Predictions 2024: Social

Social Media

From Meta launching an ad-free subscription service as a workaround to European data laws, to Elon Musk’s continued torrent of vitriol against advertisers on X, 2023 certainly was not a dull year in the sphere of social media. But what does the year ahead hold for creators and advertisers alike?

Meta’s remarkable recovery (its share price was shy of USD$125 in January, closing out at nearly USD$354 in December) last year proved that social is still an attractive investment proposition, following large-scale changes that needed to be made following the rollout of Apple’s ATT in 2021. However, challenges to social media, and in turn advertising on these platforms, remain. Combatting misinformation and hate speech, and thus ensuring as safe an environment for brands as possible in the realm of user-generated content, will be a key priority, particularly given that 2024 is a US election year. 

Furthermore, with retail media seeing strong growth last year, it remains to be seen whether this will give rise to a renaissance of social commerce in Western markets, having struggled outside of its APAC heartland. Speaking of which, could we yet see more deals like the USD$1.5bn TikTok invested in Indonesian e-commerce service Tokopedia as a result of governments’ attempts to protect national interests from globalised platforms?

To help unpick these questions, and more, we asked experts from across the industry to share their predictions on how social media is set to evolve throughout 2024.

Teach not preach

Gen Z is blurring the lines between education and entertainment with ‘social first’ behaviours, and with a big election year in 2024 for the US and the UK, the information battle fought online will require brands to step in and fill the trust gaps. Seventy-one percent of Gen Z trusts brands over politicians, and with this cohort becoming more influential financially and politically, connections can be forged if brands can provide insights and “teach not preach” to Gen Z. 

It isn’t about telling people what to believe, but helping them find trustworthy, factual information so they can make up their own mind. As 60% of Gen Z turn to social media for information, it will be vital for brands to connect with this generation here, on the platforms where they spend their time, and create short form content that is neutral but informative, to be of real value.

Lotte Jones, CMO, The News Movement

The importance of measurement and verification

As the social media landscape evolves, advertisers face an increasingly complex challenge: ensuring their ad campaigns are seen by the right audience and delivering the desired results. With the rise of new platforms, evolving user behaviours, and increased scrutiny over data privacy, measurement and verification of social media advertising have become crucial for advertisers to make informed decisions and maximise their return on investment (ROI).

Measurement and verification on social media will become even more important. Advertisers cannot afford to rely on guesswork or anecdotal evidence in today's competitive digital marketing landscape. Effective measurement and verification are essential for advertisers to maintain confidence in their social media investments and continue spending on these platforms with certainty. By understanding the true impact of their campaigns, advertisers can make data-driven decisions to optimise their strategies, maximise ROI, and demonstrate the value of social media advertising to their organisations.

Megan Reichelt, country manager, SEA, Integral Ad Science

Understanding context

Social platforms will continue to face regulatory and public pressure to be transparent about how they're tackling misleading and harmful content in 2024. For example, legislation such as the Online Safety Bill puts the onus on tech firms to protect users from legal but harmful material, taking into account the intent of content. However, the nuanced and ever-shifting nature of online content makes this a complex and challenging task for many platforms.

As the sheer volume and diversity of user-generated content continues to rise next year — thanks to generative AI’s increasing accessibility and content generation capabilities — we’re set to see an explosion in both open and closed source AI models that can understand the intent and contextual environments of content in an unprecedented way. Platforms that embrace these cutting-edge solutions and align with industry regulations will be most prepared to deal with any bad actors or online misinformation.

Emma Lacey, SVP EMEA, Zefr

Social commerce to be a key battlefield

When so many of the platforms are occupying similar spaces - whether it be copying content formats or launching similar revenue share models to attract creators - there is even greater pressure on the platforms to get creative and innovate. That means many are diversifying their revenue streams, with varying degrees of success.

Beyond advertising, platforms will diversify revenue streams from influencer gifting to paying for ad-free scrolling and branching out to new entertainment verticals such as gaming.

But the key battlefield for revenue in 2024 will be social commerce, with e-commerce sales predicted to reach USD$8.1tn (£6.4tn) by 2026. To date, none of the major platforms have managed to replicate the scale of success they’ve seen in Asian markets with those in the US and Europe.

TikTok Shop is once again attempting to change its fortunes though. And this time, its chances appear more hopeful of succeeding. Already there are reports of brands such as Tarte Cosmetics driving impressive sales through the channel, registering 300,000 sales over the Black Friday period. In part, this success is a result of TikTok’s pre-payment tools, removing barriers to final purchase, and the integration of user reviews and ratings to build trust.

Above all though, TikTok has realised that creators hold the key to making social commerce a success. With the blurring of affiliate models and creator commissions, TikTok Shop is successfully capitalising on its strong and vibrant creator community and aligning vendors with the impulsive #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt culture embraced by the platform's users.

As these platforms evolve, they will offer advanced analytics and targeting tools, empowering creators to tailor their content more effectively to diverse audience segments. This will enable a more personalised shopping journey, where consumers can seamlessly transition from discovering engaging content to making purchases.”

Thomas Walters, Europe CEO and co-founder, Billion Dollar Boy