Social media is a medium like no other. You can get the latest news, have casual chats with people, and buy products. There isn’t really anything in the physical world that replicates its all-in-one approach. And during Covid-19, the pros and cons of social media were highlighted like never before.
It became a place of information and misinformation at one of the most critical junctures of modern history. As we became more socially distanced, social media and the internet brought us closer together, for better or worse.
Brands especially found themselves facing quite the challenge, trying to navigate social media without a global pandemic blueprint. How do you market to an audience when a virus is taking over the world?
As the world begins to resume some form of normality, how did those brands fare with their messaging in the height of Covid-19? And how has coronavirus affected social media marketing?
A social change in messaging
As people logged onto social media during the height of coronavirus, many brands scaled back their marketing efforts. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as a global epidemic doesn’t lend itself to an environment for audience building.
Companies like L’Oreal, for example, shifted from traditional marketing messages and took on a tone of empathy, donating more than half a million hygiene products and hand sanitizers to frontline workers in the UK. While H&M tackled Covid-19 by arranging its own supply chain to produce personal protective equipment for hospitals and care workers.
L’Oréal UK & Ireland is donating over half a million hygiene products and hand sanitisers free of charge to front line workers striving to curb the #COVID19 pandemic. #weareloreal https://t.co/Gy1sQNFC6Z pic.twitter.com/pLwrvG5zd7
— L’Oréal UK&I (@lorealuki) April 17, 2020
Both companies used social media to get their message out there and show the world how they were handling coronavirus. The majority of messaging that did occur came in support of key workers on the front line, rather than trying to push products.
For larger brands, coronavirus wasn’t seen as an opportunity to monetize; instead, giving back was the primary goal.
Brands by industry during the lockdown
Engagements rates on Facebook and Instagram were at their lowest during the three months of coronavirus in the US. Twitter wasn’t far behind, either. Almost all industries saw a drop-off, though some were affected worse than others.
Sports brands particularly struggled, with a lack of live sport making it harder to engage in conversations around the topic. On the other hand, and rather surprisingly, hotels and resorts saw an uptick in their engagement.
Considering all tourism was brought to a half during Covid-19, numbers from hotel & tourism brands were impressive. The industry improved overall engagement rates in quarter two from quarter one. Hotel brands like Hyatt provided a glimpse of why tourist businesses were successful on social media during Covid-19.
Their content offered a balance between supporting key workers and posting about the little things we all love — and missed dearly — from holidays. Hyatt even went one step further and created several vista backgrounds layout for people’s video conferencing calls.
We’re inspired by beautiful vistas and the great outdoors for this week’s virtual background selection.
— hyatt (@Hyatt) May 24, 2020
Industries got topical
The brands that did get the most interactions across social media were the ones posting about Covid-19. Brazilian brewery Ambev used Instagram to announce it would focus production lines on making hygienic alcohol gel. The content saw the most engagement of any coronavirus-related post on Instagram, with more than 700,000 interactions.
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Pra gente da Ambev, ir além dos rótulos também é cuidar uns dos outros. Por isso, vamos transformar o álcool de nossas cervejarias em álcool em gel envasado em nossas próprias embalagens. A produção de meio milhão de unidades será toda doada para hospitais públicos das cidades mais atingidas pelo COVID-19, para que não falte a ninguém. Esta foi uma das formas que encontramos de ajudar neste momento onde toda solidariedade faz diferença. #AlémDosRótulos
Of all the industries to post about coronavirus, it was the airline sector that led the way. It also had the highest percentage of active pages on Instagram and Facebook, which came as it was one of the hardest-hit industries, and holidaymakers were left scrambling to find answers about booked vacations.
Finance, telecom, and gambling industries also enjoyed high interaction rates during coronavirus. In particular, finance was successful on Facebook, with 4.1 million interactions from just under 17,000 posts during the lockdown.
The age of influencers
Influencers have perhaps been the hardest hit of all social media operators. They’ve had to adapt to a new environment, especially in light of many losing sponsorship deals and having events canceled as marketing companies kept a mindful watch over budgets.
Sponsored posts on Instagram fell from 35% of influencer content in mid-February to just four percent by mid-April. Some marketers believe there will be a near-term 15 to 25% dip in the average price of sponsored posts as influencer demand declines in the wake of coronavirus.
Before, influencers relied on sponsorship deals. Yet, the fallout of Covid-19 has seen them switch tactics. From selling merchandise to an uptick in using services like membership platform Patreon for exclusive content, influencers are proving that a leopard can change its spots.
The rise of TikTok
Influencer-favorite platforms like TikTok excelled during the coronavirus pandemic. In the week before lockdown, TikTok downloads in the UK were 278,000. By the following week, it’s user base had grown by 34%. The app that was primarily used by Generation Z has entered the mainstream.
Today, over one billion people have downloaded TikTok worldwide, and an increasing number of brands are finding ways to create content on the platform. Post-coronavirus, its importance looks set to grow as it joins Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as one of the major social media networks.
Some influencers even navigated the birth of their influencer careers during the height of coronavirus. Madeline Mai-Davies lost her waitressing job at the start of the pandemic before going viral after uploading a video of her boyfriend pretending to break lockdown rules.
@maddiedavies.xNext door neighbour trying hard not to get caught whilst on lockdown… ##foryou ##fyp ##foryoupage ##viral ##tiktok ##foryoupagethis ##safehands ##4u♬ original sound – maddiedavies.x
Subsequently, she’s gone on to make videos that have amassed 16 million views and has a follower count of 1.2 million, which is more than double the circulation of some national newspapers in the UK. She has since featured in articles in 20 different countries, and social media marketers are already drumming up ways to elevate her success.
The future for social media marketers
Once everything picks up, social media jobs will likely be valued more than ever, as brands place increasing importance on digital engagement with their followers and new audiences. Authentic content will win out, as honesty, empathy, and social consciousness become the new touchpoints for social media users.
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The Covid-19 pandemic caught everyone off guard, and brands will want to do their best to get ahead of a potential second wave or other unexpected events. While it’s hard to predict the future when everything is still up in the air, there are green shoots of recovery in the vicinity, and the horizon looks bright for social media marketing post-Covid-19.