Social Distancing: A World Made For Social Media?

Major events have been cancelled, and office spaces remain fairly empty as employers continue to have staff working from home. But while many of us are struggling with the new normal, there are also those who are more content than others. We’re working from home, gaming, taking up hobbies we never knew existed, we’re reading, we’re cooking, our creative juices are pumping at an all time high. And then there’s social media, a place that cultivates any activity you could imagine. Is there any tool more equipped to shoulder us through these difficult times? There’s news, entertainment, updates on the crisis, memes, challenges, video chat etc... You name it and social media provides.

Social Media platforms have seen major spikes in time spent

Naturally, with everyone being urged to social distance, time spent on Lifestyle apps has taken a rather large dip in a short period of time. Social media meanwhile has seen a vast increase in time spent. It wasn't too long ago that many of us began to question if we’re spending too much time on social media. Fast-forward to now, as we continue to venture down this road of quarantining, and we seem to have abandoned the notion. Platforms have responded accordingly by giving us even more reasons to spend time consuming.

According to Matt Southern of Search Engine General, video content consumption has seen enormous spikes. Matt elaborates on the rising video views with the following:

People are spending more time consuming content on social media, especially video content. eMarketer now projects that people will spend an average of 1 hour and 20 minutes per day with social media this year. That’s an increase of 6 minutes per day compared to eMarketer’s previous forecast.
Social Media Use - +6 Minutes Per Day (vs previous forecast)

The article also indicates that Facebook has completely reversed downward projections in minutes spent on the platform per day. An unnamed Facebook data analyst dove deeper into the new projections with data showing a growth of 4.3% as a result of COVID-19. This comes out to an increase of over one minute. While this may not seem like a lot, users are currently projected to spend thirty-four minutes per day on the platform. To completely shift the projections of the entire year as a result of a current trend taking place in such a relatively short time span is definitely worth noting.

So we’re now, because of the COVID-19 effect, showing a growth of 4.3%, which is positive. And we’ve been seeing declines on Facebook for a number of years now. So that’s about an increase of a little bit over a minute. So it’s not super significant like we’re seeing for some of the other socials like Instagram and Snapchat. But it is a positive story.

Out of the three major platforms, Instagram has seen the most improvements as a result of COVID-19:

Matt Southern
Instagram was pretty flat growth. We projected a 1.5% growth in 2020, but because of COVID-19 it’s actually going to see the biggest, strongest growth out of all of the socials that we cover. Nearly 14% growth. That’s about 3.2 minutes when you add that up.

This actually makes a whole lot of sense. We yearn for the things we’re deprived of. Instagram provides a multitude of different avenues for users to project a sense of normalcy. What better place to document the new norms of a social distancing world than on the gram. Those new found hobbies show off nicely in any filter. And what better way to keep in “touch” with loved ones than on Instagram where affection and adoration is given in the form of a double tap. 👆🏽👆🏽

The current state has without question driven heavier usage across channels. Going forward it will be interesting to see how platforms find ways to maintain these numbers post pandemic without sacrificing other areas of strength. There’s definitely more to come and for someone who operates within the industry, I’m excited to see what upcoming strides will be taken.

Michael Plant is a Chicago‑based Community Strategist at Camp + King. Previously, he spearheaded UberEats social media engagement efforts, building its global engagement strategy.

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