Social Media 2023, Looking Back on This Years’ Trends & Our Predictions for 2024
Reading time: 8 min
The luxury industry is thriving with sales expected to reach £1.17 trillion by the end of 2023, a growth of 8-10% above the previous year. Revenues generated by the sector have never been as substantial.
Social media is playing a more important role than ever in driving sales for luxury brands with 87% of online shoppers using social media when making shopping decisions with 68% reporting that they have made one or more purchases directly from a social media platform.
In this article, we look back over the top social media trends we’ve seen this year and predict what’s to come in 2024.
What we saw in 2023…
- Ultra-polished out, authenticity in
Previously, social media campaigns featured hyper-polished, meticulously crafted, perfect images. There’s still value in this, but something more organic and authentic has come to dominate the platforms.
We have been introduced to ‘photo-dump’, a collection of photos and video footage telling a story rather than merely offering a glimpse into a brand. This format has appeared at a time when luxury overall is becoming more obtainable thanks to luxury fashion rental firms and the luxury resale market, as we cover in our latest State of Luxe report. As younger generations buy more luxury items, brands are rethinking how to connect with them on social media, specifically the types of content they post and the influencers they work with.
And as for the younger consumer, Gen Z has been fully immersed by photo dumps. They appreciate and expect openness and candour from brands. Luxury marketers know Gen Z are far less receptive to manufactured perfection. Instead, they prefer reality which is, by its nature, flawed and far less polished.
It’s not just the photo-dump format that is propelling the request for realness to the forefront of luxury brands social media content strategies. Brands such as Mulberry are introducing a more ‘behind-the-scenes’ approach across multiple digital touchpoints, like their recent “outtake” campaign on TikTok. We particularly liked the Bottega Veneta Paparazzi campaign where A$AP Rocky and Kendall Jenner wore head-to-toe runway outfits, got papped, and the brand later released the photos as their latest ads. Another campaign that stood out to us was the 2023 continuation of the Four Seasons campaign of authentic guest stories, this time reflecting on the extra lengths employees go to provide the best experience.
- The ongoing appeal of creators and influencers
In 2023, brands spent $34 billion on influencer partnerships, up from $29 billion in 2022.
The relationship between brands and creators is evolving. Once, they were seen primarily as malleable vehicles for promoting products. Now, brands view them as talented, authentic content creators in their own right, capable of bringing ideas and energy to a marketing campaign.
Many marketing teams now attempt to create content that mirrors that of what an influencer would produce because they get results. Photo dumps and lo-fi content – discussed later – are two prime examples of this.
Brands use creators and influencers to achieve a number of objectives. Reaching new audiences is still important but now brands look to influencers to generate higher engagement, drive revenue and promote brand values. In addition to using creators and influencers in organic content, brands are increasingly using influencer content across paid social ads rather than solely brand-led creative.
Social platforms are looking to foster brand-creator collabs too. Threads, the new Meta owned X-like platform (more on this later on), has introduced a ‘paid partnership’ label so users know this is sponsored content. Linkedin has also expanded its monetisation opportunities as they have recognised the growing influence of professional content creators for luxury brands.
- The fluctuating fortunes of BeReal, X and Threads
In early 2023, we had high hopes for BeReal, thinking it might become a major platform for authentic content. However, it couldn’t keep audiences’ attention for long. From a peak estimated daily user audience of 72 million in mid-2022, those numbers fell to 25 million in November 2023. The platform has no advertising options available for brands and still discourages influencer content.
Threads burst onto the scene in 2023 – an X-like platform owned and operated by Meta launched in response to perceived troubles at X following Elon Musk’s turnover. Threads has had an uneven start, driving in subscribers originally only to see post engagement drop by 79% by August 2023.
Many believe there is still value in creating content for Threads, according to SEO expert Neil Patel, Threads generated 8.3x the levels of engagement than on X in November. Here at VERB, we’ve seen Aston Martin build a healthy audience of over 500,000 followers on the platform thanks to consistent publishing and authentic conversations with followers. This reflects consumers’ desire to have a more human-like connection and conversation with their favourite brands.
Other notable audiences on Threads include Louis Vuitton’s 4m followers, Nike with 7 million and Michael Kors with 1.1 million.
- The demise and partially successful reinvention of NFTs
We saw upsides and downsides to NFTs in early 2022 as you can read in our blog. NFTs turned out to be a trend with very volatile pricing points. It has also been revealed that today 95% of NFTs are essentially worthless, which proves that they were a fad that died out after a short amount of time.
The value of NFTs as a stand-alone investment may be questionable but their latent promise has prompted some luxury brands to explore ways to add value to them.
One way to do this, as reported in Glossy, has been to blend the physical and the digital, like with Louis Vuitton’s $39,000 trunks and Prada’s use of NFTs as passes to fashion events. Both the product and the NFT benefit from exclusivity, arguably providing extra reasons for a consumer to go ahead with a purchase.
What do we expect to see in 2024?
- Social platforms as search engines
It is notable that social media channels are increasingly but most importantly being used as search engines. Consumers look to source educational content, product recommendations and places to go through social, before going to Google.
While likes and comments have always been important, what drives social media recommendation engines are “shares” – such as backlinks through SEO. To be found on searches, brands now must create shareable content. It must resonate with users, so much so they act as unpaid brand advocates and share it with others.
Social media is already deemed trusted through creators and influencers more than brand website content. Creators and influences are superb at knowing what information their audience actually wants and disseminating it to them.
This is the new frontier of luxury research. Equally exciting is the rise of social commerce (another one of our predictions last year) – the ability to purchase directly from a social media post. This now gives brands the ability to understand directly the messages, the messengers (influencers, creators, in-house teams and so forth) and the channels that drive the highest revenues.
- The rise of exclusivity and dark social
Exclusivity has always been key when strategizing for luxury brands. Through social there are means in which you can provide consumers added value and exclusive content, as well as communicate through “dark social” channels.
There are a few ways luxury brands can share content with their followers in a more exclusive way; through Instagram’s broadcasting channel or subscription to your favourite brands’ channels to get access to private content.
As for dark social, it has always been an important way of distributing content that isn’t commonly discussed, primarily because it’s untrackable. Dark social is sharing content or mentioning brands on private social media channels which impacts analytics of brands’ channels. What is more important is that people send more to each other than they post publicly now.
For many, their social media inbox and WhatsApp have become newsfeeds in themselves. Measuring dark social campaigns remains a challenge but we encourage brands to view this as another opportunity to build deeper and more personal relationships with customers whereby luxury consumers can feel that they matter to the brand. For luxury brands, this connection is arguably super important.
Ways to do this could include:
- Sharing announcements and offers via Instagram Broadcast Channel – you need a creator account for this.
- Setting up Instagram Subscriptions where followers can see exclusive content in exchange for a small monthly fee.
- Adapting your CRM to allow one-on-one communication with customers via social media messaging and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.
- Encouraging customers to ask questions and provide feedback via DM instead of publicly.
- The incorporation of AI into brands’ social strategy
There are significant cost and time benefits to using AI in marketing. The challenge luxury marketers face is successfully blending authenticity with artificiality.
This year saw the luxury sector take its first steps in AI. Penhaligon’s, Kerastase, and Mulberry were at the forefront of the adoption of AI, using it to create personalised content, analyse market campaigns, consumer data, and deliver compelling online digital experiences.
Moncler’s Genius Campaign was a great example of the use of this emerging technology too, capturing the attention and imagination of London Fashion Week attendees and journalists. This is an alluring way to use AI in a way that embodies the creativity and exclusivity the market demands of luxury brands. Zegna, Valentino and Ralph Lauren have also successfully incorporated AI in a range of activities from copy editing and graphics to the creation of entire campaigns.
AI offers promise for dark social, our second prediction. Brands can train AI to interact in a human-like way with customers and target audiences via social media and private messaging apps. Care will have to be taken here though, especially with a luxury brand, as consumers demand authenticity and overreliance on AI could inflict brand damage with existing consumers.
AI can also be used to create highly targeted promotions for customers and prospects based on demographics, past order history and other key data points. It could also predict the type of content certain customer segments would enjoy and create them as blogs, guides etc. AI-powered CRM systems could use email campaigns and private messaging to alert those audience segments to the content that has been specifically created for them.
The images AI can create are bold, however many of them still don’t feel “real” enough. This will improve over time but we expect its use in 2024 to further enhance creative solutions for luxury campaigns that will attract the attention of consumers.
- Short-form video content will become even more influential
In last year’s prediction blog, our first prediction was “Short-form video continues to dominate”. We confidently make the same prediction for 2024.
With short videos, luxury brands can clearly convey their rich heritage and their unique narratives. They can showcase their products at the same time as delivering a brand experience.
Two brands doing this well on TikTok are Moncler (1.3 million followers) and Burberry (4 million followers). Burberry’s TikTok channel is a compelling blend of high fashion, creativity and the brand’s iconic style. Each video is a jigsaw piece that, when combined with the other videos on the channel, forms a distinct picture of the company’s ethos, its attitude, its products and what makes it a sought-after brand.
In addition to its visual appeal, video content is measurable. Platforms offer brands comprehensive analytics on metrics like views, watch time and engagement. These data lead to a deeper understanding of audience behaviours and preferences allowing marketing teams to tailor their content more effectively.
In 2024, the importance of regular new content on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube will only increase.
5. Luxury lo-fi
Lo-fi content is something we’ve written about here at VERB often. Not dissimilar in many ways to the photo dumps we covered earlier.
We believe this trend will continue to grow in 2024. We see influencers being an important part of this thanks to their innate ability to create content that their audiences relate to. They have the skills and experience to create unrefined and spontaneous video understanding how it needs to stay within the guidelines of a brand’s quality standards and general aesthetics.
Reference examples of great lo-fi in 2023 include photographer Sharna Osborne’s collaboration with designer Christopher Kane, Alaïa’s campaign with Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber, and Billie Eilish x Gucci’s Demetra fabric.
For in-house or professional shoots, elements like backgrounds, lighting and models used appear unpolished and raw yet still luxurious and sophisticated. Furthermore, carousel posts are being mixed with images and short videos to tell a story that offer brands the chance to share something deeper and more meaningful with their customers.
Preparing your luxury brand for 2024
In 2024, social media will continue to play a key role in a luxury brand’s success – our changing cultural climate, ever-evolving social trends, creators’ popularity and technological advances will all be essential components to further increase the visibility of luxury brands on social media.
With the excitement of AI, there is clearly value for it in social media marketing. However, it’s going to be a long time before brands will be able to trust content creation and management to AI. We see its main uses in data analysis, customer engagement and, in time, collaborating in the content ideation process which shouldn’t go unnoticed.
After the exploration of the above topics on social, such as search engines, exclusivity, dark social, short-form content and so forth, brands should seek to familiarise themselves with key features on platforms that will help to enhance their social media strategy.
At VERB, we’ve been working with luxury manufacturers, retailers and service providers for over ten years. Check out examples of our past and ongoing work here. If you’re interested in working with our Social & Influencer team, please get in touch with us to let us know about your plans for 2024 – we’d love to hear from you.