Yes& General

Effective Social Strategy for a Challenging Digital Environment: Part I

Anna-Marie Montague

While social media is always dynamic and ever evolving, 2022 brought dramatic shifts and activity that moved the discussion beyond audience trends and ad ascendency into the territory of trust, legality, and financial viability.

Disruptions for Meta and Twitter

Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp faced continued revenue erosion, from a cumulative 20% of U.S. digital ad revenue in their peak year of 2017 down to 19.6% in 2022, with a forecast of 17.9% for 2024.[1] While the decline is gentle, Meta achieved two punishing distinctions in 2022: First, a market cap drop of $232 billion on February 3, the biggest one day decrease in the history of the U.S. stock market. Second, a costly defeat in a class-action suit over sharing Facebook user data with Cambridge Analytica. Meta is paying $725 million–the largest payment ever for a data privacy class action. Worse, it incurred a $5 billion fine as part of the Federal Trade Commission’s case, and $100 million for claims by the Securities and Exchange Commission.[2]

Meta is off to a rocky start for 2023. In early January, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) fined the company $411 million, ordering Meta to stop serving ads based on personal data and implement opt-in user consent for advertising. The EDPB is giving Facebook and Instagram three months to comply. About a quarter of Meta’s $83 billion in ad revenue for the nine months ending September 30 came from Europe.[3]

And within two months of the new year, Facebook is also reportedly being pressured to remove gender-based advertising options for campaigns targeted at minors, pushing even more advertisers away from their platforms.[4]

Meanwhile, Twitter cut its workforce by nearly 75% over a period of six weeks after Elon Musk’s acquisition,[5] raising concerns about platform moderation, security, and technical performance. It also rolled out a controversial new paid verification that outraged existing influencers and brands using the space who are concerned about credibility.[6] By early December, half of Twitter’s top advertisers left the site, and Twitter cut its ad revenue projections for the last three months of the year from $1.4B to 1.1B.[7]

Insider Intelligence predicted in December that Twitter will lose upwards of 32.7 million users by the end of 2024. It forecasts Twitter will lose more users in the U.S. than in any other country it tracks, anticipating a decline to 50.5 million U.S. users in 2024, the lowest level since 2014. It also predicts a 39.1% reduction in Twitter ad revenue over the next two years.

TikTok: Big Ambitions, Big Security Concerns

More than a few pundits believe that short-form vertical videos are taking over the content game, warning that brands need to branch out rather than focus on a handful of text-focused networks (i.e., embrace TikTok).[8] Rising popularity is also driving TikTok FOMO among marketers. Facebook users under 25 will drop below 15% in 2023, while TikTok is projected to have 44% of users under 25. In 2020, only 16% of marketers were using TikTok, but by 2021 that rose to 68%.[9] While there are lingering perceptions that TikTok is only for Gen Z, TikTok claims that 58% of its users are over 25.[10]

Some media experts see TikTok positioning itself to dominate social with ambitions to become an all-in-one app for social media, messaging, payments, and other online services and functionality. It is consistently the number one app in terms of time spent and overall positive sentiment. Per Google Trends, interest in TikTok Ads increased by more than 1000% since 2020, and the platform is on course to match YouTube’s ad revenue by 2024.[11]

The flip side, of course, is that TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, is a Chinese-owned firm, arousing myriad personal privacy and natural security concerns. The app is now banned on government computers in at least 19 states, by the U.S. armed forcesand most recently, across federal government computers. The Washington Post notes that the bans are mostly symbolic, since users typically just use TikTok on personal devices instead.[12] While there currently seems to be insufficient political will to fully ban or restrict the app, a few legislators are calling for a complete U.S. ban.

Given these shifting fortunes and risks among Meta, Twitter, and TikTok, how should marketers adjust their social strategies?

Join Yes& next month when social strategy expert Nicole Glueckert weighs in. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive Yes& blogs, news, and more delivered straight to your inbox.

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Anna-Marie Montague
Anna-Marie Montague
Senior Writer/Strategist