Two years of repeated lockdowns have shone even more of a spotlight on the importance of social media, both in terms of capturing the attention of prospective students and engaging existing cohorts, many of which endured months of online learning and relied on virtual platforms to build connections with peers.
The standards social media users expect, and are drawn to, will only continue to climb, with platforms regularly updating and launching new features to enhance these user experiences.
In this social media roundup to kick start 2022, we look at 10 trends and innovations digital and marketing specialists in higher education should be keeping tabs on this year.
#1 The metaverse
Facebook – now Meta – propelled this concept of intertwined 3D worlds and virtual reality as an imminent iteration of the internet late last year at the same time it announced its associated name change.
While nobody knows exactly what this new online world looks like just yet, with Meta investing billions into driving it forward, it needs to be kept firmly on digital marketing radars. With mentions of virtual shopping, for example, there is potential for universities to tap into AR and VR technology to more effectively reach new audiences and boost recruitment through improved experiences in areas such as campus tours and promotional content.
#2 Twitter search feature
Twitter is rolling out a more accessible advanced-search feature, making it easier for users to effectively search the tweets of another. Those gaining access as the new tool is rolled out will find a search icon in the top right of each profile, next to the three dots. This will make it far easier for prospective recruits and existing students alike to access relevant historical content on Twitter profiles.
#3 Instagram re-instates Twitter card previews
In a move that hindered cross-posting across platforms nearly 10 years ago, Instagram removed the ability to show photo previews for posts then shared to Twitter. Instagram announced in late 2021 that it would be reinstating this feature – a small but significant shift that is set to make the lives of those in social media marketing easier in 2022.
#4 Pinterest TV
Though not a major go-to platform at present for higher education digital marketers, Pinterest could be one to watch in the future as it shifts away from being a shopping and inspiration site to a home of content creation. Pinterest is investing heavily in tools for creators and has been steadily working to make video more of a focus.
The recent addition of Pinterest TV is a continuation of that trend and sees a new series of 30-minute, stoppable and on-demand shows featuring the likes of British diving Olympic champion, Tom Daley.
#5 Meta ad campaign changes
As it grapples with the need to balance its commitment to personalized ad experiences with privacy concerns, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company is eliminating the use of some parameters in ad campaigns from January 19. Topics that might be seen as sensitive "such as options referencing causes, organizations, or public figures that relate to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation” will be axed as targeting options for advertisers. It’s likely to hit political, medical research and third sector advertising the hardest, but there’ll be implications for higher education too.
#6 Facebook reels
On the back of the success of Instagram reels, Meta is rolling the feature out to Facebook users. Like with reels on the original host platform, views aren’t restricted to existing followers – giving higher education Facebook pages more scope to reach new audiences. People can discover reels based on interests as well as in a new, dedicated news feed section. Meta is also testing the option for Instagram content creators to cross-promote reels on Facebook.
#7 Instagram reels and story updates
Similarly, Instagram is improving its video offering and building on the success of reels and stories. Updates include testing 60-minute-long stories and the ability to reply to comments with reels, in a similar way to TikTok’s video replies. It follows Instagram head Adam Mosseri announcing over the festive period that the platform would need to “rethink” what it is to keep up with a changing world, promising to “double down” on video.
#8 Twitter auto captions
Twitter now adds captions to uploaded videos automatically, taking one job off the hands of digital marketers using the platform and enhancing accessibility for all users. They will roll on all muted video content and can be kept on permanently through device accessibility settings. Like other platforms, Twitter is expected to make video a focus in 2022 and perhaps utilize tools developed for the now-defunct Fleets into other areas. It’s also testing a new format ‘explore’ page in a TikTok-esque video feed.
#9 Instagram profile embed feature
Universities are now able to embed a miniature version of their Instagram feed on their website, thanks to this new feature, which started rolling out across US accounts a few weeks back. You’ve been able to embed photos or videos from single posts for years, but this new feature will enable websites to showcase their whole grid in one.
#10 Will audio social go the distance?
Audio social app Clubhouse took off last year during the height of lockdowns and interest in this format fizzed across other platforms, but usage has been dwindling.
That said, Clubhouse is pressing ahead with new features and social media giants with audio offerings are coming up with new ways to attract users. One recent feature has been recorded chats – making it more podcast-like in appeal. Clubhouse was the first to offer this, and Twitter Spaces followed shortly after. Meanwhile, Facebook has made live audio rooms available to public figures and creators.
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