Before everyone goes into hibernation for the holidays (not that marketers REALLY get to do that), I wanted to share my reflections on 2022 and what I think they mean for your marketing strategy in 2023.
Regular readers know that I am a firm believer in making sense of social and digital media changes and innovations by spotting and analyzing high-level trends.
Here are my recent observations:
If there’s anything that has become clear in 2022, it’s that CEOs from Meta to TikTok are prioritizing social media as a discovery tool, meaning that users are warming to brand discovery across many platforms (over 50% of Instagram users reported that they used the app to discover new brands in 2022). In turn, social platforms are updating algorithms and architecture to further encourage brand discovery… and it seems to be working.
TikTok led the way with this trend. Its algorithm has always prioritized showing users content that they will likely find useful, important, or entertaining based on their click and viewing behavior versus showing them more content from family, friends, and people they choose to follow. This is distinct shift from the fundamental way social media platforms traditionally worked (connecting with family and friends was the DNA of social media).
Instagram had great success in 2022 by cleverly imitating TikTok’s discovery approach. Reels were one of the most popular social media tools this past year, both because they covered a lot of real estate on the app (they show up in stories and on the feed) and the algorithm prioritizes discovery via Reels. In fact, over half of the Reels that Instagram viewers watched this year were a new brand that they had not encountered before.
Add to this the fact that Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that over forty percent of Facebook users’ feeds would consist of content from people and brands with which they weren’t already connected, and we can see that social media is indeed shifting from a connection tool to a discovery tool.
What this trend means for the customer journey.
This is an interesting concept because before social media started serving as a discovery tool, search engines (primarily Google) filled that role, and social media platforms and Google searches have one key difference: Two-way versus one-way communication. This means that not only are users discovering new brands on social media more so than ever before, but they are talking about their experiences with the brand in real time as they made the discovery. Smart marketers need to adapt to this opportunity (and challenge). Here’s how:
Adapting to the challenge:
On the challenge side, marketers need to manage consumer expectations well and be more focused on consumer satisfaction than ever before so that their ideal customers’ real-time conversations benefit their brands. High-value content that provides your ideal customers with tools and strategies that help them live their lives better have always been the most discoverable on social media. Now there is even more opportunity than ever for that content to be seen.… but it’s the hardest kind of content to get right.
To hone in on the kind of value their ideal customers seek, I tell clients and students to remember that their product is not their offer. Pampers exemplified this well when they created “Pampers Village,” an online platform for moms to seek advice from each other about raising their newborns. After all, a Pampers diaper is a product designed to keep a baby as dry as possible between changes, but its offer is to make raising a baby easier for the parent and more comfortable for the child… exactly what Pampers nurtured with its village.
Another way to think of this is transformation vs. information. Every single piece of marketing collateral that you design should speak to the goals, wants, needs, and desires of the ideal customer, which leads me to one last example:
I could not tell you a single detail about how the Dyson hair dryer dries my hair so fast. What I can tell you, though, is that it shortens my drying time to the point where I have five extra minutes in the morning to help get myself and my kids out the door. This means we are all calmer and start our days more relaxed. That is the offer of the Dyson for me, and why I paid hundreds of dollars more for a hair dryer than I ever imagined I would. To me, calm mornings are priceless.
Harnessing the opportunities:
On the opportunity side of social media becoming a discovery tool, small and medium sized brands may be able to enjoy more economical online advertising options. For example, brands may be able to disinvest some of their budget from Google search ads at the awareness phase of the funnel to social media ads, which are usually more economical and provide more ways to target custom (warm) audiences quickly.
Additionally, while more users discovered brands on social media in 2022, the in-app purchase rate remained similar to 2021. This means that users are going straight to websites to make their purchases directly from the brand after they initially discovered them on social media. Essentially, this makes Google a “click here and buy now” tool in the customer journey, which takes some of the pressure off of brands to buy unbranded search terms to get to the top of the list and instead allows them to focus on branded ones (which are much cheaper).
Influencers also offer more opportunity to brands as users warm to social media as a discovery tool. We know that word of mouth (WOM) is the most powerful form of marketing both on and offline and influencers are key to carrying out this strategy. I expect to see mentions from “micro influencers” continue to rise in popularity because they are closer to their audiences (if influencers have 1,000 followers they are more likely to have met or directly communicated with users in their audiences and thus achieved more loyalty and trust than influencers with a million followers). This opens up the playing field for smaller brands to break into the influencer market at lower prices. Again, a great opportunity.
How will you adapt your content to the consumer-based 2023 market?
As you go into 2023, how can you revise your content to be more focused on the customer’s wants, needs, and desires? Once you give your content the overhaul it deserves (the challenge) then you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities of discovery based social media. This way, your customers will actually HEAR and NOTICE your message when you run ads or use influencers. As I tell my clients and students… ads do not “stop working,” but customers do stop listening… and that usually happens when we get so focused on our products that we forget what we have to offer.
I regularly read publications like Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, Hubspot, and Pew Research to get up-to-date content about digital marketing challenges and trends. These are the places where my statistics and research in this blog post originated.