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9 Social Media Trends You Need to Know to Plan Your 2022 Strategy

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It’s that time again. Social media managers everywhere are blinking our eyes and poking our heads out from behind our screens to take the lay of the land. We’ve got strategies to plan, and we need to know: which social media trends are going to change the game in 2022?

Is TikTok going to overtake Instagram? Is organic engagement any better? Is it necessary to host a live audio chat once a week?

It can be tough working in an industry that morphs faster than a Power Ranger. But, don’t worry, we’re here to save you a bunch of late nights because we have answers.

We looked at the 5 key trends outlined in Hootsuite’s global Social Trends 2022 report, along with data from our survey of over 18,000 marketers to bring you this list of 9 social media trends that will dominate the industry in 2022. And probably even change the way you do your job.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to prioritize and plan your social strategy in 2022.

Instagram has held the #1 spot in most social marketers’ hearts for the past few years. It was growing the fastest, had the highest returns on investment (depending on your industry), and (bonus) was pretty fun to hang out on. But that’s changing now.

TikTok surpassed the 1 billion user mark in September 2021. That made it the 7th most popular social network in the world.

If you exclude messaging networks, TikTok is the 4th most popular social media network after Instagram.

Chart: the world's most used social media platforms

Why is this a big deal? Well, in January 2021, it only had 689 million users. That’s a 45% increase in less than a year.

And this comes after its largest growth spurt of all: a global user base increase of 1,157% between 2018 and 2020.

To put this into perspective, Instagram’s monthly active users grew at a rate of 6% in 2020.

Even more interesting? Google Search Trends shows that TikTok completely dominates Instagram’s short-form video content.

Over the last year, search demand for TikTok has grown by 173%. But search demand for Instagram Reels has only grown by 22%. And it has decreased by 33% for Stories.

But despite TikTok’s rapid growth, most businesses are hesitant to invest in the network. Take the results from Hootsuite’s Social Media Trends report.

Chart: Do you plan on increasing or maintaining or decreasing your investment in the following social media networks?

Only 35% of respondents said they planned on increasing their investment in TikTok in the next year. Most businesses continue to place big bets on reliable networks like Instagram and Facebook.

But that’s not the whole story. When asked which social platforms they considered most effective for reaching their business goals, 24% said TikTok. This is a 700% increase over 2020.

Social media trends chart: Which social media platforms do you consider most effective for reaching your business goals?

TikTok introduced several helpful business tools in 2020 and 2021, including business profiles, ads, and a creator marketplace. This could be why businesses are feeling more optimistic about it this year.

To-Do List: If brands aren’t flocking to TikTok yet, they will be soon. We recommend being at the front of the wave rather than behind it.

  • Grab an account handle for your brand
  • Explore TikTok so you can start feeling fluent on the platform and find some ideas
  • Sketch out the basics of your TikTok marketing strategy

2. You will start spending big ad dollars on smaller networks

Of all the social media trends on this list, this one is perhaps the most surprising.

New research shows that consumers may be more receptive to advertising on smaller channels like TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest than the bigger social networks.

  • A study by Kantar, commissioned by TikTok, found that consumers ranked TikTok ads as more inspiring and enjoyable than ads on other platforms.
  • A Nielson study commissioned by Snapchat found that ads on Snapchat had more reach than TV ads and led to greater awareness and purchase intent.
  • A Pinterest Business study showed that ads on Pinterest had higher ROI and cheaper conversion rates than ads on other social networks.

Google Search Trends also show increasing search demand over the last two years for ads on these networks. TikTok is leading the charge.

This chart shows that rumors of good results are spreading. And curiosity about advertising on the smaller networks goes beyond self-funded studies.

Our hypothesis? The smaller networks aren’t as saturated with ads as Facebook and Instagram, so users may suffer less from ads fatigue.

Many social pros also had to diversify their ads strategy in early 2021 in response to the Apple iOS 14 update. This was when Apple announced an “opt in to ads tracking” option for all Apple users, blocking Facebook’s ability to target a vast chunk of its audience.

Most importantly though, TikTok, Pinterest and Snapchat all encourage advertisers to make their ads “fit in” with organic content that is already being posted by regular users.

The result is ads that are more entertaining and less disruptive, increasing conversions and all-round good vibes for businesses.

French beauty brand MAKE UP FOREVER ran an in-feed TikTok ad as part of a larger brand awareness campaign. It features a creator testing and reviewing a new foundation as they would on their own channel.

The campaign generated more than 11 million impressions and 10 million video views for the brand across France.

To-Do List:

  • Take a closer look at your engagement across all platforms. Have you been underestimating Pinterest users? Neglecting the potential of your Snapchat audience?
  • Study the content people post on that network. See if you can improve your brand’s tone to fit in with the vibe there.
  • Experiment with creating ads on that network. Or test a new network, especially if you’ve discounted it as too much effort for organic content in the past.
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Before the pandemic, social commerce was a flashy opportunity for the most innovative businesses (mattress disruptors, eyeglass disruptors—basically you had to call yourself a disruptor before you’d let your customers shop on social).

But increased social media consumption combined with stay-at-home mandates created the perfect conditions for a social shopping explosion. Which is not going away.

eMarketer predicts social commerce will be an $80 billion industry by 2025. It’s riding the coattails of equally massive e-commerce growth (an increase of 18% in 2020 alone).

Social Media Trends Chart: US Retail Social Commerce Sales, 2019 - 2025

81% of shoppers were already using social media to discover new brands and research products before the pandemic. Many businesses have figured out that letting these users checkout in the same app just makes sense.

After all, navigating to a website is an extra step, which is an extra potential leak in your conversion funnel. Especially on mobile, where cart abandonment rates are high.

Most social networks have in-app shopping solutions now, including live video, and are working to provide new features to meet rising demand. But Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are the most popular. And TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube aren’t far behind.

Instagram Explore page
Instagram added a “Shop” tab to the Explore page in 2020

To-Do List

Social commerce likely won’t replace e-commerce soon. But, depending on your business, you shouldn’t be designing a retail experience without thinking about it.

  • If you sell products to people, set up a Facebook Shop and/or an Instagram Shop. Or, test out Product Pins on Pinterest.
  • There’s some design flexibility in these shops, so make the customer experience as visually seamless with your brand as you can.
  • Don’t worry about getting your whole inventory up. Focus on curating the items you think your Instagram followers will like best.
  • Experiment with shoppable posts, or even ads! This will allow customers to see your products in context—and then place an order in just a few taps.

4. No one will want to talk to your brand on the phone

Between lockdowns, halting global supply chains, and labor shortages, consumers have had more urgent questions for businesses than ever before. And they’ve discovered they can get answers to those questions more conveniently using social media.

In a Nielsen survey commissioned by Facebook, 64% of people said they would prefer to message rather than call a business. And ​​according to Gartner, 60% of all customer service requests will be managed via digital channels by 2023.

Despite the rise in demand, many organizations aren’t ready to deliver effective customer support over social media yet.

Hootsuite’s 2022 Customer Care Survey shows that 71% of organizations have either not started investing in social customer care yet, or they don’t plan to invest at all.

Social Media Trends Chart: Is social customer care an area your organization will be investing in more in the future?

But our more recent Social Media Trends survey data suggests that the tide may be turning. 59% of respondents agreed that social customer care has increased in value for their organization.

To-Do List

  • Start thinking about a social media customer service strategy.
  • Create network-specific response templates for frequently asked questions.
  • If you haven’t already, try using a chatbot to improve your response time.
  • Merge your customer service conversations in one tool. (Naturally, we suggest Sparkcentral or Hootsuite Inbox.)
  • Train your social marketing team in customer support best practices. Better yet, hire dedicated customer service agents for your social channels.

5. Long-form video is a bust, except on YouTube

According to video hosting software company Vidyard, 60% of all videos published on the internet in 2020 were under 2 minutes long.

Graph: Video length distribution across the internet
Source: Vidyard

This stat puts video length on social media platforms into perspective.

Two years ago, with the advent of IGTV and Facebook Watch (not to mention the supposed demise of Snapchat), there was a moment when we all thought long-form video was the future.

YouTube, known for its long-form educational videos, was rewarding videos that passed the 10-minute mark. And Facebook wanted to compete in the same arena.

Businesses rushed to make “tv series” for their social platforms. Will Smith even narrated an IGTV show for National Geographic. It seemed like Facebook might not only be taking on YouTube, but cable TV networks as well.

But then TikTok arrived in North America. In response, Instagram launched Reels in late 2020, and the rest is history.

Fast forward to fall 2021.

Instagram has deprecated IGTV. No one talks about Facebook Watch anymore. And even YouTube, the last bastion of long-form video on social media, has introduced a new format. You guessed it: YouTube Shorts.

The success of Reels and TikTok follows the success of Stories (another short-form video format), which saw rapid user uptake from 2018 to 2020.

Unfortunately, Facebook hasn’t updated the 500 million user count for Stories since the release of Reels in 2020, so we can’t really tell if it has grown. But attempts to copy the disappearing short-form video format on Twitter and LinkedIn failed in 2021. RIP Fleets and LinkedIn Stories.

if you see a Fleet no you didn’t https://t.co/4rKI7f45PL

— Twitter (@Twitter) August 3, 2021

This suggests that social media users won’t watch just any short-form videos. They have to be entertaining and engaging too. Also, perhaps disappearing content isn’t as big a draw as it used to be.

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Whatever the reason, Hootsuite’s 2022 Social Media Trends survey shows that businesses prefer short-form video too.

Social Media Trends Chart: Does your company engage in any of the following activities to sell products or services?

Nearly 40% of respondents said that they use short-form video to sell products/services.

To-Do List:

  • If your goal is to reach new followers, experiment with TikTok videos.
  • If your goal is to re-engage your existing Instagram audience, experiment with Reels.
  • If you have success with short-form videos on one platform, try it on others. And take note of the results. As always, you’ll want to translate videos for each channel. No TikTok watermarks on Reels, please!

6. You will outsource (at least some of) your engagement tactics to a Creator

The creator economy has been around for about a decade. But it boomed during the pandemic as people looked for ways to diversify their income (due to unemployment, or a sudden influx of spare time, or both).

But we’re not just talking about millionaire YouTube stars. It’s now considered common for regular folks to monetize their hobbies, create a second income stream, or find freelance work through social media too.

Hence the rise of the term “Creator.”

“Creator” encompasses both professional influencer marketers and amateur content creators — basically anyone who writes, edits, designs, and films content to publish on social media with an entrepreneurial motivation.

As of 2021, 50 million people consider themselves to be creators on social networks. And businesses are set to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022.

In the U.S. alone, 72.5% of marketers are projected to make use of influencer marketing by 2022.

Graph: Share of U.S. Marketers using social media and influencer marketing, 2019 - 2022
Source: eMarketer

Social networks are both driving and responding to this boom by adding many new native monetization tools, such as:

  • TikTok’s Creator Marketplace
  • Instagram’s Collabs
  • Instagram’s Branded Content Ads
  • Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager
  • YouTube Brand Connect
  • Twitter’s paid Super Follows

These tools are all geared to get content creators paid, so they can keep adding value for brands and users on their chosen platforms.

Plus, they help the networks hang on to their slice of that $15 billion pie. That is until one of the thousands of third-party “creator monetization” apps that have sprung up in the last few years finally cracks the code.

To-Do List: Whatever your niche (plant fanatics, goth Harry Potter fans, ASMR receptionists, etc.), there is a creator with an already established fan base waiting to partner with you. And they’ll do a better job of creating authentic, long-term customer relationships than any brand account could ever hope to!

  • Define the audience you want to reach (and which platform they’re on).
  • Browse creator marketplaces to make a shortlist of people who have clout with that audience.
  • Get ready to pay fair rates. Even the most micro of creators know their worth and won’t be willing to work for free.

7. You need to learn paid advertising (even if you don’t do ads yet)

Honestly, this social media trend has been around for a few years. But it’s still worth mentioning, especially given what we found in Hootsuite’s 2022 Social Media Trends survey.

43% of respondents said “the decline of organic reach and the need to increase paid advertising budgets” was their biggest challenge on social media. This is second only to consistently coming up with ideas for content.

Social Media Trends Chart: What are your biggest challenges on social media?

But that was for respondents overall. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) listed the decline of organic reach as their #1 challenge.

This makes sense. The decline of organic reach has been well-documented for years, especially on Facebook and Instagram. And most SMBs have limited funds to put towards “pay-to-play” tactics.

The pandemic caused some ups and downs for social advertising. Businesses reduced their spending on ads. And the ones that continued to spend complained about low returns on over-saturated networks.

Plus, Apple allowed users to opt out of Facebook tracking. This caused Facebook advertisers to reinvent how they did their ad targeting.

But the fact remains that the average organic reach for a Facebook post is 5.2%.

That means only 5% of your followers may ever see your posts if you don’t put any paid budget behind them.

Sure, you can expand your social media strategy to other networks where it’s still possible to go viral without spending a dime. (*Ahem* TikTok.) But chances are you’re not going to leave the audiences you worked so hard to grow.

No matter what your budget, someone on your social marketing team is going to have to at least learn how to boost. And everyone is going to have to learn the basics of audience targeting.

To-Do List:

  • Keep using organic social media content to increase brand awareness, deliver customer service, and encourage audience engagement, charming people along the buying journey. Refer to the handy Venn diagram below for more information.
  • Experiment with promoting your top posts to reach new potential customers.
  • If you’re ready to level up your ads game, consider investing in a solution like Hootsuite Social Advertising. It allows you to publish ads to Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and track their performance in the same dashboard.

Request a Demo

​​ Venn diagram: Benefits of Organic vs. Paid social media

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses jumped on board the social listening train for the first time. They liked being able to respond in real-time to questions and conversations with their customers during a health crisis.

But as the pandemic progressed (and was buffeted by ongoing political upheaval, labor shortages, and increased resentment towards corporations), even more businesses learned that social listening could help them understand their customers’ changing preferences and avoid PR mishaps.

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Social Media Trends Chart: Over the past 12 months, social listening has increased in value for my organization

This trend is backed by data from Hootsuite’s 2022 Social Media Trends survey. Most respondents said that they either somewhat or strongly agree that social listening has increased in value for their organization over the past 12 months.

We also see that Google search demand for keywords like “social listening” and “social listening tools” is up 22% year-over-year. This means that more people are on the hunt to either find out what social listening is or buy a tool for their business.

Chart: Year-over-year growth in Google search volume for social listening related keywords

To-Do List

  • Set up three search streams in your preferred social media management tool (if you don’t have one yet, try Hootsuite for free for 30 days) for the following:
      • Your brand mentions, branded hashtags, products, and spokespeople
      • Your competitors’ brand mentions, branded hashtags, products, and spokespeople
      • Keywords and hashtags important to your industry as a whole
  • Watch our super-informative intro to social listening video:

  • Make sure that the people who make decisions have access to what you learn. Whether you’re running a one-woman flower shop or have a team of two hundred marketers, social listening will surface issues and opportunities that can affect the whole business.

Try Streams in Hootsuite

Clubhouse launched in April 2020 but grew steeply in popularity in early 2021.

Graph: Monthly installs of Clubhouse Worldwide, Sept. 14, 2020 - Mar. 15, 2021

Twitter launched its social audio platform, Spaces, quickly after. And Facebook is also reportedly trying to enter the ephemeral live audio format.

These events had many social marketing teams, including Hootsuite’s, scrambling to decide whether it was worth investing in a social audio strategy. And as our 2022 Social Media Trends survey shows, the majority of businesses seem to think it is worth it.

Social Media Trends Chart: Are you planning to invest in audio-only content in the next 12 months?

When asked specifically how they were planning to invest, results were fairly mixed across the board. But the most popular option was “hosting/leading audio live streams as thought leaders.”

(Side note: props to everyone who’s been assigned the job of creating a company podcast. Blink twice if you want us to send help.)

Social Media Trends Chart: How are you planning to invest in audio-only content?

Let’s break down the data even further.

Our survey found that it was most often VPs and mid- to large-size companies who planned to invest in social audio and thought leadership, as well as companies that were already very confident about proving social media’s return on investment (i.e., companies that use highly sophisticated social marketing tactics).

This makes sense. Thought leadership is seen as a great opportunity for social audio content because it enables one or two people to speak to a large crowd. For those who have the boldness and the budget, it’s a big opportunity to build trust in your brand and directly connect with potential customers.

That said, because of the skill and time involved, social audio is not a particularly cheap form of content marketing. This is one of the reasons we predict small businesses will be slower to adopt it. You’ve got to have the cash to make an investment upfront on a format that hasn’t proved ROI for anyone yet.

Lastly, Clubhouse has stated that ads won’t ever be a part of its business model.

This is either a pro or a con for businesses, depending on how you look at it. Either way, the lack of ads means integrating your brand into Clubhouse will take some imagination.

And the path to ROI will be a long and winding one, which may often include redirecting listeners to your other social media channels.

To-Do List:

  • You don’t have to choose one particular social audio platform over another. But you should start thinking about how your business can take advantage of social audio in general, now.
  • Once you’ve got an idea of the value you could bring to listeners, start thinking about specific platforms. For example, try using Spaces to engage your existing community on Twitter. Try Clubhouse to connect with new followers.
  • Tap the thought leaders (hopefully good, charismatic humans with plenty of improv experience) in your company to host a talk on behalf of your brand. And make sure you hire a pro moderator who can help minimize the risk of trolls and unwelcome questions.
  • If no one fits the thought leader bill in your company, consider partnering with an influencer who matches your brand values to host a talk on your behalf.

That’s it! These are the 9 social media trends we think you need to know to stay on top of your game in 2022. Which ones did you see coming? And which ones surprised you? Leave us a comment below to let us know.

You’ve read the social media trends. Now let Hootsuite help you stay ahead of them.

Get a full suite of tools to help you manage every aspect of your brand’s social media presence.

From a single dashboard you can easily:

  • Create, edit and schedule posts to every network
  • Find out what your best times to post are based on your unique, historical data
  • Track relevant keywords, topics, and accounts
  • Respond to comments and direct messages with a universal inbox
  • Get easy-to-understand performance reports to help improve your strategy as needed

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With files from Paige Cooper.

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POV: Facebook’s Change to Meta Blurs Lines Even Further

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COM’s Michelle Amazeen worries if people will know the difference between real-world and virtual experiences

When Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta in October, the 2008 Pixar movie WALL-E was the first thing that came to my mind. The sci-fi movie is about a robot left on an uninhabitable Earth to clean up the garbage left behind by humans. Rampant consumerism and corporate greed have left Earth a wasteland, and humans have been evacuated to outer space. In this same way, I envision Facebook abandoning the real world for the virtual “metaverse”—shared online environments where people can interact. They leave behind unimaginable quantities of disinformation, amplified by their algorithms, along with harassment, hate speech, and angry partisans.

To move beyond my initial reaction and gain more insight into the implications of Facebook’s name change (and strategic plans) from a communication research perspective, I turned to two research fellows who study emerging media within the Communication Research Center (CRC) at Boston University’s College of Communication (COM).

Media psychologist James Cummings, a COM assistant professor of emerging media studies, indicates that a metaverse—if successful—would produce new issues in information processing and would place a new emphasis on theories of interpersonal communication—rather than just mass communication. As I feared, he also says it has the potential to augment existing media effects of concern related to social networking, namely misinformation, persuasion, addiction, and distraction.

First, Cummings explains there would be major implications for how billions of people select, process, and are influenced by media content. To be successful, the metaverse platforms will need to transform current modes of information processing and digital communication interactions into much more immersive, cognitively absorbing experiences.

“For instance,” he says, “the mainstreaming of consumer-facing immersive ‘virtual reality’ [VR]—which typically places high demands on users’ processing—will be coming in an age of media multitasking. Interfaces will need to figure out how to immerse users while still permitting them to access different information streams.”

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Similarly, he says, mainstreaming “augmented reality” (AR) experiences will also mean requiring users to skillfully juggle attentional demands. People will suddenly be forced to multitask between virtual and real-world stimuli. These are common practices for hobbyists, but may present more challenges for a broader population of users.

Thus, Cummings suggests, if the metaverse is the ecosystem of devices and experiences that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisions, users will be switching back and forth between different types of immersive experiences and stimuli, from reality to augmented reality to virtual reality. This scenario may present some new and interesting psychological experiences, in the effects of in-person (e.g., chatting with a friend in the same room), mediated (e.g., reading a news alert on your phone), and augmented messages (e.g., a holographic personal assistant)—all interdependent and blurring together.

Second, Cummings expects that a successful metaverse would mean exchanges with virtual content and people that are much more like face-to-face or interpersonal interactions. “This will require the designers of these platforms to master key elements of media richness theory and factors influencing users’ sense of spatial and social presence,” he explains. For instance, social networking in the metaverse may not only consist of the informational experiences we are used to today (e.g., reading text, watching videos, viewing pictures), but increasingly also perceptual experiences (e.g., a sense of being transported into the story, a feeling of being next to someone on the other side of the globe, noticing nonverbal behaviors).

Finally, Cummings indicates that immersive media are rife for a whole new breed of covert persuasion—such as “native advertising,” or ads that mimic their surroundings—to the extent that users confuse the perceptually plausible with the real. He’s particularly interested in seeing the impact of immersion on users’ perceptions of message authorship and authorial intent.

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Indeed, back in the real world, native advertising has been widely adopted to covertly promote not only commercial products, but also political candidates. Candidates are increasingly relying upon “influencers” to post supportive messages on Facebook and other social media without consistently disclosing they are being paid to do so, blurring the critical line between what is real news and what is merely paid advertising. As I have previously addressed here, if the regulatory agencies that oversee advertising—both commercial and political—have not been able to keep up with the digital transformation of our media ecosystem, how will they be able to regulate the metaverse?

For Chris Wells, a COM associate professor of emerging media studies, the promise and pitfalls of the metaverse depend entirely on how Facebook rolls it out. For example, the radical network effects we see from social media rely to some degree on the extremely shortened forms of communication—short texts and short videos—that allow information scanning and selection on a very rapid scale. He indicates the pseudo-social presence of virtual reality would seem to reduce the number of people you can actually interact with. “How will the metaverse be organized and who will you be able to interact with?” Wells asks. Are people going to have coffee virtually? Virtual meetings? He suggests that a site such as Second Life may offer rudimentary evidence of the kinds of interactions that emerge when people engage with strangers in a massive virtual world.

Presumably, Wells suggests, Facebook will still have to provide a great deal of content moderation in the metaverse if people are to have any interactions outside tightly defined networks. “Given Facebook’s track record with their current platform,” he says, “this could well be an unmitigated disaster; but expecting this may lead them to tightly control who interacts with whom and in what ways.”

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Second Life notwithstanding, Wells also questions who will actually want to engage in such a virtual space. “My read of the pandemic is that people don’t particularly want to keep sitting in their bedrooms and interacting through Zoom,” he says.

“Will wearing an Oculus headset make that a lot better? I’m not sure,” he adds. “But I also suspect that there are at least a lot of people for whom going to a virtual concert or playing virtual chess with a friend in the park are paltry substitutes for the real thing.”

Wells concedes that there are a lot of millennials and Gen Zs who spend a lot of time in their bedrooms on video games, with digital avatars, and so forth. One possibility, he says, is that the metaverse becomes a niche space for these sorts of folks.

As these metaverse developments take shape, CRC fellows are well positioned to monitor these emerging media uses and perceptual effects. The CRC has multiple Oculus virtual reality headsets that can be paired with our psychophysiological measurement tools. For as technology takes us to new realms, we have a responsibility back in reality to analyze and understand how humans are affected.

Michelle Amazeen is a College of Communication associate professor and director of COM’s Communication Research Center.

“POV” is an opinion page that provides timely commentaries from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be about 700 words long, should contact John O’Rourke at orourkej@bu.eduBU Today reserves the right to reject or edit submissions. The views expressed are solely those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of Boston University.

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Facebook’s centralized metaverse a threat to the decentralized ecosystem?

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Facebook has been planning its foray into the metaverse for some time now — possibly even several years. But it’s only recently that its ambitious expansion plans have catapulted the concept into mainstream headlines across the globe. Renaming the parent company to Meta was perhaps the biggest, boldest statement of intent the firm could make. Suddenly, major news outlets were awash with explainer articles, while finance websites have been bubbling with excitement about the investment opportunities in this newly emerging sector. 

However, within the crypto sphere, the response has been understandably more muted. After all, decentralized versions of the metaverse have been in development around these parts for several years now. Even worse, the tech giants’ cavalier attitude to user privacy and data harvesting has informed many of the most cherished principles in the blockchain and crypto sector.

Nevertheless, metaverse tokens such as Decentraland (MANA) and Sandbox (SAND), enjoyed extensive rallies on the back of the news, and within a few days of Facebook’s announcement, decentralized metaverse project The Sandbox received $93 million in funding from investors, including Softbank.

But now that the dust has settled, do the company-formerly-known-as-Facebook’s plans represent good news for nonfungible token (NFT) and metaverse projects in crypto? Or does Meta have the potential to sink this still-nascent sector?

What is known so far?

Facebook hasn’t released many details about what can be expected from its version of the metaverse. A promotional video featuring the company co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, himself, along with his metaverse avatar, looked suitably glossy. Even so, it was scant with information about how things will actually work under the hood. However, based on precedent and what is known, some distinctions can be made between what Facebook is likely to be planning and the established decentralized metaverse projects.

Facebook has some form when it comes to questions over whether it will adopt decentralized infrastructure based on its efforts to launch a cryptocurrency. Diem, formerly Libra, is a currency run by a permissioned network of centralized companies. David Marcus, who heads up Diem, has also confirmed that the project, and by extension Facebook, is also considering NFTs integrated with Novi, the Diem-compatible wallet.

Based on all this, it’s fair to say that the Facebook metaverse would have an economy centered around the Diem currency, with NFT-based assets issued on the permissioned Diem network.

Announcing @Meta — the Facebook company’s new name. Meta is helping to build the metaverse, a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D. Welcome to the next chapter of social connection. pic.twitter.com/ywSJPLsCoD

— Meta (@Meta) October 28, 2021

The biggest difference between Facebook’s metaverse, and crypto’s metaverse projects, is that the latter operates on open, permissionless, blockchain architecture. Any developer can come and build a metaverse application on an open blockchain, and any user can acquire their own virtual real estate and engage with virtual assets.

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Critically, one of the biggest benefits of a decentralized, open architecture is that users can join and move around barrier-free between different metaverses. Interoperability protocols reduce friction between blockchains, allowing assets, including cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, utility tokens, NFTs, loyalty points, or anything else to be transferable across chains.

So the most crucial question regarding Facebook’s plans is around the extent to which the company plans for its metaverse to be interoperable, and metaverse assets to be fungible with other, non-Facebook issued assets.

From the standpoint of the decentralized metaverse, it doesn’t necessarily sound like great news. After all, Meta’s global user base dwarfs crypto’s. But there’s another way of looking at it, according to Robbie Ferguson, co-founder of Immutable, a layer two platform for NFTs:

“Even if [Meta] decides to pursue a closed ecosystem, it is still a fundamental core admission of the value that digital ownership provides — and the fact that the most valuable battleground of the future will be who owns the infrastructure of digital universes.”

Centralization could be the most limiting factor

Based on the fact that Diem is already a closed system, it seems likely that the Facebook metaverse will also be a closed ecosystem that won’t necessarily allow direct or easy interaction with decentralized metaverses. Such a “walled garden” approach would suit the company’s monopolistic tendencies but limit the potential for growth or Facebook-issued NFTs to attain any real-world value.

Furthermore, as Nick Rose Ntertsas CEO and founder of an NFT marketplace Ethernity Chain pointed out, users are becoming weary of Facebook’s centralized dominance. He added in a conversation with Cointelegraph:

“Amidst [the pandemic-fuelled digital] transition, crypto adoption rose five-fold. At the same time, public opinion polling worldwide shows growing distrust of centralized tech platforms, and more favorable ratings of the very nature of what crypto and blockchain offer in protecting privacy, enabling peer-to-peer transactions, and championing transparency and immutability.”

This point is even more pertinent when considering that the utility of Diem has been preemptively limited by regulators before it has even launched. Regardless of how Diem could eventually be used in a Facebook metaverse, regulators have made it clear that Diem isn’t welcome in the established financial system.

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So it seems evident that a closed Facebook metaverse will be limited to the point that it will be a completely different value proposition to what the decentralized metaverse projects are trying to achieve.

Meanwhile, decentralized digital platforms are already building and thriving. Does that mean there’s a risk that blockchain-based platforms could fall prey to the same fate as Instagram and WhatsApp, and get swallowed up as part of a Meta acquisition spree? Sebastien Borget, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Sandbox, believes that decentralized projects can take a different approach:

“Typically, big tech sits on the sidelines while new entrants fight for relevance and market share — and then swoops in to buy one of the strongest players. But that strategy only works if startups sell. So there has to be a different economic incentive, which is exactly why Web 3.0 is so powerful. It aligns the platform and the users to build a platform that stands on its own, where users have ownership over its governance — and ultimate success.”

A metaverse operated by tech giants?

Rather than attempting to dominate, Facebook may decide to integrate with established metaverses, games and crypto financial protocols — a potentially far more disruptive scenario. It could be seriously transformative for the crypto space, given the scale of Facebook’s user base.

Therefore, could there be a scenario where someone can move NFT assets between a Facebook metaverse and a decentralized network of metaverses? Sell Facebook-issued NFT assets on a DEX? Import a $69 billion Beeple to the Facebook metaverse to exhibit in a virtual gallery?

This seems to be an unlikely scenario as it would entail substantial changes in mindset from Facebook. While it would create exponentially more economic opportunity, regulatory concerns, risk assessments, and Facebook’s historical attitude to consuming competitors rather than playing alongside them are likely to be significant blockers.

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Related: As Patreon tests the waters, can crypto open doors for content creators?

The most likely outcome seems to be that Facebook will attempt to play with established centralized tech and finance firms to bring value into its metaverse. Microsoft has already announced its own foray into the metaverse, but perhaps not as a direct competitor to what Facebook is attempting to achieve. Microsoft’s metaverse is focused on enhancing the “Teams” experience in comparison to Facebook’s VR-centric approach.

But it seems more plausible that the two firms would offer some kind of integration between their metaverse platforms than either of them would rush to partner with decentralized, open-source competitors. After all, Facebook’s original attempt to launch Libra involved other big tech and finance firms.

Make hay while the sun shines

Just as Libra created a lot of hype, which ultimately became muted by regulators, it seems likely that the development of a Facebook metaverse can play out in the same way with regards to its impact on the cryptocurrency sector.

Regulators will limit Facebook’s ability to get involved with money or finance, and the company isn’t likely to develop a sudden desire for open-source, decentralized, solutions.

However, the one positive boost that Libra brought to crypto was publicity. Ntertsas believes that this, alone, is enough to provide a boost to the decentralized NFT sector, explaining:

“Meta’s plans will enable a surge in utility for NFT issuers and minters. NFTs can then be used as metaverse goods — from wearables to art, to collectibles, and even status symbols — there is an infinite use case and utility to NFTs and what they can become in the ever-growing NFT ecosystem.”

In this respect, there are plenty of opportunities for decentralized metaverse projects to muscle into the limelight with their own offerings and showcase how decentralized solutions are already delivering what Facebook is still developing. Borget urges the community to seize the moment:

“Now is the time for us to double down on building our vision of the open, decentralized and user-driven metaverse. We also have to invest time and money in explaining the benefits of our vision over what the Facebooks of the world have offered thus far.”

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Facebook hackers target small business owners to scam money for ads

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It took just 15 minutes for hackers to infiltrate Sydney single mum Sarah McTaggart’s Facebook page.

From there, they also took control of the account she uses to run her small business, wiping out 90 percent of the client base she has been building up for the past four years – almost in an instant.

Their target? The PayPal account she uses to buy Facebook ads for her business.

Sarah McTaggart has lost access to her business, which she runs through Facebook.
Sarah McTaggart has lost access to her business, which she runs through Facebook. (Supplied)

Ms McTaggart is among many small business owners who say they have had their Facebook pages hacked and fraudulent charges made on their PayPal or bank accounts as the scammers buy up ads with their money.

It was last Thursday evening when Ms McTaggart first noticed something was happening with her Facebook account.

“I was just watching TV and I opened up Facebook. I saw I had received and accepted a friend request from some guy in in the US who I didn’t send a friend request to,” Ms McTaggart said.

“Then, about five minutes later, Facebook sent me an email saying my account had been disabled because I had breached community standards,” she said.

Hackers changed Ms McTaggart's Facebook profile to that of a flag associated with ISIS.

The hackers had used a well-known technique, previously reported on by 9news.com.au, which involves changing the profile picture of the account they have hacked to that of a flag associated with the terrorist group ISIS.

The ISIS flag breaches Facebook’s community standards and automatically triggers an alert which causes Facebook to boot the user out of their account.

In another measure designed to keep her out, the hackers also changed Ms McTaggart’s age on her account, making her too young to own a Facebook account.

Ms McTaggart said she immediately took measures to to try report the hack to Facebook and prove her identity and age, but they were unsuccessful.

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Next, the hackers took control of her business page.

“I woke up the next morning and I received an email from PayPal saying a payment of $320 had been authorised for Facebook ads,” Ms McTaggart said.

Ms McTaggart said she had been unable to get the money the hackers spent on Facebook ads through her account back from PayPal.
Ms McTaggart said she had been unable to get the money the hackers spent on Facebook ads through her account back from PayPal. (Supplied)

Ms McTaggart had previously used the PayPal account to buy ads for her dreadlock business – Better Off Dread – where she creates and maintains dreadlocks for clients as well as selling accessories.

The mother-of-one said she was devastated to lose access to both her personal and business page.

Her business, which is largely run out of Facebook, was her livelihood, Ms McTaggart said.

“It is so distressing. Close to 90 percent of my new business inquiries come through Facebook,” she said.

“Almost all of my communications with my clients is on Facebook, so disabling is my account has completely cut off my capacity to talk to any of those people.

“I’m booked out with clients until mid-January, and I have no way of confirming appointments with those people. They’ve got no way of cancelling if they are sick.”

Ms McTaggart said she was initially confident she would be able to get access to her accounts back.

“I was thinking of course this will get resolved,” she said.

But, after exhausting all of the suggestions offered by Facebook’s customer service department online, Ms McTaggart said she was left frustrated by Facebook’s lack of accountability, with no number available to call the social media giant directly.

“It just dawned on me gradually that this was quite a complex situation, and there is actually no way to speak to a human at Facebook,” she said.

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PayPal had also refused to refund the $320 the hackers spent on ads, she said.

“PayPal won’t refund that as I had an advertising agreement in place with Facebook,” she said.

“And I haven’t been able to communicate with anyone at Facebook to get them to refund it.”

A list of the charges Ianni Nicolaou found on his bank account statement after he was hacked.A list of the charges Ianni Nicolaou found on his bank account statement after he was hacked. (Supplied)

Ms McTaggart’s story is familiar to Ianni Nicolaou, a US real estate agent from Alabama.

Mr Nicolaou had his personal Facebook page and his business page hacked two months ago in August and has been unable to regain access to them both ever since.

“It’s awful. I’m a realtor and it’s absolutely necessary to use the platform these days,” Mr Nicolaou told 9News .com.au.

“I have a business page that I run advertisements through.

“I have invested money for my following, and now it’s gone – out of nowhere.”

After his accounts were hacked, Mr Nicolaou said he had also been hit with about A$1800 in charges made to the bank account linked to his Facebook business page.

“There were charges; charges after charges. They started at about $100 each and then kept getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

“What frustrated me the most is that there is no acknowledgement from Facebook. There is no-one to call at Facebook and say you have got fraudulent charges.

“I have literally tried everything but it is robots you are talking to.

“The way I feel is this is actually fraud. I can’t talk to a human who wants to help me but they are happy to take my money just fine.”

When contacted by 9news.com.au, Meta Australia spokesperson Antonia Sanda said its investigations team was working to restore both Ms McTaggart’s and Mr Nicolaou’s accounts.

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“We want to keep suspicious activity off our platform and protect people’s accounts, and are working to restore these accounts to the rightful owners,” she said.

“Online phishing techniques are not unique to Facebook, however we’re making significant investments in technology to protect the security of people’s accounts.

“We strongly encourage people to strengthen their online security by turning on app-based two-factor authentication and alerts for unrecognised logins.”

Tips to stop your Facebook page getting hacked

  • Take action and report an account: People can always report an account, an ad, or a post that they feel is suspicious.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links: Don’t trust messages demanding money, offering gifts or threatening to delete or ban your account (or verifying your account on Instagram). To help you identify phishing and spam emails, you can view official emails sent from your settings within the app.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links from Meta/Facebook/Instagram: If you get a suspicious email or message or see a post claiming to be from Facebook, don’t click any links or attachments. If the link is suspicious, you’ll see the name or URL at the top of the page in red with a red triangle.
  • Don’t respond to these messages/ emails: Don’t answer messages asking for your password, social security number, or credit card information.
  • Avoid phishing: If you accidentally entered your username or password into a strange link, someone else might be able to log in to your account. Change your password regularly and don’t use the same passwords for everything.
  • Get alerts: Turn on two-factor authentication for additional account security.
  • Use extra security features: Get alerts about unrecognised logins and turn on two-factor authentication to increase your account security.
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