September 16-18, 2020
Westin Boston Waterfront
crowd wearing masks

Social Media During and After COVID-19: What Brands Need to Know

By: Rachael Samuels, Manager of Social Media, Sprout Social

May 18, 2020

As the world focuses on flattening the COVID-19 curve, marketers are still finding their footing, especially on social media. There is no official manual for the current situation. But by taking a deep look at existing data we can better understand how the landscape has shifted and where the path forward lies for businesses.

Looking at social media conversations around COVID-19, while initial chatter began in late 2019, it wasn’t until the first U.S. case was reported in January and the number of cases grew exponentially that the topic volume started gaining traction, nearly quadrupling. In early March, topic volume saw another jump from five million to more than 20 million messages a day following a series of events that included Italy going into lockdown, the WHO declaring the virus as a pandemic and the U.S. entering a state of emergency.

But as the topic volume continued to increase, the way people talked about COVID-19 shifted. They no longer focused just on the virus—they also talked about the impact it had on jobs, education and everyday life. Messages around homeschooling and online learning saw a 21x surge between February and March while quarantine and social distancing messages grew 1,188 percent. And as people increasingly stayed home, they sought ways to keep themselves entertained and turned to social to share those ideas. Activities like cooking and baking, fitness and video games rose to the top of the conversation and drove 3.7 million engagements in March.

How Brands Pivoted Their Social Media Strategy

The tonal shift in March was also a crucial turning point for brands’ social presence. Initial conversations focused on sharing information, including updates on store closures, operational changes and more. This gradually moved toward brands posting entertaining and educational content on their social platforms as more and more people stayed home. For example:

In the short term, we’ve seen brands respond in unique ways to their audience as the larger social media conversation balloons around pandemic-related topics, from unemployment to working from home. For social marketers, a longer term outlook should take into consideration how consumer behavior will continue to be impacted—even after the pandemic ends.

What the Future Looks Like for Brands

Social media has shown how the world has adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the reality is the situation is still fluid and we can expect more change on the horizon. Because we don’t know when (or if) the world will return to “business as usual,” there are a few things that can help guide brands during this continued time of uncertainty.

While we may not know what the future holds, one thing that continues to hold true is brands that prioritize their audience’s needs will build connections that will outlast these moments in time.

At The Social Shake-Up