Ready to get social in 2024? Prepare for a radically different social experience than before.

The Gist

  • Gen Z drives social media trends. Despite social media’s challenges, its marketing role remains vital, with Gen Z’s rising usage shaping 2024 trends.
  • Content strategy shifts. Marketers must adapt to slower follower growth, focusing on content and engagement over mere expansion.
  • Video engagement rising. The growing importance of video content on platforms like TikTok and YouTube signifies a key shift in user engagement.

Just as it seems negative social media trends signal its decline — from mental health risks to brands doubting user engagement, even Elon Musk’s blunt message to advertisers — the reality is social media’s role in marketing and sales, especially in enhancing customer experience, is more crucial than ever. With Gen Z spiking usage metrics, marketers in 2024 must adapt their strategies to align with the evolving social media trends of 2024.

I’ve listed emerging trends, supplemented with insights from other marketing professionals observing intriguing developments as well.

1. Engagement Growth Lies in Nuanced Audiences Rather Than Overall Crowd 

Social media platforms continue to engage massive audiences, yet the era of swift follower growth seen in previous years is waning, lasting for shorter periods. This shift results from the public’s growing familiarity with social media and the emergence of new online socializing methods. Despite the slowed growth, sparks of opportunities are flickering among the embers of the social media flame.

A woman wearing jeans and tennis shoes holds a smart phone with her red painted fingernails visible while she uses a social media app in a piece about social media trends 2024.
Despite the slowed growth, sparks of opportunities are flickering among the embers of the social media flame.Kaspars Grinvalds on Adobe Stock Photos

Cohorts spending ample time on platforms to view ads are emerging. For instance, Pinterest experienced a surge in user activity within a specific demographic. WIRED magazine highlighted that Gen Z users constitute 40% of Pinterest’s active monthly users and represent its fastest-growing demographic. This trend counters the decline in organic reach and time spent on the site, which typically reduces ad impressions and revenue.

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Marketers need to tailor their reach strategies for each platform in their plan, assessing how content and interactions align with platform capabilities. Justin Levy, head of Social Media, Influencer Marketing & Community at ZoomInfo, points out ubiquitous opportunities: “YouTube Shorts should be a focus area for marketers. It is undervalued due to the popularity of Instagram Reels and TikTok.”

Related Article: How Social Media Marketing Has Changed This Year

2. Social Media Video Is a Must for Your SEO Strategy

People are increasingly using video as search content in their online research, turning to YouTube and TikTok as reliable search resources, much like Google. This trend signifies a shift in engagement, with TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts as binge preferences for content consumption. This evolution positions TikTok as a nuanced search venue for information, akin to Twitter’s role in its early days.

Sara McCord, PR expert and founder/CEO of Sara McCord Communications, has long noted the trend among Gen Z social media users. She says, “We know that social media is the new search: Gen Z uses TikTok search more than Google. The opportunity here is for experts to create content that answers the questions users are actually searching for — and I don’t mean FAQs. It means the answers people are looking for on a given day, based on what they’re seeing online. I predict people who treat trending content creation on social media — particularly TikTok— with the same gusto with which people SEO-optimized their websites over the last couple of decades, will see outsized influence and growth in 2024.“

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Marketers need to create a search strategy that incorporates video content, pinpointing online channels that optimize video features. They should leverage evolving consumer interests and behaviors to repurpose content, enhancing search effectiveness, similar to analyzing keywords for SEO tactics used in websites and apps.

Related Article: Building Strong Customer Relationships Through Social Media

3. AI Usage — and Risks — Rises to Bring Social Media Elements Together

The buzz surrounding AI in content creation will continue to dominate headlines in 2024. Tools like ChatGPT, MidJourney, Perplexity, Bard, and other generative AI technologies have made creation capabilities more accessible. Marketers’ use of these tools in social media activities is set to rise. For instance, Hootsuite’s social media survey report indicated a 318% increase in marketers planning to use AI for image editing.

However, the Hootsuite survey also revealed in its consumer segment that fake AI content is off-putting to consumers. In fact, 62% stated they were less likely to engage with AI-generated content. Thus, while AI can streamline workflow, it poses a risk to customer brand acceptance, especially regarding content intended to convey appealing messages. 

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Marketers are set to experiment with AI-enhanced tools to broaden content management on various platforms. For instance, WhatsApp has introduced AI chatbot integration, enabling automated responses to customer service inquiries. These tools present a challenge for marketers to strike a balance between scalability and maintaining an authentic brand voice.

Marketers should also monitor legislation addressing AI content standards. In 2023, President Biden issued an executive order directing agencies to develop safety standards, encompassing content authentication and watermarking. If these become formalized, they will provide brands with a framework to balance misinformation risks with their content strategies.

Related Article: What Social Media Trends to Expect for 2023

4. Platform Transformations Will Muddle How Strategic Decisions Are Executed

Long-standing platforms are witnessing an evolution in content consumption and feature usage. This leads to a challenging scenario for marketers, who must decipher the varied benefits each platform offers amidst these changes.

For instance, take X — the platform formerly known as Twitter — can it continue being recognized for breaking news? Despite Elon Musk’s controversial comments and the rise of hate speech deterring advertisers, it maintains relevance. A notable example is the news about DevTernity, a developer conference that was canceled following backlash over using fake profiles of female presenters. This story first gained attention on X through widespread condemnation from the developer community.

However, whether X, in the wake of Elon Musk’s influence, can sustain its relevance long enough to regain advertiser trust and transform into a viable platform remains uncertain.

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

The leading platform will shape the evolution of social media tactics, like hashtags. Hashtags link users to conversation threads and help identify community profiles that utilize specific hashtags to draw in members. Threads, for example, introduced topic tags, a more understated version of hashtags compared to those on its sister platform, Instagram. Marketers should be prepared for new user behaviors with these evolving content features.

Watch for platforms forging beneficial partnerships that attract cross audiences, like Pinterest’s collaboration with Amazon Ads. Companies seek venues for announcing offerings, from webinars to product launches. Platforms facilitating impactful brand promotions with ease should be integral to strategic considerations.

Related Article: Is Social Media the Answer for Your Brand’s Future?

5. Social Media Will Clash With Retail Media for Advertiser Budgets 

Similar to the narrative in “Avengers: Endgame,” an epic battle is unfolding among platforms for supremacy in the advertising market. Social media platforms are not just competing with each other to attract brands, but also with retail media platforms that have garnered significant audiences and developed ad management capabilities. Retail giants like Walmart are emulating Amazon by creating their own ad platforms. Digiday even reported rumors about Apple considering the launch of its own ad exchange.

This situation sets high expectations among brands and marketers. Insider Intelligence projects that retail media ad spending is anticipated to double by 2027.

Ads significantly impact financial bottom lines. Pinterest reported growth in ad revenue for Q3 this year. Meanwhile, Insider Intelligence forecasts that TikTok is set to surpass YouTube in U.S. ad revenues in 2024, attributed to its videos capturing longer user attention spans.

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Anticipate novel features that bolster social media advertising, leading to in-stream retail experiences for users. Situations like the advertiser exodus from X open further opportunities for others to attract brands. Marketers should explore newly launched tools and features designed to retain brands and their advertising budgets. For instance, Pinterest launched Direct Links, enabling users to access a retailer’s website with a single click, bypassing a Pinterest product page. Insider Intelligence highlighted this feature as one of several contributing to improved earnings and ad revenues.

6. Platforms Battle to Retain Diverse Audiences 

Platforms are striving to innovate and keep users engaged with new features, even amidst retention challenges. Many are introducing premium features; for instance, X recently launched Grok, a generative AI tool available to premium users. However, Twitter is struggling to retain advertisers and maintain user engagement, exemplifying the struggle to balance new offerings with user and advertiser appeal.

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Brands are increasingly focusing on aligning the internal and external values of their messages. It’s not enough to merely feature African American consumers; brands also need to consider their messaging about investments impacting African American communities and how they manage Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in their workforce. For instance, a comprehensive study by McKinsey & Co. revealed a decline in management diversity levels to pre-2019 figures, indicating a possible DEI investment rollback. Therefore, a B2B brand committed to diversity has an opportunity to showcase how its investment remains strong and adds value. Brands aiming to connect with customers through cultural identity are keen to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to these investments.

In 2024, social media will likely be the primary channel brands use to demonstrate their continued commitment. Consequently, social media platforms must prove their ability to reinforce brand messages and mitigate brand safety risks, as highlighted by incidents like the Bud Light issue.

7. Rising Sales Commerce Will Be More Varied

Social media platforms had long heralded the massive onset of social commerce, but this didn’t materialize as expected. However, as brands refined their customer connections, social media emerged as a central hub for social commerce, playing a significant role in announcing sales, launching new products, and engaging with customers about their retail experiences. A Sprout Social survey revealed that 74% of consumers are likely to engage with brands over the holidays through social media.

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

This year, further experiments in in-channel commerce are expected to expand, with platforms introducing methods for purchasing through Instagram Reels, TikTok videos, and other streaming services. Marketers should pay close attention to retail-specific sectors, like casual dining, to explore innovations that make purchasing and pickup a convenient customer experience.

8. Choosing Your Platform, Choosing Your Community Standard

Users are increasingly choosing platforms based on their specific purpose, leading to significant audience differences across social media platforms. Therefore, marketers must be acutely aware of these variations, as understanding them is crucial for tailoring strategies to highlight the distinct features of each platform.

Joel Libava, a franchise marketing expert known as The Franchise King, provides numerous franchise tips and strategic insights. He emphasized the appeal of LinkedIn for franchisors, citing its large user base and stability as key factors for branding. Libava pointed out that LinkedIn is generally free from issues like user spamming or involvement in culture wars, making it increasingly attractive for franchisors who are looking to engage more actively and invest more on the platform in 2024.

Libava’s insights underscore how LinkedIn differs from Alignable, another business platform, but one that is more focused on networking for small business owners. This distinction emphasizes that people are likely to gravitate toward platforms that best serve their immediate needs and experiences.

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Anticipate that established community platforms like Discord and newer ones like Alignable will improve features beneficial for community moderation. Marketers should regularly review which platforms offer community interactions and guidelines that align best with their brand’s communication style with customers.

9. Video Streaming Is The New Black of Strategic Social Media Posts

Marketers accustomed to posts and tweets in the early days of social media are now witnessing video streaming becoming a primary focus. Traditionally, these formats have been brief, but platforms are increasingly promoting longer events among creators. Business Insider reported that TikTok has encouraged its Shop Merchant ambassadors to host live events exceeding an hour. Furthermore, Insider Intelligence observed indications that TikTok users are engaging with videos longer than one minute, suggesting a trend toward longer viewing durations.

Meanwhile, Insider Intelligence reports that half of YouTube’s viewership now watches videos via a TV screen, significantly altering the experience of streamed content on the platform.

Ivana Taylor, founder of DIY Marketers, highlighted the effectiveness of social media tactics like video in reaching people. She emphasized the importance for marketers to recognize that customers on social media are “not just browsing, but actively seeking products and services that offer value, comfort, and a sense of understanding.”

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Marketers will gain more campaign options to explore extended streams. Experimentation with these longer formats offers enhanced customer engagement and branding opportunities. It’s crucial for marketers to also strategize how their analytics can most effectively measure the outcomes of these events.

Marketers must also consider the impact of extending team and partner engagement online as concern and deeper mental health studies on the risks of being online extensively have also become part of societal discussions on the role of social media in everyday lives.

10. The Cost of Social Media Analytics Will Go Up

Prediction on social media metrics will be very difficult. The least expensive measurement tools are no longer available, which means deriving insights from metrics must be worth marketer’s social media investment. Smaller organizations will find it difficult to budget an analysis. 

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect 

The expense of social media analytics is set to rise as platforms change their policies on API access. X, for example, transformed its free API access into a tiered subscription model. This shift sparked frustration among data scientists, brands, and developers who depended on this access for creating insightful visualizations and analyses. APIs serve as gateways for downloading data into data modeling open-source programming languages like R and Python, crucial for developing precise dashboard applications.

Marketers need to be prepared to update their dashboards, moving beyond generic metrics toward first-party data that directly aligns with their business needs and goals. In an environment where numerous media sources generate vast amounts of data, the clarity and depth of visualizations will distinguish your social media strategy.

11. Focus on Community Over ‘Going Viral’ Schemes

Marketers are increasingly adopting a healthy skepticism toward strategies focused on immediate content reach. They are now developing more nuanced approaches to scaling campaigns, prioritizing strategic growth over simply going viral.

Rajsheda “Rocki” Griffin, a social media strategist who founded the Clubhouse community and social media consultancy “Social with Rocki,” cautions against the allure of virality. She acknowledges that going viral with short-form content can quickly offer immense visibility, leading to increased followers, engagement, and opportunities like collaborations or sponsorships. However, she warns that virality “can be unpredictable and uncontrollable, sometimes attracting unwanted or negative attention … Business owners and creators sometimes assume that a viral spike can boost their brand awareness and business when in reality it’s just a great video and they will forget your brand at the next swipe.”

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Marketers need to integrate content creation with engagement strategies. While attracting followers is essential initially, it’s not enough for audience retention. The focus should be more on content and engagement that nurtures and sustains the community. Rocki’s success with Clubhouse exemplifies how prioritizing community engagement is crucial for marketing success in 2024.

12. The Rise of Asynchronous Social Connection With Customers

Effective communication with customers is a key component of the customer experience on social media. However, recent strategic feature changes indicate that both platforms and marketers need to better cater to people who encounter live event content after the scheduled time. These features foster asynchronous engagement with content, which could result in latent customer interactions and behaviors.

For instance, Clubhouse revamped its room chats to enable users to send recorded messages, allowing engagement with a topic without the need to join a live audience instantly. This kind of asynchronous participation is beginning to permeate other social media platforms, reflecting a shift where users not only choose what content they want but also when they want to experience it.

Asynchronous engagement underscores the increasing necessity to retain customer attention. Juntae Delane, specialist and founder of Digital Delane, asserts that “a challenge lies in the battle for audience attention amidst the constant stream of information.”

Social Media Trends: What Marketers Should Expect

Marketers ought to reconsider their streaming strategies, envisioning customers engaging with content like an Instagram reel or a podcast event after its occurrence. This approach involves de-emphasizing vanity metrics, such as likes, and focusing on how engagement correlates with the broadcast time of the event. To effectively implement this, a more thorough analysis of campaigns is needed. Allocating a small budget for measuring and evaluating how these activities align with key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential.

Final Word

Overall, expect social media in 2024 to be the brightest light in marketing and branding yet!