Social Trendspotting: Summer Edition

By C-K’s Social & PR team

Understanding and leveraging current trends is key to crafting compelling social media content. The following trends demonstrate to your audience that you’re attuned to their interests and ensure your strategies are both innovative and relevant.

Let’s delve into the latest social media trends and insights shaping the future of digital engagement and content creation.

The Digital Guillotine

In today’s digital age, the social algorithm gods serve us endless media streams, often perfectly aligned with our interests and values. However, encountering unexpected content can be unsettling. Enter the “Digital Guillotine,” where brands, creators and individuals are mass-blocked for content misalignment. This trend emerged after a TikToker criticized celebrities post-Met Gala for not addressing important causes, reflecting growing frustration with their perceived lack of concern. Celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Drake have faced mass blocking, amplifying calls for greater accountability. Just as digital fame can rise quickly, it can be cut down by critical comments, negative reviews or backlash, highlighting the volatile nature of online engagement and the need to manage audience expectations.

The “Digital Guillotine” can manifest in various ways, from critical comments to full-blown social media blocking. When a creator shares content that deviates from their usual niche, followers may react negatively, feeling betrayed or disconnected. For example, influencers like James Charles and Tati Westbrook have experienced mass unfollowing and critical comments after public feuds, demonstrating how quickly online support can turn. This can be especially harsh in spaces like TikTok, where users quickly voice their displeasure. This phenomenon underscores a critical challenge for brands and creators alike: the need to stay authentic while evolving. Navigating this balance between innovation and audience expectation is essential for long-term digital success.

Ever-Changing Social Regulations

In recent months, we’ve seen a growing interest from legislators and other government officials to create new regulations on social media platforms and internet access at large. On June 17, the U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy released an opinion piece in The New York Times calling for a “tobacco-style” warning label on social media platforms, citing concerns for the mental health of young people. While this is something only Congress can do, we’ve seen social media legislation pass in several states. 

Some states like Tennessee and Georgia are adding age restrictions on social media, adding additional guidelines for users under 18 years old (and Florida passed a bill banning children younger than 14 from joining social media). Other states are more specific in targeting harmful aspects of social: ​New York just passed first-of-its-kind legislation regulating algorithms driving “unhealthy levels of engagement” to users under 18 (SAFE For Kids Act) and Illinois put protections in place for children appearing in their parents’ vlog content (Public Act 103-0556).  

As social media platforms cement themselves as places we share information and communicate, we should look at the health impacts, but also be skeptical of legislation attempting to limit access to information or do little to actually protect users’ data and health. 

Micro Trends & De-Influencing

Niche TikTok micro-trends are driving excessive consumption by encouraging users to purchase fast fashion items to emulate short-lived viral aesthetics like “coastal cowgirl” or “mob wife.” These trends gain traction through tutorial videos and “how to achieve the look” guides, often promoting purchases from unsustainable and unethical retailers such as TikTok Shop, Amazon and Shein.  

Because they are so short-lived, these fleeting micro trends discourage personal style development, promote narrow fashion conformity and prove impractical for everyday wear. To make matters worse, some users critique micro trends based on aesthetic appeal rather than their negative impact on consumer behavior, leaving those who bought into these trends feeling reluctant to wear them publicly after a short period of time. 

Consumers are increasingly pushing back against this culture of rapid trend turnover and overconsumption. There’s a growing movement towards embracing timeless fashion choices and advocating for sustainability. Influencers and brands are promoting durable, high-quality pieces that have a longer life cycle. Initiatives like clothing rental services and garment recycling programs are gaining traction as consumers seek alternatives to fast fashion’s environmental impact. 

To combat overconsumption, brands can educate consumers about the benefits of investing in durable, ethically made clothing. By promoting lasting style over short-lived trends, brands can align themselves with the values of eco-conscious consumers and contribute positively to sustainable fashion efforts. 

Minimum Wage Publicity

In recent years, celebrities have popped up at establishments and “worked” regular jobs for publicity, generating significant media buzz. Examples include Ben Affleck at Dunkin Donuts, Ed Sheeran at Wiener’s Circle, David Letterman at HyVee, the D’Amelio sisters at Walmart, and Sabrina Carpenter at Blank Street Coffee.   

The success of these stunts hinges on the authenticity of the connection between the celebrity and the brand. Ben Affleck’s genuine love for Dunkin Donuts made his campaign relatable, culminating in a memorable Super Bowl ad with wife Jennifer Lopez. Similarly, David Letterman’s stint at HyVee tapped into his nostalgic connection to the Midwest and his roots.

However, not all attempts succeed. The D’Amelio sisters’ involvement with Walmart was criticized as performative and out of touch. Social media users quickly called out the disparity between the sisters’ privileged lives and the reality of many Walmart employees, overshadowing their new snack line. Likewise, Sabrina Carpenter’s stunt at Blank Street Coffee divided opinion due to the lack of a genuine connection, with some viewing it as exploitative.   

These examples underscore the crucial role of authenticity in celebrity PR stunts. Without a genuine story or connection, campaigns risk being perceived as insincere and exploitative. The key to effective publicity stunts lies in establishing a real connection that resonates with the audience, ensuring positive engagement and enhancing the image of both the celebrity and the brand.

The Bratification of Social

If you’re chronically online, love good pop music or just appreciate the call to revive 2000s club culture, you may have seen this trend in the wild. In June, British singer Charli XCX released her sixth studio album, “Brat,” to much anticipation and acclaim. The album rollout gained traction as Charli’s marketing team used both online tools, like the Brat art generator, and offline experiences, such as the Brat wall in Brooklyn, to let fans create and share their versions of the album.  

Album campaigns like Charli XCX’s “Brat” emphasize the power of engaging and empowering a dedicated fanbase. This strategy has generated a vast amount of UGC, particularly memes, which resonate strongly with the audience and help expand the album’s visibility and relevance. The viral green color associated with “Brat” has become a recognizable signature, making participation easy and widespread.  

This trend underscores the importance for brands to make their existing audience feel seen and valued, rather than solely focusing on attracting new followers. By enabling fans to tell a story, brands can achieve greater reach and resonate more with audiences. This approach, rooted in authenticity and a deep understanding of internet culture, allows fans to connect more genuinely with the brand and helps to attract a new audience through organic, fan-driven content.  

More Insights