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COVID-19's Impact on Social Media Usage and Strategies

Katie Keane, Media Supervisor, R2integrated, and, Elise Ruland, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, R2integrated

As COVID-19 continues to further infuse itself into the normalcy of our daily lives, given state and local government shelter-in-place mandates and school closings, more and more individuals are limited to home atmospheres and have increased reliance on the internet for up-to-date information, community support, and entertainment. During a time of crisis, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. can be a blessing and curse for customers and brands. While consumers’ social media usage is greatly increasing, it is important for brands to evaluate and adjust existing strategies and approaches across platforms to ensure they are still able to connect with their audiences and align messaging with the realities of our “new normal.”  

Social Media Usage
Have you checked your screen time on your mobile device lately? Personally, we’ve noticed our overall screen time is up 69% from pre-COVID-19 levels, and our social media usage alone has doubled. Yes - we’re consuming 2X as much social media as we were just a week ago. But, we’re not the only ones! Reports show that a vast 66% of social media users believe their social media usage habits will increase due to the Coronavirus (IZEA). According to Kantar, users are browsing 53% more on Facebook and 32% more on Instagram. Twitter has reported that daily usage is up 23% YOY as users flock to the social network for breaking news and up-to-date information (VOX). 

How Brands and Influencers Are Changing With the Times
With TV production halting, events being canceled, and people self-isolating at home, brands and celebrities have turned to social media to connect with their audiences and keep them engaged. Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have both kept their late-night shows “airing” from home via the help of their families using social media channels to broadcast their daily episodes. Ellen DeGeneres has taken to social media to share videos of her cold-calling fellow celebrities to encourage social distancing; showing celebrities are just like us… bored and looking for new ways to entertain themselves at home.  

Instagram and Facebook live streams have taken off, proving to be the newest form of entertainment we didn’t know we needed. Singers and DJs alike are giving at-home concerts, while others are going live to answer questions directly from audience members, promote feel-good news, or simply to share their ‘new’ daily routines. But it’s not just “big name” celebs and well-known consumer brands who are changing their behaviors. Local fitness studios and instructors are offering at-home workouts via livestream, as are many athletic brands.  

How Are Advertisers Reacting?
E-commerce brands are taking full advantage of the country’s social distancing and increased screen time by doubling their ad spend starting in mid-February (Search Engine Land). On the other hand, industries like travel and hospitality have drastically cut back on spending as vacations and travel plans continue to be put on hold by many Americans.  
Similarly, the healthcare industry has had to drastically change the way they approach advertising, scaling back efforts and adjusting messaging as state-mandates suspend elective health procedures and increase patient concerns as result of ad performance drop-offs beginning in early March.  
B2B industries have not seen drastic changes in performance or spend; however, many brands in this space are using this time to re-evaluate creative and messaging to ensure their tone is appropriate for current times. These adjustments are wise as any product or service considered to be non-essential will likely see a much lower ROI when it comes to their social media ad spend.  But, if your brand does see fit to keep social campaigns running, be sure to reconsider your message in the market to ensure it aligns with consumer needs and expectations during this tumultuous time. 

Takeaways
In uncertain times, people flock to social media to stay informed with the news, their loved ones, and communities. Though usage and time spent on social platforms increases, many advertisers are seeing declines in performance, as non-essential products and services are being overlooked. As a result, brands are getting creative with their strategies to keep visitors engaged. Advertisers are making hard decisions to either pull back budgets or take advantage of increased screen time and increase their investment. Regardless of your industry, there are numerous opportunities to use this time to connect and engage your audiences through your social media exposure. 

About the author: Katie Keane, Media Supervisor, R2integrated, and

As Media Supervisor, Katie has more than 10 years of media experience working both client-side and agency-side. At R2i she is responsible for driving the media strategy and execution for campaigns across several industries including healthcare, manufacturing and retail. Being results-driven, Katie is committed to producing killer outcomes and hitting client’s business goals.

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