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Social media changes that shook the world in 2022

As we move into 2023, let’s reflect on some major changes that occurred in the social media space and try to predict what the future holds for our favorite platforms.

Social media has taken over the world in 2022 – quite literally so. According to the Datareportal July 2022 global overview, 59% of the world now uses social media, with the average daily time spent online being 2h 29m.

At the same time, more people are becoming careful about choosing their preferred way of staying in touch with friends and up to date with current affairs – from Twitter to Instagram and WeChat.

“Social media had a huge role in 2022. It was both an incredibly powerful tool and a double-edged sword, capable of stirring up both positive and negative emotions, as well as allowing people to quickly spread important news or spark conversation about critical topics,” Carlos Barros, Director of Marketing at Epos Now, told Cybernews.

And, of course, 2022 did not come without innovations, creating new ways for people to experience and share content. While some socials tried to integrate the virtual world with reality by emphasizing the “realness” of the digital experience, others took a different approach.

NFTs: the future of transactions on social networks

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are certainly not new, but they’ve never been more relevant than in 2022, trending on social media and changing the way users interact with each other and the world around them. NFTs have become especially talked about after American artist Mike Winkelmann (Beeple) sold his artwork for $69 million.

NFTs are cryptographic tokens recorded on a blockchain that cannot be duplicated, serving as unique digital assets. They can be used to represent anything – from art and collectibles to property deeds and luxury items.

“NFTs are gaining traction in the social media world and will continue to be a trend in 2022 as users look for new ways to monetize their content,” Jessica Shee, Manager at iBoysoft, told Cybernews.

Alex Walker, Marketing Manager at CouponBirds, pointed out Twitter Blue users who can validate their NFTs and display them in their profile photographs as of January, as well as Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram’s NFT rollouts for US consumers. He hopes this trend lasts in 2023.

Other experts consider the ways in which NFTs can shape the experiences we get on social media.

“As we head into 2023, I expect to see continued innovation of Web3 tools that transform social media into a ‘choose your own adventure’ where digital assets like NFTs can create unique experiences for both creators and their fans,” Julien Genestoux, founder and CEO of Unlock Protocol, told Cybernews.

Inga Broerman, VP of Marketing at BluLogix, builds upon that idea, suggesting that banks may soon function quite similarly to social media, with favorite networks used for financial transactions. This, of course, will require strict regulation and new policies in place.

“Social media platforms may begin to use blockchain technology to increase transparency and security in areas such as content moderation and advertising,” added Peter Manzano from RizeReview.com.

BeReal and Mastodon: stay online today and every day

New social media platforms are constantly flooding the market, with two that particularly stood out to us this year.

BeReal, introduced in 2020 by Kevin Perreau and Alexis Barreyat, has been gaining traction in 2022, with over 53 million downloads worldwide. It encourages users to share a daily photo of their activities with friends in an unfiltered version.

The unprecedented popularity of BeReal bothered even Instagram, which attempted to introduce a seemingly identical feature – prompting users to take a picture at a different time within a two-minute interval and share it with other users in “IG Candid Challenges.”

In turn, Mastodon – the shelter of angry Twitter users unhappy with Musk’s new policies – is a microblogging site marketed as a network “not for sale.” It allows users to share a few sentences of text and photos, as well as follow and interact with each other. These changes, according to Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director of Green Building Elements, are gradual yet likely significant for tech giants who might feel a little too comfortable in the niche.

“Minds, an open-source platform, could one day compete with Facebook and Instagram. Mastodon may eventually replace Twitter as the preferred platform for short-form text-based platform. And the list continues—there's also Facebook alternative Diaspora, YouTube alternative LBRY, and Messenger/WhatsApp alternative Signal.”

What is more, such types of social media might be soon overtaken by virtual reality. According to Alaa Negeda, Senior Solution Architect at Alxtel, with headsets becoming more affordable and accessible, users will be more inclined to explore the world in a fully immersive manner, which will then lead to new forms of storytelling and marketing, as well the creation of new ways to interact with brands.

Traditional social media is not dead…yet

Indeed, the great innovations of the tech space hit the headlines with their novelty and advanced functionalities. But that is not to say that more traditional social media channels will disappear. Micheal Hess, eCommerce Strategy Lead at Code Signing Store, believes that the foreseeable future belongs to Instagram.

“Last year, Instagram eclipsed Twitter and Facebook combined as a traffic source for brands. As marketers scramble to capitalize on video advertising, I believe Instagram's importance will only increase. Instagram's emphasis on visual content presents a unique opportunity for brand storytelling and native advertising that is unlikely to disappear any time soon. In four years, you may anticipate it to be one of your most essential social channels.”

The Datareportal July 2022 global overview positions Facebook and Youtube at the top of the charts for global active users, closely followed by WhatsApp, Instagram, and Chinese WeChat. All of these platforms aim to serve as prime news and entertainment sources for their audience – similarly to the good old days of cable, but in a more relaxed, no-strings-attached fashion.

Today, social media outlets are used by pretty much everyone – from health institutions to media organizations and schools. They’re utilized for disaster alerts, appointment scheduling, and organizing protests. And while this creates a space for knowledge sharing, it also opens doors to hacking, vulnerabilities, and disinformation. As such, in 2018, Twitter identified 700,000 users who interacted with the accounts linked to Russian propaganda efforts during the 2016 US presidential elections. Later in 2021, Twitter and Facebook announced the suspension of over 3,500 accounts that used fake identities and deceptive methods to spread false or misleading information.

But it’s not only users our well-known apps are trying to retain by nurturing a seemingly safe and open environment. They are also focused on attracting and rewarding content makers for bringing traffic to their platforms. Rajesh Namase, Co-Founder and Professional Tech Blogger at TechRT, points out a number of innovations implemented by social media channels in 2022, such as Twitter’s updated algorithm that prioritizes content from verified accounts, Instagram Stories becoming interactive, and the launch of virtual conversation space for private conversations. All of these made it easier for creators to engage with their audience.

“This year introduced a plethora of new methods for users and platforms to compensate the individuals that make the platforms what they are. Tumblr unveiled a tip jar feature that allows users to reward their favorite creators on the site; YouTube revealed new options for producers to earn more money for their work; and Snapchat is experimenting with the possibility to split ad income with creators,” said Kenny Kline, President and Financial Lead at BarBend.

The final link in this chain is companies. Various brands are jumping onto the social media bandwagon to reach their potential customers – as well as influence purchasing decisions, promote products, and control behaviors. According to Barros, more in 2022 than ever before, social media has created a cost-effective way of targeting consumers, allowing the platforms to grow and prosper.

“Companies are leveraging their presence on different platforms to build their brands, promote products/services, increase sales, and even market talent directly to customers without having any physical presence of sales crews or agents. Additionally, data analytics tools are now available, which allow businesses to track user interests in real-time so they can better tailor their offering towards those needs - this provides them with an edge over competitors who might not be able to provide such granular insights into user behavior.”

At the same time, not everyone is as optimistic about the future of popular socials. Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover of Twitter and Zuckerberg’s failing-to-materialize vision of the metaverse pose questions as to whether 2023 will really be the year of Meta and Twitter.

“While social media was still popular in 2022, there were signs that it was starting to die out. For example, Twitter was struggling to stay relevant under Elon Musk, and Facebook's metaverse, a virtual reality platform, was not as popular as the company had hoped. However, social media was still used for a variety of purposes, such as networking, marketing, and communicating with friends and family,” said Ed Miller, CTO of Healthier Trajectory.

Walker echoes that view, pointing out that traditional social media is not doing all too well.

“Twitter is a complete mess, and Facebook is on the decrease. The advertising business is in jeopardy, and Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse fantasy is in tatters; as a result, the company has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in value and fired off 11,000 employees. Because of Elon Musk's acquisition, Twitter has seen a decline in advertising revenue and a flight of influential users (or at least to tweet a lot about doing so). The idea that our current era of social media might be coming to an end has never seemed more likely.”

Going forward, Walker suggests that today’s social media will stay but will be drastically altered: “The most significant change by 2039 will be the amount of data available to everyone and the power of that data to make decisions.”

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