Staying Social – How COVID-19 Has Affected Social Media Content and Consumption


If it seems like you’re spending more time scrolling through social media lately, you’re not alone. TechCrunch reports that Facebook and Instagram use spiked by more than 40 percent in mid-March, as users turned to their online communities for ways to stay entertained and connected during widespread stay-at-home orders. But the COVID-19 pandemic’s dramatic effect on everyday life has also led to a shift in the types of social media content users seek, especially as people continue to adjust to spending more time at home.

So, how are brands adapting their social media strategies to capture rapt audiences while still remaining relevant? Read on for the content trends that have taken hold during the COVID-19 crisis, and how you can apply some of these ideas to your brand’s social media accounts.

Going Live 

The desire to stay connected during a time of uncertainty has led to a considerable increase in livestreamed social media content, particularly on both IGTV and Facebook Live. According to Business Insider, Instagram Live usage jumped 70 percent in March alone. From workouts to makeup tutorials and cooking demonstrations, users are tuning in to interact with their favorite brands and influencers in real-time. Livestreams are particularly appealing because the content tends to feel authentic and unscripted. Live video allows users to tune in and participate in conversations with celebrities or familiar personalities which feels similar to hanging out a friend and socializing in-person.

For brands, livestreaming is extremely cost-effective because it requires minimal production. However, the current influx of live content means it can be harder to stand out against larger brands. If your brand is interested in exploring live content, we recommend highlighting a topic that you already know resonates well with your audience, and promoting the livestream well in advance on your chosen platform to gain an initial viewership. Once you establish a regular audience, you can begin to launch live content that’s more organic and spontaneous.

Fashion and activewear retailer Revolve hosts live workouts, which feature instructors wearing outfits for purchase online.

Sharing Knowledge

Many people who are spending more time at home have taken the opportunity to learn new skills or hobbies. If your feed has been full of café-worthy whipped coffee or artfully scored sourdough photos, it’s because certain activities have gone viral as creative (and often delicious) options to pass the time. Pinterest has reported seeing massive increases in search terms such as “creative baking” and “family games,” as people seek out ways to keep themselves and their families occupied.

As a result, many brands have turned to sharing some of the knowledge and expertise that attracts their customers under normal circumstances. Known for its luxury spa amenities, Four Seasons Hotels tapped its spa directors to share relaxing at-home treatments, while United Airlines has kept audiences engaged with recipes inspired by its coveted in-flight cookie, the Stroopwafel.

Do you offer a popular cocktail or host exclusive meditation retreats? If your brand is currently limited in its ability to serve customers, consider what knowledge you have that your customers will still value and how you can use social media to deliver it to them directly. Your expertise is what attracted your customer base in the first place, and it’s what will keep them coming back once things return to “normal.”

Four Seasons Hotels shares an at-home spa treatment from one of its spa directors.

Dreaming Big

It’s no surprise that the travel and hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the current crisis. Unable to welcome travelers in the short-term, many travel companies have deployed aspirational content to encourage their audiences to look forward to when travel eventually returns.

At the beginning of May, the travel industry celebrated National Travel and Tourism Week much differently than in years prior. Rather than shy away from promotion, the U.S. Travel Association encouraged the travel and tourism community to come together via the #SpiritofTravel campaign, which rallied industry partners around the “joy and memorable experiences” that keep people coming back to their favorite destinations. Forbes Travel Guide, known for distributing its star ratings to luxury properties, is also looking ahead with its #FutureTravelGuide campaign, meant to inspire extravagant notions of wanderlust. Locally, the Colorado Tourism Office’s #WaitingtoCO campaign encourages people to share to social media “all the quintessential activities residents and visitors alike associate with the state.”

Your customers may not be able to visit you now, but you can still utilize social media to inspire them to visit later. Select compelling images that highlight your brand’s best features to appeal to your current audience, and incorporate relevant hashtags to reach new users.

Visit Colorado encourages people to share their favorite Colorado activities from home with the #WaitingtoCO hashtag.

Advertising Authentically

Social media advertisers wasted no time capitalizing on captive audiences, and in fact, e-commerce spending increased 30 percent from the beginning of March to mid-April. However, at a time when many consumers are worried about their health and finances, social media advertising that doesn’t factor in these concerns can appear incredibly tone-deaf.

Effective brands have shifted their social media advertising to market what is relevant and useful to their customers. For example, independent wine retailer Naked Wines is now advertising their nationwide bottle delivery service, while skincare brand Mad Hippie is touting the $1 they donate from each purchase to fund Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit that delivers food to at-risk seniors. To see the biggest returns, dedicate your advertising dollars to reaching people with your unique knowledge, or marketing the types of products or services that will address their needs in this moment.

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