There have been a variety of changes throughout the world since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first began in early 2020. From business closures to new procedures for shopping, dining, and attending appointments, it seems as though every aspect of daily life has been impacted.
The digital world has been affected by a vast majority of the changes brought on by COVID-19 – an increase in remote work, video conferencing, and online shopping are just the tip of the iceberg. Below, we’re discussing how social media has shifted throughout the pandemic, as well as how brands can move forward amidst the “new normal.”
Changes in Usage and Engagement
With social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place, many people found themselves with a lot more time on their hands. This, in turn, led to a significant increase in social media usage. In fact, according to a recent GlobalWebIndex survey, 42 percent of global users reported spending more time on social media during the pandemic. Specifically, the average U.S. adult spent seven more minutes per day on social networks this year compared to 2019; however, this number is likely to decline as infection rates decrease.
Businesses have been increasing their time on social platforms, too. In order to accommodate for business closures and social distancing orders, brands relied more heavily on social media to stay connected to their customers. This led to a significant increase in user engagement, with brands in all industries experiencing an average of 7.3 more engagements per day across all networks from March to April.
Finding Connection, Digitally
Before the pandemic, social media was a place where users could connect with friends, share pieces of their lives, and even meet new, likeminded people. Of course, as stay-at-home orders were put in place, more individuals turned to social media outlets to feel connected to others. However, this increase wasn’t the same across all platforms. 62 percent of users in the U.S. and U.K. reported using Facebook to connect with others, while 45 percent used YouTube, and 40 percent used Instagram.
Sharing Information and Ideas
While social media was once reserved for self-expression and connecting with friends, it has morphed into a platform where both businesses and individuals can share information and ideas. This was especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as countless organizations took to their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profiles to communicate closures, new policies, and more. Many individual users also looked to social media to find up-to-date information on the virus from sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which posted educational infographics teaching people how to maintain proper hygiene, social distance, and more. In fact, GlobalWebIndex’s third-quarter Social Media Flagship Report, which focused on changes in the social media landscape during the height of the pandemic, found that 47 percent of all internet users rely on social media for news updates.
In addition to Coronavirus news and information, social media users also utilized various platforms to share ideas and inspiration – both for staying safe and making stay-at-home orders more bearable. From posting recipes to creating lists of self-care tips, people across the world utilized their accounts to connect with one another and show solidarity throughout the global crisis.
Overcrowded Newsfeeds and Information Overload
Today’s digital environment – with constant access to the internet and a 24-hour news cycle – means that it can be hard to step away from the abundance of headlines, statistics, and updates. This feeling of information overload was only amplified by the Coronavirus pandemic. To avoid overcrowding newsfeeds, many businesses had to strike a careful balance between COVID-19-related posts and alternative content that was still sensitive and appropriate.
Navigating the New Normal
Although many businesses are opening up and restrictions are being lifted, it’s not yet possible to return to a true state of normalcy. Instead, brands will have to navigate a “new normal,” one in which having a strong digital presence is more important than ever before. As you move away from your COVID-19-focused social media strategies, there are few things to keep in mind:
Social media presence is more important than ever, especially if you hope to get your brand in front of potential new customers. In fact, 27 percent of users reported that they discovered new brands via social media during the height of the pandemic, making this the most common channel for brand discovery along with television ads. Additionally, 42 percent of internet users cited social media as their primary source when researching a brand.
Despite many countries seeing declining infection rates, now is not necessarily the time to reduce your online presence. If your audience has grown used to frequent posts, live streams, etc., be sure to incorporate these into your social media strategy where it makes sense.
While social media was once a highlight reel of perfectly edited pictures, today’s users are shifting towards a more authentic presence, with 47 percent of individuals reporting that they feel less pressure to portray an unrealistic image of their lives online. Therefore, authenticity is more important than ever. As you plan your social media strategy, don’t be afraid to weave in content that allows followers to “look under the hood” of your business. By getting a sense of your values and brand identity, they’ll be more likely to become loyal customers.
Know Where Your Audience Is
Certain apps like TikTok, which added over 12 million new U.S. users in March alone, have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few months. Therefore, it’s a good time to check-in and reevaluate where to focus your social media strategies to achieve the highest possible engagement.
Weave in Coronavirus Updates as Needed
Information overload was rampant throughout the first few weeks of the pandemic. Now that many people have settled into a routine, it’s not necessary to share COVID-19-related info every day. Going forward, aim to sprinkle in updates only when necessary, such as communicating policy changes or announcing reopening dates.
Despite the many changes seen on social media and throughout all industries, one thing remains certain: People rely on digital technologies to stay connected throughout difficult times. Therefore, it’s important to maintain your online presence and continue engaging with your audience now and well into the future.