How COVID-19 Has Changed Social Media Habits

Over the last few years, many people have discussed the importance of cutting back on social media usage. These discussions included tips on spending less time online, being careful about what you share, and paying closer attention to your online behaviour. 

These discussions have begun to shift as people have been under lockdown. According to research from the start of April, nearly 50% of consumers stated that they were now spending more time on social media. Since that spike, levels have started to stabilize. However, 42% of consumers still state that, due to lockdowns, they have spent more time on social media. 19% say that they plan to continue these habits. Now is the right time to evaluate common assumptions about social media. The role it plays in the lives of users has shifted because of COVID-19. As you read on, you'll learn more about how and why social media usage has changed. 

Using Social Media As A News Source 

We began tracking how people used social media in 2014. There has been a steady increase in social media news consumption during this time. The pandemic, however, has left people more reliant on social media for new information. 

Using Social Media for Socialization 

Prior to the pandemic, people were had become less focused on using social media as a tool to connect and share things with friends and family. Instead, social media time was largely focused on more passive activities, such as brand research and common consumption. In 2014, when our research started, however, social media was being used as a way to keep up with people, share opinions, and talk about personal topics. 

In recent years, engagement on social activities has dropped by around 40%. Now that people have fewer sources of social interaction, however, people have been turning to social channels to make connections. This has put a greater emphasis on the social side of social media. According to our data from Q2 2020, there's been an increase in both video calls and messaging, which are tools that help us stay in contact with the people that are important to us. 

Our researchers also found that 40% of internet users in the UK and the United States stated that there were sharing more personal information on social media. This behaviour was especially common with millennials, with 46% reporting an increase in updates. It should be noted that these updates aren't just taking place via video calls and messages. People have been using public and private channels to discuss personal information. 33% of consumers reported that they had been more open when talking on messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp. 31% reported that they had shared information publicly on platforms such as Facebook. 

This particular pattern can be seen across nearly all demographic groups. In the UK, however, social media users are still slightly more likely to discuss personal issues via messenger rather than publicly. Because of the pandemic, consumers have reached out to others for support. Many have made a point of publicly discussing their struggles with others. 

These habits can also be seen when we look at the content that consumers were most inspired by over the past 2 months. The top answer was content from family and friends, and the number two answer was content from the local community. We are predicting that this increased focus on community will be around for a while. Now that companies are starting to focus on marketing again, it's likely that local-focused messaging that is designed to feel personal will get a stronger response from consumers. 

What Brands Should Keep In Mind 

Current data from 18 different markets shows that 24% of consumers find brands through social media. 55% have stated that they approve of brands that use standard marketing methods. Since social media behaviours have shifted, however, it may be time for marketers to adjust their methods. Businesses should think about customer priorities when creating marketing campaigns. They should also be wary of advertisements that could come across as opportunistic.

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