To say that we’re living in unprecedented times is an understatement. Almost overnight, the entire landscape changed for business around the world. Unless you’re a supermarket, there’s every chance that your brand has felt the negative effect of Covid-19.
People’s health is, without a doubt, the most critical aspect in circumstances like these. But it would be foolish to ignore the global economic impact felt by the coronavirus. As markets tumble and people lose their jobs, all we have left is community.
But how do we go about forging a stronger sense of community when social distancing is being put into place worldwide? While we might not be able to interact physically, technology is helping to build robust universal communities. And it’s social media that is driving togetherness and showing how it’s an influence for good.
The power of community
In troubling times, people turn to their local communities for answers. During the 17th century, a small village in the United Kingdom took it upon itself to self-isolate all the villagers once news that the bubonic plague made its way to the north of England from London. It was a community rallying together that managed to stop the spread and avert a national disaster.
World War II also reflected communities at their best, with people coming together to try and improve a grave situation — even if the results were only marginal. Throughout history, right up until the present, communities have played a pivotal role in finding solidarity during trying times.
For decades, brands have championed the power of their communities for a good reason. There is a sense of comfort and belonging in communities, and such emotions have the ability to help people through trying periods.
An untouchable community
Technology has made the world more accessible. Today, places that are thousands of miles away feel like your local neighborhood. It’s just as easy for two people on opposite sides of the globe to have a conversation with each other as it is two next-door neighbors.
Social media has played a pivotal role in changing human behavior, creating a level of access to each other that was once unimaginable. In a world where coronavirus exists, social media has become a beacon of hope for billions of people.
It has acted in a way that you would expect any leader from a local community to behave. On the one hand, social media has been a tool for sharing vital information. On the other, it’s been a support system for people feeling anxious and scared about the effect of the virus.
Brands using social media for coronavirus messaging
The beauty of social media lies in its ability to act as a platform for everyone. The current climate means it’s better for us to be further apart from each other, but social media is connecting people in a way that means physical social distancing doesn’t have to reduce human connections.
Brands around the world have tapped into its power, putting aside marketing tactics to offer heartfelt messages in a time when we need them most. Pret a Manger, the international coffee and sandwich chain, channeled current sentiment more than most with a simple message of support to the UK’s National Health Service.
Such messages have the power to create a feel-good factor during uncertain times. While ardent skeptics will always have a level of cynicism towards corporate companies, Pret’s message is well-timed and appropriate with the current sentiment in the UK and across the rest of the world.
Together with @waitrose we are working with leading charities including @age_uk , @FareShareUK and @TrussellTrust to boost support for the most vulnerable in society. pic.twitter.com/LzOw0RI59p— John Lewis & Partners (@jlandpartners) March 23, 2020
Other brands, such as John Lewis, have also taken to social media to spread important information, whether it’s about opening hours or showing how they’re helping to tame the spread of the virus.
Social media platforms like Twitter have even gone as far as providing information for brands looking to navigate the current climate in a heartfelt way that doesn’t put profits first. Though not all of them have heeded the advice.
The misinformation of social media
While the overwhelming majority of people and brands are using social media in good faith, there are always some that miss the mark. The great work social media does to bring communities closer together can often be undone by the spread of misinformation.
This has been especially true with the coronavirus, where fighting against fake news produced around the virus can seem just as trying as stopping Covid-19 in real life. Conspiracy theories, racism, and blatant lies can have the opposite effect on communities, creating a sense of panic in the process.
Some brands have even missed the mark themselves, failing to judge the current climate and acting with their own interests. Sports retailer Sports Direct tweeted the UK government, asking if it was ok to open their stores just hours after UK prime minister Boris Johnson enforced a nationwide lockdown.
The responses didn’t go down well, with other social media users not afraid to display their distaste at the tweet. There is, of course, an understanding as businesses still need to try and make a living. But it should be achieved in good taste, rather than using irony as a language of communication.
Finding solace online
It’s virtually impossible to take all the good without some negativity. But the majority of contact on social media has been reassuringly positive. And in times where physically seeing each other is proving tricky, social media provides many solutions.
Influencer agency Obviously found there has been a 22% increase in Instagram campaign impressions from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020. TikTok has also seen a 27% jump in engagement from February to March, as more people are forced indoors.
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become places where people can take a light-hearted approach to what is an extremely serious situation. The current landscape we find ourselves in calls for moments of laughter and an ability to forget about the madness, even if it’s only for a few seconds.
The strongest support system
Now, more than ever, the world needs to come together as one giant community. Social media is acting as the platform to achieve our needs, with messages of support flooding in both locally and internationally. Everyone is chipping in, from celebrities to brands and everyday people.
Hashtags such as #HowCanIHelp is cropping up as a growing number of social media platforms. At this moment, we’re living in a virtual neighborhood while adapting to the new world we find ourselves in, even if it’s only for the short term.
The coronavirus has changed our way of thinking and transformed how we live our lives. There’s a lot of unknown in the world right now, but social media is helping to keep things ticking along with a sense of familiarity that is building communities. And it’s a strong community that will help us through these trying times.