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Image: Gucci

According to recent McKinsey research, 2021 was a year of transformation: people, corporations and society began to look ahead to influencing their futures rather than just surviving the present. It was the year that hopes for herd immunity, an end to pandemic lockdowns, and a return to normality were dashed – at least for now. And aside from the Great Social Media Resignation, which saw burnt-out Gen Z workers announce that they had quit their jobs via TikTok and Instagram, the rise of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”), and the introduction of the metaverse, the world’s space-going billionaires were as wealthy and productive in business and technology as ever. 

It is difficult to make accurate predictions in the unpredictable environment we have been experiencing over the last two years; the year ahead will undoubtedly bring many surprises. However, here are six digital trends that will influence life in 2022 … 

1. Social Media: More Privacy, Quality and Algorithm Tweaks

Platforms will concentrate on privacy and content quality in feeds. Despite recent public criticism, Facebook is likely to grow in terms of its members, as well as its revenues. With an eye on privacy and content quality, all major social media platforms will likely have updated their privacy policies and tweaked their algorithms by the end of 2022. All the while and due to the demand for strong, engaging content, a new tribe of creative influencers will grow rapidly and make an impact on branding and engagement. 

Thanks to the growing popularity of short-form video content, Instagram and TikTok are likely to witness a rise in ad expenditure in 2022 and Instagram will continue to grow beyond its 50 percent ad revenue share. Underutilized social media marketing components like customer service and relationship management will soon thrive on these platforms.

2. Enter the Metaverse: From 2D to 3D Web

Mark Zuckerberg announced a corporate name change to “Meta” in October 2021, indicating the former Facebook, Inc.’s wish to shape the metaverse transformation. The term refers to the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality. Users may interact, socialize, explore and create content in the virtual environment, and monetize their virtual transactions using blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The metaverse (or Web3) is intrinsically linked to NFTs and cryptocurrencies, which help to commercialize interactions by creating or selling digital artifacts. In 2022, Web3 is expected to be a big commercial issue and is backed by major brands including NikeAdidasGucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Microsoft and others.

3. Acceleration of Crypto & NFT Growth

The adoption of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) increased significantly in 2021 and will continue to in 2022. A new value exchange mechanism in the global online economy (and one of the most notable digital trends of the past year), NFTs have the potential to change the value and function of digital assets and artworks, including by enabling artists to reap resale royalties. The Frankfurt School Blockchain Centre predicts a $1.5 trillion market for tokenized assets in Europe over the next three years – with real estate, debt, bonds, shares, virtual art and even tangible collectibles being among the types of assets that can be linked to NFTs. 

4. Growth of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence could well change the way we conceptualize, create and enjoy food – or fashion – or look for a job. Michael Spranger, COO of Sony’s artificial intelligence team, explains that labor shortages have led many organizations to use AI to broaden the way they evaluate and assess job applicants. He also notes that some of the most exciting applications of AI in gastronomy will enhance the imagination and creativity of chefs and culinary experts beyond what is possible today. And robots like Flippy are already flipping burgers at McDonalds and other restaurants.

5. Increased Connectivity = More Digital Transformation

5G and the new Wi-Fi 6 standard will enable faster connection – crucial if the world is to embrace these new digital trends. Jerry Paradise, VP of product management for Chinese tech company Lenovo, has said 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are about more than just speed: “Future applications will include smart cities, the internet of things, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications – which would ideally improve traffic flow and safety.”

According to Lenovo, working from home will grow to become more “hybrid” as consumers and organizations continue to think beyond the office. A large majority of IT executives expect to work outside of the office in the future, with smaller and smarter devices, as well as wireless and noise-cancelling headphones. And in this vein, it is expected that hybrid employees will participate in video meetings and conduct phone calls not just from their home office – but from anywhere.

6. New Workplace, New Skills

With workplace set to change, skills will presumably be next. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2022, new occupations will account for 27 percent of big corporate employee bases, while technologically outmoded positions will decline from 31 percent to 21 percent. A shift in the division of labor between humans, computers and algorithms has the potential to remove 75 million current job openings while generating 133 million new ones. 

Data analysts, software and application developers, e-commerce specialists, and social media specialists will continue to be in high demand, including for retail companies. Meanwhile many “human” jobs, such as customer service, organizational development and innovation management, are expected to grow. So, far from “taking our jobs,” AI will create jobs and ensure employment across an array of different field, and further accelerate larger digital trends.

Theo Tzanidis is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at the University of the West of Scotland.