Coronavirus pandemic is reshaping our approach to social media: report

Tyrone Stewart

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many of us live and has even caused a change in approaches to social media – becoming increasingly used and more news-centric.

The average number of social media accounts per internet user globally has risen from 7.6 in 2017 to 8.1 in 2020, with average time spent increasing from 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 22 minutes, according to a survey of more than 170,00 global internet users by GlobalWebIndex. “At the same time, 47 per cent of internet users now turn to social media for news. However, just 14 per cent see it as the most trustworthy news source.

“With more free time and fewer opportunities to socialise in person, we expected to see social media usage rise during this period,” said Chase Buckle, Trends Manager at GlobalWebIndex. “Even so, it’s startling to see how quickly and significantly the increased intensity of our social media usage has led to changes in our relationship with it.”

The pandemic hasn’t just made changes to the consumption of news, it’s also helped revert social media channels back to their truly ‘social’ origins.

Between 2017 and 2020, keeping in touch with friends fell as the number one reason for using social media, sliding from 42 per cent to 33 per cent. Although, over the last two months, 55 per cent of those who communicate via social media in the US and UK have been sharing more. 30 per cent of internet users in the US and UK are also now being more open about their struggles with mental health on public social channels.

In terms of platforms used, Facebook, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram remain the channels with the most users outside of China. But platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitch have shown there is still room for them to mount a significant challenge, especially when 23 per cent of global consumers plan to continue watching more videos after the pandemic and 20 per cent of parents with young children having created videos on these apps in the past few months.

For advertisers, 77 per cent of respondents approve of brands running campaigns showing how they’re helping during the pandemic, while 47 per cent feel that brands should show their support for Black Lives Matter via social media.

“As people rely more on social media for day-to-day activities, there’s a big opportunity for social media companies to make their platforms useful and productive parts of consumers’ lives – but there will be some difficult adjustments along the way,” added Buckle. “Similar to the way social media has reverted to a more ‘back-to-basics’ usage, where connections and greater humanity are important, brands and publishers also need to incorporate this thinking into their marketing strategies and features. Reflecting back on how they first used social media and how they communicated with consumers could be a helpful step.”