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How the COVID-19 shutdown is affecting social media, and how your organization can respond

The pandemic has people stuck at home, and how they consume media is changing. Organizations that don’t want to be left behind need to know how to meet users where they’re spending time.

Social media tracking organization Talkwalker has released a study of social media consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, and finds that the ways tech users are getting their media is changing.

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What that means for businesses reliant on social media to attract customers, Talkwaker CEO Todd Grossman said, is that they need to “adapt their strategies to ensure they stay connected to their audiences as their users’ habits and total time spent shifts from channel to channel.”

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The study looked at a variety of traffic factors for things like popular video games, video conferencing platforms, social media sites, and music and video platforms. What it found were massive spikes for certain platforms and forms of social media, which the report breaks down into three key areas: Gaming, YouTube, and home-base niches.

What has grown during the pandemic

Two of the most impressive, but likely unsurprising to users of social media or those working remotely, gains made during the COVID-19 shutdown (defined in the report as being March 8, 2020, to present) have been by Zoom and the Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing. Since the pandemic shutdown began, Zoom has experienced an account creation surge of 2,695%, and Animal Crossing has experienced a similar level of 2,587%.

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YouTube has seen large spikes in daily interest in new account creation, as well as general activity on the platform increasing by nearly 10 million visits per day. Facebook has seen similar levels of growth, and the report states that this has only increased its lead over competing platforms.

Gaming site Twitch has seen its search volume nearly doubling during the COVID-19 shutdown, as have Instagram and Pinterest, the latter of which is known for being a popular site for DIY-ers of many different types. 

Along with Pinterest, home-based niche sites like DIY community Curbly and home fitness network Dailyburn have seen their traffic more than double during the pandemic period.

How businesses can adapt

The three niches mentioned above—gaming, video, and home-based—are what Talkwalker has identified as the biggest online growth sectors during the pandemic. Businesses with an online presence and those who rely on internet traffic to market or reach out to users and consumers need to follow suit.

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“Where and how consumers spend their time online is changing drastically during the pandemic, and this creates new challenges and opportunities for brands,” Grossman said. The steps that each business needs to take will differ, but Talkwalker recommends these responses for the three growth niches.

Gaming content

Both B2B and B2C brands should assess their audiences to see if there is any gaming interest. If so, they should identify what areas and franchises they’re interested in and should attempt to market in those areas. 

This can come in the form of ads in online games, tie-ins with specific games or game companies, and relationships with social media influencers with whom audiences are connecting. 

YouTube and other video content

In the land of video, YouTube is king, and advertising is one of the best ways to reach video audiences. As with gaming, you need to know your audience and the sorts of video they’re consuming to know where to target ads.

Talkwalker points out that YouTube has an advertising education platform where companies can learn how to improve ROI on advertising, something it recommends businesses using YouTube do during the pandemic.

Brands should also make their presence known on YouTube, no matter what kind of work they do or the sort of products they’re selling. “The real advantage of YouTube is the combined powers of its built-in social network and search engine,” The report said. Take time to determine what sort of YouTube videos could be interesting to your audience during the pandemic, and get them on YouTube as soon as you can.

Home-based and DIY niches

Curbly, DailyBurn, and Instructables are all mentioned as DIY communities that have grown during the shutdown. Internet users having to do more at home are turning to sites like these for ideas and guidance, and companies should increase their presence on them.

Like video and gaming, it’s important to know your audience when looking to enter these places. Identify content trends and figure out how your organization can adapt to them. The report gives the example of Disney and its reaction to Zoom: Its growing popularity led to Disney releasing Star Wars-themed virtual backgrounds for the conferencing app.

It’s also important, the report notes, to work to empower communities. “Stimulate community discussions with known relevant topics based on niche social network conversations,” The report recommends. 

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Beautiful sporty cheerful woman is doing side plank exercise. She is watching video on the internet and repeating the tasksBeautiful sporty cheerful woman is doing side plank exercise. She is watching video on the internet and repeating the tasks

Image: Deagreez, Getty Images/iStockphoto