No, it’s not a secret – almost all of us are seeing some real weird social media stats during Coronavirus, and it’s rather unnerving.
In normal times we’d be gearing up for Summer with more carefree content, shooting Instagram images full of ice cream and sandals and squeezing in some sales before the nation puts down their phone in favour of frolicking under sprinklers until September. But it was not to be in 2020.
Instead, fear and confusion have taken over. Those of us still clinging on to our social media and content work are dreading the next client call or one-to-one with our manager because… well… the stats are right up the chuff. Riiiight up there.
Chances are you don’t even know the cause of your plummeting social media stats during Coronavirus. I mean, everyone’s had to be inside right? Facebook and Netflix are the new BFFs and Zoom is how we go ‘Out Out’ now. What gives?!
To put it plainly; times are not the same and no one knows what their new normal is yet. It’s affected everything from our day jobs to our relationships, and people don’t actually know how they feel online yet either. Sure, we’re all scrolling for explanation and distraction, but this has never happened before. Audiences do not know what social media and content searches can remedy yet (other than conspiracy theories and Donald Trump’s Coronavirus ‘cure’, which I recommend you stay well away from).
Unless you’re a politician or journalist, it stands to reason that most – if not all – of our content has been flung back in time to a completely blank testing phase. That is why your stats aren’t easy to explain.
What's going on?
According to this very helpful article by Rival IQ, engagement and follow stats for social media accounts in most sectors started behaving badly at the start of the pandemic in the US and the UK. Higher Education sector accounts, however, soared. As the months have gone by HE have remained the most successful sector, others (mainly charities) have seen little uplift in their social media stats and some have moved from one end of the scale to the other.
Things are constantly changing on this, but as we kind of don’t know much about the future right now the stats may not settle back into any kind of pattern for a while. What will count towards success, however, is whether companies or individuals behind social media accounts have learnt how to react in an agile way to the constant changes, and whether they can display this in their content. The most agile companies will be the survivors.
Who is affected?
The Higher Education sector has performed so well on social because:
- They offer productive, interesting things to do in lockdown.
- Courses and classes are self-bettering, allowing people to feel like they’re preparing themselves for a better life after lockdown.
- Much of the education on offer spans a long period of time.
- Lots of open universities and training platforms greatly reduced the price of their products – something that very rarely happens for something that offers so much value in return.
Meanwhile the Food and Drink sector have been on a bit more of a rollercoaster. At the beginning of lockdown, early adapters and those operating delivery services through the pandemic enjoyed a big uplift in social media engagement as we all scrabbled to see what home comforts and delicious dinner options would still be on the table when we could no longer go outside. But now that takeaway and delivery is the norm, demand has fizzled out and social media is saturated with restaurant re-openings. It’s not novel any more – it’s normal. Quick wasn’t it?
Rather sadly, lots of charities obviously support a single or limited causes all year long and dedicate all their work to that. Only a few can really pivot in response to Coronavirus without cutting off the people who need their help. At the same time the nation, mentally preparing for an oncoming recession, tighten their purse strings or focus their donations on the NHS. No amount of amazing content will be able to shift that priority, and so social media stats stay low.
A new way to think about things
I think we both know there is no quick fix to this problem, and I’m sorry that’s not helpful. We just don’t have the sort of control over anything that means we can pump out better performing content and channels overnight, especially if you happen to do social media work in an industry that people simply are not finding relevant. But there are small steps you can take for the here and now, and big steps you can take to prepare for life post-Coronavirus.
What I will say first is this: We spend our whole lives trying to work with (sometimes against!) social media algorithms, share of voice and the news agenda. But the little-known blessing that comes with social media right now is that it’s more likely serving people the content they need to see right now, albeit in smaller numbers.
If a user needs comedy to get them through the pandemic, algorithms will pick up on that and serve it. If someone’s going all-in on politics, algorithms learn that and serve that too. Spending all your time cooking everything in the fridge (ahem)? Algorithms know that too and oh look! Here come the sponsored cooking lessons and recipes to fill your days… and same goes for the lesser-searched topics. The algorithm will serve your stuff to the people that do want to know what you have to say, and now is the time to place value on them. It’s important to turn up for the people looking for you. Don’t let a few weeks of dodgy stats knock your confidence in your core values.