2022 was a rocky year for social media. Economic headwinds and increasing consumer privacy demands collided with shifting user behavior and new and emerging players to upend the status quo. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy also severely diminished social platforms’ targeting and measuring capabilities and, consequently, cut into their bottom lines. And all the while, rumbling in the background, regulatory pressure is building while a pair of Supreme Court cases could significantly affect the power and responsibilities of Big Tech behemoths.
All this has led to a great deal of media hyperbole around the so-called demise of social media in recent months. But as Mark Twain may have tweeted were he around today: “The reports of social media’s death are greatly exaggerated.” A whole generation of people don’t know of a world without social platforms, and crises or not, social still commands a quarter of US digital ad spend. But—and this is a big but—social media is undoubtedly evolving rapidly, making it harder and harder for advertisers to keep up and optimize their social budgets.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. Let’s dive into the latest from the worlds of Meta, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube and consider how events unfolding today will impact the landscape tomorrow, including channel-specific perspective from Basis Technologies’ SVP of Paid Search & Social, Amy Rumpler:
As we begin 2023, Meta is no longer the titan of innovation it once was. Sixteen months after rebranding alongside Mark Zuckerberg’s gamble on the metaverse, Meta is facing mounting losses, declining revenues, staff reductions, growing competition, increased privacy-related investigations, and minimal consumer adoption of VR. To say it’s been a tough transitional year would be putting it lightly.
The silver lining for this social giant is that despite all those challenges, its ad business remains the envy of almost every other digital media company across the globe. Meta is expected to generate $51.34 billion in US ad revenue this year, a number that only Google can beat and one that dwarfs its social media counterparts. By all accounts, this is a huge moment for Meta, so every decision it makes will be closely scrutinized by analysists and advertisers alike. Starting with its plans for Facebook...
Facebook advertising—the foundation of Meta’s business today—is running aground. Ad revenues on the platform dropped by 8.5% in 2022 and are expected to fall another 1.2% in 2023. To try and right the metaphorical ship, Facebook is concentrating on areas of the app that are most resonating with users—namely, Groups and Reels. It introduced several enhancements to both features in the last quarter, all in a bid to spur more engagement within the platform and offer creators more ways to monetize their content. It’s a sensible move at a time when influencer marketing is in high demand across the social spectrum, but only time will tell if it can help Facebook correct its course.
Like its Meta sibling, Instagram is also working overtime to retain its creator community.After a series of missteps with creators and its commerce offerings, chief among them its decisions to eliminate its affiliate commerce program and remove the shopping tab from the main navigation bar, Instagram appears to be pivoting away from social commerce. Instead, it’s hunkering down and getting back to its key strength—advertising—while paying particular attention to incentivizing content creation and massively enhancing its Creator Marketplace. Instagram needs influencers to keep posting original material on the app to continue attracting new audiences, and these moves are designed to encourage just that.
Meta’s advertising power is the result of their massive reach, high user engagement, well-developed targeting capabilities and ad products, and ability to generate ROI. Historically, they’ve far outmatched the competition in nearly all areas (especially when you take into account the full ecosystem of Meta ad placements and the mature automated ad tools available through their network). Recent developments might mean a slowdown in ad revenue growth for Meta, but it’s still a safe bet for most advertisers, and no one is better positioned to pivot quickly than Meta. Yes, the door is open for other platforms to claim advertising share, but don’t expect Meta to lose their seat at the head of the table in 2023. - Amy Rumpler
A trendsetter and a trailblazer, TikTok is fundamentally changing the way consumers digest content. But there seems to be a double-edged narrative around the app these days.
On one side, this video-sharing juggernaut looks like it’s in a tremendous place—it coasted along relatively unscathed last year amidst the larger social media tumult and it’s fast becoming a pillar of many brands’ media plans. US ad revenues increased 139.9% in 2022 and are expected to grow a further 36.0% this year. User numbers are increasing, and average time spent with the app is also on the rise.
But then there’s the other side to this platform. TikTok’s ascension is not happening in a vacuum, and it’s currently facing scrutiny on multiple fronts. Areas of contention include its effect on young users, its management of data, its dissemination of misinformation, and the one that just won’t go away: its links to China. The biggest threat to TikTok’s US growth may very well be government legislation seeking to ban the app because of mounting security fears. In a bid to assuage those concerns, TikTok is playing the transparency card, proposing to give US officials some degree of oversight into its famed algorithms.
For now, these issues are unlikely to deter consumers and advertisers, but they’re certainly worth watching.
The challenges TikTok faces in 2023 are not new. Since its arrival on US soil, the app has lived in the shadow of all of the concerns mentioned, ever-present alongside any positive outcomes or mentions covered in the news. Advertisers and users, however, don’t seem to care. As things stand, the risks aren’t enough to outweigh the benefits for brands, and they certainly haven’t convinced young Americans to spend less time in the app or delete it altogether en masse. As long as users continue to embrace the app, so too will advertisers. 2023 should be a banner year for TikTok, with more new brands than ever before testing the platform, and spend from brands already investing in the app continues to rise in response to campaign success, new feature releases, and increasing comfort levels with creating TikTok-worthy ad content. - Amy Rumpler
Ah, Twitter! Where do we even begin?
Suffice it to say, Twitter’s future remains a source of constant speculation. It was only in October 2022 that Elon Musk took the reins following a tumultuous, protracted takeover saga, and ever since he’s been rewriting rules and loosening content moderation on what seems like a whim. He’s also laid off half the workforce, feuded publicly with Apple, overseen chaotic policy rollouts, and already promised to resign as CEO based on the results of a Twitter poll—and that’s barely scratching the surface.
Altogether, the unpredictability and radical changes are making stakeholders uncomfortable, and it’s scaring off Twitter’s main source of revenue: Advertisers. US ad spend on Twitter fell a massive 46% in November 2022 from a year earlier, and user numbers are also predicted to drop 6.2% in 2023 to 48.3 million.
Can Musk turn things around and make Twitter into a success? Who knows, but don’t expect the turmoil to end anytime soon. In its current state, it’s clear that many brands see Twitter as a risk not worth taking.
I’m not sure this is the horse I’d recommend betting on in the race for 2023 ad dollars, even with high-stakes odds on the table. Without a clear vision for the future, a conceivable plan for shorter-term advertiser support, or glaring advantages in ad cost compared to results produced, most advertisers will continue to steer clear of Twitter in 2023. There are just too many more compelling options available elsewhere. That said: as long as users continue to rely on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and information, some brands (maybe challenger brands, for example, or those in emerging verticals) will still be willing to invest. - Amy Rumpler
On to Snapchat—the one-time darling of the ad industry that’s now facing an uphill battle to get its stagnating ads business back on track after a seriously shaky 2022.
The good news is that Snap CEO Evan Spiegel seems to have something that Meta and Twitter do not: a transparent and crystal-clear vision for the future. And that vision involves doubling down on its augmented reality capabilities as a differentiator.
The biggest challenge facing Snapchat over the years has been that brands have seen it as a non-essential player in the digital ad market—a platform without a firm identity and one that many advertisers have failed to fully appreciate. By paving this new course dedicated to AR, Snapchat can start to carve out a niche space for itself in 360-degree campaigns alongside the other major social channels. It’s also recently struck partnerships with a series of ad industry heavyweights (Disney, Adidas, Amazon, HBO Max, and Kroger, to name but five), a promising sign for the future. The fact that Snapchat can also act as a testing ground for metaverse-based activations may further work in its favor as brands look for soft entryways into that space.
Snapchat is a great play for the future-forward brand marketer who desires to be on the cutting edge of metaverse-applicable advertising. Of all of the partners poised to make a splash in a more or fully virtual environment, Snapchat is paving the way through their AR capabilities (which are still often copied by other platforms). If you’re looking to create fully immersive customer experiences, and can embrace the latest technological and creative applications to truly engage users in new ways, then Snapchat is the place to play. Whether this strategy will pay off in 2023 is speculative, but brands that are willing to go out on a limb with Snapchat today may very well end up ahead of the competition by embracing marketing strategies of tomorrow. - Amy Rumpler
As digital video consumption hits overdrive, YouTube is locked in battle on multiple fronts: Its ad business under attack from streaming platforms on one side, and social media rivalries with TikTok and Instagram on the other. The platform’s ad revenues are still projected to climb, though—9.6% this year to $8.06 billion before jumping another 14.2% in 2024—with an ever-increasing share of those dollars coming from connected TV.
This estimated growth comes as YouTube has been making some pretty big moves. In just the last six months, it has launched a dedicated page for podcasts, nudged itself into Amazon Prime Video and Roku’s market by offering streaming subscriptions, snagged the coveted NFL Sunday Ticket, and begun testing a new hub of free, ad-supported streaming channels. Put it all together and YouTube is looking to become a central video-fueled destination across various formats and genres, which should provide some exciting opportunities for advertisers.
Of all partners on this list, YouTube may be in the best position to capitalize on momentum in 2023 and beyond. They sit perfectly balanced between traditional and digital TV/streaming and social/engagement networks, allowing them all the advantages and ability to tap into upward trajectory trends of both sides of the advertising coin. Backed by Google data and dollars, and chock full of content that hits on a deeper level than what we tend to see on social networks, the appeal for both advertisers and users will remain undeniably strong. If YouTube isn’t part of your 2023 marketing strategy, I’d reconsider. - Amy Rumpler
The wild world of social media is undergoing deep, disruptive change, and there’s little evidence to suggest things will settle down anytime soon. For advertisers looking to chart a path through the chaos, staying agile and regularly revisiting the basics will be key, and that starts by making sure messaging is native to the medium and the target audience. Marketers that establish those firm foundations will be better positioned to weather social storms and pivot accordingly.
Looking for advice about how to get your social campaigns off the ground, but don’t know where to begin? Our Media Strategy & Activation team can point you in the right direction