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  • Writer's pictureryan@socialbrain

The State Of Social Media in 2023

Updated: Mar 11, 2023


It has been a topsy turvy year for social media; crazy acquisitions, social algorithm revamps, foreign upstarts upsetting the status quo, and unsuccessful pivots have made for a year like no other.

The volatility of social platform's fortunes can be hard to keep up with but the businesses behind your dancing cat memes do affect your business’s social media strategy and your spend.

Because Social Brain likes to keep up with the state of play for all things social media, here is a recap of 2022's events and a reading of the tea leaves for social in 2023.

META

Facebook responded to poor user acquisition and a tougher advertising environment - due to both marketers' collective budget tightening and Apple’s iOS ad tracking opt out feature - by pivoting hard toward the future of AR & VR.

Never before has a company renamed itself for an untested business model - but this is exactly what the former Facebook group did.

The central concern here is that the world appears to be uninterested in broader AR applications, and the Metaverse as a bet has so far proven to be a $36billion+ white elephant. https://www.businessinsider.com/meta-lost-30-billion-on-metaverse-rivals-spent-far-less-2022-10


Does Meta’s metaverse have legs? They do at least now have literal legs which were added to the much mocked avatars unveiled by Mark Zuckerberg October 28 2021.


In 2023 Facebook is still the world’s most used social platform, however this comes with a raft of caveats:


1. Facebook seems unable to successfully develop new platforms.

Since the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 Meta has seen the market dominance of both Facebook & Instagram erode. In this 10 year period ‘innovation’ has consisted of copying successful facets of competitors apps (Snapchat & TikTok’) with rapidly diminishing revenue returns and an increasingly disgruntled/ diminishing userbase.


2. Facebook has antitrust issues that are likely to see attempts to buy up competitors blocked by US regulators. This explains, in part, going all-in on The Metaverse.


3. The new core business has tough competition as Apple is going to release its VR headset in mid-2023 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2023-01-08/when-will-apple-launch-the-reality-pro-mixed-reality-headset-apple-2023-devices-lcnfzkc7

Facebook is going to be in the unenviable position of needing the Apple product to create a market for consumer VR/ AR. If any company can make the Metaverse a reality it is Apple; just look how they made smart watches a thing after scores of competitors flailed about for years.

The question is ‘How much of the AR market will be left over for Facebook if Apple succeed?’


4. Young people (read ‘under 40s) have an intense dislike for Facebook and Instagram due to its massification, social issues such as parasitic algorithms that foster mental illnesses & election manipulation, and their preference for other, cooler, platforms - primarily TikTok.


Facebook is still a valuable ad platform for businesses, especially those whose target skews older - but it is a brand in sharp decline. This fall from grace of one of the world’s richest companies may be another impetus for the rebranding to Meta; The core product is in an inevitable nosedive but the parent company wants to insulate itself with a shiny new brand that distracts users from their 'has-been' core product.


In 2022, Instagram moved their algorithm closer to the high post volume/ video driven model they’ve seen work so well for TikTok. 2021 saw Instagram integrate customer sales and direct engagement tools such as ‘click to purchase’ buttons and these have been moderately successful but, in general, small businesses have been frustrated by the pay-to-play model which has seen organic reach dissolve into a fraction of previous 2020 levels. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/22/dining/instagram-algorithm-reels.html


For Instagram, 2022 underscored the threat that TikTok poses in terms of successful video engagement and younger user acquisition. The Instagram model has pivoted to giving organic traffic rewards to those who post images 3+ times per day and especially those who use video as the core part of their social marketing. However, despite these adaptations, “Instagram users spend 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels, Instagram’s TikTok knockoff, compared with the 197.8 million hours people spend watching TikTok every day.” (The Atlantic)


All of the tinkering with instagram’s core service of simple, square ratio, photo sharing since the 2012 acquisition by Meta has seen the service losing its cool factor with audiences - esp. Gen Z audiences who now view the service as ‘skewing old’ and opt for TikTok, BeReal & Snapchat. These are all platforms that have a UX that is baffling to most older users so they should be able to keep their core user demographic feeling 'cool' for some time.


2023 will see Meta investing more time trying to recapture the magic of the past - maybe returning to more organic friendly algorithms in an effort to gain some younger users who have more appeal to marketers. The majority tastes of Gen Z now appear to be turning to more private, real-world friend oriented platforms, and the very substantial group of people who see themselves as influencers are having a much tougher time with fees per post down as much as 80% on rates just 5 years ago.


Inevitable stock price bounce-back aside, Meta is in for a tough year in 2023 in terms of user acquisition & retention.


Linkedin


Linkedin is still the social platform no one talks about but it is no longer the platform that no one uses.

Since Microsoft acquired Linkedin in 2016 it has been growing revenue streams and steadily acquiring users https://www.businessofapps.com/data/linkedin-statistics/ Linkedin reported 822 million users as of Q1 2022 and 60% of the user base is aged 25-34. A pretty young set of core users in the scheme of things.


There is no question that Linkedin is indispensable for B2B marketing and their steady-hand take on growth has proven extremely successful for the oldest in this group of social platforms.

2023 is as good a time as there has been to start on Linkedin and the platform has a definite personal appeal to my ‘frequency be damned’ approach to social posting (not a recommendation to clients, but a simple necessity for myself).

Also, it's a great way to share & seed Youtube content...


Youtube


It’s no secret that Social Brain believes Youtube to be the ‘special sauce’ of social platforms. Youtube is the world’s second largest search engine (after parent company Google), it has an extremely effective ad targeting service, and it rewards great content with the organic traffic it deserves.

Youtube also allows great content to grow over time - unlike the other social platforms that relegate last weeks posts to the dustbin of internet history. This means a great post on Youtube will keep delivering for years to come.

Add to this Youtube is amazing for SEO and Youtube content can be shared across most of the other dominant platforms.


In 2022 Youtube continued to innovate with short form video. If the past is any measure - and it usually is - Youtube also has a strong enough culture & brand to fail forward - Youtube Red was comfortably rebranded as Youtube premium when content strategies evolved in 2020, and Youtube Shorts has been steadily growing as an add-on whilst the original Youtube service remains intact for purists.

This ethos of growing and evolving without compromising a core service is a lesson Instagram would have done well to learn.


In 2023 - look for Youtube to keep steadily growing its 2billion+ MAUs across all age groups and evolving it service while keeping its core brand familiar and essential to a broad demographic.


TikTok


2022 was the year that TikTok became a known entity for the majority of Australians over 30. The sticky, frenetic, short-form video platform has become the darling of Gen Z over the past 5 years but, as we know in marketing, mass-acceptance harkens the end of cool for early adopters and, especially, teen users.


The most pressing issue facing TikTok this year stems from the Chinese ownership of its parent company ByteDance. All Chinese companies must submit to data requests by the Chinese government, and the chorus of voices that label this a threat to western security have been growing over the past 3 years. A critical mass has been achieved in the US as 19 states have banned state employees from installing the app on smartphones since Nebraska kicked off the movement in 2020. Military personnel and federal employees are also prohibited from using the app. https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/nineteen-states-have-banned-tiktok-on-5943893/


2023 looks to be the year when TikTok is either totally banned from the US (and by proxy Australia, NZ, Britain & Canada who have intertwined security protocols) or is forced to sell to a non-Chinese owner. But this is easier said than done.

Speculation over who a buyer might be has been rife as Facebook is the most obvious suitor but is disqualified due to antitrust regulations. Disney, Apple and Microsoft have all been mooted as potential bidders but an obvious buyer is hard to pick.

Recent revelations that TikTok tapped the location data of journalists who were reporting on the app have made the voices of those questioning their viability louder than ever.


The doomsday clock may be ticking, but in the meantime expect marketers in 2023 to go heavy on ad spend for TikTok’s desirable young user/ big spender demographic while they still can.

The all-seeing, all-dancing social phenom still has a few tricks up its sleeve.


Twitter


Oh how the mighty have fallen… this is not a reference to Twitter, which was never at the social leadership table, but to their beleaguered new owner; famed troll and self-effacing loudmouth Elon Musk.


Musk made an attention seeking bid for the ownership of Twitter *in a tweet’ in April 2022 and was forced by the Delaware Court of Chancery (in some very smooth manoeuvring) to pony up over $43 billion - a total most analysts estimated to be approx. 4x the companies actual value. Musk arrived at the bid of $54.20 per share as a joke - the 420 being a reference to World Weed Day on April 20 - a common easter egg in all of Musk’s online communications.




The jokey bid has proved to be the tweet heard around the world - Musk has lost $182 billion dollars over the last year https://fortune.com/2023/01/11/elon-musk-breaks-guinness-world-record-for-largest-loss-of-wealth-in-history-after-182-billion-drop/ - more than any person in modern history has lost in one year.


Okay - you might be thinking that none of this has anything to do with Twitter, but the fates of the formerly richest person in the world and the platform have become inextricably intertwined over the past 4 months.

To make the purchase happen Musk had to sell billions of dollars worth of Tesla stock and take out bridging loans for 10s of billions. His tenure as CEO of Twitter has been characterised by rash decisions like laying off half of Twitter’s workforce in week one (including entire divisions such as those monitoring hate speech) and firing any employee who voices displeasure at his approach to running the business.


The consequences have been terrible for Twitter's marketing revenue - one of Musk’s core ideas for generating new revenue was to monetise the ‘blue check mark’ which signifies a verified account. He pursued this without heeding the voices in his company that stressed the mark was a security measure rather than a brag badge.


Within a day of Musk rolling out the monetised check mark in November, major corporations including Eli Lilly & Lockheed had their accounts impersonated and, in Eli Lilly’s case, the implications for their stock price after scammers announced that ‘insulin would be free now’ was dire. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2022/11/12/fake-eli-lilly-twitter-account-claims-insulin-is-free-stock-falls-43/?sh=712d384241a3

Healthcare companies retreated from the ad platform en masse and other companies soon followed hobbling Twitter’s ad revenue.

Hate speech has sky rocketed and system outages have become a common event. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/02/technology/twitter-hate-speech.html

Twitter has been a fantastic platform for civil discourse, breaking news, casual posting and B2B content for almost 2 decades, but the new ownership threatens the end of the business in 2023.


Twitter’s story is an unusual one - a much beloved, influential, yet still minor, platform has been taken to the edge of extinction by a well bank-rolled narcissist.


Well, I’ll still be using Twitter in 2023 - if only to follow the declining fortunes and drama surrounding its CEO.


2022 was anything but boring for social media - although certainly a lot quieter for the platforms that are doing well.

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