and other times as an alternative identity where they can share all types of creative, humorous or quirky content under a pseudonym.
This style of pseudonym is now becoming a staple of Twitter, as sh*tposters gain popularity with funny business related accounts, and as others lurk with a random or strategic profile picture and name that they can develop a persona under, but not using their real name. There are all sorts of advantages and rationales to why people are doing this in greater numbers, but for now suffice to notice it and observe the changes this makes to interactions between ‘people’ or personas online. Today, some of the most interesting Twitter accounts are pseudonymous, and this enables them to be more candid than someone with a professional reputation / identity to protect. See John W. Rich (Fake Tech Exec) and Dr. Parik Patel.
Platform Experts (2.0 / 3.0?) will emerge - like the first time around with LinkedIn Specialists (remember them?) and FB Ads specialists (quite valuable, as it turned out) - this time around it’s a new generation of experts such as TikTok Ads specialists who are crushing on new social channels and delivering outstanding results for DTC companies and other clients. See SociallyKels and Social Savannah as examples. ExcelDictionary has gained fame recently on TikTok, teaching what would appear to be a boring topic (Microsoft Excel) in a new and entertaining way using short form video tips. These experts will be hired mostly as contractors, vendors, or educators with their own courses, and it will be difficult to pull this talent in-house unless you develop a compelling and cool employer brand (e.g. Morning Brew).
Web3 / Crypto will see a dip in interest followed by an extended bull run - the Q3 ‘21 rush on Bitcoin and NFTs will slow in (very) early 2022. Leaders in the industry will emerge and companies that build top of mind name recognition (Coinbase, FTX, Dapper Labs, etc) will benefit from onboarding the next wave of millions of web3, crypto and NFT users.
As projects cross the chasm from crypto enthusiasts to mainstream folks (e.g. NBA Top Shot), the hype cycle will ramp up again, and as more people onboard onto Bitcoin and Ethereum, the value of the overall network will grow, and the underlying cryptocurrencies e.g. Bitcoin, ETH will likely go to new heights. The infrastructure supporting crypto will become more user friendly as developers move to web3, and more and more people will get red pilled.
Community will take on new meaning - the primary connotation of community will shift from entry level community management to community being foundational for new products and companies to build an audience / userbase. More importantly, starting with community will create a network of advocates who feel like they’re a part of the journey and story of your product / business.
Crypto / blockchain / web3 will surface at every level of pro sports. It will be commonplace to have a Metamask account and some balance in Bitcoin or Ethereum or Solana.FTX just gave $500 in crypto to every person sitting in one section of the arena for the Miami Heat season opener. Don’t sleep on how powerful this sponsorship will be.
Giveaways will abound, and onboarding will reach fever pitch, not dissimilar to the current land grab in sports betting. Companies will enjoy a relatively strong LTV of customers as the first wallet / exchange they use, so top of mind / bold brand marketing will be a key battleground to become the trusted brand in the space.
Sports marketing and hence sports social media will be a busy space to gain attention and onboard users into crypto. From a recent Morning Consult poll,
“47% of sports fans said they are familiar with cryptocurrency; 27% said they currently own some.”
Crypto companies are pouring into the space - those who can effectively tell their brand story in a way that’s tied to a sports property will be highly valued.
A shift from The Great Resignation to the Next Generation of Creators. Surveys in recent years have found around a third of kids want to become YouTube stars / influencers rather than astronauts. Apps such as TikTok arm young and old alike with all the video creation capability you need for a mobile first social presence.
A new wave of established professionals and a younger generation hitting the job market for the first time will move towards being a Creator as a primary income source.
Many more will list Content Creator as a side hustle, empowered by the proliferation of tools and creator funds of up to $200M for TikTok creators in the US flooding into the space.
The original vision of Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans is more attainable than ever before, given a new environment of patronage / supporter (Stan) culture, and clean, clear tools that make the business side of being a creator far easier than before. (Want to monetize a blog? Set up a Substack and run it as a freemium newsletter - simple enough?) The days of setting up your own site, buying hosting, adding ecommerce functionality and figuring out pricing have not totally passed us by, but they’re becoming more distant every day as tools get better and better.
There is one more thing…
Build-in-Public will become the norm. You’ll see content creators and even in-house social media folks sharing more of their process transparently as they go. Want to see the making of a branded content photo shoot? You’ve got it.Hire talented, creative people and let ‘em be creative 📸🧀@_samfrost @Trey_Keys @LangstonWil.@Trey_Keys @_samfrost @LangstonWil gettin’ the shots! Finished product coming soon 👀 Thanks for the BTS @Brian_ClemsonAC https://t.co/LF4HU6FSLyTyson Hutchins @tysonhutchins_
Learn-in-public. Want to learn how a Twitter account or podcast is growing its audience - it’s all here. In an increasing transparent social world, there is a lot to be gained from sharing your lessons learned with your audience and community as you build your business or brand. People are becoming more and more comfortable sharing everything from creative process to growth tactics to monthly revenue numbers, and you’ll see some of the most successful new Twitter accounts, DTC brands and personal brands take this route in 2022.
What do you think we’ll see in 2022? Do I have it right or wrong? What did I miss? Tell me in the comments.
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