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According to Statista, there were 4.89 billion users across social media platforms at the end of 2023. That’s more than half the world’s population.

But simply using social media 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.

To help you start 2024 on the right foot, we looked to industry trend reports and beyond, to uncover what's currently taking social media by storm. In understanding these trends, you’ll find it easier to connect with your target audience, generate leads, drive conversions, and get ahead of your competitors.

1. AI Redefines Authenticity

Artificial intelligence has already been a trending topic since ChatGPT launched in November 2022. We've looked at it multiple ways, from how top CMOs are leveraging AI in marketing to how you can use generative AI to improve SEO.

The hot topic for 2024 will be AI's affect on social media, as audiences will be more skeptical than ever as to what's real and true. While different generations have different feelings about it, marketers should take note of the following:

  • Gen Z is most likely to claim they can tell the difference between what's real and what's AI, and they are the most likely to trust and engage with it.
  • Baby boomers are the least likely to trust and engage with something that they know has either been created by AI or written by AI.
  • Gen X felt strongest that it's hard to tell what images are real or fake, and that it's also hard to tell what information is real or fake.
  • Millennials were closest in results to Gen X, feeling fairly confident that they could tell the difference and still somewhat willing to trust and engage.

What does this mean for you? Well, you'll first want to consider how your target demographic feels about AI (as reported above), and then refine your social strategy accordingly. That said, AI-generated content isn't going anywhere, so your focus should ultimately be on the brand experience you want to create for the customer—and less on who or what is creating it.

Good form moving forward will be designing AI policies and best practices for your in-house marketing team, or if you outsource services for social media, asking your agency about their policy. You can also use artificial intelligence to help streamline your workflows, but don't let it run the show. Trust me, you'll still want a dedicated social media marketing manager for that.

2. Brands Narrow Down Commitment

Honestly... it's about time *exhausted face.* Social media marketing software Buffer reports that there are 23 top social media sites for companies to consider, but taking on even half of those can be a lot—even for companies with a variety of dedicated social media marketing team roles in place.

In 2024, brands are beginning to draw the line, learning that it's far better to manage fewer social platforms and do it well than it is to be everywhere with a lacklustre presence. In fact, organizations are beginning to fear the ROI impact of being on too many platforms, and according to the 4,281 respondents in Hootsuite's survey, these five issues are fuelling the majority of concern:

  1. Time or budget investment to maintain a presence (52%)
  2. Uncertainty about the accuracy of campaign success metrics (35%)
  3. Uncertainty about the attribution of campaign success (34%)
  4. Unsatisfactory connection between social and business metrics (33%)
  5. Uncertainty about social media strategy (31%)

So, which platforms should you continue posting to in 2024? Well, that will depend largely on your target audience. The number of platforms the average social media user logs into each month is seven, but again, you don't need to be on all of them. Look at your ROI from each platform to decipher which gets the most bang for your buck, and if the value isn't there, there's really no point.

3. Entertainment Value is Key

So you're narrowing down your presence on social media platforms and contemplating how you can use AI to your advantage. One question still remains: what kind of content—real or generated—do you post?

Getting back to ROI, brands are noticing that content with a certain level of entertainment value performs best, and the Hootsuite survey found that the top reason people use social media is to be entertained and to mentally unwind. So, how do you create content that entertains your audience, whilst still leading them along the path to purchase? Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Ask them! Your audience knows what they want to see from you, so reach out with polls, surveys, or other feedback methods to find out.
  2. Avoid being overly promotional. Take a breath. Relax. You've got time. Social media is a long game, so mix up your posts... sometimes you can inform, and sometimes you can entertain. You don't always need to have an angle.
  3. Measure engagement. You should already be doing this, but in entertaining your audience, you should see engagement levels increase. This leads to stronger, more authentic relationships for when you ultimately make a sale.
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4. Gen Z Is Still Strong

In our 2023 trend report, we saw how Gen Z was 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.

In 2024, we're still 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 (perhaps outside of AI) 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.

5. 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.

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.

6. Crisis & Customer Management

2020 to 2022 was a big wake-up call for a lot of companies, and now most believe it’s not a matter of whether a crisis will happen, but when. 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.

7. Shopping In-App

Social commerce is more popular than ever. In fact, there are now around 100 million buyers, forecasted to rise to 110.4 million US social buyers through 2024, accounting for 42% of all internet users and nearly half of all social media users. This makes in-app shopping an important social media trend.

And let's not 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 2024, social commerce is possible on major platforms like:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest,
  • Snapchat
  • TikTok
  • Twitter (X)
  • YouTube

So, who's doing the shopping? Well, Gen Z is more likely than any other generation to purchase a product after watching a review from an influencer they follow. That said, they aren't the only ones making purchases, as according to a 2023 Hubspot report, over 1 in 5 Gen Z, Millennial, and Gen X social media users bought a product directly in a social media app in the past 3 months.

8. 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 just for them.

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.

9. 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.

10. 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 some ways social media can 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.

11. Augmented Reality

The AR (augmented reality) & VR (virtual reality) market is projected to generate revenue of US$38.6 billion in 2024, and social media executives know that embracing this 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 gained enormous popularity in 2016 by encouraging 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.

12. Interactive Ads

In 2023, brands spent more than $601.8 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.

13. 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.

14. 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 optimize your content for social search 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 will recommend hashtags and keywords for you to ensure you're getting seen.

Ready to Grow Your Brand?

Experts at The CMO have seen firsthand how effective social media can be for driving engagement and building authentic connections with audiences. As we go into 2024, I hope these trends can be trusted as your roadmap to success.

Grow your knowledge further and stay on top of all things social media by subscribing to The CMO newsletter. You’ll get access to expert advice on growing your brand straight to your inbox.

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.