How social media use is changing

3 minute read

BeReal is the ‘anti-Instagram’

On the afternoon of New Year’s Day 2023, 18-year-old twins sitting at a dining table in suburban South Manchester put down their knives and forks and each took a selfie with their smartphone – no fuss, no posing, no group shot; just two fresh-faced young people joining their elders for a festive lunch.

True story, I was there, writes our PR and copywriter Nigel Wareing. But what’s the significance?

If ever there was a physical embodiment of how social media is changing, that was it. They explained to their fellow diners, mostly baby-boomers born in the 50s and 60s, along with their 80-odd-year-old gran, this was BeReal.

BeReal is the ‘anti-Instagram’ – realness instead of ‘Insta-filter’. The idea of this app is quite simple: once a day, at an unspecified time, it asks for a photo. This must actually be taken with a smartphone, front and rear camera triggered simultaneously, there and then, and posted. Job done.

It wasn’t just the embodiment of one new trend, but two: it’s indicative of a new social media standard for authenticity and realness, not just anti-Insta but anti-fake news, anti-deep fake.

Data from Google shows Gen Z, in which our aforementioned twins are firmly ensconced, is a major driver in creating new trends in social media. Let’s take a closer look.


Blog image 1

How generations see the internet differently

According to recent data shared by Google, nearly half of young people look to TikTok or Instagram instead of Google search or Google maps when they’re looking for something or somewhere, thus creating an expectation that the number of Google searches in 2023 will fall for the first time since 2018.

The research found that while Gen Z are more likely to buy online than baby boomers, they’re less likely to describe purchasing as a top benefit of the internet (25% vs 44%). Instead, community and interests are given a lot more credence (23% vs 10%). In other words, younger audiences start their searches from a place of curiosity and expect to be sped on a fun rollercoaster of new ideas, rather than directed to a list of brands or products. 

What’s that telling us? It’s the older generation that relies on using search engines, while the fundamental way the internet is used by younger people will continue to evolve, adding even more weight to the principle that successful marketing is based on knowing and engaging with your audience.

What’s eating Google?

According to marketing guru Neil Wilkins, TikTok and Reddit are eating away at Google search, while TikTok, Reels and YouTube Shorts get 50+ billion views worldwide every day – seven years ago this content category didn’t exist, and advertisers are still catching up.

Now, this might sound like a contradiction in terms, given what we’ve just said about the potential for declining numbers of Google searches, but YT Shorts are now appearing in Google search results too, providing another channel for marketers to think about.

A word of warning though, and some sage advice, courtesy of SocialMediaExaminer, which says: “Do what’s right for you and don’t follow the crowd. Not every person or brand has the personality to be goofy on TikTok. But everyone can probably be educational or informal. Instead of shooting for a style you don’t find comfortable, find what you can provide via video that’s useful to the audience you’re trying to reach.”

Blog image 2

Is the cookie crumbling?

2023 was finally meant to bring the long-delayed demise of third-party cookies but once again Google has delayed the end of cookies until 2024 to allow testing and uptake of its Privacy Sandbox APIs.

While consumers are concerned about the lack of privacy cookies bring, 70% of advertisers feel that digital advertising overall will take a step backward because of their removal, according to the listening and analytics platform Talkwalker, which has worked with Khoros, an award-winning customer engagement platform, to provide insights into 2023’s social media trends.

The clock is ticking, and new alternatives must be activated sooner rather than later.

Dr Karen Sutherland, a senior lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, tells Talkwalker: “…The continued limitations placed on the capacity to target (and retarget), it has become more important than ever for businesses to foster authentic relationships with customers by providing relevant problem-solving content, positive interactions (online and offline) and building their email lists to communicate directly with consumers.”


Keep it real, keep it transparent

We’ve already spoken about BeReal, but as a new kid on the social media block, businesses and marketers are still trying to work out its potential, especially as its popularity continues to increase steadily.

Again, at the risk of repeating ourselves, it’s growing popularity is indicative of the broader trend for realness and transparency.

According to SocialMediaExaminer, ‘authenticity rules over curated perfection’.

And the InfluencerMarketingHub says: “Consumers nowadays demand authenticity from brands, with 86% of consumers saying that transparency has now become more important than ever. Aside from transparency, today’s consumers expect businesses to nurture authentic human connections and build an emotional connection to a brand.”

With confidence in customer reviews declining due to negative media coverage such as this by the BBC, ‘TripAdvisor defends itself in fake reviews row’, vet your reviews diligently.


What’s the next big thing?

BeReal is also an example of a growing number of decentralised social networks, which are expected to be the next big thing.

For example, is an open-source alternative to popular social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, while Mastodon is quickly becoming a Twitter alternative. One of the benefits of these decentralised networks is that it gives you – and us – the opportunity to do our work without the shadow of Big Brother algorithms.

This trend is emerging amid growing concern about the lack of control the individual has on their social media network(s) of choice. Decisions are determined by those that run the network. Consumers rarely have any say.

The rise of decentralised social networks will enable more user control, making the big hitters sit up and take notice. Expect to see major social platforms tackling more of the issues consumers raise and possibly putting power into the hands of their users.


Blog image 3

Adding a fourth P to the rule of thirds

This is the year when the rule of thirds social media content balance of personal, point, and promote is joined by planet.

Growing awareness of rising global temperatures means consumers are now increasingly mindful of the direct repercussions their buying decisions could make to climate change. There’s a genuine concern for humanity’s impact on our planet.

The expectation is that every brand needs to make a concerted effort to make a difference. And that doesn’t mean lip service and buzzwords.

As awareness grows, more and more companies are being called out for ‘green-washing’ – not a good look on social media.

According to Talkwalker, 82% of consumers want businesses to put people and the planet before profit. Now there’s a marketing challenge with another P – purpose!


Blog image 5

It’s space Jim, but not as we know it


Okay, Dr Spock didn’t really say that to Captain Kirk in Star Trek (in fact, he said nothing of the sort, it’s a popular misquote), but our misquote of a misquote is a good way of describing the growing influence of the Metaverse.

Of course, the space in question is the internet and the Metaverse with its multi-sensory social media is the catalyst of a market believed to be worth about $800 billion, according to PR Week. Some brands are already on board this Starship Enterprise, such as Klarna, for example. Expect more to follow.

And while we’re in the realms of making the stuff of sci-fi reality, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) will have roles to play in the evolution of social media.

The number of marketing applications that now integrate AI has been increasing in recent years and we expect that to continue in 2023.

Many content marketers are already utilising some types of AI content generators to help speed up their workflows and still create original, quality content in the process.

Here are some of the more helpful applications of these tools:

  • Content briefs: Content tools that generate content briefs can help writers understand the important keywords, topics, and subtopics that should be included in their original content.
  • Content outlines: Outlines are a great way to give writers a roadmap for how to create helpful content without relying on AI to do the work for them.
  • Content ideas: Tools like blog topic generatorscan speed up the brainstorming process. Moving from a keyword to a helpful content idea can be half the battle, and an idea generator can help prevent writer’s block.

Predictive analytics, meanwhile, isn’t new. It’s been used in underwriting and credit scoring for several years, using existing big data to predict potential future outcomes.

We’ll see more marketing and social media professionals start to integrate predictive analytics into their processes. Social listening can quickly and easily provide big data, and now we’ll see the AI capabilities catch up to provide accurate and valuable predictions.

What can Cornerstone do for you?

You name it, our digital team can do it. And as a full-service agency, we have all the tools – expertise and creativity within marketing strategy, design, digital, PR and even print production – to meet all your social media marketing needs.

Our social media marketing activity for one client has seen their Facebook page following grow 6,500 – a 9% year-on-year (YoY) increase. In one month, the page reached 183,000 followers – a 22% increase YoY. It included 96,959 from paid reach and 92,187 from organic reach.

If you’d like to know more about how our social media team can help your business or organisation

Social media servicesGet in touch with us