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Three Ways Covid-19 is Changing Social and Content Forever

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
Davitha Ghiassi, executive vice president, social and integration at Red Havas explains how social and content is changing for the post-Covid world

With Covid-19 impacting pretty much everything the world over, the world is having to adapt to a 'new normal'. Davitha Ghiassi, executive vice president, social and integration at Red Havas looks at three ways in which social and content is changing. 

I like to think of social media as being in its teenage years - as it can be unruly and susceptible to mood swings, even as it thrills you with its potential. Those of us who specialise in it are used to being kept on our toes. Still, it’s been astonishing to see how the Covid-19 crisis has rewritten the rules of social media in real time. It’s sobered brands up, allowing them to see what truly matters to consumers, both in times of crisis and calm. This has impacted their approach to everything from content strategy, to community engagement, to influencer relations and paid social amplification. It’s also left a lot of questions about how brands should proceed to portray themselves both during and post this pandemic.

To help clients understand the many ways the communications landscape has already shifted since the coronavirus outbreak, my agency released a white paper exploring five emerging communications trends—and what they all mean for our future. Social media in particular has had to do a lot of growing up in a short period of time. Here are a few of the biggest changes communicators can expect to stick around post-pandemic.

The Rise of ‘Phyrtual Reality’

The pandemic has merged, once and for all, our virtual lives with our physical lives. With social distancing eliminating in-person events, marketers are looking to social media for shared experiences more than ever. To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, for example, Patrón opened a virtual bar to raise money for bartenders as well as charities that support hospitality workers, while Cholula took to Instagram Live to host its first #CholulaTacothon, also raising money for restaurant workers.

Workout classes, concerts, dance parties, industry conferences, baby showers, even weddings, are now all being held in real time via Zoom or Instagram Live. (In just the past couple of weeks, I happily ‘attended’ a magic show and had a tarot card reading, both facilitated by my laptop.) The experiences we’re having now, as we lean into technology to connect with friends, family, brands and even virtual strangers, have already taught us so much about the power of social and virtual platforms to deliver meaningful connections. This won’t soon be forgotten in the years to come, when we can expect continued virtual bonding as a standard option in addition to ‘real-life’.  

Back to Social Basics

Brands are getting back to basics on social media, with branded content in many industries having become decidedly ‘de-sophisticated’ since Covid-19 struck. In most cases, having trimmed away content fat, what’s left is showing consumers who brands truly are and what they can offer beyond their product or service. At this time, many brands have decided that the best thing they can offer right now is their reach, which is why Coca-Cola notified its 2.7 million Instagram followers that its Instagram Stories would look a little different while it helps amplify meaningful messages.

And instead of guessing what audiences want, brands are now doing a better job of asking and listening—tapping into simple featured formats like Instagram Story Questions or user-generated content to aggregate insights they can act on or questions they can answer through content. It’s a great time for brands to be taking this approach because consumers are talking more than ever on social media right now: Social media engagement is up by 61 percent since the outbreak struck. Among those social platforms that have seen the biggest overall jumps in usage since Covid-19 are WhatsApp (up 40 percent), Facebook (up 37 percent) and Twitter (up 23 percent).

Influence Innovates

While the influencer ‘bubble’ won’t burst, it is adapting, and the content being created now will have a lasting impact. Without access to production companies (or at least fully functioning production companies), brands are valuing influencers like never before for their ability to create high-quality assets at home. The World Health Organisation even called on influencers to help spread word of its Safe Hands Challenge campaign, encouraging the public to wash their hands properly.

Influencers who are sharing accurate information with their followers, or helping to raise money or awareness for critical goods, will rise to the top. Those who carried on as if nothing were wrong - or, worse, attempted to profit from unproven or dangerous ‘treatments’ for the virus - may permanently lose clout and followers. Post-coronavirus, consumers will expect influencers with vast followings to use their platforms as a force for good.

This crisis has underscored for us that social is now the medium of the people. We have also been reminded of the original purpose of social media - and perhaps of life: authentic human connection through shared conversation.

For more on Covid-19 communication trends, download Red Havas’ new white paper here.

Work from Havas North America
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