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Top 5 Trends in Social Media and Influencer Marketing | October 2021

The holiday season is fast approaching but that does not mean that social media platforms and users are slowing down. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TIkTok have big plans in store that may change the way we see them forever. From Facebook becoming “Meta” to Instagram attempting to be the next, well…TikTok, here is a monthly recap of the latest trends and updates in the world of social media and influencer marketing. 

1. Facebook has a new focus: taking over the metaverse

Facebook is not crying over spilled milk: despite their ongoing whistleblowing saga over the past few weeks casting them in a negative light, they have found a way to trudge on with a new focus.The social media giant has announced that they will now be attempting to create a new “virtual computing platform” and to be a company heavily focused on the metaverse, after hiring 10,000 employees in the European Union region. 

In fact, Mark Zuckerberg just unveiled Facebook’s new name and logo to match this massive change: Meta. This was announced via a pre-recorded livestream and included other VR/AR-related updates—from having a new VR remake of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to focusing on fitness accessories. The new name will also help Facebook to rebrand itself as a company with several brands under their belt, such as Whatsapp, Oculus and Instagram. 

So, what exactly is the metaverse? Although it still seems like a foreign concept to most, it can be generally characterized as a virtual common space users can share and explore together, without being physically together, via VR headsets for example. An easier way to think of it is an elevated version of being on the Internet. The metaverse is meant to be the next big thing in the coming years, and is a space where users are encouraged to create, shop, work and play in. 

The biggest clue so far as to what it will all look like, is having a look at Facebook’s teaser for “Horizon Worlds”, a community hub that users can participate in using their new VR device, the Oculus Quest 2. 

According to Facebook’s official announcement, the Metaverse will go beyond just digital entertainment with “the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social and economic opportunities.”

Only time will tell if Facebook succeeds with this business shift as well as if it’s able to run away from its other troubles.

2. Trouble in paradise: Facebook is caught in whistleblower controversy

Despite Facebook’s ambitious plans to own the metaverse, there is still a major issue at hand for the company. A former employee, algorithmic design expert Frances Haugen, has come forward to share that the company has ignored their own internal research that uncovered “concerning findings” in relation to the content Facebook provides, which was done to retain user engagement and overall usage of the platform. 

As explained by Haugen, “Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”

According to Mark Zuckerberg, the allegations don’t make sense but Facebook is committed to doing more research and making it more publicly available. You can read his memo to employees in full here.

3. TikTok, showing no signs of slowing down, reaches a billion active users

Social media users’ current sweetheart has now reached a billion active users. This is TikTok’s latest achievement after a relatively rough path: the company was banned in India, almost banned in the US, and at one point was almost entirely sold off.

TikTok has been put through the wringer, but still is a leading example of what works for younger users—competitors like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are running to mimic the app’s options, like it’s “For You” continuous scrolling feature. 

The app had just 54 million users in January 2018, which means TikTok grew roughly 1700% to a billion just 4 years later. Comparatively, Instagram went from 100 million active users to a billion in 5.5 years, growing 1000%. While Instagram and TikTok are not directly comparable, TikTok’s growth rate does indicate the app’s rapid growth and its strength in engaging its audience. 

TikTok’s next steps are likely towards the ecommerce space. The company is already working on new ecommerce options and seeing growth via its Chinese counterpart, Douyin, which earns a majority of its revenue from ecommerce and direct selling. 

4. Instagram makes major changes in continuous effort to evolve: Goodbye IGTV; Welcome Collab and ‘Superbeat’

It was a busy month for Instagram. In a bid to keep up with its competitors, Instagram is making rapid changes to its overall strategy and focus. Over the span of one month, the app has announced the retirement of its longer-video feature, IGTV, and has now merged all of its video content into one combined feature instead. This means that videos of all lengths, including Reels, will be seen via one video tab.

With the merge of video formats, there is a new playback function that will allow users to tap anywhere on the screen to watch it in full screen, after which they will be allowed to continue scrolling to see similar video content from other creators that they might enjoy (which sounds just like TIkTok’s “For You” feed). Instagram is also adding trimming tools and filters as well as location tagging for videos, something that was not available for IGTV. 

Instagram’s attempt to streamline its app will hopefully make the app easier to navigate, with less features and more engagement between users and creators. 

In line with its video plan, the app has introduced two new options for creators: Collabs and Superbeat. The first one is a function that allows users to invite others to create a joint post, shown on both feeds—which means that these posts will reach new audiences. Superbeat, on the other hand, is a new tool that enables users to add new music-focused effects to a video. Speaking of music, Instagram is adding a new “audio” tab that will allow users to check out other videos based on the music samples, similar to TikTok’s music function that leads to the discovery of similar content.

We have yet to see if Instagram’s continuous effort to simplify its usage as well as encourage community-building will pay off. 

5. ECommerce seems to be a strong focus point for Pinterest

The image-sharing giant Pinterest is expanding its shopping features and providing new opportunities for merchants to connect with users of the platform. 

Among Pinterest’s addition it’s a new Slideshow tool that will automatically collate and feature a collection of your inventory to users who have shown interest in similar products. This way, merchants will be able to showcase more products from their catalog. 

Additionally, Pinterest now allows merchants to display their brand values (like “responsibly sourced”, “Black-owned”, or “inclusive”) providing another way to facilitate stronger brand connections.

Lastly, Pinterest’s take on Stories, Idea Pins, is now showcasing sponsored content, titled Sponsored Idea Pins. Similar to other social media apps, Sponsored Idea Pins are displayed alongside a “Paid Partnership” tag.

It is no surprise that Pinterest is focusing on ecommerce—internal data shows that Pinners are “7x more likely to say it’s the most influential platform in their purchase journey, compared to social media networks”, as well as have 85% “bigger baskets” compared to other social media apps. The new changes and additions are possibly in preparation for the upcoming holiday season that usually sees consumers spending more than usual.