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15th July 2020
Categories: Digital MarketingDigital NewsFacebookSocial Marketing

How Social Media Platforms Evolved During COVID-19

Estimated Read Time: 15 minutes

Lockdown in March 2020 was an incredibly strange time for the world, and since then, we’ve all been presented with new challenges. As daily routines changed overnight, more of people’s daily and work lives shifted online, and social media became an even more important tool for communication than it was before.  

Facebook‚Äôs changes due to COVID-19 

Facebook made a series of changes to their platform throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help spread correct information, keep users engaged, and improve the way we communicate.  

Information centre panel 

First of all, they announced the rollout of the COVID-19 information centre panel, which you may have noticed in early March at the top of your Facebook newsfeed. It was there to deliver users with the most up-to-date, official and correct news and developments on the pandemic. 

Care reaction and a Messenger chatbot 

Shortly after this, the platform began working on a COVID-19 themed reaction, which was rolled out to users as the ‚Äėcare‚Äô reaction for both Facebook and Messenger. This provided users with a new quick-response option for COVID-19 related updates. 

In April 2020, Facebook Messenger partnered with the World Health Organization to launch a new chatbot on Messenger, which provided users with accurate and up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this, Facebook have also provided a new set of templates to help companies and brands communicate key business updates during this time. 

Messenger Rooms 

In light of¬†the¬†sudden extreme¬†rise in video-chat demand,¬†it was inevitable that¬†Facebook¬†would¬†have to¬†launch something¬†similar. By May 2020,¬†‚ÄėMessenger Rooms‚Äô was¬†finally¬†launched across Facebook and¬†WhatsApp,¬†enabling users¬†to host video rooms,¬†similar to¬†Zoom,¬†WebEx¬†and Skype.¬†¬†

Messenger Rooms currently allows chat rooms with up to 50 people, and friends are able to see when you have a room ‚Äėactive‚Äô at the top of their Facebook feed. This means that they can drop in if they want to join an active discussion.  

Messenger Rooms are unique because no other free-to-use video-chat services allow this amount of people in one room. However, this was launched three months into the lockdown ‚Äď was Facebook too late to the party with this one?   

Instagram‚Äôs changes due to COVID-19 

Evolved live streaming 

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, live-streaming became more popular than ever. People were looking to replace their lost social interactions the best way they could, and the real-time engagement when streaming provided the closest alternative. In light of this, Instagram evolved live streams so that more than two people could enjoy them at once.  

New stickers for stories 

In¬†March 2020,¬†Instagram launched two new stickers for stories¬†in¬†line with the current circumstances during the time.¬†‚ÄėThank You Hour‚Äô and ‚ÄúI Stay¬†at¬†Home For‚Äô stickers¬†were¬†both launched to encourage people to stay home¬†and appreciate key workers. As explained by¬†Instagram:¬†¬†

‚ÄúToday we‚Äôre launching Thank You Hour, a sticker in stories that lets you show gratitude for what‚Äôs helping you through this time. Use the sticker and your photo or video will be added to a shared Instagram story at 7 p.m. your time, where friends can see your thanks.‚ÄĚ  

‚ÄúAdd the Stay Home sticker to your story, tap it and you‚Äôll see the #IStayHomeFor option. From there, you can tag the people you love.‚ÄĚ  

With the ongoing popularity of Instagram Stories and ephemeral content during this time, Instagram understands that its demographic is mostly the younger generation. From what the experts currently know, out of all age groups, COVID-19 is least threatening to the under 40s, so by creating content that encourages the younger generation to stay home, Instagram were doing all the right things to help combat the ongoing outbreak, early on.   

Twitter‚Äôs changes due to COVID-19 

Tips for brands 

Twitter shared a¬†tweet¬†at the beginning of the April 2020 stating¬†that¬†they would be ‚Äúoffering their best tips for how to connect with your customers and your community during COVID-19.‚ÄĚ In aid of this,¬†the platform conducted and shared a¬†user survey¬†to shed some light on what¬†people¬†want and expect from brands and their communications during COVID-19.¬†Some of the key findings were:¬†¬†¬†

This was great for giving brands guidance and stability during the most uncertain times, as a lot of companies and brands didn‚Äôt know if or how they should be changing their messaging during COVID-19.  

LinkedIn‚Äôs changes due to COVID-19 

In March 2020, LinkedIn outlined the steps they were taking to keep all their members informed about COVID-19.  

Dedicated feed and banner 

LinkedIn said that they aim to provide as many options as possible to keep members productive and positive during this pandemic. To help do this they have created a dedicated feed, which is regularly populated by the network‚Äôs 60-plus editors, with relevant content. 

LinkedIn have also updated the banner on their homepage, which features government guideline reminders on what to do in the current pandemic.  

Top Voices list 

In April, LinkedIn published a special ‚ÄúTop Voices‚ÄĚ listing of health professionals that were leading the way during the COVID-19 crisis. This section focused on highlighting the health experts who are sharing their knowledge and experiences amid the pandemic. As explained by LinkedIn:  

‚ÄúEach year, our Top Voices list surfaces the professionals whose posts, videos, articles and comments spark quality conversations in their industries. This special edition list features the health care experts that are lighting up LinkedIn right now to cover COVID-19 ‚Äď sharing what they‚Äô re seeing, what‚Äôs coming next and offering insights on what all of us can and must do.‚ÄĚ  

The list was released on World Health Day and aimed to pay respects and promote those working on the front line during these unprecedented times.   

LinkedIn Events made available to all 

Alongside¬†the¬†Top Voices¬†list¬†in April 2020, LinkedIn also made its ‚ÄėEvents‚Äô option available to all companies, in hope of helping with connectivity during lockdowns. LinkedIn Events is a¬†fairly recent¬†feature that was first launched to select company pages in October 2019. Now, however, you can access Events on any LinkedIn company page. To create your own event, you can head to your company page admin tools on desktop.¬†¬†

New reactions considerations 

In May 2020, it had been highlighted that LinkedIn should consider some new reactions to express more emotive responses during COVID-19, similar to other social media platforms such as Facebook. After a LinkedIn user identified the lack of diversity within reactions, the CEO at LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, responded to the comments agreeing.  

LinkedIn launched its ‚ÄėReactions‚Äô feature¬†in August 2019, with five different emoji responses to choose from, enabling you to quickly share how you feel about each post and update, but not giving you much choice on different feelings. As¬†Omar¬†Abedin notes, none of those¬†are¬†really fit for the COVID-19 stories that currently¬†dominate LinkedIn‚Äôs feed. As such, LinkedIn could look to add in a new reaction type, which is what Facebook did with its¬†‚ÄėCare‚Äô Reaction, launched in April 2020.¬†

How other platforms evolved during COVID-19 

Although we saw our main platforms evolve during this year‚Äôs global pandemic, we also saw so many other platforms skyrocket in downloads and make big changes to adapt to lockdown life.  

Video chat¬†social¬†platform Zoom had a record-breaking April 2020 with 131 million downloads worldwide, according to data released by Sensor Tower. Zoom was the most downloaded ‚Äúnon-game‚ÄĚ app in the world in April 2020 across both Android and iOS.¬†¬†

Alongside this,¬†the social media app¬†TikTok¬†was seemingly thriving during the global lockdowns.¬†The social media platform hit¬†2 billion¬†downloads globally by¬†the end of April 2020,¬†in which¬†it was downloaded 315 million times in this¬†year’s¬†first quarter alone.¬†¬†

It‚Äôs safe to say 2020 has brought us all many unexpected changes. It‚Äôs been interesting to see how, digitally, this year we have adapted with the times; staying more connected than ever even if we are all at home. It will also be exciting to see how we continue to evolve digitally. Will working from home become the new normal? Will zoom meetings eventually phase out, or will they become a vital long-term communication tool? We’re yet to find out.  

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