The wild west of social media is coming to an end. A report looking ahead at digital trends in 2020 warns marketers that new rules and laws are being implemented by authorities, creators and users on social media platforms. 

Social creative agency We Are Social’s report Think Forward argues that both platforms and their community of users are ready to enforce the new rules and marketers need to work within the emerging constraints. 

According to the report, 2019 was the year the public started to act on their privacy concerns about social media platforms.  

Tired of the constant surveillance, the report identified that users are starting to shut down social media accounts or changing settings to control who views and comments on their posts. 

Marketers are advised to adapt their strategies to engage with the public in private social channels. For example, Starbucks is experimenting with how private groups on social media platforms can benefit their product development by interacting with customers on a more private level. The public can then provide the brand with honest feedback.

The report also chastised brands for taking creators’ content and claiming it as their own. 

“Brands and accounts are amassing fortunes from stolen and rehashed content without paying any mind to its creator,” the report author wrote.

After years of making a profit by removing creators’ handles from memes and posting them on its own accounts, Jerry Media became the target of the campaign #fuckfuckjerry in 2019 with comedians fighting back against stealing jokes. 

New businesses are emerging to counter this trend. For example, copyright content monitor platform Patreon enables fans to support creators by funding content in exchange for exclusive perks. This ensures that a fan’s most-liked creator gets the recognition and revenue they deserve. 

We Are Social urged caution when monetising or piggybacking off content for marketing purposes. “Making the wrong move and choosing profit over community may undermine not only internet culture but the online perception of your brand,” the report states. 

Brands also need to think about authenticity when using influencers. The report recommends marketers to understand that influencers are not always influential and that brands need to pay more attention to the connection between the influencer and their audience instead of the message. 

“Brands should validate the power of the community prior to working with any influencer and think about how the community can help them generate a specific insight, as well as where they’ll hit along the customer journey,” the report said. 

The public is becoming more cynical of branded content and there is a growing backlash against influencer culture. For example @world_record_egg — an Instagram post about how many likes an image of an egg could receive that beat the world record of Kylie Jenner’s post — “is part of the shitposting phenomenon, which has gained traction in response to the vacuity of influencer marketing.”

The report noted a growing body of online content exists primarily to poke fun at the vacuous nature of influencer culture and encouraged brands to subvert influencer tropes to generate impact. For example, alcohol brand Kahlúa created an anti- influence exhibition of Instagram photos that got zero likes in New York, as well as developing a digital tool called #BottomNine, which lets people login via Facebook to find – and repost – their nine least-liked photos on Instagram. 

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