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sociocultural

The Muse and The Canvas: The Evolving Interplay of Social Trends and Tech

By: melissa calise
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socioculturalaugmented realityblockchain social mediasocial mediafintoksynthetic media

When

Thursday, April 27, 2023

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. ET

Where

Zoom

Meeting ID: 994 3158 6099
Passcode: 253444

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Key Takeaways

  • Younger generations are turning to social media for more than connection, now utilizing the platforms for career and financial guidance.
  • The rise of AI has led to an increase in synthetic media, presenting challenges for brands and users.
  • Blockchain technology introduces new opportunities for users who yearn self- governance, community development and monetization.
  • AR features evolve from entertainment to user experience powerhouses that can transform how brands interact with customers.

 

Once a mere platform for college students to connect, social media has transcended its initial purpose. Today, it bridges our digital and physical worlds and offers new ways for users to shop, monetize, and learn. Social platforms have also democratized access to technologies, providing users with exposure to innovations once confined to specialized domains. With shifting trends and the rise of AI, blockchain and extended reality, we're witnessing a convergence of technologies that are reshaping how we interact, discover, and conduct business on social platforms.

What’s Trending

Social Media as Destination for Life Advice

Influencers, a profession unimaginable 15 years ago, now constitute a $21 billion industry after transforming the way brands market their products.1 But they’re now influencing more than purchasing decisions as millennials and Gen Zers turn to their favorite content creators for insight on deeper life topics like finance and career advice.

One survey reported that 44% of Gen Z social media users say being financially secure is a top aspiration, up 11% from 2022.2 The growing motivation for financial security is driving young users to find new channels for education. For those who don’t live in one of the 14 states that mandate personal finance education, TikTok, or FinTok (the dubbed name of financial content on TikTok) may be some GenZers‘ first interaction with financial education.3 Fidelity’s 2024 Women’s History Month survey found that Gen Z is more likely to get financial information from social media (46%) than they are from their loved ones.4 Similarly, “career influencers” are gaining traction – a trend where professionals share tips for navigating the working world. The ultra-competitive workforce and rising cost of living may be why Gen Zers – even those still in high school – are becoming one of LinkedIn’s fastest growing demographics.5 But why are younger generations veering away from professionals for guidance and instead trusting strangers on social media?

Influencers often attract users by creating authentic, relatable, and accessible content, which rapidly gives rise to new digital communities. Their authenticity and willingness to share even the most sensitive of topics cultivates trust and loyalty among their followers. Because of their ability to connect with consumers, 89% of brands in one survey said they will maintain or boost influence budgets in 2024.6

For many, traditional career coaching may be too costly, but social media can remove that boundary. Beyond financial constraints, these topic areas can be intimidating, especially for those who didn’t grow up in environments that welcomed future-planning conversations. When it comes to financial advice, 55% of teens surveyed by Fidelity say, “investing is too confusing”, while 47% say it feels out of reach. That same survey found that girls are more likely to report feeling “overwhelmed” or “nervous” when thinking about financial topics like saving, spending, investing.7 Virtual channels like FinTok can provide environments for young people to learn in a place they feel comfortable, heard, and free from judgement.

One could argue this trend is unlocking financial literacy and better preparing younger generations for the workforce, but with the rise of data privacy concerns, deep fakes and misinformation, this trend comes with its own set of challenges.

Demand for Authentcity & Trust

Users aren’t just pinning their trust in the influencers with the most followers. Micro-influencers, defined as those with fewer than 100,000 followers, are reportedly bringing brands better ROI. One study found that 82% of consumers surveyed said that they are “highly likely” to follow a recommendation from a micro-influencer.8

Once purely transactional, younger generations are expecting genuine connections with the brands they support. User-generated content, which is content created by actual consumers, is now a driving force behind social users’ purchases. One survey reports that 86% of people are more likely to trust a brand that publishes user-generated content.9

The demand for authenticity and trust – a trend highlighted by the rise of platforms like Be Real – is causing brands to rethink how they connect with consumers.

The Interplay of Trends and Technologies

Synthetic Media: Challenges and Solutions

Perhaps the yearning for more authentic interaction on social media stems from fears of increasing synthetic media. With advances in machine learning and image manipulation technology, creating realistic yet entirely fabricated content has become relatively easy.

To combat the spread of synthetic media, social platforms and organizations are investing in detection and verification tools. Companies like Clarity, Deeptrace and Truepic are developing solutions to identify and authenticate digital content, helping users discern between genuine and manipulated media. Just as the blue checkmark became the symbol of verified identity on social media profiles, we may start to see similar badges for content authenticity. Beyond the platforms, we may see brands start to invest in more robust cybersecurity measures and proactive reputation management strategies to enhance trust in their brand and protect their social images.

Blockchain in Social Media: Self-Governance and Creator Monetization

Blockchain technology offers promising use cases for social media, particularly in terms of monetization and decentralized control. At FCAT’s recent Blockchain Female Founders panel, Hannah Shen, founding member of a decentralized identity protocol, said that she’s “bullish on new ways of social” and is excited to see more use cases built on Farcaster, a Web3 social protocol that allows people to build social media applications using smart contracts. As an open-source project, Farcaster thrives on community engagement and development. In January, “Frames” launched on Warpcast, Farcaster’s leading social application, allowing users to create interactive experiences within the app. At the same panel discussion, Nicole d’Avis, a blockchain consulting agency founder, noted that it has become so easy to build that even non-technical people can engage in these on-chain experiments. Following Frames' launch, daily active users surged 400%, a trend that could indicate people’s urge to help build the social platforms they use.10

Centralized social platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, wield considerable power over content moderation, often leading to concerns about bias and manipulation. Blockchain social platforms operate on decentralized networks, empowering community-driven governance through consensus mechanisms. This decentralization can reduce censorship and promote free expression. Some blockchain protocols can also facilitate micropayments and peer-to-peer transactions, enabling new models for creator monetization and value exchange. Platforms like Steemit, BitClout and MintStars allow creators to monetize their content directly through tokenization and decentralized payment systems.

While Web3 social protocols have a long way to go to compete with traditional Web2 apps, use cases are undeniably growing.

Augmented Reality Evolution

Augmented reality (AR) filters are nothing new. Snapchat, often credited as being the original AR social platform, first released filters back in 2015. Most of the early filters were simply for entertainment, turning people into animals or changing a person’s features. As the technology improves, brands are developing AR filters that can enable immersive storytelling and education, interactive advertisements, and virtual try-on experiences – transforming how they interact with their customers. But perceptions of the value of AR have yet to shiQ more broadly. Even though major brands like L’Oreal, Gucci, and NeClix have successfully launched AR filters on social platforms, many companies still remain unconvinced about its potential to drive sales, with 51% believing that AR is primarily for entertainment.11 Yet consumer demand is strong as 79% of consumers surveyed said they are interested in using AR to interact with a product before buying it.12, Whether the tool has reached mass appeal or not, spending on AR/VR technologies is forecasted to climb to $72.8 billion in 2024, up from $12 billion in 2020.13

Sociocultural trends serve as both the muse and the canvas for social technology innovation, each influencing and inspiring the other. As trends shift, we’ll likely witness more seismic developments in how we use social media, whether it be in the platforms we’ve grown accustomed to or entirely new ones.

  • Facebook.
  • Twitter.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Print
The opinions provided are those of the author and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments or its affiliates. Fidelity does not assume any duty to update any of the information. Fidelity and any other third parties mentioned are independent entities and not affiliated. Mentioning them does not suggest a recommendation or endorsement by Fidelity.
1 Santora, Jacinda. “Key Influencer Marketing Statistics You Need to Know for 2022.” Influencer Marketing Hub, 6 Nov. 2023.
2 Social behind the Screens. GWI, 2023.
3 https://www.axios.com/2022/06/08/personal-finance-education-states-full-list
4 Fidelity Investments | Women’s History Month 2024 Survey
5 Kamenetz, Anya. “Teens Love LinkedIn.” The Cut, 6 Oct. 2023.
6 Balkhi, Syed. 60+ Influencer Marketing Statistics You Should Know (2024). 22 Jan. 2024
7 2022 Teens and Money Study. Fidelity Investments, 2022, https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/about-fidelity/Fidelity_2022-Teens-Money-Study.pdf.
8 https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160330005289/en/New-Research-Shows-Micro-Influencers-Drive-Consumer-Buying-Behavior-at-Much-Higher-Rates-Than-Previously-Thought
9 Kemp, Audrey. “Nearly 90% of Consumers No Longer Trust Influencers, New Study Finds.” The Drum, June 2023.
10 https://www.coingecko.com/learn/what-is-farcaster-warpcast-crypto
11, 12 2022 Ipsos Augmentality Shift Study commissioned by Snap Inc. | Base Global Brands: All AR Users or open to do doing so in the future n=1,021
13 https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201117005228/en/Worldwide-Spending-on-Augmented-and-Virtual-Reality-Forecast-to-Deliver-Strong-Growth-Through-2024-According-to-a-New-IDC-Spending-Guide
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