By Conner Galway

1. We’re going to have a debate about the ethics of AI in marketing

At the tail end of 2022, OpenAi’s new tool, ChatGPT, sparked a flurry of attention across social media, with people creating funny/amazing screenshots that stretched our imagination about what’s possible with Artificial Intelligence. Now that we’ve become a bit more used to its capabilities, the conversation is going to shift to its ethics. Specifically, we’ll be having heated debates that include some, or more than, the following:

If AI can create a million variants of an ad, then test and iterate it in real time, is that manipulation, or just good advertising?

If AI can write tweets as well — or better than — a human, is it ok to have it run the whole account without telling anyone?

What about chatbots — if they write like humans, do we have to disclose that they’re not?

Is it ok to have AI write all of your work reports for you? If they do, do you have to tell your boss?

If you have AI create a song, who owns the rights?

The education industry is one of the first to grapple with these questions — see how they’re handling it.

2. There’s going to be (even more) recommended content on FB & IG

In 2022, Facebook and Instagram saw their first real competition take a significant chunk out of their market share. In the past, every time that a new startup threatened Meta’s dominance, they simply ripped off its core features and doomed it to second-tier status. This time they haven’t been so successful — Reels is much less popular than TikTok and there’s mounting negative sentiment about the way that Instagram & Facebook serve up content to audiences; However, according to Zuck, they aren’t shying away from an algorithmically-driven future:

“What’s basically going to happen is that, over the next year or two, we’ll start showing more recommended content in the Feed. And we’ll know that we’re doing a good job because the content in the beginning is going to displace some other content, and either displacing that content is going to lead to negative feedback from people, and lead to people connecting with each other less in all the metrics that we focus on, or it will actually lead to people connecting more and being more satisfied with the product.”

Meta’s attempt to become more TikTok-like is going to impact everything from the way we interact with our friends, to the way we think about content marketing. Whether it will be successful or not is very much yet to be determined.

3. Facebook is going to launch a Twitter rival

“Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back” appeared in an internal brainstorm board where Meta leadership was debating how to remain relevant in the current landscape. Both the comments about Twitter and Meta are undoubtedly true, but it remains to be seen whether the world wants another stream-of-consciousness app. A quote from Casey Newton’s recent article on Platformer seems pretty confident:

“Meta will launch a Twitter feed, probably as a secondary brand. They can’t buy Mastodon, Post News or Parler, so most likely they will build a simple feed that they will keep separate from FB and IG. They will then find a way for folks to import their Twitter social graph into this new app.”

The bottom line is that none of the other platforms can come close to competing with Twitter when it comes to breaking news and other real-time content, so if Meta does make a serious play, we may end up with an alternative to whatever it is that Elon’s up to.

4. VR-based content is coming to your newsfeed

For a company whose demise is being so enthusiastically predicted, there certainly is a lot of talk about what Meta is getting up to this year. That is, perhaps, because it’s one of the only companies that seems to be releasing new products and features on a regular basis. This one is a double-down on Zuck’s massive bet on his version of the metaverse. Coming soon to Horizon Worlds (Meta’s VR universe) users will be able to capture short clips and images to share directly as Reels.

Whether or not this specific application becomes popular, it seems likely that we’ll start seeing high-quality clips from VR experiences appearing in newsfeeds everywhere very soon.

5. User-friendly AR tools

Perhaps the most under-appreciated technology of 2022, Augmented Reality is becoming more user-friendly every day, and the tools to create AR content are about to make creativity much more accessible. We’ve seen various AR tools since as early as 2012, when Yelp launched a map of local businesses that could be viewed through your camera, effectively creating overlays of business listings that appear in real-time in the real world. Since then, other applications have shown up in the form of virtual try-ons (Warby Parker, etc.), semi-real art (Burberry), and enhanced shopping (Walmart), but it’s been only the big brands that have really made use of the technology.

The upcoming release of AR Studio, and other similar tools, will make it almost as easy to create an AR-element as it it to design an IG post in Canva. When it comes to emerging technology, sometimes it just takes a bit of user-friendliness to spark a creative surge, and it seems that we may just be on the crest of that wave.

6. The “Free Speech” platforms will either fail, or become non-profits

“You cannot reasonably expect to collect any meaningful advertising revenue if you do not promise those advertisers ‘brand safety.’ That means you have to ban racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total assholes. So you can make all the promises about ‘free speech’ you want, but the dull reality is that you still have to ban a bunch of legal speech if you want to make money.” — Nilay Patel

Much has been made of the free speech debate on social media platforms. Wherever you come down, one thing has been proven: Unmoderated social media is bad for business. Rumble, Parler, Gab, Gettr, and more alternatives have made a lot of noise with their launches, but there’s one thing that none of them have been able to make: Money. Unregulated platforms are dangerous places for brands to be, and it’s therefore very difficult to attract advertising dollars. Instead, it seems pretty clear that the future of for-profit social media sites is going to include a certain level of moderation and house rules.

The alternative, of course, is to follow the Wikipedia model — operating as a public good, accountable to no shareholders or market forces. There are examples of that model working already: Messaging app Signal and open-source social media site Mastodon are alive and well, but because they don’t have profits to report, they also don’t have incentive to invest in things like hyper-growth or advertising campaigns,

Expect to see a slow and steady movement to non-profit social media outlets for those who seek them out, but their growth certainly shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the big incumbents.

7. Linkedin will become increasingly more relevant

There are two major forces driving this one: First, as we know, layoffs and other tough economic times mean that more people will be looking to boost their digital resumes, which of course happens on Linkedin.

The second one is less data-driven, but is about the types of interactions that people are looking for online. There is a sense of fatigue about what goes on in the replies on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other social platforms. For the most part, Linkedin is a much more positive place, where people generally share messages of support and encouragement. While it’s far from perfect, the desire for non-toxic interactions may be driving some of the growth that Linkedin has been seeing recently.

8. Live-stream shopping is coming, especially on TikTok

For the past several years we’ve been hearing reports of Billions of dollars of sales happening via live streamed shopping experiences in Asia, but the behaviour just hasn’t been adopted the same way in North America. That may be changing as TikTok becomes more universally adopted. TikTok has all of the tools and experience necessary to provide a best-in-class experience, while at the same time, millions of North Americans have become accustomed to live streaming in general via platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

Watch for TikTok’s Creator Fund and other revenue-sharing efforts to support its live streaming effort because, when it comes to marketing content, trends tend to follow the money.

Conner Galway is the Founder of Junction Consulting, a digital consulting firm that specializes in tourism and hospitality. He’s also the President of eLearningU, North America’s largest learning platform for tourism marketing, author of The Brief, an award-winning digital business newsletter, and the most recent recipient of Marketing News Canada’s Leadership Award.

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