In the years leading up to the global pandemic, a recurring story about social media was people cutting down on its use. Social media users spent less time across most platforms, tried to be more mindful about their online behaviours, and shared less personal information while online in favour of ONLE networking.
Once lockdown happened, there was quite a change. In early April, nearly half of all citizens reported spending more time using social media, per our earlier research. Social media usage is starting to level off after that early spike, but more than 4 in 10 are still using their accounts longer than before the outbreak, and it’s because of said outbreak. Nearly 1 in 5 say they’ll keep at this. Given all this, the old assumptions and generalisations surrounding social media need to be reconsidered. The role social media plays in the lives of users is growing in size and scope through the global pandemic. Here are specific ways this is happening:
Getting News From Social Media
We started our first tracking of behaviours on social media in 2014. Since then, consumption of news on social media platforms has grown steadily. However, the global pandemic pushed this particular habit to the forefront.
Actual “Social” Activity
Prior to the pandemic, social media had gone from encouraging connections, sharing, and socialising to more passive activities with specific purposes, such as enjoying content or looking into musical artists. When we started in 2014, social media users were actually using the platforms to connect to friends, keep up with what they were doing, sharing opinions, and informing others about their current personal lives.
These days, such entirely ‘social’ actions would have had nearly half as much engagement as they used to. However, as social interactions became impossible in many places, citizens started looking for community connections again through social channels. The global pandemic has been something of a full circle back to the original ‘social’ components of social media. Our data from the second quarter of this year shows a massive growth of both video calling and messaging, something used quite often for keeping in touch with other people and maintaining a perception of being part of a community or group.
Through our own research, we found that 4 in 10 online users across the United Kingdom and the United States both indicated they were sharing a personal status on social media more often than before. Millennials led the way for this. However, this hasn’t been just restricted to individual conversations or messaging platforms. As a matter of fact, many people going through the pandemic have been quite open about their personal challenges in channels public and private alike. A third reported being more open on social platforms as diverse as WhatsApp to Facebook.
We’ve seen this pattern hold true across most primary demographic categories, with the exception of the UK. British Internet patrons remained more likely to stick with messaging platforms. The global crisis has inspired many to seek support from their broader community. Citizens are increasingly comfortable sharing their experiences with the broader public and not just those in their immediate social circle.
We see even more evidence of this overall shift when we ask online users what content they deemed inspirational in the past few months. The top answer is content from friends and family, followed closely by content from their local community. In fact, we’re anticipating a long-term shift towards community-focused content to keep going long after the pandemic is over. Marketing is starting to ramp up again, so messaging with personalised and local touches is going to be ideally suited for engaging an already receptive audience.
What Will This Mean For Brands?
At the time of writing, a quarter of consumers in a dozen and a half different markets find brands via social media. That’s just under half of the percentage of those who approve of brands via conventional advertising. Now is an opportune time for marketers to tap into the changing social media habits of online patrons by adjusting their messaging properly. So, how does a business advertise through social media without appearing opportunistic? Also, what are the new priorities of online consumers?