Social media

Social media in 2023 and 2024

Arwen’s Product and Service Director looks back on 2023 and predicts what we can expect in 2024

2023: A Mixed Bag for Social Media

2023 was a year of mixed results for social media. It continued to dominate our lives, capturing the attention of billions of people worldwide. There’s been huge growth in opportunity to use social media to connect with customers and to innovative new forms of marketing. However, there were also moments when online world felt like a chaotic mess.

These challenges have significant implications for investment, as businesses are urged to be part of the conversation, but often find themselves unable to control or mitigate the risks involved. Overcoming these challenges is crucial if the industry is to reach its full potential, which is estimated to be worth billions of pounds. Let’s look back at 2023 and explore what 2024 might have in store.

More people, spending more time

  • TikTok led the way in perfecting its content recommendation algorithm, resulting in a significant increase in usage.
  • Despite the pushback against excessive screen time in the wake of the pandemic, people's usage of social media has continued to grow. It's just migrating from one platform to another.
  • Threads landed with a lot of noise, just as X/Twitter started to wobble. Numbers initially spiked on Threads, but have since fallen back - proving that critical mass is hard to achieve. You go where others already are. Threads felt a bit like a village hall most of the year - lots of people being a bit nicer, but no sense that much was going on. As a result brands haven’t worked out what to do with it yet, leading to low investment.

Still not the nicest place

  • A Microsoft research study revealed that 89% of people want better moderation on social media platforms. However, in 2023, social conversations frequently devolved into shouting matches, polarisation, and toxicity.
  • Reactions to the conflict between Israel and Gaza led to a flood of antisemitic and Islamophobic comments across social networks, affecting various sectors.
  • However it shines a light on the complexity of the moderation challenge. Only a small percentage of comments were illegal in certain regions, as hate crimes or similar. By far the largest percentage was highly offensive, but in most regions would be considered ‘awful but lawful’ and protected by freedom of speech.
  • Social media platforms have made efforts to combat this issue, successfully removing 62.5% of hateful content according to data from the European Commission. However, with Facebook alone receiving 510,000 comments per minute, millions of harmful comments still slip through the cracks daily.

Reasons to celebrate

  • Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has started factoring in comments when ranking posts. As a result, posts with toxic comments are demoted, while those with "healthy conversations" are promoted. This change has led to an average 21.3% increase in engagement on Facebook and Instagram for our clients, serving as an incentive for others to invest in moderation. Download our ROI of Social Media Moderation white paper
  • Although there is still work to be done, some of the platforms should be acknowledged for their efforts in detecting and removing illegal content. Most importantly, the most extreme and disturbing content, which is rarely seen in users' feeds.
  • In the UK, the Online Safety Bill, which ended up focusing on holding Very Large Operator Platforms (VLOPs) accountable for detecting illegal content and protecting young users, became law in late 2023. While some consider it insufficient, it represents progress in ensuring online safety. The bill will go into effect in 2024, with further details yet to be determined.

AI's has its big year

  • 2023 marked the entrance of artificial intelligence (AI) into the global consciousness. However, the hype surrounding AI was met with mixed results. Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT gained attention but the organisation faced very public internal conflicts and challenges.
  • The market was flooded with generative AI products that promised to enhance productivity across various departments. However, many of these tools failed to deliver on their promises, causing disappointment among users. As a result, investments in AI boomed early in the year but tapered off as the limitations became apparent.
  • This marks the end of the beginning for AI. Now, the focus is on its long-term potential and proving its ability to make a impact beyond superficial headlines.

Predictions for 2024

Disinformation will take centre stage

  • With elections taking place worldwide, concerns grow over the use of AI to generate complex disinformation and deepfake content aimed at undermining opposition and distorting the truth. Detecting and removing such content will become the top priority for 2024, overshadowing government and network efforts to combat toxicity.
  • In the UK, the practical implications of the Online Safety Bill will be implemented by Ofcom, the regulator. This is expected to impose new obligations on VLOPs to provide tools that protect adults from toxic content. Historically, the adoption of such tools has been low, and it remains uncertain how much influence a national regulator can exert on predominantly US and China-based platforms.
  • Toxicity levels will soar during the highly polarised elections, putting pressure on brands to balance user demands for safe and inclusive social communities with the need for brand-safe environments and the contentious issue of freedom of speech.
  • At the same time, spam will continue to grow, powered by AI gradually targeting even smaller brands with smaller followings.

Demand for private moderation services will grow

  • The content moderation market reached $15 billion this year and is expected to double by 2026. CEOs increasingly recognise the importance of content moderation, with 30% now considering it. Compliance requirements, especially in regulated industries such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and gaming (where bots defraud an estimated 21 social media users per minute), will drive the adoption of moderation services.

AI will revolutionise social media conversations

  • Meltwater's research report on 2024 suggests that limited bandwidth is the biggest barrier to progress for social media teams. AI is the solution to this problem. With social media teams typically consisting of only 1-8 people, AI can help manage the overwhelming volume of conversations and enable real-time responses.
  • Brands are missing out on a massive opportunity to engage and interact with their audience due to these resource constraints and their inability to keep up with the conversational volume.
  • The real breakthrough will come when detection AI is combined with generative AI in real-time conversations. This combination allows for listening, understanding, and meaningful responses. The groundwork for this integration has already begun.
  • Currently, social media teams struggle to manage conversations across multiple tools, resulting in delays and missed opportunities. AI will act as a co-pilot, detecting and notifying team members of positive, negative and toxic conversations, take automated actions where permitted and provide smart recommendations elsewhere, for the team to review.

Social media will begin its shift towards revenue generation

  • As AI enables real-time conversations, social media teams will be able to engage with more people than ever before. Initially, this will focus on generating engagement and responding to inquiries and complaints.
  • Social commerce will gain traction in 2024. In Asia, platforms like Taobao Live and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) generated over $400 billion in sales in 2021. Western markets are catching up with the introduction of Facebook Shops, Instagram Shops, and TikTok Shops.
  • Many brands are starting to test the waters, with 47% of social media marketers already selling products directly through social media apps, albeit at low volumes. The US expects social commerce revenues to reach $67 billion in 2024.
  • CEOs and CFOs will get excited about the potential for a new revenue generating channel and investment will follow. Social media teams will become famous for making money rather than being a marketing and customer service cost-centre.

We are thrilled about the prospects of 2024. We envision a world where brands can actively engage in thousands of conversations simultaneously, showcasing value, answering questions, providing support, and fostering positive dialogue. In this future, the ROI of social media will be measured in sales, revenue, and customer experience.

We extend our gratitude to all our clients who made 2023 an exciting journey, and we look forward to new adventures in 2024.

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