5 social media trends brands will need to contend with in 2023

The ways to explore the internet and discover new content have evolved. With the rapid changes in the digital spaces, users are challenging the old search methods and relying more on the rich social data offerings, complementing traditional search methods with visual, collaborative, random, and imbued with personal experiences.

Individuality is no longer the main attraction of social, instead platforms like TikTok and Reddit encourage collaborative creation and create space for effective community building. In addition, the influence of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) on identity in digital spaces is becoming more important than ever.

With the emergence of a more complex and ever-changing web of digital culture, one can only wonder what role brands can play in reflection and creation. LLet’s look at some of the trends outlined by we are social will shake up 2023.

Trend 1: Textured Discovery

In a swelling sea of ​​content, search and discovery is less about finding information and more about curating. And while people have always been drawn to content guided by subjective human experience, they’re now getting to it earlier in the journey: TikTok tours and subreddits are no longer a point of refinement at the end of a search journey, but a starting point for discovery.

Instead of a unique or specific search term, people base their explorations on a mood, aesthetic, or feeling. It contributes to the success of platforms such as Pinterest, which organizes information more based on intuitive aesthetic codes, or TikTok, which allows users to follow the thread of a specific “trending sound”. The subreddit r/BooksThatFeelLikeThis is an example where people collect book recommendations based on the “feel” of a particular photo.

Brands can turn discovery into a collaborative process to see a part of the web that would otherwise have remained hidden. That’s exactly what Spotify did when it enabled people to discover music together: its “mixed mixes” let people peer out of their own algorithm-recommended filter bubble and push them down a path of discovery guided by their music partner’s tastes.

Trend 2: Collapsing narratives

Storytelling is no longer linear or reserved. Instead, to survive the modern attention economy, storytelling is changing on social media. Once a formulaic art—beginning, middle, end—stories no longer progress through a full narrative arc, nor do they play out in one place from start to finish. Instead, they collapse and begin mid-narrative, or expand and scatter across platforms.

It’s become common practice to move fluidly between platforms, with our experience developing content in those areas – for example, when trending TikTok soundbites live rent-free in our minds, taking us to dedicated Spotify playlists, where we then find the Get to know the song (and artist) in detail.

Brands can use collapsing narratives to weave the real and the virtual together. Take the recent activation of Pringles, for example: people were able to “win a job” as a non-playable character – an “automatic filler” – in Train Sim World 2. Candidate.

In this way, Pringles let people piece together their own narrative for their automaton character while blurring the lines between platforms (on Instagram vs. in Train Sim World 2) and realities.

Trend 3: Margin chasers

On social media, what reality means is always in flux. As rising cynicism makes it harder and harder to appear real, authenticity has become a game of hens — pushing people to behave ever more out of the ordinary in order to be seen as true believers and not mere posers. This explains why self-expression moves to extremes: in the post-authenticity internet, extreme is now synonymous with credibility.

Speaking of behavior change, people tend to zoom into a niche. This explains the ever-growing list of digital microcommunities (Weirdcore, Goblincore, Bubblegum Witch) and the increasing cultural influence of precise, odd interests like Koch Thomas Straker‘s ASMR-style videos about churning.

There are countless ways to embody the intensity of energy, ranging from the offensive to the absurd to the niche, chaotic, and contrasting. Brands can hold onto their core values, but look for where this kind of playful experimentation fits into their brand narrative.

For example, brands can learn from Gucci and Balenciaga’s The Hacker Project collaboration, in which the two luxury houses went to extremes by imitating each other’s storefronts. For Gucci, this loud statement didn’t come out of nowhere: it’s an extension of the brand’s long-standing fascination with authenticity, appropriation and fake culture, and a more extreme manifestation of something it’s been toying with since 2018.

Trend 4: New cooperatives

Vibrant Discords, supportive subreddits, sisterhood nurtured in TikTok’s comments — in 2022, online social life is flourishing. Conspicuously absent from all this? The individual profile page. With fewer private labels and a more open community, the “social” part of “social media” is changing. Individuality is out – at least in its earlier form. Identity curation, self-expression, hierarchy and status aspirations are gently pushed aside to make room for effective community building and open, dynamic and far less individual-focused forms of connection.

People execute trends collectively rather than individually. Jumping on a trend used to mean adding an individual touch to a broader movement—to a song, a dance, or an aesthetic that was moving through culture. Now trends are increasingly being listed collectively rather than individually, meaning the end goal is to be part of the crowd rather than being the loudest voice in a trend conversation.

With the increasing emphasis on community over individuality, brands are better embraced when they act as a liaison rather than a frontman. Brands can lay the foundation for communities to create content together. For example, Twitter has begun testing a CoTweets feature that will allow users in the US, Canada and Korea to co-author posts. This means that individual users or even brands and influencers can share the creative and editorial responsibility for a specific post, making it a truly collaborative effort.

Trend 5: Expand identities

As we enter an even more heavily influenced social realm by VR and AR, this opens up new avenues for identity expression. That’s one of the reasons why the ability for self-expression in virtual worlds—whether with accuracy, playfulness, or nuance—is an important cultural touchpoint. With this in mind, both established brands and developers are eagerly building the infrastructure to support more open self-expression in online worlds.

Virtual worlds present a fresh slate. Against this backdrop, underrepresented communities seek to get ahead of real-world issues of inequality in the metaverse before they can take root. Representation is a key focus, with people trying to create an equal presence from the start.

As people venture into new virtual worlds, they look for brands that support more flexible and sophisticated self-expression in these spaces. Brands can think outside the box of how avatars can convey personal identity. That’s exactly what adidas did with its Originals Ozworld platform, where users answered questions about their personality and received customized avatars that embodied their psychological identity rather than their physical characteristics.

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