Spring social media round-up: Hot trends to keep tabs on in 2023

Headlines the world over about ChatGPT look likely to set the tone for a year in digital dominated by developments in the AI landscape.

Experts predict this increasing reliance on AI to be a key trend in how social media apps engage their audiences, alongside impressive new developments in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

And the biggest question of 2022 rolls over to 2023: will the metaverse finally hit the mainstream? And is Twitter’s decline irreversible?


But it’s not all out with the old and in with the new.

We’re seeing impressive growth on older apps like Pinterest and LinkedIn as they find new ways to reach and engage with new users.

Meanwhile, Facebook has posted record figures of nearly three billion monthly active users, so there’s plenty to pay attention to there too.  

This week, we take a look at all the above and much more in our team’s compilation of social media trends to keep tabs on in 2023.

1. Instagram to refocus on imagery

Instagram has undergone radical changes over the past couple of years. 
In a shift away from its original photo-led format, we’ve seen the platform double down on video in a bid to match the soaring popularity of TikTok.

While it’s contributed to growth, it has fragmented users and been to the chagrin of many first-generation Instagram fans.

But, last month, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri conceded that the platform “overfocussed on video in 2022” and that users could expect to see the app putting a renewed focus on its photographic roots in 2023.

Instagram updates 2023 for higher ed

Short-form video will undoubtedly remain key, as it will across other social platforms, but we’re expecting to see feeds peppered with more stills.

And a ‘new memories’ prompt to boost engagement is also being tested, which is likely to celebrate more imagery.

While video continues to be the leading tool for digital marketers on social—and many consider Instagram’s algorithm the best to showcase this—there has been a clear appetite for a better balance between imagery and video for some time.

The emergence of more authentic social apps like BeReal, which focuses on raw imagery, amplified this, and Instagram will want to avoid alienating those who want to use its app similarly.

2. Audio growth continues

While the popularity of audio apps like Clubhouse has faded since its heyday in 2021, audio functionality within mainstream social media platforms continues to develop—and this area looks set to grow further in 2023.

audio updates for social media higher ed

Twitter Spaces has been around for a while now, and LinkedIn has recently launched Audio Events, which are live chat sessions between 15 minutes and three hours long, designed to bring professional communities together.

Meanwhile, Facebook is re-focusing on audio after ditching its podcast service last year, with the launch of features like Audio Channels, which allow members of groups to chat.

It’s much like the group audio functionality in the chat app Discord, which also continues to soar in popularity.

And the party isn’t over for Clubhouse, either; it may not be seeing the same user level as it did during the pandemic, but it still has a loyal following of fans enjoying small and meaningful audio chats as well as ranking highly in the download charts.

3. New promotion tools on TikTok

With an estimated 62% of GenZ now using TikTok—according to HubSpot’s recent consumer trends survey—it will continue to be one of the most powerful platforms to engage with prospective students.

And, thanks to new in-app promotion tools, it is easier than ever to reach your target audience.

TikTok ads social 2023 for higher ed

The ability to promote campaigns originally launched in April 2021, providing optimization for web visits, follows, and video views.

But this now extends to objectives of driving more visits to your TikTok page, receiving more messages, boosting creator content, and targeting by location.

Another useful feature is the app’s ‘Top Ads’ showcase, in which you can search for the best-performing campaigns by topic—useful to find out what’s working well for your higher education competitors.

And an impressive 70,000 new insights have been added to TikTok's analytics tool this month—an interactive app that can further drill down usage trends and habits.

These are all big developments that will aid university digital marketers in boosting both campaigns and organic content.  

4. Increased focus on privacy

With increasing concerns and awareness over data privacy and security—and a number of controversies surrounding this in recent years—expect to see social platforms implementing and promoting new ways to protect the personal information of users.

Meta recently urged users to review settings for Data Privacy Day on January 28 and has updated its Account Center, a centralized tool for managing privacy across all of its apps.

It has also updated its ad settings to allow users more input into the type of content they’re happy to see and offer more transparency on why they’re served the content they are.

5. Pinterest popularity soars

It saw a boom during the pandemic thanks to social e-commerce and initially felt the pinch as shoppers resumed normal pre-Covid shopping habits.

Drake uni on Pinterest updates 2023 for higher edSome universities are starting to move into the Pinterest sphere

But Pinterest, which recently posted its final quarter update for 2022, reported phenomenal growth last year—largely among Gen Z.

The app, which started life as an online photo inspiration pinboard, gained five million new active users between September and December.

That’s thanks to a range of new features homing in on video content, including full-screen Stories-like functionality, and Ideas Pins.

For those wanting to brush up on how to execute campaigns in the app, the platform has just relaunched its Pinterest Academy—a new e-learning platform to help organizations get the most out of advertising, which could be worth visiting.

6. AR and VR advancements

After the launch of the metaverse failed to live up to the hype at the start of last year, there is set to be plenty more to come from Meta in this space during 2023.

Despite making swathing cuts, like many tech firms, it has said investment is continuing at pace in VR and AR experiences.

And this is likely to be a theme across the board, as advancements in this technology ramp up and the appetite among users for new and interesting ways to interact with social apps continues.

Snap, for example, is also leaning heavily into AR. With 72% of its users engaging with AR elements in the app every day, it’s a key focus for the platform.

7. Twitter

Twitter hit the headlines a lot in 2022, for many of the wrong reasons.

At one point, the controversy surrounding Elon Musk’s takeover looked like it signaled the end of the micro-blogging platform.

But the worst fears have yet to be realized, and a predicted mass exodus to apps like Mastodon hasn’t materialized.

Twitter social media updates 2023 for higher ed

And a raft of new features continues to be pushed out in a bid to stay relevant and profitable.

One of the biggest changes of late is that Twitter Blue subscribers (contentious in itself) will soon be let loose on their keyboards with a new 4,000-character limit.

Only the first 280 characters will be seen on feeds, in line with what non-paying users can share, but it remains to be seen how this format will sit alongside the more traditional threads we’re used to.

The announcement follows others about ad reductions for Twitter Blue users and the option for paid-tier users to post 60-second long videos.

These extra features, though they come at a price, could increase the draw of Twitter subscriptions for universities.

8. Increased reliance on AI

The launch of ChatGPT and its phenomenal growth have thrown artificial intelligence (AI) and its power into the spotlight over the last month.

It certainly feels like a sea change moment in the mainstream, publicly accessible AI.

And this is set to permeate social media apps significantly throughout 2023 in terms of how people interact with platforms and how content and experiences are served to them.

For example, Meta has recently signed a new deal with Shutterstock to utilize its vast audio and visual library to enhance and develop its AI machine-learning capabilities.

And it has said it will also continue developing its own AI creation functionality, with previews including tools that can turn children’s drawings into moving animations and create short videos based on text prompts.

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9. Greater focus on mental health and wellbeing

As awareness of the impact of social media on mental health increases, platforms may develop new tools and features to promote positive well-being.

Instagram is leading the way on this front right now, adding features like a ‘quiet mode’ to notify contacts when you’re offline and switch off all notifications.

You can even implement an automated response on DMs and set a time for your social media detox.

Instagram has said it’ll be promoting the new feature heavily among teens if it detects they’re spending too much time on the app at night.

New tools to improve and filter out content recommendations will also put more power back into the palms of users.

10. Record numbers of LinkedIn users

2022 was a record-breaking year for the professional networking app LinkedIn, with an 18% growth in user sessions during the last quarter of the year—and it's now nearing a billion members.

The boost also corresponds with revenue growth, which is largely down to successful recruitment features.

linkedin for higher education marketing.

Improvements to feeds and video sharing in the app have also given the app more appeal among career-conscious Gen Z, making it the fastest-growing audience demographic.

There are 78 million of them, in fact.

So, while it's still not the go-to app for student recruitment, there remains plenty of potential to unlock here when it comes to university marketers reaching applicants on the platform.

What are your social media priorities for 2023?

And what trends are you most excited to see?

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or on social media. 

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