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How social media has been affected by and has adapted for COVID-19 banner

How social media has been affected by and has adapted for COVID-19

For a long time now, social media has been an ever-present part of everyday life. Most of us use social media every single day. But now more than ever, social media is being used to help loved ones keep in touch and feel connected.

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Multiple studies have started looking more deeply into how social media has changed over the last few months and the impact it’s having on our social lives as well as on our mental health. The eMarketing Social Media Forecast had the following to say about recent increases in social media usage:

“We’re seeing increased engagement on IG Live, Facebook Live, with short form content and videos.

In general, the increase from our previous forecast is six minutes. So, this is, of course, average throughout the day. And it’s averaged out throughout the year, of course.

From the year before it’s a seven-minute increase. So, when it’s all added up it comes to about an hour-and-twenty-minutes-plus of time spent on social networks, which is a tremendous amount of time.

And yes, the impact from COVID is positive on social media engagement.”

It is clear that social media is playing a huge part in keeping us all in contact and maintaining a sense of normality in our daily interactions. However, there are negatives associated with too much social media exposure, which we will discuss later. One thing we can be certain of, is this is one of the most interesting times to be a participant of social media, and companies are pulling out all the stops to adapt and thrive in this new environment we are finding ourselves in.

We wanted to make you aware of some of the biggest developments across the leading social media platforms. We will be highlighting how they have adapted and how you can better understand the effect of social media on you and those around you, as well as how to use some of the new features to stay connected with others.


Instagram has quickly become one of, if not the largest, social media platform after Facebook. Boasting over a billion active users, Instagram is the social media of choice for the majority of young people.

Instagram has unsurprisingly therefore seen a larger spike than any of its fellow social media platforms. Again from the eMarketer forecast referenced above, Oscar Orozco of eMarketer explains the following about the time spent on social media:

“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.”

So, what can you take from this? Well if it isn’t obvious, get your business on Instagram. There’s a lot of “I don’t think my business suits Instagram” going around lately. But honestly, can any business afford to miss out on over a billion potential views?

Another proactive move from Instagram saw them release a document targeted at businesses operating during the COVID-19 crisis. Part of their advice introduces business owners to some of the new functions available on Instagram Stories. Instagram have created new stickers to add to stories to make it easier for your customers to use your services. The new stickers make it easy to perform the business’s key function, for example there is a sticker for restaurants with a link to “order now”. The stickers include delivery stickers for restaurants and shops, gift card stickers, and fundraiser stickers.

Some businesses aren’t perfect for Instagram, we agree, but there really is no harm in having a profile and updating it every week. If you’re a business with a product that’s hard to capture in photo or video form, then why not use Instagram to promote your team? Showing you care about your team, and sharing how much your employees really love working where they do can go a long way to opening doors for new business. People don’t want to work with a corporate machine, they want to work with people who care, and Instagram is a great place to showcase this.


Social media giant Facebook hasn’t enjoyed the same amount of growth as Instagram in recent years. In fact, the platform has only experienced a small increase in usage of around 4.3%, as reported by eMarketer. However, this is much better than expected, as for the previous two years Facebook usage has been on a slow decline as other, newer platforms like Instagram and TikTok began to draw the attention of the younger generation.

However, Facebook’s recent growth hasn’t just come due to the increased number of people staying at home. Facebook has gone a step further and set out to combat one of the biggest issues currently facing us, social distancing. People are finding it harder and harder to feel content due to the fact that they aren’t as connected to friends and family as usual; they feel alone. The solution to this has been group video calls. Zoom have done a great job of scaling their business almost overnight, but there have been growing concerns with privacy and security when using Zoom. Enter Facebook and their new group video service called ‘Rooms’. Already available in certain countries, ‘Rooms’ is similar to Zoom and allows lots of friends to partake in a group video chat through the Facebook messenger app. Why might it be better than Zoom though? ‘Rooms’ creates a unique link for every chat with a string of randomly generated numbers and letters that make it almost impossible for hackers to guess and listen in to your conversation. As this was one of the biggest concerns with Zoom, ‘Rooms’ could take social media by storm over the coming weeks.

A huge concern with the increase in use of social media, however, is the link between social media and social comparison which can trigger depression or other mental health issues. Social comparison is something we all fall victim to on social media. We see the lives of the people we follow and compare them to our own, often with negative repercussions; the problem being that people generally only post the very best of themselves online, curating airbrushed version of their lives. Subscribers see these “perfect” images and imagine the posters’ lives are perfect all the time. Recent studies by leading Facebook researchers Moira Burke, Justin Cheng, and Bethany de Gant delivered some interesting findings. The study, which involved 37,000 people from 18 countries, was dubbed the “largest survey on social comparison ever done.” The findings suggested that the actions most likely to cause social comparison and as a result, the most harm, were:

  • Seeing posts that have a higher number of likes or comments compared to yours.
  • Seeing more positivity in others’ posts compared to yours.
  • Spending more time looking at user profiles, especially your own.
  • Seeing content from people around the same age as you.

Interestingly, the study found that not everyone is affected by social comparison in the same way or by the same amount. For example, the research found that women tend to experience more social comparison than men, however this wasn’t true in all countries. In some eastern countries, males reported experiencing more social comparison than females. One might conclude from this data that we should seek to avoid social comparison posts whenever possible. However, when the researchers asked participants if they wished they hadn’t seen the post they found that,

“Only half said they wished they hadn’t seen it, while a third felt very happy for the poster. People have complex feelings about this, so there is no one easy answer.”

In response, the researchers set out goals to help Facebook alleviate some of the problems caused by social comparison, recommending that Facebook consider helping to reduce social comparison by:

  • Helping people change what they see in their feeds.
  • Reducing the focus on engagement counts on other people’s posts.
  • Using filters for topics and people, such as: promote, unfollow, snooze.
  • Supporting meaningful interactions so people are less affected by comparisons.
  • Encouraging the creation of more positive shared experiences, such as following along on someone’s journey towards a goal.

It is important to make sure we use social media as responsibly as possible in these times to avoid any negative social comparisons. This study should go a long way towards improving the situation, but there are things you can do to help spread a positive message in the business world. For example, instead of saying how well you are coping with the situation, why not show how well one of your clients is doing? Similarly, show how your team are coping in these times. Anything inspirational is worth so much more in times like these, so spread as much positivity as you can with your posts.


As a primarily business focused social platform, LinkedIn has seen some changes in the way its users are interacting and engaging with one another. A recent study on LinkedIn user behaviour delivered some interesting findings. In particular, there was a focus on looking at what kind of posts are getting the most engagement during the crisis.

In January, approximately 1% of posts on the LinkedIn platform were COVID related. However, over the last few months these numbers have shot up to over a quarter of all posts being about COVID-19. That’s a significant increase, but perhaps more interestingly, in Europe and America, virus-related posts are getting up to 14% and 30% more engagement respectively than normal posts.

Similarly, posts about ‘working from home’ are also on the rise, seeing a growth of 14% across the same time period. Again, these posts are getting much higher rates of engagement across the world. Europe and America are seeing increased engagements of 15% and 76% respectively but most incredibly, similar posts in Asia are getting up to 165% more engagement. So, if you market your company in Asia, you should definitely consider some ‘working from home’ posts.

Across all countries, there was a clear favourite when it came to engagement. Posts showing how businesses were helping key workers, the public, and the health service showed by far the most engagement and positive responses. Although there is lots of engagement to be had with general working from home or coronavirus-related content, there are lots of similar posts out there. Posts actually showing how businesses are helping are a lot rarer, and are looked upon much more favourably by users. If you and your company have done something great to help the community, then show it on your social media profiles. As mentioned earlier, people are wanting to see positivity in these times, so don’t be afraid to shout about how you’re doing your best to help out.


Due to its picture-based messaging format, Snapchat has also proved popular with those struggling with social distancing. The ability to see pictures of loved ones over Snapchat is one of the reasons it has seen an increase of 11 million daily active users in the first quarter of 2020, bringing its total count to 229 million, as reported in their Q1 Earnings Conference Call Report.

As the public are now staying in their homes for the majority of their time, behaviour has changed dramatically. Snapchat report that: 

  • 62% are streaming more
  • 21% are shopping more
  • 38% are gaming more
  • 23% are ordering more food delivery

The content people are consuming has also changed:

  • 39% are consuming more online news
  • 39% are watching more TV
  • 29% are spending more time on social media 

While these increases in engagement on the platform are positive, last year Snapchat brought in David Roter as VP of Global Agency Partnerships to help develop its ad stream revenue. This year he aims to launch Snapchat’s “First Commercial Option”. The way this ad service works is by allowing advertisers to pay to be the first advert a user sees in a day or session. This allows the advertiser to reach a mass audience that wasn’t previously offered on the platform. The user will see a 6 second, un-skippable ad the first time they go to watch a Snap show that day. These ads will be available for purchase with a 24 hour shelf life in the US, meaning when purchased the ad will appear for a day and then you will need to pay again for another 24 hour period. If successful, the concept will be rolled out to the UK at a later date.


There is a lot going on in the world of social media at the moment, and with all these changes taking place, it can be hard to keep track. There are however a few key points to take away for both business users and personal users. The first is to focus on positivity. With so much negativity to be found in our current situation, people are looking to social media for relief and to see something positive to help cheer them up. Whether you own or work for a business, or are just using social media personally, try to share positivity: post about all the great things you’re doing that might motivate others to get up and do something amazing themselves.

This leads nicely into the other key point to take away from this, which is to try to avoid social comparison. You might think this just applies to personal use and judging yourself against unattainable celebrity standards, but this phenomenon appears in the business world too. If you are a small business, don’t look at your contributions in comparison to posts from much bigger companies. Some companies have massive reserves to support initiatives to help people, but there is no shame in simply doing what you can and being proud of it.

If you have any questions about social media or digital marketing in general, feel free to get in touch with the team at Hydra through any of our social channels, FacebookTwitterInstagram or LinkedIn, or if you would like to discuss your digital marketing strategy with us then get in touch via our email [email protected]

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