Over the past twelve months, Apple’s app-tracking changes have cut into tech giants’ bottom lines and weakened targeting and measurement capabilities. Meanwhile, competition from rivals like TikTok and Twitter’s disarray under the ownership of Elon Musk contributed to the industry’s existential dilemma about where to appear and what to avoid. 2022 has officially changed the landscape of digital marketing.
The tumultuous year has left marketers, agency executives, analysts and other experts rethinking everything from data practices to content strategies to e-commerce efforts. TikTok’s rise, younger users’ demands, a growing creator economy and brand safety issues have all further complicated the already complex landscape and prompted some companies to reconsider their usual tactics. Questions surrounding ‘authentic content’ have also boomed.
According to Jay Wilder, vice president of product marketing for Salesforce’s marketing cloud, many marketers have had to question the role that data plays in targeting. “There might be a little bit of a gap year happening as marketers have been retooling around first-party data to be able to create the right context and the right targeting on those platforms […] Some of that is also shifting audiences from one platform to another, and marketers are going to be catching up with that.” |
Furthermore, a survey of 6,000 marketing leaders conducted this summer by Salesforce found that 75% still rely at least partially on third-party data, but 68% said they plan to move toward first-party data. Meanwhile, 51% said their measures to protect consumer privacy go beyond regulatory requirements and industry standards, down from 61% last year.
A lot of the social marketing mess of the past year has come from Facebook, YouTube and Instagram racing to keep up with TikTok, which has led to a year of the platforms copying each others’ formats to try to keep users in their apps. And in September, Snap announced a major restructuring plan to refocus on Snapchat’s key differentiators including community growth and augmented reality. “As TikTok and Instagram compete for audiences’ attention, the content differences between the two will continue to blur,” said Claudia Ratterman, director analyst at Gartner Marketing.
Organic growth and a growing desire for authentic content has meant that oftentimes this year, the marketing rulebook was thrown out of the window. Some brands have found success with organic reach on TikTok after years of diminishment on Facebook and Instagram. Other companies have been moving beyond just social ads when it works with creators. For example, the online learning platform Skillshare has been using its own platforms and also wherever its teachers own audiences, which has led to it spending less now on influencer marketing now than two years ago. “TikTok transformed social media advertising from brand-first to creator-led,” said Kelsey Chickering, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.
Content played King this year but equally important is how social networks are using it and how it is also evolving in unexpected ways. Younger people have been using TikTok’s search engine to find information and research products, but some researchers have also found concerning and potentially dangerous misinformation in the results. (TikTok’s capabilities even have execs at Google — the ranking king of search — suggesting it might soon face more competition.) Elsewhere, people are also using Reddit to get advice from fellow Redditers or adding the word “Reddit” to search queries to uncover relevant results.
The economic cost-of-living crisis is also impacting how people spend. “While people may be shifting away from mind-making impulse buys, they’re doing research,” said Timo Pelz, Reddit’s vice president of business marketing. “They’re still spending. They’re just very thoughtful about how they do it and they need to justify their purchases more. A lot of places you go today will just advertise at you.”
Musk’s Twitter takeover has also thrown a spanner into the marketing works this year. “You can no longer even just advertise on Twitter,” said Gali Arnon, chief marketing officer at Fiverr. “By even advertising on Twitter, that’s taking a stand. Whether you are removing your ads, that also says something about you as a brand. We actually hear from customers that either like or don’t like the fact that we are actually still on Twitter, but the funny thing is those customers are complaining on Twitter.”
The widening cracks in social media’s legacy walled gardens have also made room for brands looking to find fresh ways to grow new audiences and foster conversations with consumers. Beth Tripaldi, vice president of connections strategy at Huge, said some brands have begun shifting budgets into “really unique pockets” such as Reddit and Discord. (Discord doesn’t allow ads, but many brands have formed their own servers as a way to connect directly with fans.) Although breaking larger audiences into niche communities can be challenging compared to traditional social media marketing, she thinks it also comes with new creative opportunities.
Marketers’ efforts to integrate online shopping strategies with their social media strategies have also led to the growth of “social commerce.” Facebook and TikTok have been testing live video shopping, Pinterest is building out new and long-awaited tools and even Musk said he’d like to make Twitter more of a commerce platform.
E-commerce platform MikMak’s social commerce traffic was 19% higher in 2022 than it was in 2021 and TikTok went from seventh in 2021 to third in 2022 when it came to the total share of social commerce traffic. However, as we have explored various times this year, while live shopping ecommerce is growing, its popularity fails to reach the heights of its east Asiah counterparts.