From The Great Resignation to the unveiling of the Metaverse, we try to make sense of a wildly unpredictable year and compile our biggest predictions for 2022.
Photo by zero take on Unsplash
2021 has been a year of big change. The pandemic has continued to alter the way we live – spurring tech innovations, building new economies and shifting our attitudes and approaches to work.
So in a time when everything is evolving at warp speed, what’s coming next? To help you prepare, we got the Linktree team to share their predictions for the year ahead.
#1 The Metaverse will make more brands go virtual
The term ‘Metaverse’ has been kicking around since 1992, when it was coined in a science fiction novel called Snow Crash. But it reached new audiences in 2021 when Mark Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook as ‘Meta’ and announced his plan to make the sci-fi concept a reality.
He – along with a bunch of other tech heads and investors – want to create a future where our virtual and physical lives are merged in bold new ways.
Exactly what that entails remains to be seen, because the Metaverse doesn’t actually exist yet. But in five-or ten years’, Zuckerberg thinks we might be playing basketball with people on the opposite side of the world in a virtual space or appearing virtually at concerts a friend is attending IRL.
Zuck’s big vision suggests that we can expect to see a growth in virtual worlds – that is, the spaces where avatars interact with each other, like gamers do in the likes of Fortnite or Animal Crossing.
So in 2022, expect to see more big brands begin to enter the virtual realm. The likes of NASCAR have already dipped their toe in, dropping a digital car in the gaming platform Roblox and selling branded apparel for players’ avatars.
We’re also predicting a rise in virtual reality and augmented reality products – like the AR glasses Ray Ban partnered with Facebook to create, which let you record what you see and hear. However, Ray Ban was met with backlash over that product announcement – so the challenge for brands will be innovating without overstepping the boundaries of privacy.
But what’s the consumer appetite for it now as we emerge from various states of lockdown? While the pandemic accelerated our immersion in virtual worlds, Spotify research strongly pointed at Gen Zs craving IRL experiences. Millennials, on the other hand, were more open to a mix of hybrid experiences, with 43% of 9000 global participants planning to continue attending virtual events even when the pandemic is over.
#2 Curators will be king
Ever felt like there’s too much content? You’re not alone. The sheer size of the internet means there’s a never-ending stream of articles to read, TV shows to watch and podcasts to listen to. It’s more than one person can keep up with, which is where the curator economy comes in.
If you’ve ever subscribed to a newsletter that recommends the best new online articles, sourced book reviews from a YouTuber or listened to a playlist created by an influencer, you’ve participated in the curator economy.
It’s all about getting trusted humans – not algorithms – to point you in the direction of the content that’s worth making the time for. And while some curation is informal (think: an Instagram post), the rise of platforms like Substack has made it easier than ever for curators to monetize what they do.
In 2022, content curators will set the trends and make or break new books, TV shows, movies and podcasts. We’ll see the appetite for newsletters continue to grow and curators use platforms like Linktree (hi, that’s us!) to easily show off their recommendations.
And trust in huge influencers continues to wane, audiences will turn to micro-influencers to get recommendations. That means you don’t need a huge following to get started as a curator – just good taste and the right tools.
#3 NFTs will go mainstream
2021 may well be remembered for the year NFTs went from something underground to something you’re suddenly talking to your parents about at the dinner table.
For consumers, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are a way to claim ownership of something unique and verifiably authentic through the blockchain; a compelling proposition for investors and fans alike. They become the investment option de jour for Gen Z audiences, allowing them to generate royalties from a single asset circulated in the market.
What’s driving a lot of the collectibility is the fact people are buying up digital pieces of history. This may explain why some were prepared to pay $164,012 for a token redeemable for a pair of socks. Yes, socks.
In a pandemic year that largely took live performance off the table, artists and creators found inventive ways to use NFTs to create an unlikely revenue stream and bring the value back to their art.
The rise of NFTs allowed creative minds to sell one-of-a-kind (or very limited run) digital assets for big money. Electronic music producer Flume auctioned a song and animation called ‘Saccade’ for $66,000 worth of the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Model and author Emily Ratajowski sold an image of herself for $175,000.
They’re not just a fad. One of our predictions for 2022 is that we’ll see NFTs reach a far wider audience as companies and creators use them in innovative new ways.
In fact, many major big brands are already making NFTs part of their business plan: Twitter is integrating NFTs, Nike is creating NFT verification on shoes, and Warner Bros is preparing to release music NFTs.
Some companies are tweaking the concept of NFTs to be more like subscription models, creating things like the Never Ending Ticket (NET) – which act as a golden ticket to all of their events and content.
Musicians like Grimes and Kings of Leon are using NFTs as a way to sell their media. NFTs are sparking surge in demand for luxury goods and are even being credited with helping millennials and Gen Z build wealth in a time where things like home ownership seem out of reach.
What can’t they do?
#4 Social currency will sell
The brands that succeeded in 2021 were the ones that offered more than just a product. For instance, we saw record numbers of people buy shares in ZeroCo, a company which creates products that aim to solve the global single use plastic problem.
It’s all down to what marketers are terming ‘social currency’, an evolution of the age-old concept of social capital. For a brand to have social currency, it has to offer something that makes consumers want to share it with others – either because it makes it look smart, ethical, or up with the latest trends.
In 2022, brands will need to create something people can be proud of buying.
We’ll likely see eco-friendly brands continue to succeed, as consumers look for ways to signal they’re doing their bit for the planet. And after the Black Lives Matter movement proved the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, brands that live those ethos will build loyal followings – and the ones who don’t will be left behind.
Influencers will also be able to use the appetite for social currency to their advantage if they can brand themselves as something people want to be part of.
#5 Brands will be in on the joke
On October 4, Facebook experienced a six-hour global outage. It was an opportunity Twitter were quick to seize on.
“hello literally everyone,” the rival social media platform tweeted, reeling in some 3.3 million likes. In the replies, other big brands – McDonalds, Microsoft WhatsApp and T-Mobile among them – were quick to join in with jokes of their own.
In 2021, this was par for the course on social media. We saw more brands have fun on Twitter or in Facebook comments, joining the conversation in a humorous way and going viral – proving that the best marketing is a good punchline.
Brands will put more effort than ever into crafting a funny, on-the-pulse online presence. (Social media managers, now’s a good time to ask for a raise.)
Though it’s not just on Twitter where brands will need to be able to laugh at themselves. The biggest wins will come from taking things a step further, being reactive and tapping into the LOL cycle – think Peloton leaning into the joke by recruiting actor Chris Noth for a TV commercial after his character, Mr. Big, had ~spoiler alert ~ a heart attack on one of their bikes in the new Sex and the City reboot.
Of course, part of using humour is knowing where to draw the line – which is why Peloton pulled their ads after Noth was accused of sexual assault.
#6 We’ll shop where we scroll
2021 was the year we added-to-cart without even leaving the ‘gram. Platform updates from the likes of Insta and Facebook made it possible to complete purchases in-app, making online shopping easier than ever. In addition, the boom in buy-now-pay-later models and another year of lockdowns made customers happy to spend money from the comfort of their couch.
The rise in these ‘social commerce’ sales was so big that Visa reported one in four online transactions now happen using a social media platform. And in the US alone, social commerce sales rose by over 35% in 2021 to a total of $36 billion.
It’ll only get bigger from here – by 2025, the total amount of money generated from social commerce sales in the US is predicted to reach $80 billion.
And it’s not just brands who’ll get to use the rise of social commerce to their advantage. With it now easier than ever to integrate payment links into social media, creators can seamlessly charge subscriptions or other fees for their content. Just add something like a Linktree commerce link to your profile and away you go.
In 2022, the goal should be to make collecting payments as frictionless as possible.
Seamlessly embed your Shopify store, directly on your Linktree!
#7 Work will be on your terms
Nothing makes you reassess your priorities like a pandemic. After riding out the early waves of COVID-19, record numbers of people are now shaking things up – switching careers, ditching their old jobs after creating new income streams in lockdown, or making changes that bring them a better work-life balance.
It’s called The Great Resignation, and it’s changing both mindsets and workforces.
The pandemic has put power in the hands of employees. With the technology now in place, more people will choose to keep working remotely. Many will even go freelance, with Upwork finding that 20% of Americans are considering making the leap to working for themselves.
Companies that want to retain staff will need to offer greater flexibility, giving employees more say in where and what hours they work.
With online platforms like Linktree, Substack, Twitch and Patreon facilitating the growth of the ‘The Passion Economy’, creators will find it easier than ever to make a living creatively. Now’s the time to use technology to automate menial tasks, leaving more time to turn hobbies into income streams.