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Marketing and Advertising Trends for 2024
Can you believe that it’s now almost four years since we were all locked inside of our homes, eyeing the outside world suspiciously through our windows, whilst trying to manage our workday between playing IT manager/teacher for our kids?
Yes, as weird as it may seem, 2023 is almost over, with 2024 now just weeks away. And aside from preparing for the holiday rush, we also need to start planning for the year ahead, and how the next 12 months will change our approach to digital marketing, based on the next wave of innovations and updates that’ll continue to reshape the how we all interact.
Want to get ahead of the next wave, and ensure that you sound smart to your friends and colleagues when discussing the next big shifts?
I’ve got you. Every year, I share my predictions for the year ahead, and historically, they’ve proven to be around 80% accurate.
Don’t believe me? Check out my predictions for 2021, 2022, and 2023.
So what are the big changes coming for digital marketers over the next year?
Here’s a platform-by-platform breakdown of what’s in the works, starting with Facebook, which remains the most popular social media platform (by usage) in the world.
More AI, more video
This will come as no surprise, but expect to see Facebook continuing to integrate more AI tools, and AI recommendations, as it works to re-align itself with rising engagement trends.
The implementation of more AI-based recommendations, largely by inserting more Reels clips into user feeds, has helped Facebook turn around its once-flagging engagement, with time spent in the app increasing in 2023, even though fewer people are actually posting original updates.
Meta’s taken cues from TikTok, in utilizing recommendations based on a much broader range of content, as opposed to confining people’s feeds to only the Pages and people that they explicitly follow, while its advancing recommendations AI has become an increasingly accurate predictor of likely user interest..
Expect to see Reels continue to dominate user feeds, which, for marketers, means focusing on creating more entertaining, more engaging content, that’s then more likely to be shown to a wider audience of non-followers.
Worth noting too that the reach of link posts has continued to decline this year, as Meta continues to step away from news content, and more towards entertainment.
Which, in itself, is a key trend, with social platforms losing some of the “social” focus, in favor of more engaging content. That, again, means that your direct Page and profile following is less relevant, versus the engagement you can drive with each individual post.
In the same vein, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly enamored with the potential of generative AI, which also means that you’re going to see more generative AI features coming to the big blue app.
We’ve already seen its first projects, in generative AI backgrounds for posts and generative AI stickers, and I suspect that Meta will continue to try and wedge in AI-based experiences within the Facebook process, including post prompts, AI-generated quizzes to boost engagement, video creation tools, etc.
Which brings us to the next point.
Celebrity-influenced AI chatbots won’t work
One of Meta’s main generative AI initiatives this year has been its new, celebrity-influenced AI chatbots, which are now available for interaction across WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram.
Chatbots, inspired by the more refined, more engaging ChatGPT generative AI experience, have thus far been one of the main ways for apps to integrate this evolving tech.
But I don’t believe that this specific approach is going to be effective.
Sure, it’s a bit of a novelty to chat to “Billie”, a chatbot modeled after Kendall Jenner. But that novelty wears off pretty quick, and then you’re left with utility, which somewhat negates the need for celebrity influence.
Chatbots definitely do have a future, in complementing, maybe even replacing existing search and discovery processes, and assisting with a range of tasks. But having them respond in specific celebrity voices seems like an unnecessary, and somewhat tone deaf misinterpretation of their value.
I suspect that, at some stage next year, Meta will move to scale back this push, in order to re-focus on AI processes that deliver more utility, as opposed to gimmicks.
Avatar: The Way of Water (and Facebook, apparently)
Meta’s very keen to get more people interacting as their 3D avatars in its apps, as a means to bridge users into the metaverse, where, eventually (at least in theory), we’ll all be engaging as these digital doppelgangers.
The logic here is sound, based on the rising number of younger users who are already engaging as digital characters in game worlds like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox.
Given that this type of interaction is already so commonplace, even habitual for the next generation, it makes sense for Meta to lean in, which is why it’s now trying to integrate more avatar options within its apps.
And while Meta’s also developing more realistic-looking avatar models, those are a long way off being publicly available (given the advanced 3D scanning required). As such, you can expect to see Meta adding more avatar engagement options into Facebook, including new animated post options, new sticker types, and a bigger focus on using your 3D depiction as your online identity.
Expect Meta to also look to integrate users into more avatar/VR interactions, via Facebook and Instagram porting your character into its VR worlds, as it has with its latest VR shooting game.
That could then become a key stepping stone into the next stage of digital engagement, as Meta sees it.
AR glasses passthrough tech
Meta’s next iteration of its Ray Ban Stories glasses are seeing positive reviews, while demos of its new Quest 3 VR headsets, with full passthrough, also look impressive.
And while fully integrated AR glasses may not be commercially available next year (Meta’s AR glasses are currently scheduled for public release in 2027), the advancing tech is gradually aligning, which will see Meta make a bigger push on the next stage of digital accompaniment over the next 12 months.
How? Through early testers and real-world testing, which will see Meta continue to showcase how, exactly, its next-level AR glasses will work, which will be the logical progression of its Ray Ban collaboration.
Eventually, these will be fully AR-enabled, while the latest version of the device, which enables users to live-stream to Meta’s apps, will also see strong take-up among streamers, helping to enhance its popularity.
Expect to see many amazing examples of Meta’s AR glasses next year, as it looks to ramp up the hype around how both its AR and VR experiences will enhance your real-world experience.
That could be the key push that makes its metaverse strategy feel real for the first time, and sees mixed reality headsets gain real, significant momentum during the 2024 holiday shopping season.
Messaging tools for business
Messaging is the new social media, with more and more people now switching to private messaging groups to share their latest updates, as opposed to posting publicly.
As a result, and as it looks for more opportunities to keep its ad business humming, Meta will add a range of new ad options aligned with messaging, following on from the popularity of its “Click To Message Ads”, which have become a bigger consideration for many.
Essentially, if you want to reach customers, you’ll need to consider messaging, while Meta will also continue to develop new business messaging tools to capitalize on the ubiquity of WhatsApp in various emerging markets.
I wouldn’t anticipate this leading to a WeChat-style messaging commerce boom, as such, but there will be more ways to connect with brands directly via messaging apps, which will likely also include Meta’s coming custom AI chatbot features, that’ll enable brands to build their own conversational AI bots via Meta’s tools.
More AI, more video
Much like its big brother, Instagram has also seen strong increases in engagement by incorporating more AI-recommendations into its main feed. Which hasn’t always made everybody happy, but has driven a solid increase in time spent in the app.
As a result, you can expect to see even more AI-based highlights within your IG experience, along with new generative AI creation tools to align with this rising trend.
Instagram’s already testing various forms of AI stickers and image editing tools (along with message summaries and AI suggestions for DM replies), and I expect the visual focus of the platform will see it implement more types of generative AI creation tools over the coming months.
My guess would be collaborative AI images, which friends can contribute to, creating all new kinds of digital collages, and in-stream visual editing tools that will enable you to update specific sections of your photos with generated elements.
And also, like Facebook, more avatars.
Instagram’s already testing new forms of avatar stickers, and again, with the metaverse on the horizon, the more people that are interacting via their avatars, the better it is for Meta’s long-term plan.
Expect to see a form of generative AI-based avatar animation that creates response stickers based on your text inputs.
The evolution of Threads
I mean, it pretty much needs its own section already, but right now, Threads remains under Instagram, and it’s not quite significant enough to have its own dedicated focus as yet.
But it is getting bigger. In recent weeks, Threads has started to gain more momentum, triggered by the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has highlighted the flaws in X’s revised approaches to moderation, verification, etc.
Which was always going to be the case.
X owner Elon Musk has shared various personal grievances about the way that social platforms have worked with government officials in the past to help manage the impacts of global events, like the COVID pandemic, which Musk felt was overblown and unnecessary for the most part. And as such, it was only a matter of time till Elon’s personal perspective became a factor in another major news event, with his views on perceived mainstream media bias influencing the way that X now addresses the same.
That’s subsequently pushed more people to Threads, which is becoming an increasingly viable X alternative, while Musk’s repeated attacks on mainstream journalists and organizations have also led to more of them de-prioritizing his platform in favor of Meta’s alternative.
So can Threads become a legitimate challenger for X?
It seems likely, and with more features incoming, including DMs and an API, I expect that Threads will continue to gain momentum, and become at least a partial competitor for X’s audience.
Essentially, X’s strategic choices now put it at risk of losing relevance, fast, and Meta has thus far shown that it is taking the right steps to make Threads a solid option for similar engagement.
I expect that Threads will continue to grow, and even match X’s user numbers by mid next year.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will “beat” X, as such. But it will establish its place in the wider social media ecosystem, making it a more viable consideration for marketing teams.
And then, once it reaches that level, will come the ads.
AR shopping activations
A big area of opportunity that I think Snap could have won out on is AR activations in real life, like AR displays in-store, so that you can see what an item looks like on you, and/or 3D versions of real-world products that you can virtually collect and use in-app.
Snap made moves in this direction with its ARES initiative, but cost pressures have since forced it to move on from the project, and I expect that Instagram might step in to fill that gap, by offering its own in-store AR integrations, that’ll help brands bring their product experiences to life via the app.
Meta’s already developing a range of 3D product display tools, as part of its broader metaverse vision, and by directly integrating this into real-life displays, that could make this a more enticing, engaging option.
That would also align with Meta’s own AR glasses development, by forming partnerships now that will power real-world AR experiences in future.
X (formerly known as “Twitter”)
As I recently outlined, I do get where Elon Musk is heading with his broader plan for X, and I do think that, given more time and resources, it could work. But I’m not confident that X is going to have either, which essentially means that it’ll keep moving too fast, and be spread too thin, to effectively execute Musk’s “everything app” vision.
The main example is subscriptions, which, in theory, could work in addressing the platform’s issues with bots, while also augmenting X’s revenue.
But X is pushing too hard too fast. If you want people to pay, you need to give them something to pay for, and while forcing people to pay even a small amount will lead to more sign-ups, most people currently see no reason why they should fork over their cash to use an app that they’ve always been able to access for free.
For this to work, X would need to be an essential service, which, for the vast majority of its 253 million users, it’s just not, especially with various other rival, freely accessible apps competing for audience attention.
Musk’s view is that, eventually, all social apps will have to charge for access either way, and that X is just ahead of the game. But the only social subscription offering that’s seen any level of success thus far is Snapchat+, and that’s only because it offers a range of add-ons that its users actually want, among its largely affluent user base.
X’s broad audience, from all walks of life, and from both developed and developing markets, are not going to pay. And unless X re-focuses its subscription push on offering users more value for money, this won’t work, especially not as a short-term prospect.
Again, over a longer period, with more development time, and more offerings aligned with user requests, this could be a viable path. But as it currently stands, with X pushing to replace lost ad revenue, its subscription drive is going to fall flat.
I expect X to keep pushing anyway, before revising its subscriptions focus at some stage mid next year.
The main crux of Elon’s “everything app” vision revolves around in-app payments, and enabling more forms of shopping, banking, funds transfers, etc., all at low cost.
And again, in theory this could work, and Musk ould have good insight into such after his time working with PayPal. But it’ll take time, years even, to get all of the required approvals and licensing, and it’s hard to see X being anywhere near enabling payments at the scale Musk envisions for a long, long time.
Musk’s repeated criticisms of key fiduciary institutions and governments likely won’t help him in this respect, while X also now has 80% fewer staff, meaning that a lot of the development work is being pushed onto a relatively small number of people.
I expect that X will have advanced, somewhat, on its payments push by the end of 2024, but it’ll still be nowhere close to its “everything app” vision.
X has also missteped on verification, not just in terms of letting users buy a blue tick, but also by removing blue ticks from previously verified profiles.
That effectively devalued the X Premium product straight away, because now, you’re not paying $8 to be potentially viewed as a more important person in the app, you’re paying simply to be seen as someone who’s paying to use X.
Sure, there are some interesting add-on features in the X Premium package, like editing, longer posts, longer video uploads, etc. But with 80% of X users never posting anything at all in the app, the value of the X Premium offering is basically none for the vast majority.
Effectively, Elon erased the value of the option to 80% of its potential market because of his own personal grievances.
As a result, I do think that X will revisit its verification program at some stage, and make a move to re-build it as a more prestigious and valuable offering once again.
The business offering, at $1,000 per month, is basically not viable for 95% of brands, and it’s getting even less so every day, as X loses relevance. It’ll need to re-think its entire approach here, beyond simply adding new price tiers and reducing ad exposure for paying users.
X’s verification program was somewhat broken under previous Twitter management, with confusion around who did and did not qualify for a tick. But it’s absolutely meaningless, and valueless now for the vast majority, and if X wants to increase paying user take-up, it’ll need to change up the whole thing.
As a social app, X is not doing so great. But as a news app, X is still a leader in average downloads.
As such, expect to see X look to make real-time news content more of a focus, through dedicated feeds and highlights, that’ll better link users into trending conversations.
This has always been a failing for X, in that you can only keep up with fast-moving news stories if you’re following the right people and profiles, and to do that, you have to know who they are in the app. X could look to address this by highlighting key trends at the top of the app, where Fleets used to be, or by adding in more trending news highlights in the main “For You” feed.
Expect, also, to see X showcasing more live streams and Spaces, which are also difficult to discover as they happen.
Previous Twitter management had been trying for years to better integrate live sport content, in order to maximize engagement around in-progress sporting events, while also better showcasing tweets.
Expect to see X revisit concepts like this, as part of this expanded news and events focus, which could also see X look to sign more exclusive video content deals to bring them into the app.
Twitter could never crack the code on this, but maybe, the new X team can find a better way to bring it all together, which might then keep sports fans in the app, and stop them from migrating to another platform.
Creator payments backlash
One of X’s biggest innovations has been its creator ad revenue share program, which sees creators earn money for their most engaging posts in the app.
Which is a smart move. All platforms know that getting creators paid is key to keeping them around, and previous Twitter management had long struggled to find equitable ways to make such a reality.
X may have solved this, but then again, maybe not, with the revenue share payout scheme still largely opaque, particularly due to the proviso that only ads shown to X Premium subscribers are eligible for the program.
As a result, and as more people look to hack X’s ad revenue share system (by posting engagement bait), I expect, at some stage, there to be a creator backlash, as ad revenue share payments decline significantly due to the impacts of updates to the process.
We’ve seen this happen on Snapchat, and other apps as well, where creators actually end up turning on the platform due to perceived inequities in the process. I think that X is going to be the next platform to face this, as it works to refine and improve its revenue share system, in better alignment with the platform’s own goals.
That could then see more creators re-focus on other platforms instead, as a result of the bad taste left in their mouth by changes to the process.
And I suspect that at least some of those impacted will be among Elon’s most vocal supporters.
Bankruptcy warning mid year
I don’t know how serious this will be, as Elon has made such warnings in the past. But I do think that with ad revenue still down, and its subscriptions and other projects flailing, along with its added, billion-dollar debt burden as part of Elon’s takeover deal, X is going to issue a bankruptcy warning sometime in the next seven months.
While Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino have been keen to paint a rosy picture of the app’s performance, every external analysis suggests that things are not going so great. And as Threads continues to gain traction, and lure influential users, and Elon himself continues to share controversial, divisive takes (which are likely to increase even more as he further aligns himself with right wing candidates in the U.S. Presidential race) I don’t see how X is going to reverse its fortunes on ad revenue, its key income element.
I suspect that Elon will continue to tout new metrics like “unregretted user seconds” and “cumulative user minutes”. But at some stage, he’ll be forced to confront the truth, that his optimistic vision for what the app can be is not going to come to fruition on its current path, at least not at the speed that it needs to in order to turn any kind of profit.
Whether this ends up being a serious threat or not will largely depend on external factors, like the broader market impacts of ongoing global conflicts, and the rise of Threads in relative balance. But I do think that the X experiment could flame out, and be de-railed entirely by this time next year.
Is that likely? I would say not, as X still has a strong enough presence at this stage. But it does need to make a lot of money, relatively quickly, or it’ll be on the downward slope.
Elon, thus far, hasn’t shown a predilection to diverting from his original path, which could end up being the downfall of the app.
Like Snapchat’s ARES project (which, as noted earlier, Instagram could also capitalize on), Pinterest too could also look to facilitate more in-store integrations, in order to merge the platform with real-world experiences.
Pinterest is now a key product discovery and shopping destination for many millions of users, and by working directly with retail stores, it could help to enhance its presence, while also providing retailers with lower cost AR integrations to enhance the shopping journey.
It seems like a logical win-win for both sides, which could also help Pinterest better align its platform with next-level AR experiences.
Expect to see more Pinterest-branded AR displays in your local shopping mall soon.
AR try on advances
Along the same line, Pinterest will continue to advance its AR Try On elements, in order to further enhance its in-app experience.
Pinterest already offers make-up try-on tools, and it’s experimenting with home décor products as well, using the more advanced LiDAR processes in newer mobile devices to better map scenes and spaces, and ensure proper scaling and fit.
Expect Pinterest to continue to add more AR options, including clothing try-on tools that are more accurate to real-world fit.
Pinterest continues to hit above its weight in this respect, and given the potential value of such to Pinterest’s shopping-focused audience, I do think that it could become the leader in retail-focused AR innovation by making a bigger push here.
AI is coming
Yes, Pinterest will also integrate generative AI.
Thus far, Pinterest hasn’t jumped aboard the generative AI bandwagon, preferring instead to stick with its core mission. But as more people become more accustomed to searching via conversation prompts, I expect that Pinterest, too, will also add in conversational AI search tools to enhance in-app discovery.
There could be some conflict here, in that Pinterest CEO Bill Ready is a former Google exec, which could see the app lean more towards waiting to integrate Google’s AI tools than, say, signing an agreement right now with Microsoft and OpenAI.
But technical complexities aside, I do think that Pinterest will roll out a new form of generative AI search at some stage next year, along with a tool that enables you to create AI visualizations of, say, an outfit that you would like, then Pinterest’s system will find similar, real product matches based on your creation.
Another key innovation here could be a virtual wardrobe type tool, which enables you to scan in items of clothing that you own, in order to help Pinterest then refine its recommendation algorithms around your personal tastes.
Pinterest Lens already does this to some degree. But maybe, by building a more dedicated process for scanning in your favorite items, Pinterest can better guide user behaviors towards enhanced discovery, aligned with their interests.
The challenge is how to make this simple, or fun (or both), but I suspect that this will be another area of opportunity for Pinterest to explore, along its more AR-aligned personalization push.
3D object creation in-stream
Pinterest also needs to make 3D object creation simple in-stream, in order to provide more insight into products.
It already has the beginnings of this for its 3D home décor Pins, but it’ll need to make this an easier, more accurate process within its catalog feed ingestion tools.
The more 3D items Pinterest has in its data banks, the more it can display them in more ways, using AR try-on and other forms of display.
And again, with AR glasses coming, Pinterest will need this to keep up with the next stage of online shopping.
Shifting AI focus
LinkedIn has gone more all-in on generative AI than any other platform, through its association with OpenAI via parent company Microsoft.
LinkedIn’s already added generative AI profile summaries, feed post prompts, job descriptions, collaborative articles, and more. But in 2024, I expect that it’ll shift the focus of its AI usage towards enhancing the in-app experience, and improving content matching and discovery in the app.
To be clear, LinkedIn already does this to some degree. But I expect it to incorporate more recommendations and alignments, based on systematic understanding of your network, experience, engagement, etc.
So LinkedIn will keep digging on AI, but I think there’ll be fewer consumer AI tools, and more back-end improvements, which should help to enhance discovery and engagement.
Virtual events and video streams
Which is a key concern for LinkedIn’s increasing video content ecosystem.
There are more and more virtual events being hosted in the app, and more video is being uploaded. But both are generally hard to discover, unless you’re following the right people and profiles in the app.
I expect LinkedIn to improve on this, with dedicated event and video feeds, potentially swipeable from the main timeline. LinkedIn could also look to better highlight live events along the top bar of the app, while it may also utilize AI to better showcase relevant examples of both to users, as opposed to only showing you updates from your own connections.
Meta has already shown the way on this, and LinkedIn has opportunity to significantly enhance engagement, especially with more people looking its way for real-time professional engagement as they move on from X.
Improved career pathway mapping
Using its unmatched professional database, LinkedIn’s better placed than any platform in history to highlight career pathways and opportunities.
Which it’s tried to build in the past, with tools that help university students map out their career focus, and help professionals visualize their likely career journeys, based on others with similar experience.
This feels like a significant area of opportunity, especially with advancing AI, and I expect, at some stage, that LinkedIn will look to provide more career guidance type tools, built around AI chat prompts within the app.
You may be unclear about the job best aligned to your skills and interests, or what next steps to take to see more fulfillment. LinkedIn’s database could help in both respects, with a tool that enables you to cross-match your skills and experience with the millions of other LinkedIn users, and shows how others in similar positions have progressed.
This can be difficult, as nobody’s career path is prescriptive. But the advancement of AI could facilitate expanded opportunity on this front.
Improved candidate incentive prompts
Another use of LinkedIn’s database could be additional prompts to help candidates improve their chances of getting a job in the app.
LinkedIn already provides recommendations of relevant LinkedIn Learning courses to up your skills, relative to a specific role, as well as skill assessments. But the next stage could go even further, to help guide users towards improving their skills every week, and refining their profile based on regular tips.
LinkedIn could then add incentives, like badges that show how proactive a user has been in updating their skills regularly, or how active they are in related discussions in the app.
The platform is already seeing solid success with its new “Top Voice” badges aligned with Collaborative Article contributions, and there could be more ways for LinkedIn to incentivize and drive greater in-app engagement, benefiting both the app and users alike.
Broader ID verification
This is not really a prediction, and LinkedIn has already stated that it’s making this an increasing focus. But in order to combat bots, and improve trust in the platform, LinkedIn’s going to give more users the opportunity to confirm their government ID, and verify their profile in the app.
LinkedIn’s offering its version of verification for free, but it’s working with third-party providers to confirm user information, as opposed to doing the checking itself.
LinkedIn’s aim is to eventually have all members “verify at least one attribute of their professional identity,” with a view to confirming the IDs of 100 million users by 2025.
That’s a viable and valuable target, which could enhance trust in LinkedIn’s listings, and improve in-app engagement.
Linking creator tools to career incentives
LinkedIn also wants to further incentivize creators in the app, and along that line, expect to see LinkedIn better link its creator rewards to career incentives, like promotion opportunities.
How will it do that?
By providing in-app drivers to get people, say, showcasing their expertise in key areas of development.
What are businesses looking for in each niche, and how can LinkedIn then build that into the incentive drivers for those with Creator Profiles in the app?
Building a presence on LinkedIn itself is a strong driver, but expect LinkedIn to also look at how it can further connect those objectives back to real-world opportunities, in addition to in-app incentives.
TikTok has struggled thus far to get its in-stream shopping elements off the ground in Western markets, despite them being a major hit for the app in China, and other Asian regions.
And even that’s likely to take a hit, with Indonesian authorities recently implementing laws that ban the sale of goods in social apps, in order to protect local businesses from international competition.
With this in mind, the signs are not great for TikTok’s broader push to re-shape user behaviors around in-app shopping and product discovery. But it’s not done for as yet.
In China, the local version of TikTok has already branched into new areas of commerce, including food delivery and local services, which are assisted by its local content feed, which highlights videos from local users and businesses.
TikTok’s been testing the same for some time, with some users seeing an alternate “Nearby” content feed in the app.
Expect this to become a bigger focus in 2024, as TikTok tries to find more ways to extend user behaviors, by incorporating food delivery and local business listings, that can be targeted to users within this “Nearby” stream, as well as via discovery surfaces in the app.
Really, TikTok only needs one big, valuable commerce offering to set the wheels in motion for a broader in-stream shopping shift. Direct retail listings haven’t done it, but maybe these other options will facilitate a larger trend, that’ll then open up new avenues for the app.
TikTok has already begun experimenting with generative AI tools, including text-to-video translation tools and AI profile images.
Expect to see TikTok making a bigger push on AI next year, which will include the integration of said text-to-video tools, enabling users to post wholly AI-generated video clips, and the expansion of its AI chatbot experiment, which it’s currently testing in selected markets.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is also testing a similar chatbot with its millions of users in China, which will eventually enable it to launch a more refined version of its AI chatbot experience within TikTok, I’m guessing sometime early in the new year.
Chatbots, thus far, haven’t been a revolution in social media apps. But they do serve a functional purpose, while also keeping users in-stream, and a chatbot linked to TikTok trends, and facilitating broader content, and product discovery, could be a valuable addition for the app.
The real trick lies in making it a valuable, enjoyable experience, which, again, TikTok will have some advantage on, given that it’s already implemented the same in China before bringing it to Western users.
I expect TikTok to take some big leaps on generative AI, which could put it ahead of social media competitors, and make this a more valuable addition to the app.
On another front, the Chinese version of TikTok recently implemented new rules which require that all digital avatars (“virtual humans”) be registered with real-name authentication.
We haven’t seen many wholly digital characters take hold on TikTok as yet, though we have seen the NPC trend, which sees real people acting like robots.
It seems that could be short-lived, with actual robots potentially taking over, and becoming stars in their own right.
Another element to watch in the app.
U.S. TikTok ban?
Will TikTok be banned in the U.S.?
The speculation has gone on for some time now, with CFIUS’s review of the app being delayed by various political and regulatory challenges, despite ongoing concerns from security officials as to the safety of the app, and the accessibility of American user data.
But really, it all boils down to somewhat precarious U.S.-China relations. And in that sense, I don’t think that TikTok will be banned in the U.S. unless there’s an escalation in aggressive behavior towards the U.S. from the CCP, whatever that may entail.
There are obviously levels to this, and a significant escalation in tensions would clearly lead to a U.S. TikTok ban. But even a smaller incident, like the discovery of another CCP spy balloon in U.S. air space, could offset the balance here, and force the White House to take action against the app.
Which I don’t believe that it actually wants to do.
While banning TikTok in itself would not be a major blow to either nation, it’s a symbolic move that would immediately represent a clear distrust of China to millions of TikTok users. Which, understandably, the Chinese Government would be less than pleased about, which would then have broader implications for ongoing partnerships and arrangements between the two nations.
So, really, it depends on geopolitical shifts. If China were to more directly support Russia’s efforts in Ukraine, which it has tacitly endorsed, or if it were to intervene in other conflicts, or seek to stamp its authority in Taiwan, which the U.S. has opposed. All of these could have implications for TikTok, but until there’s another significant reason for the White House to react, I don’t think that TikTok will face a full ban.
But that could change very quickly, with U.S.-China relations maintaining an ever-delicate balance.
Bigger push on Snapchat+
Snapchat+ now has over 5 million paying subscribers, and has been the most successful social media subscription offering thus far, eclipsing X Premium and Meta’s paid verification program.
Snap’s seen success here by providing interesting, value-add elements, that appeal to its core user base. And with that success, Snap’s building a whole new revenue stream, which is why you can expect Snap to make this an even bigger focus moving forward.
Really, most of the Snapchat+ additions have been pretty lightweight, in development terms. But the advantage that Snapchat has here is that it understands its audience, and has been able to continuously add in features that Snap users will want to try out.
Expect to see more of Snap’s incoming features to be funneled through Snapchat+ first, as it becomes a bigger point of emphasis for Snap development.
That’ll likely also include new generative AI tools, which Snap is already building into the app.
DM ad products
More social media engagement is moving to messaging, and as a result, every app is not only working to emphasize their DM features, but they’re also trying to find new ways to monetize DMs, and help brands tap into the same.
Snap’s DM’s are its foundational connection element, which makes monetization of them more difficult. But as it works to find new revenue opportunities, expect Snap to experiment with new ad options that’ll facilitate direct connection between users and businesses in the app.
Meta, for example, has seen strong results with its “Click to Message” ads, and Snap will be trying to find similar options that lean into the DM trend.
That could offer significant opportunity for marketers, as Snap’s inbox is its most valuable in-app real estate, in terms of engagement and resonance.
It’ll be worth noting what Snap comes up with in this respect.
It’s under increasing cost pressures, due to the impacts of the broader market downturn, and ad industry changes. But AR glasses remain on the cards for Snap, as it works to maintain its industry leadership, and compete with Apple and Meta for that next stage.
Virtually every AR trend of the past decade has originated from Snap, and in order for it to maintain the position that it’s built, it likely needs to bring its own AR glasses to market.
Snap was the first social app to launch its own camera-equipped sunglasses, which had much-hyped launch. But interest in Spectacles has waned over time, and will likely continue to lose out as Meta pushes its own, more advanced Ray Ban Stories models.
So can Snap actually release its own commercial AR glasses?
It’s been testing them out with creators for over a year, and while they still seem a little clunky, it does suggest that Snap will release a fully AR-enabled version sometime soon.
Could Snap actually beat Apple and Meta to market?
My prediction is that Snap will bring out an initial version of AR-enabled Spectacles in 2024, with a much smaller release, for a more niche market. But that it will beat its larger competitors in the space.
Bitmoji character development
Bitmoji characters are hugely popular, but more than that, they could also be Snap’s key entry point into the next stage of digital connection, especially if the metaverse comes to fruition as Meta hopes.
People are already accustomed to these digital depictions of themselves, which could mean that Snap will be able to merge itself into the metaverse experience by porting its Bitmoji characters into this new experience.
As such, you can expect Snap to continue to refine and develop its 3D Bitmoji characters, with a view to using them in more ways to showcase products, communicate, and eventually, represent users in games, social environments, etc.
It’s a bet on the metaverse becoming a thing, more so than it is on Bitmoji remaining relevant in themselves. But it could also be a smart one, while Snap also continues to add more brand sponsorships for Bitmoji items.
Potential takeover target?
This is more speculative, and I don’t have a lot of backing for this, outside of gut feel.
But I do think that Snap remains a potential takeover target, particularly as the company remains in a tough financial position, which has seen it cut hundreds of roles throughout the year.
If Snap continues to struggle to get its ad business on track, there’d be a range of potential suitors waiting in the wings.
Apple has worked with Snap on a range of AR projects in the past, and is developing its own AR glasses, while Microsoft has been branching into new areas of late.
Meta, too, could use Snap’s AR expertise for the next generation of its own AR glasses, while owning another platform would significantly expand its social media empire (note: I’m not sure that regulators would be so happy with this pairing).
Snap has projected a return to growth in 2024, and CEO Evan Spiegel sounds optimistic. But Spiegel’s also about to welcome his fourth son into the world, and you would assume that he could do with a little less stress, and a little more free time.
Maybe, then, Snap could become available in 2024, which could significantly shake up the social media landscape.
Again, this is speculation. But it feels like something is coming, and that Snap may be taking a different view of its future after the last few years of challenges.
Things are always changing in the social media world, and it’s hard to predict exactly what will be coming next. But these are my best guesses at what each app will be doing in 2024, which could help you to plan for the next stage.