From the rise of ChatGPT and Twitter’s rebrand to X, to the launch of Threads and diminishing buzz around the metaverse, 2023 brought major changes to the digital landscape and 2024 is poised to do the same. Here are the top digital marketing trends the best brands and influencers will monitor and leverage in 2024:
The Rise of Social Media Search Optimization
Marketers have long optimized their websites and content to rank higher on search platforms like Google and Bing – but increasingly, the most cutting-edge marketers are optimizing the social media content with equal detail. Last year, the top search engine in the world, Google, reported that roughly 40% of Gen-Z is using TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google. That’s why, it’s more important than ever for digital marketers to consider nuances such as keywords and metadata on social media posts.
This also means captions, inclusive of keywords and descriptive data can help improve a brand’s post discoverability. So, while brevity historically drove social engagement, increasingly more keywords and content are likely to help boost post ranking.
X’s Continued Monetization Evolution
In October 2022, Elon Musk completed his acquisition of then-Twitter with the reported-quest to return Twitter to a free speech platform. Since then, Musk ignited a flurry of changes at the platform.
First, in January, Musk banned third-party apps from Twitter and put the platform’s API behind an expensive paywall.
Then, in April, Musk announced users would pay for verification marks. Similar to other social platforms, the blue checkmark previously signified influencer status, but Musk eliminated this legacy verification program and instead, transitioned to paid program, whereby the blue checkmark represents a paid subscription.
The most notable update came in July 2023 when Musk rebranded Twitter to X, in a reported-attempt to make Twitter more of an “everything” platform where users can meet more of their consumer needs (banking, retail, etc.). Then, in October, Musk announced an annual fee of $1 for users to post on the social network in Philippines and New Zealand. Users who don’t pay can only access read-only features.
A year after Musk’s acquisition, the platform’s ad revenue is down 55% year-over-year. As these changes settle in, X is likely to continue to evolve and launch new forms of monetization. Of course, the value of a platform lies in its usage and with Twitter’s global traffic down 14% year-over-year this year could be crucial for the platform to prove its relevancy in the marketplace.
Broader Rollout of Instagram Threads
In July, Meta launched Threads, a text-based app built by Instagram, where users can view and follow public conversations.
As of November, Threads had a reported 141 million users, a number which is sure to continue to rise after Threads was released in Europe last week.
While Threads is still relatively nascent in the digital space, as the app becomes available to more and more geographies and users, it could surpass X’s usage and usurp their former value as the go-to public text platform.
Increased Adoption of YouTube Marketing, Especially YouTube Shorts
TikTok and ChatGPT may be more topical among marketers, but in many ways, YouTube is actually more impactful. That’s because YouTube is more than a behemoth of a social media video platform, it’s also the second largest search engine in the world. So, yes, it’s technically a social media platform but users — and marketers — leverage it much more like a search engine.
And if youth user typically behavior dictates what is next in digital, YouTube will maintain its top placement. Pew Research reports that 95% of teens ages 13 to 17 use YouTube – that’s more than any other social media platform. For comparison, 66% use TikTok and 62% use Instagram.
Not only is YouTube highly utilized, the time spent on the platform is astounding, with Pew Research reporting 19% of teens say they use YouTube “almost constantly.”
YouTube Shorts specifically is a trend to watch. Earlier this year, Google reported YouTube Shorts generates more than 50 billion daily views. This is still a fraction of Meta’s Reels, which are viewed 200 billion times a day, but strong growth.
Given regulatory data concerns around TikTok, many marketers will continue to turn to YouTube Shorts and Meta Reels for their short-form video content.
The Merging of the Metaverse and Artificial Intelligence
Two years ago, Facebook changed its name to Meta, indicating a focus on the metaverse, which, according to Meta is defined as “the next evolution in social connection and the successor to the mobile internet.”
This intentionally-broad definition enables Meta and tech companies to construct the metaverse as a mix of digital trends: augmented reality, virtual reality, gaming and more. So, if the metaverse is increasingly positioned as a blend of the digital and physical world, the most closely correlated technology will be artificial intelligence.
The metaverse is still topical in its own right but in many ways, artificial intelligence will be more buzzworthy in 2024, even for Meta. At Meta Connect in September, Zuckerberg announced the rollout of Meta AI in beta, an evolved chatbot for WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. In addition to Meta AI, Meta launched 28 more artificial intelligences in beta.
Beyond traditional chatbots, these artificial intelligences include creative tools and characters based off of cultural icons and built with custom personalities, interests and opinions.
Meta may be the most mainstream platform for chatbots, but perhaps the most-talked-about artificial intelligence product of 2023 is ChatGPT, OpenAI’s chatbot. ChatGPT launched in late 2022 and while much remains to be determined about ChatGPT’s role in marketing strategies, content creation was the first popular use case. In fact, reports say ChatGPT sparked an uptick in AI-written e-books, with some authors using the tool to take books from idea to publication in just hours. ChatGPT is also gaining wider adoption among everyday consumers. In February, ChatGPT set the record for the fastest-growing consumer app in history and as of November, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman announced ChatGPT had over 100 million weekly active users. With ChatGPT usage on the steady rise, chatbots are likely to continue to dominate digital discourse in 2024.
While initial growth looks promising, the success of the metaverse, chatbots and emerging artificial intelligences, as with all digital trends, is contingent upon continued user adoption, brand monetization – and of course, government regulation.
Shifting to Nano-influencers
The adage is true that “people follow people” and so, influencers are poised to continue to dominate digital trends in 2024. Yet, the terms of what defines an “influencer” are beginning to shift.
Studies show that nano-influencers, accounts with 1,000-10,000 followers on a social media platform, generate more than twice the engagement of macro-influencers. That’s why, more and more consumer brands, particularly in beauty, fashion and wellness, are leveraging nano-influencers. An added benefit? They also typically charge brands a much lower price point.
Of course, for massive consumer retailers, depending on the campaign, macro-influencers are still the holy grail since they drive broader reach and brand recognition. Yet, for companies looking to drive engagement with a more targeted audience in 2024, nano-influencers could be the key.
From Artificial Intelligence and X, to YouTube Shorts and nano-influencers, there’s no shortage of trends to watch in 2024 – and yet, new platforms, products and capabilities will continue to emerge for advertisers to monitor, test and measure. As with any digital strategy, in 2024, the best brands will surprise and delight target audiences as where, how and when, they reach them continue to evolve.