How 2020 Put the ‘Social’ Back in Social Media
I think we can all agree that 2020 is a year very much like no other. I’m sure you’ve heard or even uttered the phrase ‘worst year ever’ a few times. TikTok even has the hashtag #2020WorstYear if you needed a reminder.
But if we’re looking for a winner in 2020, social media might just take the crown. As of 2020 more than 3.8 billion people use social media, spending on average 2 hours and 24 minutes on various social platforms every day. It’s become an essential part of our lives, and this year more so than ever.
Obviously, as marketers we’ve had to adapt to the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and the changing virtual landscape. What this blog isn’t going to do is tell you what to do as a marketer and how to navigate the current climate. We’ve created a social media guide for that which you can check out here.
Social media has a lot of critics – you only need to see Netflix’s new documentary the Social Dilemma to see what some of the experts in the field think. But whilst we’re still trying to understand the power of influence through social media, it’s important to reflect on how important it has been for us, particularly this year.
- Staying Connected
With the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, people were unable to leave their homes and were forced to isolate from friends and family – for many this is still the case. As a way of staying connected people have relied on social media to maintain their social connections.
The numbers speak for themselves. Facebook saw a 50% increase in messaging within countries hit hardest by the virus, with voice and video calling doubling over Messenger and WhatsApp. Snapchat saw a spike in usage with snaps sent between friends reaching an all-time high and its call feature increasing by more than 50% during late March.
Social media also provided a way to share how we were coping with the new restrictions, whether this was a freshly baked banana bread on Instagram or sending your friend a new Tiger King meme. Spending time on social media has become a positive coping strategy for people to feel less alone and provide a sense of community online to share and motivate.
While much attention focuses on the negative aspects of social media, we should still acknowledge how it has the potential to connect, motivate and enhance our lives.
- A Source of Information
Over time, social media has evolved into so much more than just keeping us all connected. It’s become the go-to place for sourcing information and breaking news. In fact, half of people now get their news from social media.
During the pandemic social media platforms became one of the most important sources of information, with platforms recognising their role in sharing trustworthy information to the public. Having access to instant breaking news is vital during a pandemic and we’re lucky to be living in an age where we have it direct to our screens. To put it into perspective, in the 1918 flu pandemic information was shared by post, boy scouts, and teachers.
Facebook has introduced its own COVID-19 Information Centre offering the latest updates and news, and the World Health Organization (WHO) even created their own TiKToK account to reach a wider audience.
But in 2020 it’s not just the sharing of COVID-19 information that has been important. Let’s not forget the US election, natural disasters, socio-economic issues and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Unfortunately, what makes platforms so efficient at sharing information, also makes them efficient at sharing misinformation. In fact, analysis has shown that fake news travels six times faster than the truth – a scary stat when you look at how many people use social media to get their news.
So, what have the platforms been doing to stop the spread of misinformation? Facebook has ranking algorithms which help control certain news stories on the newsfeed, WhatsApp launched a coronavirus chatbot with the NHS to provide advice, and Twitter recently suspended nearly 70 million fake accounts on the platform. Twitter have also taken it a step further to publicly announce misinformation by adding fact check labels to tweets that contain ambiguous information. While platforms are making progress in tackling the issue there is still a long way to go.
- A Tool for Change
One of the most important uses of social media this year has been using it as a tool for change. This year it has acted as a platform for social awareness for one of the most prominent movements of our generation.
After the killing of George Floyd on May 25, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement gathered momentum globally and social media became a key tool for organising protests, educating and fundraising. Through the power of social media, a petition with nearly 20 million signatures assisted in the arrest of George Floyd’s killer, who was charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter.
With the restrictions from the pandemic, social media allowed the spread of resources and the encouragement for people to take the time and educate themselves on racism. On June 2, the music industry planned #BlackoutTuesday. What originally started in the music industry rapidly took off on social media, filling feeds with black squares. There’s no denying the attention this simple hashtag brought to the movement.
Another significant story this year involved the incredible fundraising efforts made by Captain Tom Moore, the 100-year-old war veteran who raised over £32m for NHS charities by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. He even broke a world record for his efforts and received a knighthood – very well deserved.
Thanks to social media its never been so easy to sign petitions, donate money and share resources with such few clicks. The danger with social media, however, is letting important topics become a trend and not an ongoing change we make in our lives.
This year COVID-19 has made the world feel small – but without social media the world would have felt even smaller. With all its imperfections, social media has offered a way for us to connect, share, motivate, educate, petition – and that’s only to name a few.
For those of us who work in the industry, we can continue to help shape the impact social media has into something positive. Being able to understand how it impacts our lives on a day to day basis will let us continue to use the powerful tool for good.
Finally, if you’re looking for a way to donate to a cause or want to share resources on events that have happened this year, I’ve pulled together a list below. There are thousands of resources out there and an endless number of good causes that deserve to be heard. Below is just a handful to get started.
Australia Bushfire Emergency
Black Lives Matter
California Wildfire Relief