Graphics of online shopping

From Scrolling to Spending: The Rise of the Social Media Shopper

July 26, 2022

Social media trends may fade in and out quickly, but the apps are having long-standing marketing impacts and setting industry trends. By 2025, social media shopping is expected to become a $1.2 trillion industry with 98% of consumers planning to make at least one purchase through influencer or social media brand engagement, according to Sprout Social.

Across different platforms, social content ranges widely and appears differently on users’ individual pages based on their age and primary use. For example, 66% of Gen Z reports that social media is a major and essential component of their lives and their main goal for using social media is entertainment. Where older generations report largely using social media as a way to stay connected with established relationships, Gen Z finds themselves logging in to discover new trends, friends and brands—and often-times find new products to buy

According to Instagram’s 2022 Trends Survey, one-fourth of surveyed teens and young adults expected to shop directly through in-app features this year—and not according to an established shopping list. More than 80% of Gen Z consumers scroll social media willing to discover and interact with brands who are unfamiliar with them, according to a report by In 2021, the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt garnered more than 7.4 billion views and the app is continuing to grow rapidly, with 1.2 billion monthly users. On Instagram, 90% of users follow at least one business account and overall brand interaction is on the rise.

Brands looking to create successful social media content should look beyond just utilizing paid advertisements. The algorithm-driven, individualized nature of content shown to users makes this entertainment element even more influential on purchasing power, causing these apps to have a huge potential impact. Take, for example, the bookish communities on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube that act as very powerful marketing engines. Dubbed BookTok, Bookstagram and BookTube respectively, these communities aggregate book reviews, reactions and other book-related content for their communities of ardent readers. As of July 2022, the hashtag #BookTok has 64.1 billion views on TikTok and #bookstagram has 78.9 million tagged posts on Instagram. On YouTube, there are 105,000 videos and 11,000 accounts attributed to #booktube.

According to NPD Bookscan, 825 million copies of print books were sold in the United States in 2021—the bestselling year for print book since 2004—and that doesn’t account for e-books or library loans, both widely popular among the digital-savvy readers of Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. For these very-online readers, social media is a massive and immersive bookclub experience changing the way publishing makes decisions. It is common for social media favorites to catapult to the top if the best-seller list—even for backlist titles.

For example, E. Lockhearts 2014 release “We Were Liars” experienced a bewilderingly large uptick in book sales in the summer of 2020, creeping its way back onto the best-seller list—where it is still the #1 Young Adult Paperback. Publishers and the author have credited this surge to its prominence as a social media cult-favorite, with the hashtag #WeWereLiars currently sitting at 101.5 million views on TikTok and tagged more than 75,000 times on Instagram.

But, before you start scrolling, it is important to think about how your brand intends to engage with your audiences and the impact you want to have.

First and foremost, people oftentimes visit social media to be entertained and not simply consume ads. Organic content should have some level of entertainment value—whether that be through humor, aesthetic or providing information. Authenticity and inclusivity are typically key to developing relationships with consumers, so companies should be open to sharing behind-the-scenes information about how your company functions and what values you stand for. According to Sprout Social, 64% of social media users want brands to connect with them and their values and 72% of users feel more connected when employees share information about a brand online. When aiming to use your platform to lift up diverse talent and voices within your brand, it’s  beneficial to ensure accessible and inclusive designs, such as the caption feature. For example, adding captions can increase impressions by 55.7% on TikTok. By utilizing accessible design functions, you can expand the reach of the community you are working to build.

Community building is one of social media’s greatest strengths and part of its foundation. Regardless of geography, creators share insights, host conversations and tell stories beyond just creating original content. Using features of the apps like Stitches and Duets on TikTok and Swipe Up links on Instagram Stories can help creators build off of each other’s work.

When possible, brands should play an active role in the community they wish to engage by interacting with these features and continuing conversations. According to TikTok’s 2022 Audience Insight Survey, 78% of respondents agree that the best brands on the app are the ones that share ideas and work together with creators. On Instagram, one-fourth of Gen Z users say micro-influencers and everyday users are the most important when creating trends. Co-creating with creators not only taps into their networks of already established trust but demonstrates a fluency in the language of app that could further the authenticity of your posts.

For brands, engaging and entertaining on social media can have profound benefits that translate into marketing successes. Social media may be constantly changing, but creating authentic connections is always on trend.

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