It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic made social media a superstar in terms of disseminating digital news, entertainment, messaging and live streaming. Younger audiences, in particular, have been flocking to the latter two. GlobalWebIndex, a global research firm, recently combined the results of four different surveys and data gathering efforts to release its report on social media, particularly in those four areas.
Reliance on digital news sites has been largely spurred by conflicting statements from political and medical leaders on just about anything to do with COVID-19. The immediacy of being able to access this information on social news hubs equipped to handle disinformation is a big factor for popularity.
The generational differences for reading news on social media were surprisingly close. More than one-third (37 percent) of Gen Xers said their primary reason for using social media was to stay on top of the news, compared to 36 percent for both Baby Boomers and Millennials. Gen Zers were barely behind at 34 percent. Trust, however, is a major issue with only 14 percent believing social media to be a trusted source. Getting updates from health organizations had a higher trust factor among 34 percent of respondents.
Not surprisingly, finding funny or entertaining content ranked highest among 41 percent of Gen Zers. As might be expected, the popularity of entertainment decreased with each older generation with Millennials reporting at 35 percent, Gen Xers at 29 percent and boomers at 24 percent.
Despite lockdowns and quarantines, GlobalWebIndex found that staying in contact with friends via social media has dropped nine percentage points since 2017. This was true across every generation, with only two percentage points separating the highest and lowest. The survey also found that the sharing of videos and photos also decreased. GlobalWebIndex concludes that social media has evolved from what was connected to more consuming content today.
Yet, in a more recent observation, the firm acknowledged that the pandemic might have started a resurgence in people using social media to connect with friends and loved ones. More than half (55 percent) of respondents recently said they’d been sharing more information on social media about their challenges during the pandemic in the past two months.
Limitations on audience sizes for “live” events and a temporary moratorium on theatres also heightened the popularity of virtual concerts and on-demand movies.
And while Gen Zers continued their dependency on social media, the pandemic pushed more boomers to use it as well. GlobalWebIndex predicted that live streaming has a promising future. Besides younger consumers taking to live streaming since the pandemic, its survey indicated that 23 percent expect to continue the trend even after the pandemic is over.
What this means for brands
GlobalWebIndex’s findings suggest that with the increased popularity of social media, brands will need to be more strategic on the platforms they select, the influencers they use as well as their messaging. An interesting sidebar to their research attempted to capture the dominant personality of each platform. For TikTok, it was “young.” “Bold” defined Snapchat, and with Twitter, it was “exclusive.” “Trendy” was the buzzword for Instagram, and “smart” was analogous with Facebook.
The firm also reported that since the pandemic, about 20 percent of Gen Zers have been sharing influencer content on social media, authenticity, they reported, will be important.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.
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