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How Coronavirus has changed the shape of social media

New social media behaviours

Since the start of the pandemic the world as we know it has changed. And those changes have even affected how we use social media. It seems that a combination of furloughed workers and the move to work from home for many has given people more time on their hands – and they have filled it with social media.

To give this some context, at the beginning of April almost 50% of people admitted to spending longer on social media due to the outbreak (as reported by The Global Web Index). And as of August, that number had only dropped slightly to 43%. In fact, 19% say they’ll carry on spending longer on social media. It suggests these new habits are here to stay, at least for a while.

So, what’s driving this change in behaviour?

It’s perhaps not too surprising that the main reason for all this increased social media activity is to keep up with the news (it’s the top driver for 36% of people). This goes hand in hand with the fact that more people are using digital platforms for their news during Coronavirus. In fact, the only audience more likely to use social media for a different reason (i.e. to fill up spare time) is Gen Z.


Gen Z and the rise of TikTok…
should brands take note?

TikTok captured the attention of Gen Zs long before COVID-19 struck but there’s no denying the impact the virus had on usage since then.

In 2019, 19% of Gen Zs used TikTok – now it’s 35%. That’s quite a jump. But an understandable one when you hear the social media platform had 315 million installs in 2020 Q1 alone. That’s thought to be largest number of quarterly downloads for a social media app ever recorded.

And it’s not just Gen Zs who are making the switch. Figures show that 19% of millennials are now using the app compared to just 3% in 2019. Which begs the question, is TikTok now essential for brands?

It’s too early to say for sure. TikTok’s discovery algorithm means impressions can be easy to come by, but you would need to devote a lot of time to build an organic community. However, it may give us a good view to the future as it shows there’s now a whole generation of people engaging with content in a more creative way.


Coronavirus and engagement

During lockdown post volume remained about the same, with only a -0.2 reduction in the average number of messages sent and received per day. However, the volume per industry did change:

These changes had an effect on engagements, with brands actually becoming more engaging during April 2020 compared with April 2019. Incoming engagements increased on average by 44 engagements per day across all networks and industries. On a per-post level, they also increased by about 7.3 engagements per day.


A good time to post

So, with all this extra time on social, when is the optimum posting time for each platform? According to a report published by Sprout Social, the best posting times look like this:


Was: Wednesday at 11am and 1pm onwards
Now: 10-11am on each day


Was: Friday 10-11am and Wednesday 11am
Now: 11am on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and 2pm on Tuesday


Was: Wednesday and Friday at 9am
Now: Friday from 7am-9am


Was: 8-10am and 12pm on Wednesday, 9am and 1-2pm on Thursday and 9am on a Friday
Now: 3pm on a Wednesday, 9-10am on Thursday, 11am-12pm on Fridays


Of course, the best days and times for posting will vary on a case-by-case basis, so it’s always worth testing different options to pinpoint the optimum strategy for your brand, message and audience. Only then can you drive the deepest levels of engagement and greater organic reach.


A look to the future

Pandemic or not, audience behaviour is always changing and will continue to do so. Coupled with the rise of new technologies like TikTok, it seems social media is as changeable as it ever was.

However, now more than ever it’s important to continually review things like post timings. Because what was conventional before may not be so now.

Likewise, don’t forget to keep a close eye on TikTok – now may not be the right time to jump on this platform but in six months it just might be.


Contact us (details below) to find out more about these social media changes or how we could support your social media activity.