1.) Study Earliest-Affected Markets to Plan for What’s Next
Conversations & Content During Ramp-Up
During this phase, fear dominated Chinese social conversation as news of initial infections hit, leaving social media users looking for truth and basic facts.
Conversation topics during this phase largely fell into five topical areas:
- COVID-19 education – explaining what it is, symptoms, etc. The basic facts of the virus.
- Urging social distancing including staying at home or avoiding hotspot areas
- Shortage of urgently needed medical supplies and daily essentials
- Pressures and heroic feat of front-line workers (especially medical professionals)
- Tips for building a stronger immune system and personal protection
Conversations & Content During Peak
As net new infections reached their highest daily levels, social conversation shifted from basic fact-finding to personal distress about the situation and a glimpse of hope for the future. Top topics included:
- Challenges with continued quarantine – focus on schooling, unique challenges for rural populations, the disabled, etc.
- Celebrating life at home
- Pride around new skills learned at home and resiliency
- Discrimination against citizens of Wuhan & Hubei
Conversations & Content During Post-Peak
Once infection rates began to decline, conversation and content shifted again. In this phase, discussion began to focus on life after Coronavirus. It also shifted from purely personal care-abouts to the impact of COVID-19 on others in society and the road to recovery. Conversation topics included:
- Bucket lists and resuming life’s pursuits and ambitions
- Giving back to heroes, especially those who had been mostly invisible
- Recovering from unemployment/underemployment
- Saving specific industries such as farming/agriculture
- Online parties, classes, events
Conversations & Content During New Normal
As net new infections disappeared, discussions with gratitude for others continued, but conversation about the “new normal” of post-COVID life overtook other social media topics. Most frequently discussed topics included:
- Returning to work safely
- Rewarding medical workers for a job well done
- Celebrating Wuhan’s resurgence
- The little changes to life post Coronavirus
- China and its citizens’ role in helping other companies fighting COVID-19
In the week ahead, take a look at social trends and brand campaigns from China and other markets impacted earlier by Coronavirus. While every country and every social media user’s experience with COVID-19 is different, studying how social evolved in other geographies can help your team plan for what’s next and anticipate needs of social stakeholders closer to home.
2.) Think “group-friendly” for social during COVID-19.
Social engagement is up across most social platforms since the COVID-19 outbreak began. It’s no surprise people working from home or sheltering in place spend more time online looking for information from trusted sources and connecting with friends and family. But there appears to be a shift in how and where they’re engaging with the most content online — favoring group formats and social platforms which make exchange with others (instead of simple 1:many publishing) easier.
Facebook appears to be one of the early winners in delivering group-oriented experiences.
Over the past year, the social networking giant unveiled a promotional campaign called “More Together” to position itself as the place for community-based information and conversation. As social conversations during COVID-19 have become more collaborative in nature (e.g. sharing tips, group discussion of fears, problem solving, etc.), Golin’s data science team has measured a dramatic uptick in engagement on virtually all social platforms — but Facebook appears to be taking an outsized share.
Consider the chart below measuring social engagement actions on posts across platforms over the past few weeks. Prior to the global spread of COVID-19, we routinely saw engagement volume on Twitter posts much higher than other platforms. Today, Facebook is grabbing a far more significant share of engagement.
The surge in group activity appears to be a global phenomenon. On Facebook alone, more than 1 million people in the UK are members of 1,000 COVID-19 FB support groups. In France, hundreds of thousands of people joined more than 400+ FB groups to make a difference. Australian groups on the platform number more than 200, and have attracted more than 100,000 active members already. And in Ireland, Facebook groups count more than 50,000 active users and growing.
In the week ahead, consider how your brand’s social content, campaigns and company contributions can support heightened group and collaborative social behaviors during the pandemic. Identify existing groups with active members and a clear purpose and look for ways your company can provide needed help. Or consider starting a new group to support the work you’re already leading as a way to bring others in to support the help you’re providing.
3.) Make brand content and resources accessible for non-English speakers.
For all brands that are communicating via social media during the pandemic, it’s important to remember that not everyone is proficient in English. For example, 21% of people in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home and 8.5% speak English less than very well.
There are simple ways to ensure you’re reaching non-English-speaking online audiences with essential information during this time:
- Publish bi- or multi-lingual content: As brands develop essential online communications, recommend that the resources also be published or at least be made available in other languages. Spanish is the second-most-spoken language in the U.S., and 35% percent of Latinos are Spanish-dominant. It is especially important to make information available on social channels where non-English speakers over-index (e.g., Facebook).
- Offer caption options for video content delivered in English: While content delivered natively in-language is preferred, if you’re delivering content through a video of an executive or SME who speaks English, consider offering captions to deliver in-language translations. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube videos all support language-specific captioning.
- Ensure that your social care or engagement team includes non-English speakers: As there aren’t many proactive communications in Spanish or other languages, ensure that you’re staffed to address questions in-language on social.
- Consider paid social to reach audiences with tailored content: You can activate dark ads on social channels where constituents who speak certain languages over-index, and on many platforms, can even target by language preference.
While we’re all in this together, we don’t all speak the same language. In the week ahead, make sure all your constituents have equal access to your information.
4.) Consider your brand’s place on TikTok as it surges in popularity.
TikTok is finding its day in the sun during a dark time. And the network is changing and adapting quickly during the COVID-19 outbreak.
With the pandemic came the boredom boom. As people rely on social media to help pass the time, they are exploring new platforms to stay busy at home, get information and find lighthearted content. TikTok usage is skyrocketing among users and new ways for brands to add value are emerging day by day.
TikTok Growth by the Numbers
- On the platform, the average daily video view volume has increased 48.7%+ from the first week in 2020.
- Not only are users watching more TikToks, they’re also creating more of them. Daily videos published in the US have increased 58%+ from 3/15 – 3/21 alone.
- Average US engagement rate has reached an all-time high at 15.35% (likes, comments and shares divided by views).
COVID-19-related Content Surging on the Platform
- Doctors and nurses are using the platform to share informational content. While most think of this platform as funny and lighthearted, medical professionals are contributing to more informational content on the platform.
- #LifeAtHome is one of the top trends of the month with over 2B views. The hashtag features people adjusting to work from home life and how people are making the most of their time.
- While traditionally known as a social app for younger users, parents are now getting in on the TikTok craze. From involving parents in dances, recreating childhood photos and showing creative ways to celebrate birthdays, more and more parents are showing up in TikTok content. In fact, family-related content has grown by 18% week over week.
- Digital collaboration is taking over, with the Your First Move is Their Last Move challenge to the interactive #DontRushChallenge.
Prominent Brands are Appearing on TikTok
Proctor and Gamble launched their hashtag takeover #DistanceDance, which encourages users to stay at home and join in on the dance. For the first 3 million views, a donation will be made to Feeding America and Matthew 25. P&G activated one of the largest influencers on the platform, Charlie D’amelio (with 44M followers), to kick off the challenge and encourage participation. At time of publishing, there are already 5.5B views for the challenge.
Considering TikTok for your brand? Opportunities include:
- Activate to inspire good. If you plan to leverage TikTok during this time for a paid or influencer activation, make sure the content is inspirational, calming, or for the larger good. Like most social platforms, this isn’t the time to push product overtly unless it’s vitally needed.
- Capitalize on users being at home. With so many trends popping up, there are a multitude of ways brands can inspire creativity or solidarity at home. Check out how Fenty Beauty used influencers to join in on the Don’t Rush challenge.
- Tread carefully. While most brands haven’t made their first moves on TikTok just yet, if you are considering launching a channel or influencer content, tread carefully to avoid tone deaf marketing. Travel or event content is a no-no now — instead, focus on trends within the app around life at home.
5.) Assess your digital preparedness for a post-COVID world.
Though most brands and their social teams remain focused on the now, it’s time to start studying the companies which have outperformed competitors on social during the pandemic.
Though various geographies are in different phases of the pandemic, there is mounting evidence companies which invested in digital transformation before the crisis may be more resilient and better-equipped to weather global disruptions.
Companies that invested to build connectivity with stakeholders in social before the pandemic are better equipped to keep customers engaged now — which helps maintain trust and keep orders coming. Those with vibrant online communities are better able to deliver their message directly right now (through both organic and paid means), since some opportunities to tell their stories through third parties are temporarily diminished.
Brands with resilient supply chains which created digital mechanisms to acquire products are better insulated from sales disruptions caused by social distancing and other aspects of a global emergency. Many startups and digital-first direct to consumer brands have reportedly fared better than more “analog” competitors.
When the dust settles and life starts to return to normal, expect a day of reckoning. Digital transformation for those who lagged behind will become a priority in boardrooms, and a care-about for investors who will favor companies that have more control of their own destiny, both in communicating with their audiences and selling to them.
Start thinking about how you can deliver better, most resilient digital experiences in the future now. What could’ve helped your company maintain strong connections to your most important audiences and was absent from your strategy when COVID-19 hit? How could you have better helped customers who wanted your products or services get them more simply, using digital and social pathways? How did competitors who fared better during the crisis show up differently in social media?
It’s a great time to start thinking about the future. Because companies in all industries, of all sizes, will look for ways to more flexibly communicate and sell post Coronavirus 2020.
6.) Take an extra look at security.
In our last update, we discussed some best practices to help keep your video conferences secure. That advice was thrown into sharp relief this week as more organizations and groups in or outside of the enterprise find themselves confronting more Zoom-bombing and security risks.
Last year, Zoom found itself in hot water after its Mac app introduced a way for attackers to seize control over a user’s webcam and microphone remotely. Though Apple quickly patched that vulnerability in 2019, 2020 appears to be starting a new series of scandals.
This week saw the FBI compelled to provide a statement on Zoom-bombing, recommending that screenshare controls be left to the meeting host. It also saw several new privacy concerns come to life after several viral tweets around Zoom’s Attention Tracking and transcript recording features.
To top it all off, an ex-NSA researcher has reported several additional flaws in Zoom that leave additional vectors that may still leave webcams and microphones subject to remote control.
Zoom has since issued a statement that publicly declares feature freeze to focus on fixing these flaws. It’s also disabling features like Attention Tracking that have come under fire in the enterprise, academia and at home.
With video conferencing becoming an increasingly indispensable way of life, keeping your meeting or presentation secure starts with:
- Choosing invites over links for sensitive meetings. Meeting links are great for joining a meeting, but for sensitive conversations, it’s best to keep participants on a need-to-know basis.
- Using a password, PIN or lobby for attendees. Automated tools can easily guess and test URLs that may lead prying eyes to gain access to your meeting and documents shared therein. When using tools like Zoom that are accessible outside your organization, consider the barriers you can add between your meeting and the public.
- Selecting secure video platforms. Though some tools make it easier to show all participants on a call at once, they may not be designed with enterprise security in mind. Particularly when conducting business, prefer the platforms recommended by your IT team first (e.g. WebEx by Cisco, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business).
- Keeping work and life separate. The standard advice of keeping work and personal streams separate can also apply here. If you’re joining a work call, try using a device managed by your organization. If you can’t, prefer to join via the platform’s mobile app to reduce risks that may associated by installing unknown software on your personal computer.
*If you have questions or are seeking counsel, please reach out to Jeff Beringer at firstname.lastname@example.org.