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Predictions 2023: The year ahead for social media – by LPS’ Aasim Shaikh

LPS' Aasim Shaikh says social media will be short-form-video-first in 2023

By Aasim Shaik, managing director, LPS

The year 2022 has been a year of dramatic recovery for the world, and particularly the MENA region, in the immediate post-pandemic period. Brands and platforms alike have driven the wave of positive macro-triggers. Expo 2020 and the World Cup were among the planned macro investments. In this regard, meeting room conversations in 2023 will centre around optimising the communications mix and plans to achieve results with lean spending. In this context, it will be rightful and timely that short-form video (SFV) platforms will dominate content and media: TikTok, Reels, Shorts and Snapchat. This will be the year when, for the first time, Instagram and Facebook grid strategy will not be the anchor presence for brands. The social strategy will be TikTok and Reels first, subsequently repurposed for the grid. 

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You may ask, what is new about video? Video storytelling has existed for a long time with long-form video storytelling on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. But the SFV video movement is different. It is the beginning of commerce video in our marketing lives. For the first time, as a marketer, you can at scale lean-test shot video creative elements and not just post-production cuts with SFV based on your objectives. 

The numbers are compelling for an SFV-first strategy. Short-form video is expected to make up 90 per cent of internet traffic, and people share videos at twice the rate of any other content. For brands looking to build mass traction, the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) on SFV platforms is one-third of grid-based platforms like Facebook and Instagram. If you are a performance-marketing ninja, the numbers will delight you. The click-through rates (CTRs) are 40 to 50 per cent lower than conventional social platforms. The conversion outcomes are significantly better in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These make them the prime choice for value marketers, and the bar chart will inevitably tilt in favour of SFV platforms in 2023. 

There is a common misconception that SFV platforms, particularly TikTok, are all song and dance. This can’t be further from truth. Some of our most successful campaigns have been centred around elevated pitch content when there is a creator-to-audience video conversation, similar to a zoom video call. 

But there is a catch here. These results are highly dependent on a native content SFV strategy – vertical, person-to-person, and a recreation of an SFV trend or format. If you are looking to build an SFV strategy around repurposed videos from conventional social platforms, perfect high-fidelity productions and video carousels from static creatives, brace yourself for a dark road of low ROI and spend excesses. You should build native and ‘unarmed’ feed videos. The SFV community finds these authentic, recommendation-friendly and of gratuitous audience value. 

How do brands and agencies adapt to it? 

Firstly, it is important to build an outward-to-inward and, to an extent, anti-agency approach toward social strategy. This is a social 2.0 mantra where the brands are truly part of the community, and react to platform triggers such as trends, topics and formats. We look at content as reactions to what is buzzing rather than creating a buzz. On the execution level, it is essential to build a brand-agency collaborative team and a lean stakeholder process for minimum bottlenecks and maximum impact. You have to look to size up your native TikTok models and internal TikTok cheerleaders, and use them bottom-up to ace your SFV strategy. 

What does the future hold for SFV? 

Educational and ‘gratuitous audience value’ content will rule for brand impact. The audience will search to find the hidden food gem in Dammam on SFV platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, and brand content must be reflective of these times. In the long run, these formats and video AI capabilities could have a spill-over and even dominate content on web 3.0 platforms and our augmented physical spaces. As a brand or an agency, there are enough reasons and this is an appropriate time to build your first cringe-free TikTok.