The latest social media trends revolve around authentic, human-centric content, micro-influencer partnerships, social data analytics, and bringing SEO into the social media realm.

In the world of social media trends, what goes viral one day can quickly fizzle out the next. But there’s no question that social media marketing is a crucial channel for almost every business.

And with billions of potential eyeballs on your content? Staying on top of trending strategies could give your brand a much-needed edge over the competition.

We picked the brain of Nicole Goodnough, lead strategist at HawkSEM, to break down the latest social media marketing trends and tips to spruce up your campaigns.

Ready to break the internet? Read on.

1. Social data to maximize ROI

We’ve always used data to shape our diverse clientele’s marketing strategies at HawkSEM. However, many brands now recognize its importance in their social media marketing campaigns.

The good news? social media platforms have adapted their functionality to get on board.

Just look at Instagram. The app’s insights used to focus exclusively on vanity metrics like follower count and likes. Today, you can get specific data about your audience, including demographics and buying patterns.

You can also track different in-app metrics, like how many people view your stories and how they interact with them.

This gives you a clear idea of what works and what doesn’t. With this intel, you can fine-tune your strategy and boost your return on investment (ROI).

Ways to embrace this trend:

Define and track key performance indicators (KPIs). For social media, Goodnough focuses on engagement metrics:

“It’s always a good metric to keep an eye on to make sure your ads are resonating with the audience you’re targeting,” she says.

Here’s a prime example:

“With this TikTok partnership ad for Halara, the creator is authentic, speaks directly to the user, and the video hangs with native content and doesn’t scream ‘ad,’” she explains, “all of which are part of the influencer marketing trend that’s been gaining momentum over the past few years.”

Halara can measure success from this ad by watching ROAS, tracking the number of dresses sold or times the creator’s unique coupon code was used.

Harness in-app and external data analytics tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social. For instance, Goodnough leans on our proprietary marking tech ConversionIQ to track campaign success with engagement metrics like reactions and comments.

Run A/B tests on different content formats or posting times to see what generates the most engagement.

Share social data with other departments, like product development to create products that meet your audience’s needs or sales to speak directly to customers’ pain points.

2. Transparency and authenticity lead the way

The last few years have brought significant changes in how people shop, driven mainly by the pandemic and economic uncertainties.

One of the biggest shifts has been the fact that overly sales-y, inauthentic content doesn’t cut it with today’s discerning social media users.

More than ever, people want to connect with companies that share their cultural, environmental, and political values. HubSpot reports that 82% of consumers prefer brands that prioritize people and the planet over profits.

And you better believe audiences will see right through insincere efforts, like greenwashing or token gestures without real impact. (Dieselgate, anyone?)

One brand that’s doing it effectively is Ben & Jerry’s. The ice cream company has amassed a cult following not just for its delicious products but for tackling hot-button topics like racial justice, democracy reform, climate change, and more.

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Share videos or photos that show sustainable business processes in action, like recycling, ethical labor, or eco-friendly production.
  • Feature user-generated content (UGC) from employees about their experiences and the company culture concerning diversity and inclusion.
  • Highlight partnerships with local organizations or charities that align with your brand’s values and missions.
  • Host live Q&A sessions with experts or your team to discuss your initiatives and answer questions about your efforts.

3. Short-form content still reigns supreme

From TikTok videos and Instagram Reels to paid social ads, short-form video content is everywhere across social media. So much so that Facebook, Pinterest, and even YouTube now tout bite-size video content formats.

So, why’s every platform hopping on the short-form content creation bandwagon?

Because over 80% of consumers want more short videos. And seeing as Americans devour online video content for nearly 4 hours daily, your digital marketing strategy can swoop in to deliver exactly what they want.

Short-form video content varies by platform but typically refers to videos between 10 and 60 seconds, and under ten minutes.

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Create quick how-to videos that showcase new products or services.
  • Share behind-the-scenes content on company culture, production processes, or day-to-day operations.
  • Encourage short video testimonials from satisfied customers.
  • Record short interviews with industry experts or team members.

4. Social commerce continues to grow

The pandemic fueled a social commerce boom that’s still going strong today. According to Statista, the trend jumped 23.6% in 2023 and is set to grow another 5% by 2028. In other words, it’s time to ride the wave or get swept behind.

For this reason, many social media networks now feature a new functionality that lets audiences shop from their feeds. This means your target audience can purchase products straight from your social media content.

Not only is it incredibly convenient, but it also lets you tailor shopping experiences to your audience’s preferences.

Remember those data analytics we spoke about earlier? You can use those insights to gauge their behavior and leverage algorithms to show them the most relevant products.

For example, say you’ve been researching healthier food alternatives for your fur baby. You might come across targeted shoppable content like this:

Farmers Dog IG ad

(Image: Instagram)

Ways to embrace this trend:

Goodnough says the social media landscape has changed from focusing exclusively on driving brand awareness to driving direct sales.

“Consumers can move from product discovery to research to purchase, all without leaving the platform,” she explains.

This presents a unique opportunity:

“Brands can continue to capitalize on this trend by exploring different types of influencers or UGC to share authentic recommendations and real-life applications of their products or services,” she says.

Here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

“Home decor or furniture companies could test shoppable pins on Pinterest or an interactive feature to see how a product would look in their space, like Warby Parker’s virtual try-on feature for their glasses,” she says.

“Beauty and food brands could lean into how-to and educational content and create videos and blogs to bolster their site SEO at the same time they’re driving social engagement and purchases.”

You’ll also want to:

  • Set up and optimize your in-app shops, so followers can purchase directly from your content.
  • Always tag shoppable products in your content creation.
  • Sponsor content creation with influencers to promote your offerings and social ecommerce store.
  • Create branded hashtags that direct audiences to your social media shop.
  • Host live shopping events to showcase products and interact with customers in real-time.

5. New dynamics in social team roles

This trend isn’t just social feeds and algorithms changing; the teams behind them are evolving, too.

In the past, most brands had a social media manager or small team to oversee all social media marketing efforts. This may have worked initially, but brands that want to dominate their audiences’ social feeds have wised up.

Today, many brands are opting to specialize their social teams, assigning specific members to certain platforms or focused tasks like influencer marketing and shopping feed management.

Think about it: Facebook and TikTok demand different approaches, right?

After all, Facebook allows for various content formats like photos, text, and videos. TikTok, on the other hand, is best for short-form videos. Facebook reaches a broader demographic, with audiences of all ages, while TikTok’s base skews younger, like Gen Z and Millennials.

Ways to embrace this trend:

Goodnough says setting your budget boils down to testing.

“One of my clients has been spending more on Meta properties than TikTok, but we found that their audience on TikTok is more willing to click through ads to learn more about their offering,” she explains.

“Because of these results, we’re beginning to allocate more on TikTok than on Meta to see how we can maximize impact across all their digital efforts: social and Google Ads.”

  • If you’ve got deep pockets:
    • Build a dedicated social media team with specialists for each platform and marketing task.
    • Invest in ongoing training and the latest tools (like Sprout Social or Hootsuite Professional) to keep your team at the forefront of social media trends.
  • If you’re a start-up or have a tighter budget:
    • Focus on platforms where your audience is most active and assign specific roles to team members.
    • Lean on affordable tools and free resources (like Canva, Hootsuite, or Trello) to stay informed and efficient.

Best scenario? Skip the overhead of an in-house team and hire an agency to enjoy an average 4.5X ROI from a seasoned digital marketing company like HawkSEM.

6. The human element is unrivaled

If you’re among the 1.8 billion people who use TikTok monthly, chances are you’ve encountered one of the viral AI-generated celebrity lookalikes (like Deepfake Tom Cruise). These digital doppelgangers are just the tip of the iceberg, though.

Between AI influencers and virtual reality (VR), the line between human and machine-made content continues to blur. And with a widespread desire for authenticity, AI content can quickly turn off your audience.

Maybe that’s why Zuckerberg’s Metaverse didn’t quite take off like he’d hoped? While audiences might embrace augmented reality (AR) for fun Snapchat videos, the human element remains an essential cornerstone of genuine connections.

“Brands should capitalize on the “marketing to humans” trend,” says Goodnough. “Sharing relatable, authentic content — both on the organic side and the paid side — to humanize brands and find common ground with consumers isn’t going anywhere.”

This is especially true on professional networking platforms.

“On LinkedIn, people are three times more likely to trust a message from a person or an employee than directly from a brand,” she says. “More and more, people are looking for personalizations throughout the entire customer journey: from discovery to customer service.”

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Produce original, high-quality content for humans by humans.
  • Harness AI-powered augmented reality for virtual try-ons of products, like clothes or makeup.
  • Use AI to streamline workflows, brainstorm ideas for social media posts, and scale customer service efforts, but always use it carefully, ethically, and with human oversight.
  • Establish and follow ethical guidelines for AI in your marketing strategy.

7. Nano- and micro-influencers go mainstream

Big-name influencers with colossal followings can make for some epic partnerships, but these collabs don’t come cheap.

Macro-influencers with 50,000 to a million followers can run you between $1200 to $20,000 a post. Meanwhile, mega-influencers or celebrities with millions of followers cost significantly more.

On the other end of the spectrum are nano-influencers, with 1,000 – 10,000 followers, and micro-influencers, with 10,000 – 50,000 followers. These partnerships only cost between $10 and $5,000.

Up-and-coming influencers are more affordable and often seen as more authentic by audiences, hence higher engagement rates.

Microinfluencer engagement comparison

(Image: Insense)

While brands might assume a smaller following means less impact, these influencers often have close-knit online communities with stronger influence than influencers with massive followings.

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Reach out to emerging influencers in your niche with personalized messaging.
  • Consider long-term partnerships to help these influencers grow while building deeper, more authentic relationships with them and their audience.

8. Playful content gains momentum

When executed well, hot takes and controversial content can boost brand awareness and make your company stand out (we’re looking at you, Nike). However, playful brand voices are quickly pushing past edgy content.

More and more brands are tapping into pop culture, relatable memes, and experimenting with personas that feel real and accessible, not corporate or sales-y.

For example, Thriftbooks created a TikTok post promoting books reminiscent of the popular show Bridgerton in anticipation of the series’ newest season.

This is a perfect example of playful, relevant content that resonates with their audience and prompts more engagement. Plus, it’s highly shareable, a bonus for brand awareness.

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Create content that aligns with current pop culture trends, like TV shows, movies, and viral internet moments.
  • Incorporate popular memes and humor that resonate with your target audience in a natural and not forced way.
  • Develop a social media personality that feels real and relatable rather than overly corporate or stuffy.

9. Crisis management for next-level customer service

When brands let issues simmer, things don’t take long to escalate. Unaddressed concerns can snowball and send customers into the arms of competitors who don’t leave them on read.

And poof – there goes your brand’s reputation (and profits).

Take Béis. Last year, the luggage and lifestyle brand faced a wave of customer complaints about their travel bags getting dirty and scratched at the airport despite being designed for heavy travel.

Not only did Béis address concerns on its socials, but it went a step further by hosting a “Béis Wash” pop-up that offered to clean the community’s Béis bags for free.

Don’t get us wrong; traditional customer service is practical and time-tested. However, there’s a case to be made for raw, unfiltered accountability and straightforward solutions delivered right to the source (AKA your customer).

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Actively monitor your social media channels to catch concerns before they escalate.
  • Respond to customer issues promptly and transparently, letting customers know when and how you plan to resolve their concerns.
  • Share lessons from past mistakes and how they’ve shaped your business’s practices.

10. The end of third-party cookies

Google recently rolled out updates promising to phase out third-party cookies. While the plan is on hold for now, it’s only a matter of time before they’re gone for good.

Third-party cookies are small pieces of data that websites collect and track to push content based on browsing history. Ever Google something and then see ad after ad for that same thing on Instagram? You can thank third-party cookies for that.

Are third-party cookies inherently bad? We’ll let you decide. In Google’s eyes, the search engine giant wants the internet to feel more private and fair.

Since third-party cookies track your browsing history without you knowing, they want new ways for websites to display relevant content without peeping your every move.

Ways to embrace this trend:

Keep tabs on Google’s third-party cookie phase-out and start exploring alternatives like:

11. SEO takes the wheel

Younger demographics are ditching Google and turning to social media to answer their questions. Now that Google indexes these platforms, it’s essential to merge your search engine optimization (SEO) with your social media marketing strategy.

While social SEO is nothing new, brands must recognize its importance now more than ever.
Why? As the spending power of younger populations continues to grow, they’ll lean more heavily on their go-to platforms to research and shop. If you want them to find you, you’ll need to get strategic with optimizing your socials.

Ways to embrace this trend:

  • Carry your keyword strategy over to your social media content.
  • Engage with other brands to foster inbound links and boost brand awareness.
  • Check out our guide to social SEO to maximize your digital reach.

Social media trends on the horizon

Curious about what the future holds? Goodnough has a few predictions, including a favorable one if your marketing budget can’t afford big creators with huge audiences:

Partnering with micro-influencers

“Another trend in the influencer marketing sphere is tapping into the hyper-engaged micro-influencer audiences,” she says.

“Creators and influencers with smaller followings can still make content that resonates with consumers, and can be especially successful if you find one or two whose values and lifestyles align with your brand.”

Being memorable without spamming

Goudnough says that approximately 20-30% of posts in feeds are now sponsored content. To strike the balance between being memorable and being spammy, she offers a word of advice:

“Brands need to create scroll-stopping ads without being “click-baity” or desperate,” she says.

The resurgence of long-form videos

While short-form video content is having its moment, long-form videos aren’t dead. Just look at TikTok, which originally allowed 7-15-second videos, and has now extended its length to 10 minutes. Instagram Reels also pushed their original 15-second cap to 90 seconds, and even 15 minutes in some cases.

Could long-form video content make a comeback?

Social media infiltrates gaming

According to one report, gaming live streaming is expected to reach 920 million viewers by the end of the year. This presents a massive opportunity to drive social interactions and community engagement. It’ll be interesting to see how brands interweave gaming marketing with social strategies.

Social audio platforms

Following the explosive growth of podcasts comes social audio platforms. These voice-based social networking sites let individuals record and share audio (instead of text, images, or videos) with other users.

Popular platforms include Discord, Clubhouse, Facebook Audio Rooms, and XSpaces (previously Twitter Spaces).

Decentralized platforms rival mainstream platforms

In recent years, Americans have grown increasingly worried about freedom of speech on social media. As a result, many have turned to decentralized social media platforms like Lens Protocol, Mastodon, and Minds for more control and enhanced privacy measures.

“People sell to people, and if a brand hasn’t incorporated human-first or influencer marketing into their strategy, they’re behind,” says Goodnough.

The takeaway

At HawkSEM, we don’t just follow trends — we set them.

We love creating innovative strategies that deliver game-changing ROI for our clients. However, understanding social media trends is essential to identify which strategies help you thrive and which make you obsolete.

Feeling overwhelmed by the ever-changing trends? Goodnough and our social media strategists have your back:

“One of my higher education clients historically had never used UGC from their students,” she recalls. “Last year, they worked with students to create ‘day in the life’ videos to use organically and in ads.”

The results?

Application and enrollment numbers increased year-over-year after leveraging UGC submitted by students, demonstrating the power of sharing relatable, authentic content to spread awareness and build trust,” she shares.

Ready to watch your numbers soar?

It’s time to bring that same energy to your social media strategy. We’re ready when you are!

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

Shire Lyon

Shire Lyon

Shire is a passionate writer and marketer with over eight years of experience as a writer and digital marketer. She's well-versed in SEO, PPC, and social media, helping businesses both big and small grow and scale. On her downtime, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, and sailing.