Social media trends creative businesses need to know in 2024

26th April 2024

At a Bristol Creative Industries keynote event in March, we were joined by Drew Benvie, founder of global social media agency Battenhall. He shared insights from the company’s 11th annual social media trends reports. In this post, Dan Martin summarises Drew’s brilliant talk. 

When it comes to social media, Drew knows his stuff. At the age of seven, he taught himself how to code on an Amstrad CPC 464, and in 2006 he was the first to coin the term ‘social media’ on Wikipedia. Drew founded Battenhall in 2013 and now employs 120 people in the UK and overseas.

Opening his talk, he said:

“There are more places than ever to commit your time and your advertising money, so it’s important you know where to invest. You could stick to a few but the average person in the UK is active on six social networks. In India, it’s 10. If you’re trying to reach your target audience, you have to do more than ever before to really stand out.”

Safety and purpose on social media

Social media is ubiquitous. Eight out of 10 people who use social media do so actively. Brits spend 75% of our working day looking at a screen of some sort, with teens spending around 5.3 hours a day on social.

But over the last year, Drew said, various things have happened, such as “the implosion of Twitter” following Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform, “that has made me feel that safety on social media is an important thing”.

“Social media is now toxic to many, whether it’s the stuff that we see that should be taken down, or the actions from one user to another that are allowed unfettered on social media.”

A million posts are removed by Meta every day, Drew said, while TikTok employs 40,000 people to moderate content.

Amid all this, social media owners are appearing in front of regulators around the world, as governments look to bring in new legislation that regulates social media.

So what does this mean for brands? Drew’s advice is:

  • Know who’s influential and work with those who are going to help you protect your brand.
  • Build a community that’s supportive of what you’re doing.
  • Know which channels are the best for your brand.
  • Think global.
  • Be careful with spending money when it comes to advertising.

Social media and AI

AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the most unstoppable forces,” Drew said.

See below for what ChatGPT created when he asked it to show a vision of Bristol in the future!

AI helps to speed up creativity”, and you should think of it as “your brainstorm buddy”, Drew advised.

You can already use AI features on social media platforms to create or improve content, but Drew said “there is an important balance between making something authentic because it is created by a human and harnessing the power of AI to speed things up when you need to”.

He continued:

“I’m an advocate of using AI to augment what you do, not replace it. Get it to do the stuff that you shouldn’t really spend time doing.”

Drew said consider AI as your “brainstorm buddy”. He recommended experimenting with AI tools, such as ChatGPT and Google Gemini, and see which work best for you. Remember that AI isn’t just for generating content, you can also use it for tasks like analysing data.

As an example of AI in action with creative content, Drew shared a campaign using AI that Battenhall delivered for a client.

The children of employees at General Electric were asked to draw what they thought their parents did for a job. Battenhall then used AI to create images based on the drawings that were used for social media posts.

On LinkedIn, the content delivered the top-performing post for the whole quarter, more than doubling the benchmark engagement rate for the quarter. In addition, the campaign contributed to a 12% increase in the number of new followers (month on month).

Drew warned that brands should also be aware of the ethical, regulatory and legal issues around AI such as who owns the content you produce using the technology.

Life after Twitter

The fallout from Elon Musk buying Twitter led to an exodus of users signing up for other social media platforms. Many people switched to Mastodon, the open source social network, and Meta launched Threads, an app linked to Instagram which became the fastest to reach 100 million followers.

“There are 35 social networks with over 100 million active users [see some of them on page 7 of the ‘Life after Twitter’ report] and endless niche communities. That is my biggest learning from what has happened to Twitter. Niche is now good. It’s ok to be small.”

The biggest beneficiary of “the carnage at Twitter”, Drew said, is LinkedIn. It reported a 41% increase in volume of content between 2021 and 2023.

Drew’s tips and insights for LinkedIn are:

  • Cultivate a good following on LinkedIn and connect with people.
  • Live video content is popular on LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn helps to make brands more personal with many senior leaders in businesses active on the platform
  • Use the power of the people you work with and activate them to engage with and share your LinkedIn content.

But the most important tip for choosing where to engage on social media, is pay attention to your audience and where they hang out. There’s no one size fits all.

“Be really analytical. Figure out what your audience does, where they spend their time, what trends they follow.”

Entertainment and being unhinged on social media

“TikTok calls itself an entertainment platform, not a social network, and it’s a places other social media platform are trying to emulate.”

Drew said TikTok has shown to brands the power of being entertaining. “I think every brand in 2024 has the ability to be more entertaining.”

“Any brand can do anything on social media. People expect a brand to be a person, to have a voice. The unhinged, entertaining and educational stream of content coming through on platforms like TikTok is creating opportunities for even the most boring brands to be entertaining, informative and educational.”

Drew said the three ways brands can be entertaining are:

  • Getting into pop culture
  • Leaning into lifestyle
  • Being educational

One example of an entertaining brand that is “completely unhinged” is Duolingo on TikTok. “My kids want to spend their pocket money on learning languages on Duolingo beause the owl is so engaging.”

For an example of good educational content, Drew recommended Channel 4 on Threads.

“What makes social media content work is engagement, sentiment uptick, and visibility for people that are hard to reach. Entertaining content achieves on all those fronts.

“Think about how you can tell stories and answer questions. People want to learn new things. Think about the niches users might want to know about that are linked to your brand. Even with something a bit more corporate, there’s a story to tell and an audience looking for answers. Consider various different channels to reach your target audience.

“To create content that’s right for you, think about your brand personality. Place yourself in your audience’s shoes, and don’t be afraid to either stay in your lane and do one thing well, or branch out and try lots of different things. Social media is all about experimenting. Post things. Delete them. Start a channel. Let it go. That’s all fine.”

The rise of creators

Drew said that the fatigue that many people have with influencers and the creation of content about something they are paid to say is good has helped bring about a creator culture:

“There are more people creating more things with more creativity on more platforms more often. Creators provide opportunities for any brand because your niche is out there somewhere.

“A creator’s goal is to produce high quality, authentic content. For that, they want to work with brands. If you find the right ones, they are usually cheaper to work with than influencers, you can do more meaningful projects with them, and they tend to be more authentic.

“A creator might have a smaller audience than an influencer but they often can do more with less. They also might not ask for money if there’s some other type of value exchange such as early access to a new product.”

Instagram and YouTube are the most popular platforms for creators, but delve into any channel and you’ll likely find a vibrant creator culture, Drew said.

Other networks to explore include spontaneous photo sharing app BeReal, communication platform Discord and livestreaming community Twitch. Private communities, such as Facebook and WhatsApp groups, are another format worth looking at.

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About Bristol Creative Industries

Bristol Creative Industries is the membership network that supports the region's creative sector to learn, grow and connect, driven by the common belief that we can achieve more collectively than alone. 

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