The walled gardens of social media have dominated the digital marketing landscape for nearly a decade. With massive audiences, data-driven advertising and content-rich formats, advertisers have gone from dipping their toes to throwing their budgets into the wells of Silicon Valley.
But in 2022, the so-called “headwinds” of privacy and economic uncertainty — combined with more competition and an evolving user base — have created a new set of challenges for the giants and the marketers that fund them.
Throughout 2022, major platforms have each had both collective and unique challenges. Along with increased pressure from legislation, regulations, investigations and lawsuits against tech giants, smaller startups and advertisers themselves, Apple’s app-tracking changes have cut into tech giants’ bottom lines and weakened targeting and measurement capabilities. Meanwhile, competition from rivals like TikTok and Twitter’s disarray under the ownership of Elon Musk contributed to the industry’s existential dilemma about where to appear and what to avoid.
“I wouldn’t want to be in the seat of a buyer right now,” said Ryan Anthony, CEO and co-founder of Dirt, a marketing neuroscience startup. “I can’t think of a single advertiser that hasn’t had to blow up their [lifetime value] models this year because of privacy.”
The tumultuous year has left marketers, agency executives, analysts and other experts rethinking everything from data practices to content strategies to e-commerce efforts. TikTok’s rise, younger users’ demands, a growing creator economy and brand safety issues have all further complicated the already complex landscape and prompted some companies to re-consider their usual tactics.
At the center of much of this discussion sits the importance of data. A survey of 6,000 marketing leaders conducted this summer by Salesforce found that 75% still rely at least partially on third-party data, but 68% said they plan to move toward first-party data. Meanwhile, 51% said their measures to protect consumer privacy go beyond regulatory requirements and industry standards, down from 61% last year.
“There might be a little bit of a gap year happening as marketers have been retooling around first-party data to be able to create the right context and the right targeting on those platforms,” said Jay Wilder, vice president of product marketing for Salesforce’s marketing cloud. “Some of that is also shifting audiences from one platform to another, and marketers are going to be catching up with that.”
Read more: How social platforms changed digital marketing in 2022