Communicating During a Crisis - The Importance of Social Media During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Communicating During a Crisis - The Importance of Social Media During the Covid-19 Pandemic

View profile for Laura Morris
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I suspect by this point in the year, you’re all settled into (the phrase I despise) ‘the new normal’. Yet, that’s what it really has become. As the vast majority of us at Conscious continue to work from home, it seems clear that this is our life now for the next few months and even beyond that. Many of our customers have also closed their offices and are working remotely or having socially-distanced meetings with their clients.

Right at the beginning of lockdown, back in April, businesses went into ‘survival mode’, quickly adapting their operations to allow home working, scaling back services and moving the vast majority of their business online. It was hard to see or plan very far into the future. Social media, it seemed, became less of a priority.

Almost seven months on, however, if you still don’t have a good presence on social media, you may be missing a trick. We’ve taken a look at what’s happened on social media over the course of the pandemic and why it’s important, now more than ever, to be on social media.

1. How has COVID-19 changed the way people use social media?

More social media users, online for longer

During the height of lockdown when we were all stuck at home, frantically refreshing our news apps for any nugget of hopeful information, people looked to social media as a form of entertainment and as a source for news.

According to a study by We Are Social, social media adoption has jumped by more than 12% in the last twelve months alone and just recently, global social media users passed the 4 billion mark. The study also states that internet users now spend an average of two and a half hours a day on social media.

Audiences seem to be more engaged on social too, as engagements received by brands across all networks and industries in Q1 increased on average by 44 engagements per day, according to SproutSocial.

Video rules!

With all this extra time on our hands, it seems audiences engaged more with multimedia such as podcasts and videos. Although video has always seen great engagement across all social channels, it became even more popular throughout lockdown, particularly live video.

According to Socialbakers, Facebook Live usage by brands shot up by 126% between March and June and was the most engaging format on the platform in Q2 and Q3 with an average of 28 and 33 interactions, respectively, per video.

New users on new platforms

Social media users also found themselves branching out to different platforms for different content. For example, Tik Tok is the big star of 2020 (despite recent controversies) with its fun 15-second videos and creative filters. It is the fasting growing social media platform and according to We Are Social, it is currently the sixth-largest social network in the world with almost 700 million users, beating out Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat.

However, Snapchat also saw massive growth between July and September, with 36 million new users as the platform continues to evolve.

Social media as a news source

As well as using social media for entertainment purposes, many users looked to social media platforms to get the latest news and updates about the developing situation surrounding the coronavirus.

According to We Are Social, two-thirds of social media users expect companies to be providing fact-checked content and there has been a call for social media to act as a reliable source of information. Social media companies have had to work fast to make sure only trusted, official advice is being circulated.

2. How are brands responding in the wake of COVID-19 on social media?

As workers across the UK were told to shelter in place and work from home where possible to stop the spread of COVID-19, people’s lives and daily routines were changed overnight. It was a unique experience to the vast majority of us, and as we’ve seen, we found ourselves switching to digital media for entertainment and updates. So how did the brands respond?

Communication with audiences has increased

Right at the beginning of lockdown, there was an increase in social media output from brands, mostly sharing updates to opening hours or any other COVID-related updates.

The healthcare and entertainment brands, which became the priority industries throughout lockdown, increased their social media output by an average of 8.9 posts and 5.3 posts per day, respectively, according to SproutSocial.

Some industries saw a much bigger decline in social output during this time, such as sports and travel, industries which were severely impacted by the lockdown restrictions.

Online services and virtual events

With lockdown restrictions in place and many businesses unable to offer certain services, they quickly adapted by offering home delivery or hosting virtual events via Zoom or other platforms.

Some businesses were more severely impacted than others, such as museums, live art venues, cinemas, restaurants, and zoos. It was interesting to see how businesses met the challenges of lockdown and maintained their presence and engagement with their audiences using social media.

Some of my favourite moments from brands during this time include:

  • The Getty Museum encouraged patrons via Twitter to recreate works of art using household objects for their Getty Museum Challenge. The results were hilarious and sometimes quite surprising!
  • Chester Zoo’s Virtual Zoo Days via Facebook Live helped bring the Zoo straight to your living room. The keepers hosted talks at various enclosures, usually during feeding times. Who doesn’t love cute animals? My favourite was the penguin feeding day.
  • The Ravenmaster of the Tower of London kept us all entertained by reading excerpts of his book and sharing videos of the ravens via Facebook Live from the Tower itself. A good one for keeping the kids interested in history by bringing it to life.
  • Wagamama helped us to up our cooking game with a free online video series, ingeniously titled ‘Wok From Home’ led by the executive chef, Steve Mangleshot, live from his home. He taught people how to cook some of the restaurant’s staple dishes, including the ever-popular Chicken Katsu Curry.

Social media companies take responsibility

As mentioned previously, more and more people are turning to social media channels to get the latest news and updates regarding the coronavirus. Unfortunately, there are many accounts across all the social media platforms who are spreading fake news and false claims about the virus.

In a bid to stop this from happening, Facebook launched a dedicated COVID-19 Information Centre for those looking for the latest information from trusted sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO). Not only does it dispel false claims about ‘cures’ for the coronavirus, but it also hosts a hub for those looking for and offering help during this difficult time and a list of resources for mental health and wellbeing.

Facebook and Instagram are actively looking for and identifying posts that may be spreading false information and deleting the offending posts and accounts. Twitter is doing something similar by protecting users from false information. If you type ‘coronavirus’ into the search bar, you are presented with options such as ‘Visit the NHS website’ or to see ‘Tweets from UK authorities’.

Twitter also recently switched to automatic ‘quote tweets’ to encourage people to comment on the news story they are sharing rather than just retweeting something without reading it.

3. Why is it important to be on social media during the pandemic and what should you be doing?

With social media adoption up since the beginning of the pandemic, users spending more time on the apps looking for meaningful interactions, brands need to be flexible and adjust their strategies accordingly. What once worked for you might not work in the wake of Covid-19. If social media hasn’t been your top priority over the last few months, we’ve got some suggestions below for how to get back on track.

Listen to your audience

One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic is that we have all been forced to slow down and spend time with our loved ones and engage in our communities. Businesses need to start discussions and listen to their audiences.

A good place to start is to ask questions using polls or the questions feature in stories. The topic doesn’t always have to be legal – think outside the box. For example, you could ask for people’s recommendations for good mental wellbeing during tighter lockdown restrictions and then share the answers, or you could simply invite your audience to ask you some questions which you can respond to in the form of a blog or video.

Make sure that you’re engaging with your local community and supporting each other by sharing other people’s posts or recommending other local businesses. We always recommend that you be mindful of what you say on social media and don’t post anything that may offend your audience, particularly during these scary and stressful times. Seemingly innocent words or phrases may be triggering for some.

Conducting a social media healthcheck can be an invaluable tool to help you discover who your audience is, where they live and how they’re engaging with your content. At Conscious we offer this one-off service to ensure you are getting the most out of your social media and are performing on a par with your competitors.

Update your business information

Keep clients and potential clients up to date with your latest opening hours, online resources and the measures you are taking to protect clients and staff throughout the pandemic. You can keep these posts pinned to the top of your individual profiles so that people can get that information straight away when they view your social media pages.

Post valuable content

We know that more people are turning to social media for information these days, so make sure that any content you post is going to be valuable to your audience. Don’t post for posting’s sake, otherwise your message will get lost amongst the millions of other businesses on social media.

Keep it educational, fun, empathetic and relatable so that people think of you as a trusted resource and thought leader in your field. If you’re not sure what you should be posting, go and check out what other firms are doing on social media and take a good look at your website to see what information will be most helpful to your audience that can be broadcast in a fun and educational way.

Our new and improved social media tips booklets have some great insights into each social media platform and the types of content that works well on each. Why not download them for whenever you’re stumped for new ideas?

Give video a try

We’ve seen that video trumps every other type of format on social media this year, and in particular, live video. If you’ve never tried video on social media, don’t be shy – get in front of the camera and start engaging with your audience.

Try hosting a live Q&A, or a short sharp video answering one specific question, or it could even be your thoughts on the latest news relevant to your field of expertise. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to follow our top tips for getting started with video on social media.

Keep your audience at the core of your social media strategy

Unfortunately, with coronavirus cases rapidly rising across the UK and more places going into stricter lockdowns, this pandemic is far from over. We’ve seen a shift in behaviour on social media that isn’t likely to change soon and so businesses need to adapt and be flexible with their social media strategies.

Audiences are savvy to fake news and content for vanity’s sake, so be authentic and keep your audience at the core of everything you do on social media. Listen to your audience, engage and experiment with new formats such as video.

If you need help with your social media, our friendly team at Conscious are on hand! Call us on 0117 332 5719 or drop us a line at