Keeping up with social trends is bigger than chasing the current song to use in your TikTok content. It means zooming out and looking at shifts in the way we work, what consumers react to and the tools we need to adopt. Because the future of social media marketing is more than posts alone: it impacts your team, customers and business as a whole—both today and in the future.

And perhaps that’s why social media predictions are so interesting and pervasive. Who doesn’t want to know what the future of social media holds?

To find out, we turned to the experts in The Arboretum—Sprout Social’s community of professionals—and beyond to reveal some of the biggest predictions for social in 2024. For a quick look at what to expect this year, and tips to prepare, check out my video below.

Prediction 1: Authenticity will be more important than ever

Authenticity may sound like a buzzword. But it’s only going to be more important to your strategy.

As Carolyn MacLeod, Senior Manager, Social Media at PBS Kids, tells us in the Arb, “Authenticity will continue to be the name of the game, especially as AI becomes a more commonly used tool. In a way, social media managers may want to think more like creators.”

Consumers are only becoming more choosy and wary of content in their feeds. According to The 2023 Sprout Social Index™, authentic, non-promotional content is the number one type of content consumers don’t see enough of from brands on social.

And good old-fashioned responsiveness boosts authentic marketing and trust, too. Carolyn continues, “With the advent of Meta’s Threads, I think we’ll see more of an emphasis on conversation and direct engagement with our audiences. Audiences and Fans are looking for the feeling of engaging with a real person with interests and opinions.”

A Reel on Sprout's Instagram about authenticity. Text on the paused video says, "I know authenticity is a buzzword."

How to prioritize authenticity in your strategy

First things first: What’s authentic for individuals you follow on social won’t seem authentic from a brand. Tactics like shock-jock social marketing may work for some quick impressions, but if you want a lasting impact, you’ll need to think differently.

Bringing more creators into your strategy lends a trusted, familiar voice to your brand and helps you expand your audience. You can also lean on your employees to achieve a similar goal. Prioritizing employee advocacy, proactive engagement and team spotlights can be your secret sauce for keeping it real on social next year and beyond.

You can also spur this connection by simply engaging with your community. According to the Index, 37% of consumers say the most memorable brands on social prioritize engaging with their audience vs. publishing a lot of content. So double down on your customer engagement.

And use your content to provide a peek behind the scenes. Tapping user-generated content also enables you to bring authentic customer reviews, testimonials and content into your strategy.

Prediction 2: Creators and influencers, and knowing how to work with them, will continue to be important

The days of asking, “to work with creators, or not to work with creators?” are ending. The increasing importance and prominence of creators and influencers isn’t going anywhere.

As Oatly Community Manager Paula Perez predicts, “I think brands will finally realize that they need creators much more than creators need them! Now that creators are figuring out how to monetize their platforms beyond just brand partnerships, they’ll become much more selective about which brands they partner with.”

According to our Q3 2023 Sprout Pulse Survey of 307 US-based social marketers, 81% of social marketers say influencer marketing is an essential part of their strategy. And with the rise in the need for authenticity, it’s no wonder why.

How to work with creators as they become more discerning

So how do you meet creators where they are? Perez had some stellar advice: “The best partnerships will allow creators as much creativity and freedom as possible, and authentically fit their interests & audience.”

I think brands will finally realize that they need creators much more than creators need them! Now that creators are figuring out how to monetize their platforms beyond just brand partnerships, they’ll become much more selective about which brands they partner with.
Paula Perez
Community Manager at Oatly

One way to find these authentic partnerships is to find creators and influencers already in your audience. After all, half of marketers say they ensure authenticity in influencer marketing campaigns by choosing influencers who are already fans of their products.

A data visualization with the title, "What steps does your brand take to ensure authenticity in your influencer marketing campaigns?" the data reads as follows: We encourage influencers to share their real experiences with our products/services, 62%. We collaborate closely with influencers on content creation, 59%. We choose influencers who are genuine fans of our brand, 50%. And We prioritize long-term partnerships with influencers over one-off campaigns, 33%.

Social listening platforms are a key way to seek out and find influencers in your audience—even when they don’t tag you. For example, Sprout’s Social Listening enables you to sort posts about your industry, brand and products by the follower count of the person who posted.

A screenshot showing the Messages tab of Sprout's social listening solution. The tab displays messages mentioning the brand or topic. Next to the message, you can see the number of followers the message creator has, which is a great way to find new influencers.

You can also lean on an influencer marketing platform, which over half of marketers do. A tool like Tagger by Sprout Social helps you find and manage your influencer partnerships and campaigns.

Prediction 3: There will be a renewed focus on social media customer service

Customer service and social media go hand-in-hand. According to our Index, over half of customers said the most memorable brands on social simply respond to customers.

And Heidi K, Director of Marketing and Communications in the financial services industry predicts customer service on social will continue to be key. “I’ve noticed customers using social media increasingly for customer service. We currently have one person who oversees our social media, and more of their time is being used to handle customer service issues vs. content creation and strategy.”

The Index also found that in 2024, 36% of teams say their social and customer service teams will split the responsibility of social customer care. So this is your sign to work cross-functionally to ensure both teams have the resources they need to succeed.

How to double down on social media customer service (without burning out)

Consumers are putting an emphasis on personalized responses—which takes time your social and customer service teams may not have.

To free up some of that time, tap AI and automation to take care of tedious or repetitive tasks. This will enable your teams to focus on audience engagement. You can even use AI as a starting point for your copy, then personalize that copy with your own edits.

According to the Index, 54% of marketers plan to use customer self-service tools and resources like FAQs, forms and chatbots to scale modern social customer service. And using AI copy tools gives your teams a starting point for their responses, which they can customize and humanize.

A screenshot of a bot response from Sprout Social's Facebook messenger. The message from Sprout reads, "Hello! We’re so glad you stopped by. What can we help you with today? Want to talk to a human? Rest assured, we’ve got an option for that. Should you ever need to start over, just type “menu” or hit the Restart button." There are options to click on below the message including "Interested in Sprout" and "Need a Human."

Pro tip: It’s best to use a centralized tool to house the resources and data your social and customer care teams need. In Sprout, for example, you can jump between a customizable customer care bot, Copy Suggestions by AI Assist and saved responses in one fell swoop.

A screenshot of the AI assist feature in Sprout. Here, this AI tool is being used to fine-tune a customer care response on social.

Prediction 4: Brands will use a variety of content types

It’s no secret that short-form video has been the king of content recently—for consumers and algorithms alike.

While video is here to stay, it’s time to differentiate your focus. We, along with members of the Arb, predict that in 2024, social pros will use a mix of content—not just video. Just look at how Instagram lessened their focus on Reels in the past year, paving a comeback for static posts.

Focus on diversifying content. Fill your content calendar with a healthy mix of videos plus multi-content carousels and static photo posts. And start to experiment with tailoring posts to feel native to each platform.

A post on Slack's Threads channel that includes a carousel of several photos of an event they held and copy that reads, "Last week, the streets of NY were barking with the sweet sound of #huddlesmusic. Thanks for all of our furry, and not-so furry friends, for joining us."

How to tailor content for each platform in a sustainable way

Creating custom posts for each platform is a lot to ask. Instead, repurpose copy and content for each platform vs. creating unique posts. For example, a lengthy LinkedIn poll and post can be shortened into an engaging Instagram Story with a poll sticker.

Pro tip: Schedule your content ahead of time. This ensures you publish your tailored posts without needing to jump between those platforms when it’s time to push them live. Using a tool that combines your social content calendar and publishing functions, like Sprout, enables you to get a holistic view of what’s going out on each channel and what to repurpose.

A screenshot of the publishing calendar in Sprout Social that demonstrates a week view of all outgoing posts.

Prediction 5: Data usage will become more sophisticated and cross-functional

Social media pros have always known the importance of using data. But we predict the use of that data is evolving—both inside social teams, and out.

As Brittany Weinzierl, Assistant Director of Digital Engagement at the Air Force Academy Association and Foundation, predicts in the Arb, 2024 will include evolving your use of analytics and metrics. “As social media marketing becomes more sophisticated, there may be a shift toward advanced analytics and metrics to measure campaign performance accurately. SMMs will need to adapt to these changes to make data-driven decisions.”

We already see social teams planning to use their data to connect their efforts to larger goals. In 2024, 60% of marketers plan to connect the value of social to business goals by quantifying the value of social engagement in terms of potential revenue impact, according to the Index. And a similar percentage of marketers plan to track conversions and sales resulting from social efforts.

A green graphic from The 2023 Sprout Social Index™ listing the top ways marketers plan on connecting the value of social go business goals in 2024.

We also predict sharing social data outside of the marketing team will become more common. Business leaders are more aware of how social data has cross-org implications. And the Index also found that 76% of marketers agree their team’s social insights inform other departments.

Paula Perez of Oatly predicts this will be the case for the community side of social, as well. “Community Managers will be recognized for all the valuable insights they can provide internally, and community teams will serve as a center of insights & knowledge for other teams (comms, PR, creative, even sales and HR). CMs know your audience’s pain points, preferences and even their other favorite brands & interests better than anyone – it’s time to fully tap into those insights!”

The takeaway? You’ll need to become more sophisticated with the use of social data on your team and find new ways to share it.

How to get more sophisticated with your data, and how to share it

The more sophisticated your use of data, the more specific your reports should be. Creating custom reports for your specific purposes and for other teams is your key to success.

A screenshot of Sprout's customized reporting capabilities. This custom report is a Facebook summary of impressions, engagement, post-click links and publishing behavior.

Tap into data storytelling to make your data make sense; both to your team and to other departments. Data visualizations package your data in a visual, easy-to-digest format.

Finally, consider leveling up how you gather data. Adopting a social media listening tool, like Sprout’s, can help you gather higher-level insights, for your team and beyond. Think: product insights, competitive analysis and audience sentiment.

A screenshot of the sentiment summary in Sprout's social listening solution. In the middle of the report is a chart that shows how much positive and negative sentiment there is for the brand. On the right side of the report are messages and their assigned sentiment type. This empowers you to explore what messages and customer feedback is impacting your brand's sentiment.

Prediction 6: Optimizing existing platforms

First TikTok, then Threads—social teams are no strangers to adopting and investing in new platforms.

New platforms are worth jumping on and experimenting with—but not at the expense of the platforms where you’ve built an engaged audience.

In 2024, we predict that teams will focus on optimizing and investing in the platforms they’re already on—including newer ones like Threads and TikTok. And that even if a flashy new platform emerges, the focus will be on existing accounts. And we saw members of the Arb predict this, as well.

How to optimize your existing social profiles

Your social data will be vital to refreshing your network approach this coming year.

Take a look at long-term trends in individual network performance. If you’re using Sprout, use the Cross Channel Profile Performance Report to compare trends in growth and engagement. This report will help you dig into both high and low performers.

A screenshot of the Sprout Social Profile Performance Report, which displays impressions, engagements, post link clicks and changes in audience growth.

Prediction 7: The future of AI in social media will remain top-of-mind

The future of AI in social media is already here—according to the Index, 81% of marketers say AI has already had a positive impact on their work.

Today, the conversation around “should I use AI?” has evolved into questions about AI ethics and how to craft effective AI prompts. And we predict the way marketers use it and the thoughtfulness behind it will stay top-of-mind.

The use of AI in social media marketing was an overwhelming prediction Arb members contributed to this thread. In 2024, AI will continue to be an important tool for social marketers to adopt. But audiences and marketers alike are already wary of AI-generated language and the impact it has on trust. So we also predict that social teams will need to make sure they use it responsibly, and preserve an authentic, personalized brand voice.

How to bring AI tools into your strategy

We already mentioned how and where to bring AI tools into your workflows. But this is your sign to also bring AI tools into your strategy in a responsible way.

We’ve heard the fears surrounding brand safety when it comes to AI tools. So take the safe route; Work with your legal team to create an AI use policy to protect your brand, and the people on your team.

And be sure to adjust and edit any AI-generated copy to match your brand voice and, in customer care responses, to be personalized and human.

Get ahead of the future of social media marketing now

The world of social media is constantly changing. And so too are the ways social marketers and teams work.

But we’re an adaptive bunch. And you’re ready for what 2024 and beyond holds for you. Use the predictions in this article to stay ahead of the future of social media today, and prepare your strategy for whatever tomorrow holds.

The best way to stay ahead of social media’s changes is to connect with other social pros and to keep learning. Join our community of social media marketers in The Arboretum to stay ahead of the future of social media with exclusive webinars, stimulating conversation topics, job postings and more.