As with almost everything else in the world, the outbreak of the global pandemic is having a massive impact on social media engagement and strategy for brands. This is clearly reflected in a number of areas, such as an unprecedented rise in organic content, a lower demand for paid ads, engagement rates are one of the highest we have seen in a very long time, posting frequency has taken a hit across almost every industry, and for the silver lining: there is a hidden opportunity for struggling brands to tap into a wider audience pool by leveraging the all-time low ad costs on Facebook.
It goes without saying that people have been forced into social distancing and isolation at home, and this means they are flocking to Facebook and other social networks to keep up with news, check in on friends and loved ones, and maybe even share tips on scoring toilet paper and hand sanitizer. With so much more time to consume social media content, marketers have the opportunity to connect with a captive audience seeking entertainment, service, and content. Here’s how Covid-19 spells out for brand engagement and social media marketing landscape:
Engagement Rates Are Soaring Through The Roof
A peek into the social performance of over 2,000 companies on Twitter, Insta, and Facebook, between January and April 2020 shows that after an initial dip in social media engagement rates in early March, the numbers are hitting the sky roof across all three channels in the last few weeks due to the most astonishing reason: a decrease in posting frequency. We were amazed to see a decline in posting frequency resulting in such a massive increase in engagement rates.
In general, the social media engagement across all channels remained pretty flat in the first quarter of 2020, plummeted sharply in the first two weeks of March, and rose steeply in the latter half of the month. But when pitted against the posting frequency of brands, it has witnessed a 25% decline from at 4 posts/week on average to 3 posts/week. So, we can only assume that higher engagement rates were attributed to a decline in posting frequency.
Perhaps the reason that less posting translated into a higher engagement rate was because less posting meant that social media channels were left with no choice but to serve the same set of posts to its users. When a brand posts less frequently, each post has a better chance of earning engagement and impressions, leading up to a higher per-post performance.
Secondly, the quality of the posts is another contributing factor. When marketers put all their efforts in creating a few great posts instead of tons of mediocre ones, followers and fan are more likely to engage with the brand. This in turn, encourage social media channels to re-serve that content to other users, further augmenting engagement for brands. As we’re all still experimenting with what and how to market during this period of distress and uncertainty, marketers are putting more authenticity and energy into everything they post on social.
Here’s a breakdown on engagement for different social media channels:
As with other social media channels, Instagram engagement rates were hit hard in the first two weeks of March, although a couple of industries have bounced back. For instance, alcohol brands are stealing the limelight on Instagram, with drinking on the rise, as well as food and beverage brands. While non-profits were basking in the attention, serving as the prime source of services and news earlier last month, are now seeing a dramatic decline in engagement rates in April. Hotels & Resorts experienced a massive dip in March but are slowly rearing their heads. On the other hand, with no games to read about, watch or follow, sports teams are getting hammered on Instagram since the beginning of March.
Facebook’s engagement also had its moment of decline earlier this year, but some industries suddenly saw a boom in engagement rates, such as Alcohol and higher Ed. Financial services brands are also witnessing an all-time high engagement, since people are keen to better understand the financial market. Similarly, Media brands are all the rage these days and are even having to go the extra mile to keep up with the increasing demand for news and updates. Sports teams and non-profits are not faring so well on Facebook either, and are hanging by a thread in their efforts to stay relevant on Facebook. Facebook also saw a 70% increase in usage of all of its apps in the month of March. People are turning to these apps to keep them informed, connected and entertained while they’re spending more time at home.
Unlike the above two social channels, Twitter’s engagement declines earlier this year, was much less, hinting at the fact that in this period of uncertainty, people were turning to Twitter for updates and connecting with their favorite brands. Perhaps, the financial industry has benefited the most from this, and is seeing the highest engagement rates on this channel as well. Higher Ed experienced its moment of glory somewhere in the last week of March and is still receiving above average engagement. While Hotels and Resorts faded into oblivion in March, the last two weeks have been favorable to the hospitality industry, with people engaging with brands in need of travel advice or cancellations. Media’s engagement is also on the rise, but Sports teams are seeing rock bottom performance for this channel as well.
In recent weeks, the platform has seen a 55% increase in engagement between connections, in addition to seeing more content posted, and messaging volume is also up.
Influencers: The New Escape Social Media Wants
All in all, social media engagement has never been higher. With users isolated at home with neigh but their mobile devices, it comes as no surprise that Instagram engagement is up by 20 to 50 percent. In the U.S. alone, Instagram Live views saw a 70 percent boom in the last week, according to Facebook. Capitalizing on the situation, influencers have started programming their feeds with Instagram Lives and takeovers, in an attempt to make use of users’ increased screen time. In some cases, influencers are even asking their followers if they want to see brand partnerships on their feed. Surprisingly, it seems that social media is still open to #SponCon during the coronavirus, with 85 percent to 96 percent of followers wishing to see sponsored content.
In these dark times, audience is looking to influencers for entertainment, knowledge and an escape from the dreariness. In social, a constant funnel of content needs to be produced if brands wish to stay relevant, and they can lean on influencers to create content at home that can also be repurposed on brands’ owned channels to increase engagement. Brands will be more willing than ever to invest in influencer marketing dollars and certain sectors stand to benefit significantly from these price improvements. Brands over the world are quick to adapt to the changing environment and are tweaking their overall campaign spending to reflect the surge in social media consumption.