Written for the New Zealand Institute of Education (NZIE) in February 2024. 

This month, I checked out the webinar What’s in and What’s out in Social Media in 2024, hosted by Semrush. Hosted by industry experts: Cheska Castro, Jess Cook, Miri Buckland, and Julia Holmqvist: the webinar contained valuable insights and predictions for social media in 2024, and some interesting key takeaways about content creation, AI, engagement, and performance. Here are the highlights.

Quality Content

The speakers discussed the evolving preferences of social media audiences and highlighted the potential for quality video content. Julia discussed TikTok’s announcement that they plan to trail 30-minute videos, however, several of the hosts raised scepticism about whether audiences are ready for long-form content. They discussed the shift towards more high-quality video content. Jess highlighted that during the pandemic everyone accepted low-quality videos but says that people are “ready for something new.” She shared that in B2B they are seeing brands interview customers and doing fireside chats.

Cheska said that on Instagram content creators were almost using quality content as their hook and that she was seeing more content created using digital cameras, instead of just a smartphone. However, Miri pointed out that in the B2C-led community, they are seeing a “higher bar than ever for influencer content” and that the content that received the best engagement for Landing was teenagers hanging out in their bedrooms. For Landing, it’s more about building a community rather than just building an audience, and this is a trend she predicts will continue this year.

Tailored Content and Platform Prioritisation

The speakers were unanimous that there was no one-size-fits-all approach to what social media platform you should prioritise and said that understanding your audience and catering to their preferences should be your priority. Miri said that at Landing they “think carefully about what’s the purpose of each platform”. For example, they use TikTok to funnel brand awareness, and Instagram as an engagement hub. She recommends you tailor your content to each platform, and that you shouldn’t try and mirror the performance of one platform to the next and expect the same results.

AI Integration

The discussion extended to the role of AI in content creation and social media strategy, with AI gradually becoming a valuable asset in content generation and social media management. Jess commented “Right now, AI is still so experimental,” adding that, “Your company might have a policy on how we are going to use AI, but it could change tomorrow.” She uses AI for idea generation and content refinement and says that it’s useful in identifying blind spots or things you may have forgotten to mention.

However, she was quick to point out that this is the worst AI is ever going to be. Meaning that we should get a grasp on it now because eventually, it will be at the point where we can operate it with a few simple commands.

SEO and Hashtags

Cheska highlighted the importance of SEO and hashtags in social media posts and captions, stating that people are using these keywords when searching for relevant content. She said that long captions were a good way to optimise your SEO and tended to perform well. Both Miri and Julia mentioned that people use TikTok like a search engine and that TikTok recently released their video suggestions which included recommendations on caption use, hashtags, and trending topics.

Effective Hooks and Niche Targeting

The speakers emphasised the importance of capturing an audience’s attention within seconds, so using clear, simple hooks and being authentic were noted as successful engagement strategies. Cheska explained that some of the more successful hooks for Girlboss were topics that were a little bit controversial and therefore sparked a discussion in the comments and memes performed well.

Niche Targeting and Avoiding Overemphasis on Virality

The speakers agreed that going viral is great, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your brand or strategy. Cheska highlighted that once you go viral you end up reaching people out of your target demographic, which is good for engagement but not good for your conversion. All agreed that the focus should be on building a community, and that niche targeting communicates to people “who you are not for, as much as who you are for”, which is a far more effective strategy in helping to attract a relevant audience.

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