You don’t need to be a fortune teller to guess which social media trends are poised to take off in 2024. All you need is data.
Combining performance and consumer preference data can create a vivid picture of the year ahead. We’re not talking about which TikTok sounds will blow up in a few months. We’re talking about what’s driving audience behavioral patterns and where your brand fits in the mix.
In this article, learn about current trends in social media driving the future of social, based on input from social media experts and the data behind the social space.
Video is king…but with a long-form twist
Playful content is the new “brand personality”
The expansion of social commerce remains a trend to watch—and use
SEO is important for social channels too—not just your site
Behind-the-scenes content and reimagined transparency
Authentic content resonates across platforms
The evolution of social teams and titles
The boom of the creator and influencer economy
Personalized customer care is a consumer preference
Marketing and customer care teams use AI regularly…and monitor it closely
Social data is key—beyond the marketing team
Trend 1: Video is king…but with a long-form twist
The popularity of video, specifically short-form video, is bound to end up on a social media trends list every year.
We already know short-form video is one of the best ways to connect with your audience and reach new followers. In fact, most consumers say it’s the most engaging type of in-feed content.
But, plot twist: long-form video has seen a resurgence worth noting.TikTok has been pushing longer videos—starting with one-minute videos, then 10 and most recently, it started testing 30-minute uploads. It’s even starting to push horizontal videos a la YouTube.
And with the platform reporting that users spend over half of their time on TikTok watching videos that are a minute or longer, these long-form tests have reason behind them.
Brand takeaway: You still need short-form video as part of your day-to-day social media strategy. But think about how you can bring long-form storytelling into your content.
Trend 2: Playful content is the new “brand personality”
The “edgy” brand voice is taking a back seat to a new brand trend: experimenting with playful content.
Brands have consistently found creative ways to tap into meme culture and the voice of the Internet in a way that fits their voice. And we’ve seen more brands experimenting with their voice and visual content to do so.
Take LinkedIn’s Threads, which have a human voice and cover topics that range from relatable and hilarious, to inspirational and endearing.
And we love the way Auntie Anne’s pretzels has create a strategic, branded social media meme strategy. They create content that riffs on Internet culture, memes and trends while still staying true to their brand colors, tone and image.
Brand takeaway: Think about how your brand can get playful on social media. You don’t have to do this in a way that breaks your brand’s voice and tone. What trends and meme formats could you adapt to fit your brand’s content?
Trend 3: The expansion of social commerce remains a trend to watch—and use
We’ve all seen the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt trend…or bought something after seeing it on TikTok or another social platform ourselves.
But this is more than a fleeting trend—social commerce is a continuing trend to watch and consider for your strategy. And platforms like TikTok are pushing for it. TikTok Shop officially launched in the US in late 2023. And they’re already testing ways to make that in-app shopping even easier.
We talked to Social Strategy Director at Mekanism, Jeff MacDonald, about current social trends to watch. And this is one that he flagged. As he puts it, live streaming and interactive shopping experiences are only expected to expand, so this trend is likely here to stay. “Live shopping events, combining entertainment with instant purchasing options, offer an engaging way for brands to connect with consumers. This year will be a test to see if North American audiences will adopt live commerce streams like other audiences have.”
Brand takeaway: If you haven’t experimented with selling on social, now is a great time to test this out. There’s an eager, ready-to-buy audience on social. Give them another way to buy—look into whether opening up shop on TikTok, Facebook or Instagram is right for your brand.
Trend 4: SEO is important for social channels too—not just your site
Recently, I did research on a few places I want to travel and hike this coming summer. I didn’t turn to Google—I searched location hashtags on Instagram.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media platforms as search engines. In 2022, nearly 40% of Gen Z preferred TikTok over Google for searching for information.
This makes optimizing your content for discoverability—both in feed and via search—more important than ever before.
Brand takeaway: Just as you would optimize an article on your blog or a page on your site for SEO, take an optimized approach to your social content. Optimize your posts and profile for maximum discoverability by using the right keywords in your caption, the right hashtags and relevant keywords within your alt text, too.
Trend 5: Behind-the-scenes content and reimagined transparency
The rising audience desire for authentic content lends itself to the need for brands to be more transparent about their business practices on social.
But there’s been an interesting shift. A few years ago, we couldn’t talk about trends in social media without covering the importance of brands speaking up—or getting called out. But in 2023, only a quarter of consumers polled in the Index said the most memorable brands on social spoke out about causes and news aligned with their values.
The Index also found the second biggest thing consumers don’t see enough of from brands on social media is transparency about business practices and values.
I take this to mean that while brands speaking out used to set them apart, now it’s a regular expectation that brands demonstrate transparency and their values as a regular practice.
For example, shoe brand Nisolo regularly creates and posts sustainability “report cards” for their products.
Brand takeaway: Look for opportunities to provide more transparency about your business, products and practices. You can start as simple as creating behind-the-scenes content of your office, products being made, the people behind your products and your sustainability values. Make sure you have action or proof to back up your statements.
And if questions do arise that your brand should address, use the right tools to stay proactive. Social listening will help you identify rising conversation topics early, enabling you to understand and get ahead of an issue, and identify the changes you need to make.
Trend 6: Authentic content resonates across platforms
Authentic, non-promotional content is the number one thing consumers say they don’t see enough of from brands on social, according to The Sprout Social Index™. We’ve seen the way creator culture has skyrocketed in popularity—and brands featuring authentic voices, from creators to employees, shine against those that don’t.
And it’s crucial for brands to recognize that this trend is here to stay—it’s the new era of social media.
We talked to Flywire Social Media Manager Sam Mackowitz, who believes AI is only driving this desire for more authenticity. “I think people will be yearning for authentic experiences on social media. Don’t get me wrong, AI is fantastic and can help us get places faster, but…that personal aspect is so important and will continue to be in 2024.”
Brand takeaway: Besides tapping into creators, create more authentic owned content, too. As Mackowitz explains, “At Flywire, the content that performs the best for us is always when it’s showcasing our employees. We’ve had great success showcasing the people behind the payments! Authenticity will soar in 2024.”
Think: playful posts and featuring fellow employees in video content who aren’t camera shy, or a “meet the team” series. Get creative!
An employee advocacy strategy is a stellar way to promote your brand authentically. Using a platform like Employee Advocacy by Sprout Social makes it easier for your employees to discover content and copy suggestions you curate for them to share.
Trend 7: The evolution of social teams and titles
Is your social team structure based on networks? Then you’re not alone—according to the Index, 64% of social teams are aligned to specific social platforms or networks.
But the reality is, your team structure is constantly running the risk of becoming outdated. As social media evolves, so do the teams and the skills needed to run it successfully. And the emergence of new platforms, like Threads, always brings back the same question: whose responsibility is a new platform when you’re divided by network?
New social media jobs and titles are emerging and evolving rapidly. We talked to Gabby Grahek, Strategic Services Consultant at Sprout and a social media thought leader, about current social trends. “I’m hoping and praying for social specialties on social teams. With organizations continuing to experiment with social, build a budget for these teams and elevate their maturity levels when you can.”
Brand takeaway: Gabby thinks “we’ll see niche social professions develop on corporate teams.” Evaluate your current team structure and identify gaps. This is a great opportunity to take additional ownership over your career path and pitch a new role that fits your skillset. Or, make the case to your manager that you need more headcount to accommodate a new role.
Trend 8: The boom of the creator and influencer economy
Today, it’s the creator and influencer’s world—we’re just posting in it.
In the era of authenticity, creators and influencers lend an authentic, human voice and experience to the social scroll. And their place on brand accounts is only going to become more important to connecting with audiences. In fact, in a Q3 Sprout Pulse Survey of 307 US-based marketers, 8 in 10 social marketers describe influencer marketing as essential to their social strategies.
As Jeff MacDonald mentioned, “The continued dominance of TikTok underscores the shift towards more authentic, unfiltered content. This trend is likely to grow, with users gravitating towards content that feels genuine and relatable. Brands will increasingly leverage creators and influencers who can craft compelling stories and connect with audiences on a personal level.”
Brand takeaway: The rise of creators and influencers and the authentic voice they provide will likely remain on the list of social media trends for years to come. So now is the time to kick off your creator and influencer marketing partnerships and program, if you haven’t already.
As Jeff put it, “Authenticity in content not only enhances engagement but also fosters trust and loyalty among consumers. This trend is very much in line with the human-centric approach to social media, where human creativity and connection are pivotal in crafting brand messages.”
Consider adopting a dedicated creator and influencer management platform, which over half of brands have done according to a Q3 Sprout Pulse Survey. Platforms like Tagger by Sprout Social make managing your influencer partnerships and their impact easier.
Trend 9: Personalized customer care is a consumer preference
The expectations for social media customer service have only gone up. Consumers no longer just want fast responses—70% of them expect personalized responses to their customer service needs, according to the Index.
And 76% of consumers notice and appreciate when companies prioritize customer support—so companies who don’t do so inevitably fall behind.
Brand takeaway: Analyze your role in social customer care: how responsive are you being, and what can you do to scale your efforts?
Some 75% of businesses in the Index say that social customer care will be shared to some degree by marketing and customer service teams. If this is also the case for you, remember that solid customer care is about empowering all teams involved to collaborate and communicate. Ensure that both teams are aligned on social voice and tone, response best practices, canned response use, chat bot updates and more.
Features like Sprout’s Case Management enable teams to seamlessly work together to resolve customer issues, while integrations with platforms like Zendesk and Salesforce enable agents and social team members alike to get more context behind customer interactions, making personalization much easier.
Trend 10: Marketing and customer care teams use AI regularly…and monitor it closely
The use of AI to streamline workflows remains one of the current social media trends that will stretch into this year—and beyond.
According to The 2023 Social Index™, over 80% of marketers have already seen the positive impact of AI on their work. You yourself may be in that group. And beyond scaling content creation and customer care responses, AI will likely play an even larger role as a marketing and customer care tool.
As Jeff MacDonald tells us, “In 2024, we can expect a deeper integration of AI in personalizing user experiences. AI can analyze user data to provide highly tailored content recommendations, enhance customer service with more responsive chatbots, and drive more effective targeted advertising. This trend aligns with the increasing efficiency in content production, as AI tools become more adept at understanding and replicating human-like interactions and creativity.”
But this year, we forecast that this trend will look a little different. While there’s been a sustained use in AI, we’ve also seen a trend of increased conversations around AI ethics and using it safely.
As Gabby Grahek puts it, “Now that the shock of AI availability is wearing off, I expect companies that have been hesitant to adopt AI tools will develop (strict) adherence and governance policies to start taking advantage of the efficiencies available from the use of AI.”
Brand takeaway: Join the marketers who are using AI to scale their content creation and customer care efforts. But always use it carefully and ethically—create an AI use policy to safeguard your brand and team.
Trend 11: Social data is key—beyond the marketing team
One of the biggest social media myths is that social data is only relevant to social or marketing. On the contrary—social media data has the power to inform every area and team of your organization and improve your entire business, from product, to customer support to PR.
According to the Index, 76% of marketers agree that their team’s social insights inform other departments. And this trend is here to stay. Companies that don’t use social to inform their wider business will undoubtedly fall behind.
Not to mention, getting deep into the data is one of the best ways to identify trends in social media in your owned content.
As social teams become more sophisticated, so will their use of data beyond their team…as long as social teams know how to communicate that data with other departments.
Brand takeaway: You already know how valuable social data is—this year, demonstrate this to other teams. Download our 2024 Social Media Toolkit for six resources that will help you streamline your strategy and share its impact.
Use these social media trends to keep your strategy one step ahead
We can’t always know when a new platform, content format or trending TikTok sound will bubble up. In fact, they usually surprise us in a drop-everything-and-film-this-content way.
But we can look at the larger social media marketing trends now and use them to build a stronger strategy that sets us up for success. And that creates a solid foundation that not even the advent of a new platform can shake. (Well, maybe a little.)
Keep the trend forecasting going—for more data-backed trends in social media, download The Sprout Social Index™ to bolster your strategy with tips about sharing data with leadership, the metrics that matter most and more.