Man lying on his bed while looking at his phone and laptop
May 18, 2020

How The Outbreak Has Changed The Way We Use Social Media

In recent years, the story of social media has mainly been around the discussion of cutting down on how much we engage with it. Spending less time on the platforms, being more careful about social media behaviours, and putting less of our personal data within the public domain.

However, under lockdown things have changed very significantly. In the beginning of April, almost half of the consumers said they were allocating longer times on social media, as detailed in our coronavirus investigation.

In 2014, we started following the behaviours on social media, the utilisation of the news on social media has increased but now its propensity is front-and-centre since the outbreak.

“Doom-scrolling” (perusing through a stream of discouraging headlines on social media) may very soon become a dictionary entry before long, which fortifies how powerful it’s been as a news source all through the crisis.

Demand for up-to-date data within the early stages of the pandemic was unparalleled, with social media giving fast and simple access to important information.

Top 36%
Source:GlobalWebIndex, 2020

This is consistent across all age groups except Gen Z, who are more likely to go on social media for entertainment and to fill up spare time.

COTW 0803 Top-reasons-for-using-social-media Blog-chart-1-1019x1024
Source:GlobalWebIndex, 2020

Social Media Fun

In today's times, social media has increasingly become a part of the way of life now – "go viral or go domestic".

The third most popular reason people go on social media today is simply to find forms of entertainment and amusement (33%), behind by one per cent is, filling up save time (34%).

As shown in the chart above, this particular motivation is mostly cited by our youngest demographic – Gen Z (40%) – but it’s also very prominent among millennials (35%).

The thought of social channels advancing into social entertainment platforms is nothing innovative, but the pandemic has taken the focus away from latently consuming the content, but it's also moved to the users creating the content too.

Creating and uploading videos on platforms like TikTok is one of the few online behaviours accelerated by COVID-19 that has witnessed increased engagement since April.

A generation of creators
Source:GlobalWebIndex, 2020

As we would expect, Gen Z are at the forefront of this trend, with almost 3 in 10 creating more videos because of the outbreak – an increase of eight percentage points between April and July.

video creation
Source:GlobalWebIndex, 2020

The viral video-sharing app, TikTok, has been the facilitator for social media fun, as it has seen a huge spike of visitors according to the Q2 research conducted by GlobalWebIndex.

TikTok has very much taken up the identity of being the home to Gen Z, the platform has attracted more diverse audiences looking for escapism during the lockdown, with 22% of parents with young children creating and uploading videos more on video-sharing sites because of the outbreak.

Social Media For Purely “Social” Activities

Prior to the outbreak, social media’s role in encouraging sharing, connecting, and socialising was gradually being replaced by more passive and purposeful activities, like researching brands and consuming content. To put this into perspective, back in 2014, people were using social primarily to stay in touch with what their friends were doing and to share their opinion or details about their personal lives.

aspects of social media
Source:GlobalWebIndex, 2020

The crisis has encouraged consumers to look to their wider communities for support, as people have felt as comfortable sharing what they’re going through in the public sphere as they have with immediate friends and family.

We also see evidence of this when consumers were asked what content they found most inspirational in the last 2 months, content from the local community was the second-most popular answer after that of friends and family.

What Does This Mean For Brands?

Currently, 24% of consumers across 18 markets discover brands on social media, and 55% approve of brands running “normal” advertising. Now is the time for marketers to tap into consumers’ changing social media habits and adjust their messaging accordingly. So how can businesses advertise in the social space without the fear of looking opportunistic? And what are consumers’ new priorities?

Money, reliabilty and care
Source:GlobalWebIndex, 2020

We are still experiencing the primary impact that COVID-19 had at the beginning of the outbreak, but the ramifications for social media may go well past how much time is spent on it. If brand purpose hasn’t been front-of-mind for companies before COVID, it should definitely be on their immediate radar. Brands should work on strengthening this, as it will enable brands to filter through the noise and make a positive impact in this new social media-driven landscape.