Business Plan

How the outbreak has changed the way we use social media

In the recent past, a lot of focus has been on cutting down on social media. It has been about spending less time on social media platforms, putting less information to the public, and being more mindful of social media behaviours.

Things have changed a lot under lockdown. We did coronavirus research where we found half of the consumers said they were spending more time on social media. This has started to stabilise from that spike, but 43% of people are claiming they are spending more time on social media and networking using groups such as ONLE networking. This has lead to re-examining of the old assumptions about social media. During the pandemic, a lot has changed including how social media has become diversified and evolved. How has this happened?

There has been a steady growth in news consumption on social media since we started to track social media behaviours in 2014. The pandemic has put this in the front and centre.

Before the pandemic, the role of social media was about sharing, connecting, and socialising, but things have started to change and it started being used for purposeful and passive activities, like consuming content and researching brands. In 2014, most people were using social media to stay connected and in touch with their friends and family, where they got to know what their friends were doing and sharing opinions about their personal lives.

There has been a 40% drop in engagement when it comes to purely “social” activities. The pandemic has resulted in absence of social interactions, and this has forced people to start seeking community connections through social media platforms. This is why more and more people are starting to use social media for their social aspect again. By looking at Q2 2020 data, we can see that there has been an increase in video calling and messaging – people are looking for ways of connecting with others and maintaining a sense of community.

We did custom research where we found out 4 in 10 UK and US internet users said they shared more personal news on their social media accounts – with this behaviour being most prominent among millennials (46%). This has not been limited to one on one conversation or messaging platforms. During the pandemic, 33% of people said they opened up messaging apps like WhatsApp and 31% on public platforms e.g. Facebook.

This is a pattern that can be seen across the different demographic groups. The UK is the only exception, where internet users choose messaging platforms (39% vs 31%). The pandemic has encouraged more and more people to look for communities for support. This is because they feel like sharing what they are currently going through with the public is the same as sharing with their immediate friends and family.

We have also noticed this when consumers are asked about the content they found inspirational in the past 2 months. The second-most popular answer was content from the local community, with those from friends and family being the first. This community-oriented shift is going to be around for some time because of the collectivist approaches towards tackling different environmental and social movements. Messaging with a local and more personal touch is going to be a focus when marketing, where well-placed messages are placed to reach a receptive and engaged audience.

Research has shown 24% of consumers across 18 markets found out about brands on social media, with 55% approving brands that run “normal” advertising. This gives marketers the chance of tapping into the changing social media habits and adjusting their messaging. How can brands market on social media without looking opportunistic? What are consumers prioritising now?

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