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Neal Schaffer, a digital marketing expert and instructor at Rutgers Business School, reports that 4.62 billion people use social media—that’s half the world’s population. But simply using social media platforms isn’t quite enough to keep your business relevant in this day and age. Rather, your social media content needs to be extremely dynamic. In other words, it’s important to adjust your strategy and stay ahead of competitors by keeping up with current social media marketing trends.

At The CMO, we’re dedicated to helping marketers increase conversions and make authentic connections with audience members. To help you start the new year on the right foot, we did some in-depth research into the trends currently taking the social media world by storm, so grab a notepad and get ready to kick your social media marketing strategy into high gear for 2023. If you understand these trends, you’ll not only find it easier to connect with your target audience, but to generate leads, drive conversions, and get ahead of your competitors.

1. Gen Z Takes Over

Statistics from 2022 show that Gen Z is now the largest generation on social media, with 50% reporting daily usage to keep up with news, trends, entertaining memes and more. To really show this shift and provide a little contrast, only 44% of Millennials reported the same, and–to flip things entirely–43% of Boomers said they actually never use social media for news.

Needless to say, 2023 is going to see a lot more content created by and for the Gen Z demographic, with a large part of that being UGC (user generated content). This refers to brand-specific content created by audience members and posted on social media. Think product reviews, testimonials, unboxing videos, or podcast episodes dedicated to a specific product, service, or brand. 

But why? Because Gen Z has increasing demands for high levels of authenticity and UGC automatically feels more authentic. Paul Talbot of Forbes explains that people “react with disdain” when they encounter marketing content that comes off as phony, and I think most of us can relate.

To this generation, authenticity means being transparent, doing something to make the world a better place, and 'keeping it real.' Manage that and you’re practically guaranteed to have an engaged following. After all, 57% of Gen Z respondents indicated that they spend more time watching user-generated content than they do watching movies and TV shows on streaming services.

2. Brand Authenticity

When it comes to brand authenticity, though, the trend really goes beyond Gen Z. According to the results of a Sprout Social survey, 86% of Americans believe that transparency in business is more important than ever.

For one thing, nearly 90% of people are likely to give transparent brands a second chance after they’ve had a bad experience. Transparency also influences audience members to stick with you in times of crisis.

While you’re following other social media trends, here’s what you can do to maintain a high level of authenticity:

  • Communicate honestly with your customers. If your company makes a mistake, acknowledge it and take reasonable steps to make it right.
  • Share openly about your business practices. Potential customers want to know how your products are made and what materials they contain. If you sell services, they want to know what goes into providing those services, such as what type of expertise your employees have or why you take a certain approach to solving problems.
  • Handle criticism with grace. Rachel Hollis raised a lot of eyebrows after her 2021 social media meltdown. Although she posted an apology, many followers noticed that she’d been deleting critical comments. Instead of shying away from criticism, demonstrate a high level of transparency by responding professionally and letting users know that you value feedback.
  • Designate someone to serve as a brand “myth buster.” As your company grows, you may have to spend more of your time dealing with misinformation. If you have a myth buster on your team, they can focus on dispelling rumors and responding to customer concerns.
  • Communicate as often as possible. If your company is planning to discontinue a product or implement a price increase, don’t blindside customers with the change. Communicate early and often. People are more forgiving when they have plenty of notice of upcoming changes.

3. User-Generated Content

user generated content infographic

We already touched on user-generated content, but what you may not know is that there’s a huge disconnect between how marketers feel about UGC and how social media users feel about UGC. Although 92% of brands believe that their content comes across as authentic, only 51% of consumers have the same opinion. Conversely, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to say that UGC is more authentic than brand-created content.

User-generated content influences brand loyalty by giving consumers a chance to participate in the growth of your company. UGC also helps build trust, much like word-of-mouth marketing. Consumers are more willing to buy from a brand when they see other people enjoying the brand’s products or reporting positive experiences with the company.

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Encouraging Customers to Produce UGC

You can give your brand a human touch by encouraging your customers to create their own content or contribute to the content you produce. Here’s how:

  • Send out customer surveys. Topline survey results are ideal for creating infographics and other content to share on your website and social networks.
  • Run a contest that requires participants to create some type of content. If your company sells art supplies, for example, ask users to share photos of their latest paintings or drawings. You can even ask them to share on specific social platforms or use hashtags to make the content more visible.
  • Invite customers to record themselves opening packages from your company and showing off the products inside.
  • Encourage viewers to leave a comment on each piece of video content.
  • Start using influencer marketing to promote your business.
  • Partner with other content creators to hold livestreams or other events of interest to the people in your target audience.

4. Crisis & Customer Management

More than 95% of businesses expect to experience some type of crisis in the next 2 years. For most companies, it’s not a matter of whether a crisis will happen—it’s when it will happen. While you’re embracing these other social media trends, don’t forget to have a plan in place for a crisis and make sure that your marketing and public relations staff understand how to manage customer relationships in tough times.

One way to do a better job with customer and social media content management is to adopt a social CRM. Traditional CRM systems are rather transactional, as they focus on collecting data and allowing businesses to control the narrative. In contrast, a social CRM allows customers to initiate conversations and have more control over their brand interactions.

If a crisis occurs, here’s what you can do to respond in a way that makes social media users trust you and want to stick with you:

  • Don’t ignore the crisis. Put together a statement as soon as possible so that users know you care about their needs.
  • Use social listening tools and learn how to master them to prevent crises from taking you by surprise. Unless a crisis involves a natural disaster, the death of a key stakeholder, or another sudden event, there are usually some rumblings on social media before everything comes to a head.
  • Show empathy for your audience members. It’s important to release a statement as early as possible, but don’t forget to have a team member respond to social media comments and interact with customers via your company’s chatbot.
  • Pause your scheduled posts. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if a scheduled post about a restaurant’s beef tacos went live just a few hours after it came out that its beef has been recalled for E. coli contamination. It would do serious damage to the restaurant’s brand. That’s why you should put scheduled posts on pause while you focus on responding to the crisis.

5. Shopping In-App

Social commerce is more popular than ever. In fact, the United States is home to about 80 million social commerce buyers, an increase of 25.2% between 2020 and 2021. By end of 2023, there will be around 100 million buyers, making in-app shopping one of the most important social media trends of the year.

Don’t confuse social commerce with traditional e-commerce. While e-commerce allows customers to buy products and services from a company website or online marketplace, social commerce takes place on social media networks. Users can browse products and services, add them to a shopping cart, and check out, all without leaving their favorite social media apps.

As of January 2023, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are the only platforms supporting social commerce. Don’t be surprised if that changes quickly, though. With the number of social buyers expected to increase to 100 million by the end of the year, big brands are likely to push other networks to adopt this approach to sales.

6. Short-Form Content

When it comes to attracting new customers, you can’t afford to ignore short-form video and other types of short-form content. Social media users are inundated with information, making it difficult to focus on lengthy blog posts or videos that last for several minutes. Short-form content makes it easier to accommodate short attention spans.

If you’re not already doing short-form video, now is the time to get your brand on TikTok or start producing YouTube shorts. TikTok has approximately 1 billion monthly active users, many of whom belong to Gen Z. To attract a younger audience, have your marketing team create short videos and post them on the TikTok platform.

YouTube shorts are mobile-friendly videos that make it easy to increase brand awareness. When you embrace this marketing method, you benefit from YouTube’s audience, which exceeded 2.5 billion active daily users in 2022.

If you don’t have an in-house videographer or someone who can learn how to create high-quality videos on the fly, consider partnering with nano and micro-influencers—individuals with 1,000 to 100,000 followers—or encouraging customers to create their own TikTok or YouTube videos featuring your brand. The right partnerships can help you take advantage of short-form video marketing without having to invest in expensive equipment or hire an additional staff member.

7. Social Audio

Social audio is a form of social networking that involves voice interaction. Think of it like the perfect combination of podcasting and social media marketing. Participants discuss trending topics, tell stories, or have in-depth conversations about topics of interest to audience members. Embracing social audio gives you a chance to make real-time connections with the people in your target market.

Since social audio is one of the newest forms of social media, there’s plenty of room for growth. Here are just a few of the social audio platforms available to marketers:

  • Clubhouse: Clubhouse launched during the first wave of the pandemic, making it easier for people to interact when they couldn’t get together in person. The platform offers how-to guides and other resources to help you use it effectively.
  • Twitter Spaces: This service allows Twitter users with more than 600 followers to have live audio conversations.
  • Facebook Audio Rooms: Facebook was a little late to the audio game, but the creation of Audio Rooms has made it much easier for users to create strong connections with followers.
  • Spotify Greenroom: In the performing arts, a greenroom is a place where actors, musicians, and other performers relax before a big show or during intermission. Spotify has taken the concept digital, allowing athletes, artists, and other users to have conversations with their fans.

8. Sustainability

sustainability infographic

The demand for increased sustainability isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, 82% of consumers want brands to prioritize people and the planet. You can use this trend to your advantage by being completely transparent about your company’s sustainability initiatives. Here are just a few ideas for using social media to share information about sustainability:

  • Use LinkedIn to post thought leadership pieces on how focusing on sustainability can help brands attract loyal customers.
  • Create a few Instagram Reels or Instagram Stories that give customers an inside look at how your company reduces waste.
  • Do a Q&A with your CEO about why your brand is so committed to sustainability.
  • Publish a report detailing how your sustainability efforts paid off during the previous year or quarter.

9. Augmented Reality

In 2023, the augmented reality market is expected to generate anywhere from $70 to $75 billion in yearly revenue. Social media executives know that embracing AR is the key to opening up new opportunities for growth. To take advantage of this trend, make sure your marketing team has the tools they need to produce high-quality AR content.

Augmented reality blends computer-generated content with the real world, giving users unique experiences. One of the best examples of augmented reality is Pokémon GO, a game that encourages users to walk around their neighborhoods and interact with local landmarks. Facebook also has several games featuring augmented reality.

Take advantage of this trend by incorporating augmented reality into some of your content. If AR just isn’t in your wheelhouse, consider partnering with an experienced content creator or hiring a freelance developer to incorporate AR into your overall marketing strategy.

10. Interactive Ads

In 2021, brands spent more than $521 billion on ads. With augmented reality and virtual reality taking the world by storm, marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to do something different. One way to stand out from the crowd is to use interactive ads, which allow users to engage with your brand instead of passively consuming content.

Several game companies have incorporated playable in-app ads into their mobile marketing strategies. These ads allow users to try a game without signing up for a free trial or downloading an app. Playable ads may also contain instructions from the advertiser, such as “Click here,” improving the experience.

Augmented reality ads are popular with companies that sell clothing, jewelry, accessories, and home goods, as they allow users to determine how a product will look in their homes or on their bodies. IKEA is an example of a brand that’s using AR advertising effectively, as it has an online design lab that uses design sensors to help users redesign their spaces.

11. Nano & Micro-Influencers

You don’t need to partner with Kim Kardashian to succeed with influencer marketing. In fact, you may be more successful if you partner with nano or micro-influencers, who have way fewer followers than major celebrities. A nano-influencer typically has no more than 10,000 followers, while micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers.

Nano and micro-influencers are becoming more popular because of the increased demand for authenticity. When a brand partners with a major celebrity, it’s obvious that the celebrity is being paid for their content. If you work with someone who has 5,000 followers, it comes across more authentic.

12. Social Is the New Search Engine

Social media marketing is highly effective for SEO, as many more people are starting to use social networks as search engines. In fact, almost 40% of Gen Z is using TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google, according to Google's own data. You can also use your social media content to build backlinks and drive traffic to your website.

One way to maximize your SEO results on social media is to write keyword-rich captions instead of using basic hashtags. Research from Hootsuite shows that using keyword-rich captions doubles engagement and increases reach by 30%.

This strategy should be tool-supported. Some Instagram marketing platforms, for example, will recommend hashtags and keywords for you to ensure you're getting seen.

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By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.