Eras used to span millions of years, but today they come and go in a swipe. Amid this culture churn, hot takes about what brands should do go stale almost instantly. There is no time to hypothesize when we’re all too busy trying to catch up on whatever-core. Thanks, relentless scrolling, for eviscerating society’s attention span—your 15 minutes of fame is now 15 seconds. 

But within the swirl, we also see opportunities to surf, moments where brands can benefit from closer connections to their core customers. 

It’s the end of social media as we know it, an era that lasted from “The Facebook” to “The ‘Gram.” An era that changed the world, for better and for worse. But a new era is upon us, and for brands, being ready for what’s next is critical. To better understand where we’re going, let’s run back the clock and replay how we got here. 

From social media to culture media

Over the past decade, as we’ve spent more of our lives gawking at our phones, brands invested more in the platforms that came to define the era: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snap. Brands became convinced that joining in on trending conversations would unlock cultural resonance. Agencies hired tweens to tweet the right combo of emojis and internet slang. The influencer economy boomed as brands bought platform reach and relevance. With the right bump of paid social, campaigns racked up views, and everyone high-fived each other. 

Only nah. Not really. Not anymore. All eras must come to an end—even for brands who say “bae.” Evidence of this era’s demise surrounds us: the death spiral of Meta and Musk; mass layoffs across the tech industry; the surgeon general’s warning in May that social media can be harmful to children. But as well as something ending, it also feels like something is beginning. 

Your first taste of the new era came when a TikTok video popped up in your feed and spoke directly to your core—more than any existing social media platform or TV commercial ever did. That first sweet hit of algorithmic dopamine hits different. Forget your friends—this was about you. A “For You” video feed that gets better the more you’re on it, through machine learning analysis of your data set. It literally knows what u ❤️ before u even ❤️ it.