We’re nearing the end of yet another year, and what a chaotic 12 months it’s been for the major social networks. Meta continued its gradual decline, TikTok continues to rise, and Twitter is right now in the midst of a chaotic management shift, which could basically see anything happen at the app.
With all that’s going on, it’s difficult to predict what might be coming next, but we’ll give it a shot, with our 2023 predictions for each of the major social apps.
Of course, nobody knows for sure what’s coming, but we’re pretty in tune with the latest shifts, more so than most. And while you’re not going to get any crazy, brain-reading, far-off forecasts of a distant future here, what you will get is some solid, realistic and viable potential changes coming your way over the next year.
So, let’s get into it, starting with everyone’s formerly favorite social network Facebook.
It’s been a hard year for Zuckerberg’s first social app, with big blue falling out of favor with young users, losing ad dollars to Apple’s ATT update and suffering from something of an identity crisis in the shadow of the TikTok shift.
As TikTok’s short-form, algorithm-led approach has changed consumption behaviors across the board, Facebook has been the biggest loser – but Zuck and Co. say that they have a plan to get things back on track. Maybe.
Here’s what we see coming next:
More posts recommended by AI
Yes, you’re going to see more and more content from Pages and people that you don’t follow infiltrating your Facebook feed.
Zuckerberg has said this straight up, noting in a recent interview with The Verge that:
“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.”
This trend stems from TikTok, which focuses on showing you the best content from all users, as opposed to pushing you to build your own social graph. That enables TikTok to maximize user engagement, because your feed mix isn’t limited to updates from certain profiles that you choose, while it also provides more exposure potential for creators, who are then able to have their posts seen by a lot more people, outside of their own audience.
Zuckerberg believes that Facebook actually has an advantage in this respect, because on Facebook, users aren’t restricted to just short-form video content, you can also be served images, text posts, links, news updates, group updates, long-form video and more.
Zuck’s view is that this will give Facebook a leg-up, if it can get its content recommendations right. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, and as Zuck notes, the usage metrics will tell the tale either way. But at least in the early part of 2023, your Facebook feed is increasingly going to be filled with posts from Pages and people that you’ve never heard of.
Eventually, Zuckerberg’s view is that 40% of the content in your main Facebook feed will come from Pages you don’t follow.
For brands, that could also mean expanded opportunity, as Facebook’s algorithms will look to show your best-performing posts to even more people, even those outside of your current audience.
At the same time, Facebook has also moved away from promoting external links (because they want more people to spend more time in FB) – but maybe, if you can lean into content that generates more engagement on Facebook, likes memes and audience questions, that might then boost brand awareness and get more people following your other posts as well.
It could be an opportunity, but again, it’s not clear that Facebook users are going to warm to this approach – because they haven’t yet.
Family and Friends Redux
The flow-on impact of this could be that Facebook looks to find another way to better highlight posts from family and friends, which has always been the app’s bread and butter.
Facebook’s key differentiator, and why it still provides significant utility, is your social graph, and the fact that you need to go to Facebook to check in on the latest updates from friends, family and your groups. Other apps can’t compete on this – but in recent years, that’s become less valuable, because people are posting less, and other apps provide more entertainment.
Which is really the key shift. TikTok actually doesn’t call itself a social media app, it says that it’s an ‘entertainment platform’, and it’s that shift away from the social element that’s pushed Facebook out of favor – because people just don’t use these apps to engage with their friends and family in the same way as they once did.
Now, according to Meta, most engagement actually happens in DMs, with people finding entertaining content in the feed, then sharing that with their close connections in private chats. That avoids judgment, and argument around the same, but it also means that people aren’t as engaged in Facebook as they once were.
But you still need to go to Facebook to check in on the latest updates from your nearest and dearest, because that’s still where the big news is posted, and no other app is able to match Facebook on this element.
As such, I suspect, at some stage, Meta may look to better highlight the key updates from family and friends in the app, before guiding you into its AI content recommendations.
Facebook already has alternate news feeds, following the introduction of its ‘Home’ and ‘Feeds’ tabs back in July (with Feeds being where you can find posts from friends), but I don’t know that people are using this element.
At some stage, I think Facebook will look to showcase the latest posts from friends and family up front, in your main feed, with an indicator at the end of that stream signaling that you’ve seen all the key updates.
Meta really wants to get people excited about the metaverse, and one way to do that is to integrate its digital avatars into more places in the app.
By promoting the use of avatars as a form of digital identity, Meta can encourage more people to engage through their digital characters, which will be a key part of metaverse engagement.
There are also expanded opportunities in sponsored items for avatars, themed costumes, new ways to connect and engage within the digital space.
Expect Meta to start pushing avatars as a key way to connect and engage, from video chats to posts, to status updates, and onto the metaverse itself.
Click to message ads
As noted, with more and more engagement happening in DMs, Meta’s going to look to highlight more tools to help brands lean into this shift.
Meta recently highlighted the growth in Click to Message ads, both for Messenger and WhatsApp, to drive this behavior, and marketers should expect to see even more ad options that align with this habitual change.
Do people really want to engage with brands in their DMs? We’ll find out, and it could be a great way to build more direct connection, via the messaging platforms that people are already using.
Expect to see more Facebook ad options that promote DM connection, and new tools for brands that will better facilitate response.
Posts from VR
Another way for Meta to promote its metaverse shift will be via posts from VR, including its already announced share to Reels from VR option.
These posts essentially highlight the range of experiences available within its VR environment, and while it has also faced heavy criticism over just how bad its current Horizon Worlds experience looks, there are some pretty amazing VR apps and effects available, which could help to boost hype around the next stage.
Expect Meta to provide new options to share from VR, including video chats and direct posting options, which will work to showcase what people are doing, and what you might be missing in the VR space.
Augmented Reality Experiences
With many people already out on the metaverse, Meta will also look to boost awareness of its other next-stage development, in AR glasses and posts, which will provide a range of new functionalities and in-app experiences.
Meta’s AR glasses are still in development, but with it now having a more established product supply chain for its Ray Ban Stories glasses, it seems like we’re not far from the next stage, with AR-enabled glasses likely to be launched for consumers sometime in the second half of next year.
Worth noting here that Meta has projected a 2024 release date for its AR-enabled glasses. But with positive feedback on its initial testing models, and challenges for its VR space not likely to ease up anytime soon, Meta may look to push its AR glasses, at least in an early preview, to regain momentum for its next-gen push.
If Meta can get in early, and own this space, that could be a big boost for its broader metaverse plans, while you can also expect Meta to start pushing more AR tools on Facebook and Instagram as well, as it looks to get more creators and brands engaged in 3D object creation, a key step for the metaverse.
Instagram has also been in a state of confusion, as it looks to keep up with the latest consumption trends and habits.
Copying TikTok at every turn, Instagram is desperate to fend off competition, and that, seemingly, has worked thus far, with the app recently reporting that it’s now up to 2 billion monthly active users.
But will that keep working – will copying every trending functionality from every trending app ensure that Instagram maintains its position as an essential social app, or are users already tiring of the replication, and the cluttering of the once simple, photography-focused platform?
Here’s what’s likely coming next at the app:
More AI-recommended content – and more Reels
Just like Facebook, Instagram too is leaning into AI content recommendations to maximize user engagement – though that hasn’t been a totally welcome addition.
Back in July, following complaints from various high-profile users, Instagram announced that it was scaling back the amount of AI-recommended posts in user feeds ‘till it could get it right’, and ensure users were having a good experience as a result of this process.
It’s a big change for Instagram, because your main feed is now a mess of old and new posts, along with random updates from pages you’re not following.
Basically, right now, it doesn’t seem to be working, but Instagram is keen to show people more of the best content from across the app, with a specific focus on highlighting creators, which it also sees as a critical driver moving forward.
If Instagram can better ingratiate itself with creators, that will see more of them posting more often – while the longer term view is that by engaging creators in its apps now, Meta can then use that as a lever to get more of these users interested in creating in the metaverse as well.
As such, Instagram really wants its AI-recommendations to work, while Reels is also its fastest-growing content format, so you can expect to see more random updates, and more Reels, in more places in the app.
Like Facebook, it’s not clear yet that this will work for IG. But they’re going to push it either way.
Expect, also, that Instagram will revisit its full-screen feed test, maybe with selected users who engage with Reels/Stories more often.
Next level integrations
As noted, Instagram, with its more creative ethos, and connection to talent, is also a key bridge between the current state and the metaverse – which is why IG is so keen to establish stronger systems for creators.
With this in mind, expect Instagram to add-in new forms of content creation in 2023, including AR and 3D posts, further integration of NFT art, and other new content forms that can be showcased in the app.
By providing more ways for creators to create and showcase these next-level types of art, that can help Meta guide them into creation in the metaverse – because Meta knows that if it wants users to get more interested in the VR realm, it needs to create engaging, enticing experiences.
Its internal engineers won’t be as good at this as external creative talent, and Instagram is its best meeting point to win over digital artists.
Expect to see new creation tools, like GIFs generated from Live Photos on IG, and also, the integration of 3D creation tools from its Spark AR platform directly into Instagram itself.
Imagine being able to make AR activations direct from the creative tools in the app.
It’s a big integration, but if Meta wants to usher in the next cohort of artistic talent, these are the types of steps that it will need to take to encourage participation and development.
AR and more interactive ads
Which then leads into new opportunities for brands, in AR ads and interactive ad formats that will engage users in all new ways.
Other platforms are already experimenting with this, and again, as Meta seeks to guide users into the next stage, these types of next-level ads will be a key stepping stone, while also facilitating the creation of more 3D models for the metaverse space.
Expect to see new AR ad formats coming from IG, along with enhanced scanning tools and ingestion processes to help more brands lean into this next-level shift.
While it hasn’t taken off as yet, Instagram is still experimenting with live-stream shopping, which has been huge in some other markets.
At some stage, I expect Instagram to make a bigger push on this, potentially via a new tab in the app, which will open a full-screen, always-on feed of live shopping content.
If that becomes a bigger enticement, that could be a big earner for the app, while also boosting its in-stream commerce capabilities.
Expect to see a bigger announcement on live shopping on IG sometime early in 2023.
This is the absolute hardest to predict – because who the heck knows what’s coming next under new Chief Twit Elon Musk?
Musk has laid out various vague plans, none of which seem set in stone, while he’s also, reportedly, set to replace entire management and engineering teams at the app. Which means that anything might be possible, and nothing from Twitter’s past really sets any precedent.
As such, these predictions could be wildly off, but based on what we’ve currently seen from Musk…
Bigger subscription push
Musk has repeatedly noted that he wants to use subscriptions as a means to boost Twitter’s revenue, while also providing another layer to rid the app of bots, a key focus in his approach.
So how will he do that?
There are various ideas on this, but it seems most likely that Musk will look to charge business users a monthly fee to use the app, by enticing them with improved analytics features and insights.
Which is totally possible. Twitter removed a heap of analytics features back in 2020, and has never replaced them, while the amount of third-party Twitter apps that offer better functionality than Tweetdeck or its internal analytics tools is significant.
If Musk’s new team took cues from these tools, and integrated them into an improved Twitter Analytics offering, then pitched that as a service, along with access to its current suite of Professional Profile display options, that would likely be something that many businesses would pay for.
Musk has also floated the idea of charging users a small fee to tweet, which he then backed away from at a later stage, while he’s also, reportedly, considering charging users with verified ticks a monthly fee to keep them.
Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 3, 2022
I think he’s right to not charge regular users, as that will impede growth, and I don’t think people will care enough about the prestige of the blue tick to pay for it alone.
But if there are packages of add-on functionalities and tools, better than the current Twitter Blue offering, then there may be a way for Elon and Co. to generate more money from monthly subscribers – but it will likely require an improved offering, not simply charging people to tweet.
Either way, Musk has mentioned this as an option, many times, so we’re going to see what they can come up with to make people pay to use the app.
Additional verification ticks
Along a similar line, Musk has also been trying to work out a way to ‘authenticate all real humans’ in order to better highlight bot profiles in the app.
I suspect that the best way to do this will be through a verification process, where users confirm their identity via phone number or other details. And from that, Musk and Co. could implement an alternative verification process, where users who have confirmed their details get a gray tick or similar.
Facebook implemented a gray tick process for the same purpose, in order to ensure that businesses were owned by real people, and weren’t scammers in the app. Facebook has since removed them, but it could be a way for Musk and his team to add an extra level of verification into the app, ensuring that more people could confirm that they are real people, and making it a little harder for spammers and scammers to drive influence with bots.
I mean, it wouldn’t stop bots outright, but it could make them a lot easier to spot.
This has been another pet project for Musk, implementing a way for users to get a better understanding of how algorithms dictate their Twitter experience, by giving them the option to choose which algorithmic elements influence their tweet feed, and enabling them to control their own experience, to some degree.
There are some interesting ideas on this, but I think the bigger challenge will be in actually getting people to undertake the process of selecting and implementing algorithmic modifiers – because most people just want to log in and see what’s happening, then and there.
Jack Dorsey’s new decentralized social network project provides some interesting food for thought on this element, and there may be a means to implement some elements of this within the Twitter experience. But for all the efforts, I don’t think this is going to form a significant part of the Twitter experience for the majority of users.
There could be a way to simplify and enhance this in the app, but trying to get users to engage in increasingly technical elements, in order to define their experience, doesn’t seem like a path to UI improvement.
Trial and error
Another element that Musk has repeatedly noted is his push for ‘free speech’ in the app, and allowing all types of comments that are within legal grounds, as opposed to implementing restrictions or limits based on internal parameters.
Musk has already taken a step back on this, noting late last week that Twitter will implement a new ‘content moderation council’, integrating diverse viewpoints, to make important decisions on such cases. But it does seem, one way or another, that Twitter’s approach to what is and is not allowed in the app will change under Elon and Co., which could lead to various experiments and shifts along the way.
Because Musk is in a pretty untenable position on this front.
As Nilay Patel from The Verge recently noted, every right wing, ‘free speech’ platform that’s come along in recent times has eventually realized that a) they can’t make money without moderation, and b) most people don’t actually want to be confronted with the worst of humanity.
As per Patel:
“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.”
Musk could, of course, lessen this burden if he can make more money from subscriptions, but eventually, Musk will find that he needs to lean more towards moderation than away from it if he wants to maximize Twitter as a business.
Musk, specifically, will also face various difficult questions on this due to conflicts with his other business, Tesla.
Tesla relies on China for a huge chunk of its business, while he’s also, more recently, been looking to build his opportunities in India. Both regions have clashed with Twitter in the past about perceived censorship and keeping the platform within the local rules around content.
The governments in each region will have even more leverage over Musk in this respect, which could make for some very difficult compromises in how Twitter operates internationally.
With all this in mind, you can expect Twitter to try some things, then revert back, then make compromises that essentially take it back to what it was before Elon took over.
The bottom line is that while right-wing free speech activists are excited about their new opportunities to say horrible things via tweet, I suspect that enthusiasm will be short-lived.
The opportunity of payments
There’s another angle to the Musk takeover that I hadn’t considered, and honestly, don’t fully understand as yet, and that’s the potential to use the platform as a vehicle to facilitate payments, likely via cryptocurrency.
Musk made his initial fortune as a co-founder of PayPal, so payments has played a big part in his professional experience, while he’s also an active proponent of crypto, especially his beloved Dogecoin.
The view is that Musk could use the network effects of Twitter to scale payments on a whole new level, and provide improved remittance and transfer services to many more users, even those who can’t access banks, via Twitter made accessible through Starlink.
Crypto is largely a project in developed nations, with no true, practical purpose to drive widespread adoption. But in many other regions, where banks and fiduciary processes are not as advanced, or even existent, there could be big potential to pitch Twitter as a new banking service, which could facilitate all new kinds of transfers, commerce, product advertising, etc.
Expect to see Twitter make a move on this at some stage, and push to establish more of a payments backbone to build from, which also aligns with Musk’s broader vision to transform the app into something much bigger.
Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022
I don’t know how this is going to work, or really, why. But:
It also looks as though Musk is going to try and integrate longer tweet options, so people can share more types of posts in the app. Also, longer videos too.
Watch this space.
Pinterest has had another up-and-down year – though it seems to be on a more steady upward trajectory again now.
After seeing a big boost in usage as a result of the COVID lockdowns, Pinterest then saw its audience revert largely to the mean, as physical stores re-opened, but it’s now re-igniting its product discovery/eCommerce push under new CEO, and former Google commerce chief, Bill Ready.
And there are significant opportunities there, if it can get it right.
Here’s what’s on the horizon for Pinterest’s prospects:
Pinterest may be doing better in its key markets, but it still has a lot of growing to do in other regions.
As you can see in these charts, Pinterest’s income from North American users literally towers over what it makes in other regions. Pin ads are still not available in all markets, and while Pinterest is still growing, it needs to work on building its ad opportunities to maximize its potential in this respect.
As such, you can expect to see Pinterest put a bigger focus on international markets in 2023, and building its ad tools to better align with local opportunities.
Refined search and discovery
Discovery is the backbone of Pinterest’s operation, and with a former Google chief at the helm, you can expect this to remain a key focus, as it looks to tap into new opportunities in highlighting the most relevant products via improved search tools and processes.
Pinterest continues to make progress on this front, by adding in more personalized discovery tools, and you can expect to see Pinterest continue to refine and improve its processes to help maximize product discovery, in alignment with personal usage habits and preferences.
Also, expect to see Pinterest add in more product comparison options, to help users find the best deals in the app.
Streamlined listing process
In alignment with this, Pinterest also needs more products, and as such, you can also expect to see the platform continue to improve its catalog ingestion tools, and help more merchants list their items as Buyable Pins.
Pinterest has also made significant advances on this front, but the easier they can make it for merchants to display their items, the more will do so.
Adding more tools to facilitate direct product integrations will be another focus – leading into…
Improved AR capture and display options
Pinterest is also building out its AR tools, and in 2023, I expect Pinterest will provide new tools to help businesses more easily capture their products in 3D, to fuel AR product Pins.
As you can see in this example, Pinterest is already developing AR Try On tools for home décor items, and I suspect, at some stage, it will roll out an improved capture process, from the Pinterest camera, that will enable more merchants to create 3D depictions of their products.
DIY 3D capture is difficult, but if Pinterest can come up with a more stable, improved process for items, that could be a big step in leaning into product discovery trends within the app.
Like Instagram (and TikTok as well), Pinterest is also testing the waters on live-stream shopping, and if that does become a bigger trend, you can expect Pinterest to make a much bigger push on integrating live shopping into the app.
Live shopping likely fits on Pinterest better than other apps, and as such, you can expect to see Pinterest integrating more live-stream display options into the app in 2023, including, potentially, a full-screen live-screen shopping tab in the app.
The Professional Social Network™ continued to post ‘record levels’ of engagement throughout the year, which now seemingly includes more and more non-professional posts and updates. Which is good for LinkedIn, I guess, but there does seem to be a line where it may be too much, drifting from its core purpose.
Either way, LinkedIn’s keen to keep building, and in 2023, you can expect to see the platform provide more data, and more linkage to LinkedIn Learning courses, to enhance its offering.
More data insights to help guide jobseekers
LinkedIn owns the largest database of professional and career insights ever created, and it’s slowly integrating more ways to use this to help people maximize their opportunities.
Expect this to continue in 2023, with more info on what people should do to obtain their dream job, as well as more links to LinkedIn Learning to get the exact skills you need to improve your chances of getting advertised roles.
Based on its info, LinkedIn could pretty much map out your entire career, stemming from school to your career progression, by assessing what other people with similar skills and interests have done. It may not want to do that, and pigeonhole people into types, but there are ways that LinkedIn can use its insights to provide more guidance for people, and help lead them into roles where they’ll be happy.
Which also works the other way, in highlighting the best candidates to recruiters. Expect LinkedIn to incorporate more data insights into job listings, as it looks to merge more predictive and assistance insight into its tools.
Improved video connection tools
Like all platforms, LinkedIn has seen more people consuming more video content in the app, and based on this, you can logically expect LinkedIn to add in more video tools, expanding on its existing intro video and video chat features.
Expect LinkedIn to more advanced video tools, building on its Event features, including Zoom-like video meeting options, topical live-streams, and more advanced connection processes to link job seekers with prospective employers.
If LinkedIn can add in more tools to facilitate virtual meet-ups in-stream, that could help to make it a more critical business tool, and with so many professionals already engaging in the app, it makes sense for LinkedIn to try and facilitate more forms of topical engagement and content via its video tools.
A lot of video engagement that may be of interest is likely already happening in the app, and you can expect LinkedIn to make this a bigger focus – and maybe even add in a dedicated video tab in the app.
Bigger focus on audio
Along similar lines, LinkedIn seems like the perfect place to host professional audio events, and make them a bigger focus for professional engagement.
LinkedIn’s been developing its audio rooms over the past year, and I’d expect it to look to ramp up this option to provide more ongoing, accessible professional and niche content within the app.
Expect to see audio rooms in groups, audio meet-ups among your connections better highlighted in the app, and more sections highlighting audio events.
Feed presentation update
It’s been a while since LinkedIn updated the look and feel of its app, and with video becoming a bigger focus, expect to see LinkedIn add in new elements to better highlight video content in the app.
What if LinkedIn added a full-screen video tab, in variance to the main feed? That would better align with evolving consumption trends, while it would also enable LinkedIn to better showcase creators, which is another key focus for the app.
I suspect ‘LinkedIn TV’ could become a thing, while it could also look to highlight podcasts and other elements in their own, dedicated spaces within the app.
The trending app of the moment is also, arguably, the most controversial, not so much for the content that it amplifies (though that’s questionable too), but because of its linkage to the Chinese Government, which, perceived or not, continues to keep the political scrutiny high on the app.
In 2023, that could once again come to a head, which will force TikTok to more clearly separate its data from the CCP, which could lead to various problems for the app.
Could it actually be banned in the US, and other regions? That still seems like a very real possibility, particularly as China continues to grapple with other governments.
Live-stream commerce and Shops
Live-stream commerce is the key earner in the Chinese version of the app, and as such, it makes sense that TikTok is going to give it a massive push in other regions as well.
Thus far, western users haven’t exactly warmed to live-stream shopping, at least not in the way that some Asian regions have, but TikTok is determined to make it work, as a means to both maximize revenue and provide another monetization opportunity for creators.
Because right now, creators can’t make as much money on TikTok as they can on YouTube, because you can’t insert mid-roll ads on short clips. TikTok’s trying out various solutions on this front, but live-stream commerce is where it’s had the most success previously, which is why it keeps trying to find new ways to get people interested in the same.
Expect this to become a much bigger, much more promoted element in the app in 2023, as it looks to make live-stream shopping a thing.
Will that work? I suspect TikTok will give us a definitive answer by this time next year.
The other element that’s been a massive part of Douyin is in-stream shops, and they will also make their way to TikTok, in various forms, in the next year.
New creator payments
As noted, creator payments have become a bugbear for the app, with its Creator Fund simply not providing the impetus for big creators to keep posting TikTok clips.
The problem with the Creator Fund is that as TikTok gets bigger, the payout amounts get smaller, so as TikTok benefits from creator content, those creators get paid less.
TikTok is trying out new models to get its top stars, in particular, paid. But with YouTube launching a new take on short-form video monetization, it’ll need to try out other methods to keep the money flowing – or it risks losing its talent, and their content, completely.
I expect TikTok will test out a similar payment process to YouTube’s short-form video program, which pays the top-performing videos a percentage of all ad intake, based on views. That’s not a perfect system, but it would provide more incentive to keep the top stars posting in the app.
Separation from CCP
As noted above, really, everything for TikTok rests on its ability to prove that it’s not connected to the CCP, and that it operates in total separation from the Chinese Government.
You can expect the pressure to stay heavy on TikTok in 2023, which will likely force it to take even more measures to prove that user data is not being accessed by representatives of the Chinese Government, and/or used for alternative purpose.
TikTok has already established an agreement with US-based Oracle to store US user information. That seems like a good step – and it seems like TikTok’s hoping that will be enough – but I suspect that it’ll need to go even further in 2023 to prove that China cannot access US, or other region user info.
And again, that could become a much bigger problem for the app very quickly if already tense foreign relations worsen. A slight shift could indeed see TikTok facing bans once again.
Despite Instagram eating its lunch, and replicating, then taking over Stories, Snapchat has continued to build its own niche, and establish itself as a key platform for millions of users.
The challenge now for Snap is to age up, with many of its early users moving on, because the app remains focused on youngsters. If Snap can broaden its use case, and continue to lead the way on AR, it’s well-positioned to maximize its presence – but the odds remain against it, even today.
While both Apple and Meta are also developing AR glasses, it’s possible that Snap could actually be the first to market on this, which could be a huge benefit for the app.
How could Snap beat out its much bigger rivals on this?
Well, it already has an established production and distribution framework for Spectacles, and it’s been testing its AR-enabled Spectacles with developers and creators for some time. Various creators have even built a range of experiences within Spectacles, which Snap continues to showcase via the Spectacles Twitter profile.
In 2016, we began a journey of exploration with our first-generation Spectacles. Six years later, Spectacles evolved to merge digital and physical worlds through wearable AR. Thanks to the ingenuity of the community, we continue to sharpen and evolve augmented reality. pic.twitter.com/qYTx92wzmG
— Spectacles (@Spectacles) October 13, 2022
Snap also continues to lead the way on AR development, despite having fewer resources. And while it may seem unlikely that Snap could end up releasing the first consumer AR wearables, it has been a long-term goal, and it is possible that they’re closer than many think.
But Snap hasn’t shared much. Aside from the above-noted demos and a few other hints, Snap’s remained tight-lipped on the project – though it did just recently reiterate that AR development is one of its three strategic priorities.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Snap comes out with its AR Spectacles ahead of everyone else, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if Snap partners with Apple to do it.
As noted above, Meta’s projecting that its AR glasses will be available in 2024. I’m tipping that AR Spectacles for consumers will arrive in July 2023.
Avatar fashion and digital items
With an eye to the next stage, Snap’s also been making its Bitmoji avatars more of a focus, with new fashion partnerships to help people customize and personalize their Bitmoji characters.
Bitmoji avatars are huge, with over a billion people having created digital depictions of themselves in the app. The role that they play on Snap is also significant, with people using their Bitmoji characters in DMs, on the Snap Map, on their profile and more. That advanced association with these characters as a depiction of self could see more people looking to use Bitmoji depictions as their metaverse avatar, which will eventually see people interacting as digital depictions in these new spaces.
Meta, of course, has its own avatars (which have been widely criticized), while many other platforms are working on advanced avatar development.
But maybe, Bitmoji could also be a significant element in the broader avatar push – and as such, expect to see Snap continue to boost Bitmoji, and expand its Bitmoji fashion partnerships, throughout the next year.
Expanded sports push
Snap needs to win over older users, and while most of the content in the app is geared to maximize appeal with youngsters, sports content is fairly universal, and offers a unique opportunity for Snap to broaden its appeal.
Snap recently announced a new partnership with La Liga, while it already has exclusive content deals in place with the NBA, NFL and more.
In 2023, expect to see Snap make sports content an even bigger focus, in an effort to win over more older audience groups to the app.
That could include interactive, themed games, sports betting elements, live scores, or a centralized sports zone in the app to interact around live events. There’s plenty of opportunity on this front, and I suspect that Snap will look to capitalize on sports as a key value add in this respect.
I also expect Snap to explore more video chat elements as a mean to maximize engagement, and even invite more people into certain communities in the app.
Snap already has group video chat options, but I think it may branch out into live chats that anyone can tune into, or maybe video chats listed in the Snap Map to help you engage in local communities.
Snap’s about friends, not broadcasting as such, so it could be a departure for the app. But it feels like an opportunity to maximize engagement, and make Snap more of a tool for social connection and community.
As always, there’s a lot going on, and the Elon Musk/Twitter thing really switches things up and adds a new level of unpredictability to the space.
But while the metaverse, and VR connection, may well be the future, these are more likely to be what comes in the next 12 months, with the bigger shifts still percolating as technology continues to advance.