Social Media

How Social Media has Shifted Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Just like the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and work, it also changed how we use the internet and social media platforms. More specifically, how we’re engaging with our audience. Users have shifted when they post, engage with posts, the content they’re posting and the platforms they use.  

What We’re Posting

Prior to mid-March 2020, social media served as a place for people to show the highlights of their lives. While users are still posting about their lives, the overall use of social media seems to be finding a more meaningful purpose.

It has become more common for people to share their personal struggles and more vulnerable sides of themselves. With people doing their part to stay home and social distance, they had to find alternative ways to connect with people. Posting more personal thoughts, emotions or hardships helps people feel more connected to one-another, especially when seeing others going through similar stresses.

Private features on a variety of platforms let users choose the friends that can see their content. There, users feel even more comfortable posting personal matters.

Where We’re Posting

People have also shifted where they’re posting. From February to March, total visits on Snapchat increased more than 11 percent. Along with Snapchat, people have turned to platforms with features to better connect through video chat. This has boosted traffic to apps and websites like Google Duo (+12.4%) and Houseparty (+79.4%). Plus, the desire for local connections has increased visits to websites like Nextdoor (+73.3%).  

When We’re Engaging

The changes we’ve all experienced to our daily schedules has also prompted a change to the times of day people use social media. Before COVID-19, Sprout Social shared their listings on the best times to post on social media, based on insights pulled from their 20,000+ user base. More recently, Sprout Social released an update to these times, as peak engagement time on some platforms changed drastically.

On Facebook, the optimal time for engagement used to be Wednesday at 11 a.m. and between 1-2 p.m. Now, it’s shifted to Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday from 10-11 a.m. We’re also seeing a significant drop off in engagement after 5 p.m. on weekdays.

For Instagram as a whole, the highest and most consistent time for engagement use to be Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and Fridays from 10-11 a.m. The lowest activity was Saturdays and Sundays. Now, it’s shifted to Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m., as well as Tuesdays at 2 p.m.

Prior to the pandemic Instagram would usually see consistent  activity throughout the day, but a significant drop-off is now seen after 6 p.m. Engagement now picks back up on the weekends, including Sundays, which used to be the lowest day out of the week.

Previously, Twitter’s most popular times for engagement were Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9 a.m. These have now shifted a little earlier, from 7-9 a.m.

For LinkedIn, engagement was the highest on Wednesday from 8-10 a.m. and around noon, Thursday at 9 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. and Friday at 9 a.m. These times have shifted slightly to Wednesdays at 3 p.m. Thursdays from 9- 10 a.m. and Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon.

It’s important to note that these times are for social media engagement in general. The optimal time for your industry may vary.

How Much We’re Posting

Despite an increasing number of people on social media, the number of posts created daily has declined. Sprout Social found that posts being published by brands declined across all industries.  

  • Facebook: Outgoing posts decreased by an average of 1.8 posts per day
  • Instagram: Outgoing posts decreased by an average of 1.9 posts per day
  • Twitter: Outgoing posts decreased by 2.3 posts per day

Messages and comments across all networks and industries have declined as well:

  • Facebook comments: decreased by 5.6 per day
  • Facebook PMs: decreased by 2.1 per day
  • Twitter @ messages: decreased by 16 per day
  • Twitter Retweets: decreased by 20.8 per day

But even though the number of posts, comments and messages going out daily has seen a decline, user engagement with posts has increased. From April to March, all industries and platforms have seen incoming engagements increased by a daily average of 44. On a per-post level, engagement has also increased by 7.3 per day, according to Sprout Social. 

How Should We Shift Our Efforts?

As far as identifying where and when your brand should be posting, it takes tracking, A/B testing and proper adjustments. There are a variety of social planning tools that give insights to when they believe your optimal time for posting is, but professionals still recommend you test out different times and days to see what drives the highest engagement for your audience.

User behavior on social media is everchanging, especially right now. That is why it’s so important to consistently track and be attentive to what is happening with your audience. All industries have felt the impacts of the pandemic, but not all to the same degree. Businesses of all sizes, everywhere, have to be mindful and take into account complexities. Social planning tools, especially content calendars are always advised, but right now it’s important to make sure what you have planned previously is still appropriate for what is currently happening within your audience, local community, and even globally.

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