Social media usage has soared since lockdowns began and Americans went online seeking relief and distraction. As the weeks wear on, it's likely we will enter a phase of frustration and burnout. To stay relevant, brands will need to monitor social users and offer content to meet their needs.
As a way to gauge audiences, we analyzed sentiment data from more than 225 million social conversations. From these conversations, three main groups of social behavior emerged. We describe them below, along with how brands can react to expected changes as the pandemic continues.
Early quarantine behaviors: This group of users took to social to amplify and contribute to relief efforts. Its members aimed to educate and mobilize through movements such as #FlattenTheCurve. In addition, actions such as information-sharing, volunteer mobilization and conscious consumerism helped ease this group’s pandemic-related anxiety.
What burnout looks like: These individuals now are experiencing information overload. A problem with no end in sight is overwhelming them. The onslaught of bad news and uncertainty is wearing on them. They are doubting their potential to have an impact.
How brands can respond: These users need an antidote to the deluge of bad news. If you have posted CTAs encouraging followers to join your effort, share results you’ve had. In addition, share good news and keep messaging hopeful and positive. Remind followers that it’s OK to take breaks and devote time to yourself.
Early quarantine behaviors: These users saw quarantine as an opportunity for self-improvement. They’re browsing social media for inspiration related to hobbies and new skills. For example, the volume of conversations surrounding sourdough starters rose (pun intended) 949 percent from February to March 2020.
What burnout looks like: As new challenges lose their novelty, the pressure to be productive begins to feel arduous, especially for those who still have jobs. They also begin to question whether or not their improved or new-found skills will have value after quarantine.
How brands can respond: Give this group a breather. Shift self-care messaging from productivity to rest and relaxation. As screen burnout grows, encourage screen-less experiences. Share Spotify playlists, recommended audiobooks or podcasts, even guided meditations. Projects and hobbies still are an interest, but if you push this messaging ensure that needed materials and instructions are simple and accessible.
Early quarantine behaviors: This group wants to get away from coronavirus chatter as much as possible. They use social to replace activities they miss – think virtual tours of remote destinations, live-streamed concerts and online dating. Netflix added more than 15 million subscribers as these users looked to streaming as an outlet.
What burnout looks like: At the start of the pandemic, there was plenty to satisfy this group, as brands rushed to provide content. These users now feel content overload. They begin to return to old favorites instead of sifting through new content. In addition, Zoom fatigue became a real issue over the last few months. Mentions of Zoom fell from 65 percent positive in March to just 53 percent positive in April.
How brands can respond: This is a good time for brands to repost their best-performing content and lean into normal messaging that does not mention the pandemic. For example, a handful of TV series, including “Parks and Recreation,” announced reboots. This feeds into the demand for nostalgic, comforting content.
Whichever behavior group your audience reflects, it is likely that users’ needs will evolve as the pandemic continues. As stress and anxiety become burnout and boredom, preparing to meet these changes with relevant content will be essential to maintain engagement.
Molly Jones is a content strategist at Sparkloft Media