Charles Tidswell
Dec 16, 2019

The state of social media: what lies ahead for marketers?

Socialbakers' VP of JAPAC reviews the biggest events in social media over the past year, and what trends lie ahead.

The state of social media: what lies ahead for marketers?

The world of social media is always in a constant state of flux. Just over the past quarter, we’ve seen platforms announce a torrent of new developments and updates for their respective communities. Some even shaking the foundations of long-established industries, spurring them into a flurry of activity to stay afloat in these turbulent waters. 

Take the banking industry for example, which initially jumped at the chance to partner with Facebook in their Libra project. It was a major milestone in the prospect of digital cash vs fiat currency, even making countries develop new regulations in response cryptocurrencies. Libra has been hailed to be the future of fintech

As social media giants continue to break new ground in the digital economy, they are also being heavily scrutinised by both the public and regulatory bodies across the globe. What then lies in store for these platforms, as they look to invest in emerging technologies and carve out their niche in an increasingly crowded social media space?

Snap versus TikTok

Snap’s user base may be growing but it now faces fierce competition from not only Instagram, but also TikTok. There was a time when Snap was considered indispensable for reaching the younger audience, but today, in addition to Instagram, many marketers see TikTok as the most relevant platform to attract this younger demographic. According to data from App Annie, around 66% of TikTok’s users are under 30 years old.

Monetisation is the challenge for TikTok. However, more and more brands are expressing an interest to explore advertising on the platform and, in return, it has also stated that it is exploring opportunities to create value for brands and influencers. What does this mean for Snap? To keep its appeal for advertisers, Snap needs to ensure it stays focused on offering real value to both users and advertisers. It will be interesting to see if Snap’s experiments with new formats like Snap Originals and augmented reality ads will be enough to keep TikTok at bay moving into 2020.

Twitter takes a stand

Despite the effort Twitter has made to make its platform a safer, more enjoyable place for its users, its Q3 results show that it is still struggling to attract ad dollars away from Facebook and its family of applications. In addition, Twitter is making an effort to stay competitive with new and engaging ad formats, which have led it to profit in the last two quarters. If it can continue to engage advertisers in new ways – and keep monetising its data business – 2020 may end up being its best year yet.

When it comes to brand engagement, Twitter still ranks high. The platform still does a good job maintaining brand engagement. Social media performance data shows that brands still garner a lot of engagement on Twitter [see chart below], making it a platform that can be very effective in creating a strong brand identity, setting the foundations to build a community that users trust, relate with and eventually advocate.

This makes Twitter well positioned to build on its user growth and engagement next year. The challenge will then be to leverage the opportunity while continuing to keep the platform clean, and free from digital pollution.

In line with addressing this issue of digital pollution, Twitter preferring to ban political ads entirely over investing in "policing" political ads has been a point of interest. This, in contrast with Facebook, which has remained firm on its stance of allowing political advertising, has been a topic of much discussion. Only time will tell on if it fields any repercussions further down the road from an advertising perspective.  

Facebook’s continued upward march

Facebook's financial success in 2019 comes as no surprise given the overall success of Instagram, especially when it comes to ad spend on Stories. As a company, Facebook continues to benefit from the growing popularity of Instagram with brand advertisers. Instagram ranks as the most engaging platform for brands overall and as a result it has also become the platform of choice for influencers.

Facebook is building towards a strong 2020 by focusing on offering advertisers and users ‘new experiences.’ By adding Facebook Horizon, Facebook News and other new formats to its family of apps, it is making sure that it will remain the best option for marketers who want to reach audiences with engaging content at scale well into the new decade.


Continuous developments seen in social media platforms is strengthening the foundation of a successful digital economy—for both business and brands all over the world. In terms of what 2020 has to offer, TikTok is now looking like it may be a serious contender, certainly versus Snap, once it starts to monetise. Even Facebook has reacted to the success of the platform with its recent launch of Instagram Reels, so that will be an interesting competition to watch. Twitter still ranks high in maintaining brand engagement but ultimately the king of digital advertising, Facebook and its family of apps, looks like it will maintain its iron grip on the social media advertising budgets as the only choice available to marketers when seeking the necessary reach and engagement to achieve their business goals. Stay tuned, 2020 promises to be an interesting year.

Charles Tidswell is the vice-president of JAPAC at Socialbakers

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