December 09, 2021 / in PR StrategyTrendsUS Blog / by Mary Lorenz

While no one truly knows what the future holds for PR and marketing, that hasn’t stopped our colleagues at Falcon.io from giving it their best, most educated guess. Falcon recently released a new e-book, 2022 Digital Marketing Trends, which predicts 10 of the biggest trends marketers can and should take advantage of in 2022 – and how to do so. (It’s also worth noting that all 10 of the trends Falcon predicted for 2021 reached their full potential.)

How did they land on these particular trends, you ask? The trends are based on an analysis of data from Brandwatch, Buzzsumo and Falcon, who collectively monitored 100 million online sources and analyzed more than 8 billion pieces of content published online. To round out their findings, Falcon also gathered insights from industry leaders including Forrester, Gartner and McKinsey.

While you’ll have to download the e-book to see all 10 trends, we’re giving you a sneak peek right here. Keep reading to learn about five of the hottest emerging digital trends – and how you can apply them to your PR and marketing efforts in the year ahead.

1. What’s old is new again

Falcon is predicting a “retro revolution” in 2022, with people craving a return to a simpler time (as in, a time when we weren’t having heated exchanges with our aunts on Facebook about vaccine mandates), as evidenced, in part, by the many conversations around “nostalgia” on social media. The recent comeback of Tamagotchis, a new studio album by ABBA and a video of Blue’s Clues’ Steve that went viral only add to growing evidence that the business of nostalgia is a potentially big one.

The takeaway: If you want a piece of the nostalgia pie, start thinking about a retro idea that would make sense for your brand “like relaunching a much-loved product from your past…or commemorating an anniversary through a brand audience,” as the report suggests. Make sure it’s right for your audience and make sure you can execute it at a time when it still makes sense.

2. Content for the people, by the people

For the second big trend in 2022, Falcon is predicting the predominance of “community content,” saying that user-generated content will be king. The instigator of this prediction? Trusted Media Brands’ recent acquisition of streaming and social video company Jukin Media, which already boasts over 100 billion lifetime views of its platform. The move makes it clear that businesses are recognizing the value in user-generated content – not to mention that research increasingly points to consumers’ trust in UGC over other types of content.

The takeaway: Taking advantage of this trend takes understanding what your customers are talking about. Start with the audience that’s already posting about you and do some intel to understand more about this audience and their behaviors. One tactic for engaging your audiences and getting user-generated content is to conduct a challenge or contest that encourages participation (need proof? consider the popularity of TikTok dance challenges). Another tactic is to simply engage with those users who are already posting about your brands and shine a spotlight on them via reposts, shares and mentions. The more you interact and engage, the more likely they are to respond in kind.

3. Hybrid events get real

Augmented reality is about to have a moment. While it’s often cited as an “emerging trend” in the marketing world, the pandemic seems to have accelerated its growth by forcing brands to adopt digital solutions at warp speed. Citing Burberry’s social retail store, Macy’s live shopping events and Etsy’s AR experiences as just a few examples of this trend, Falcon.io predicts that “hybrid” or “mixed reality” events will only continue into 2022 and soon become the norm. “It’s not much of a stretch to say that the future is hybrid, irrespective of whether we’re talking about work, events, conferences, or retail,” they write.

The takeaway: The key here is to think beyond what you’ve always done and adapt an innovative mindset. “Whether it is a digitally immersive retail store, a hybrid event with a social media play, or something as simple as an Instagram filter, you need to embrace the innovation mindset to stand out.” Gamification is another great way to engage audiences. Whatever route you choose – both in terms of your approach and the technology – makes sure it makes sense for both your brand and your audience.

4. Niche makes nice

2022 will be a big year for small communities, Falcon predicts. With so much noise on social media, consumers are increasingly gravitating toward niche communities and smaller subcultures to interact with like-minded individuals on a smaller, less chaotic scale. From TikTok’s enormously popular book community, BookTok, to football community 433 (whose Instagram followers have grown by over 60% since 2020), niche communities for myriad interests have popped up in platforms of all sizes, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

The takeaway: Niche communities are a great way for marketers to target audiences with specific interests – especially those who jump on this trend early. Start by knowing your goals – including who you want to reach, where they hang out and if it makes more sense to join the conversation on an existing group or create your own. Look into creating a Slack channel, Discord Server, Facebook Group, or other platform where your audience can come together over a shared niche. Just remember, this is about being authentic and building trust with your audience. Community members want a shared experience, not a sales pitch.

5. Sound strategies

Falcon predicts that audio will amplify (pun intended) as a marketing tool in 2022. Live audio saw a boost last year when consumers in need of social interaction turned to apps like Clubhouse for information and entertainment. And while Clubhouse’s popularity has waned somewhat recently, audio’s reach remains strong – just look at the still growing interest in podcasts, as well as TikTok’s recently announced partnerships designed to help brands engage consumers through sound. Even brands like Estee Lauder, the NFL and the WWE have started putting audio at the center of their marketing efforts.

The takeaway: If audio, ahem, sounds like a trend you want to take advantage of, know that first and foremost, it needs to be authentic. Again, users want an experience that brings them value, not a sales pitch. Think of audio as another channel through which to reach new audiences, connect with them on a deeper level and increase your brand awareness. One way to take advantage of this trend is to partner with an influencer who can host a conversation on a topic relevant to your brand. Another idea? Sponsor a conversation or podcast episode to build brand recognition among a certain audience.

Which trends are you excited to take advantage of next year?

For more predicted digital marketing trends – and more tips for how to take advantage of them – download the 2022 Digital Marketing Trends e-book today.

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About Mary Lorenz

Mary Lorenz is Editorial Director at Cision and writes about best practices and thought leadership for marketing, communications and public relations professionals. She has a background in marketing, public relations and journalism and over 15 years of experience in copywriting and content strategy across a variety of platforms, industries and audiences.