COVID-19 - Online Media Behavior Opportunites

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COVID-19 - Online Media Behavior Opportunities

Nine additional current statistics surrounding online media behavior, time spent online, and what people are consuming online since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by WHO, have been curated and presented. In order to provide one cohesive document, the seven relevant statistics that were found in the initial research have also been included, bringing the total number of statistics to sixteen.

Additionally, two best practices for social media marketing for brands during a crisis such as COVID-19 have been provided below. For each best practice, we outlined what the best practice is, why it is a best practice, and an example of an industry expert discussing the best practice.

Finally, we also have presented four case studies of brands and/or companies that are successfully leveraging social media to attract new customers, as well as keep current customers, engaged with the brand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As indicated in the scoping, this is a global focus, but when specific data was found surrounding Canada and/or China, it was included. We noted, as well, that a majority of the statistics available right now concerning social media usage completely surround how COVID-19 is being mentioned. In other words, information surrounding COVID-19 is what is being consumed the most by people right now, via various channels.

Online Media Consumption Behavior Statistics: COVID-19

  • There were more than nineteen million mentions connected to COVID-19 across social media, blogs and online news sites worldwide on March 11 (over 24 hours), according to data from social media analytics platform Sprinklr. Clearly people are online, and in great numbers. As this pandemic moves across the globe and people are being advised, and even ordered, to stay at home, it makes complete sense that much of the conversation about it is taking place online.
  • As of January 2020, social video app TikTok had been downloaded 1.65 billion times, making it the second most downloaded (non-game) app of 2019. While most of the content being shared is meme-worthy dance moves, a new wave of viral posts relates to topics like safety concerns around vaping and immigration rights.
  • For the week of March 16th to the 20th, forum based platform Reddit is seeing an uptick in new activity in subreddits related to business, finance, news, education, travel and sports. Specifically, they are reporting traffic increases of 20-50%.
  • Though not technically a social media platform, Fortnite with its 250 million registered users has become a place that’s as much about its game play as a place to hang out with friends. 
  • For the first two weeks of March, saw a 76 percent increase in daily likes on the number of ad posts. They tracked user behavior by looking at 260 of its own campaigns including over 7.5 million Instagram posts. Quarter one Instagram campaign impressions also rose by 22 percent over quarter four.
  • COVID-19 is likely to be the driver that expands digital media consumption across multiple channels, including over-the-top (OTT) video and online gaming, with the largest growth in usage and time spent going to subscription based video on demand (SVOD), according to eMarketer,
  • With the United States heading into school closures across multiple states, coupled with the fact that many parents, as a result, are working from home, social media apps used by Generation Z and Millennials such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram will continue to see increased user behavior. In fact, many professional basketball players are also filling their time by creating TikTok content, as a result of the suspended NBA season.
  • As self isolation protocols continue to grow and be enforced, globally, more people will be on their devices looking for content to take their minds of their situation. Social media will likely become a daily routine that people need to keep them focused on the fact that there is an online community out there that they can be part of. According to this source, it is being predicted that social media spending will rise by 22.2 percent as a result of COVID-19, as consumer-led brands use the power of social media to engage their captive audience.
  • As people curtail travel and are forced to work from home, it stands to reason that mobile and social opportunities will likely increase. Global Web Index research from March 12th revealed a big increase in people checking social media across all age demographics during the COVID-19 crisis; 27% among Gen Z, 30% among Millennials, 29% among Gen X and 15% among Boomers. While this could be because people are largely free from the watchful eye of their manager and are able to check their phones more regularly, it is also likely being driven by the need to see what the news is reporting, as 4 out of 10 people are doing that much more frequently.
  • Netflix’s year-on-year subscriptions increase for the American and Canadian markets is now expected to reach more than twice the previous predictions of 1.6%, according a report from from NASDAQ. In fact, it is predicted that this figure will be closer to 3.8% as the public is told to self isolate during the pandemic, therefore more people are expected to "Netflix and chill" and resort to other popular streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Now TV and Hulu. The research also postulates that the growth of international subscriptions will grow to 30.9% year-on-year compared to previous predictions of 29.9%.
  • In a new study from Ipsos MORI, fifty percent of Chinese and thirty-one of Italian consumers say they’re using ecommerce ‘more frequently’. Vietnam, India and Russia have also seen their populations turning towards ecommerce more often to purchase items, with increase of use measured at fifty-seven, fifty-five and twenty-seven percent respectively.
  • The working-from-home directive in place for most companies will increase media consumption, according to Nielsen. Generally speaking, employees working remotely watch TV about three hours more each week than non-remote workers: 25 hours versus 22.
  • According to Comscore, for the three sites of Amazon, Walmart and Target combined, they saw 779 million digital visits the week of March 9-15 which was the highest number of visits of any week so far in 2020. "They also saw 3.8% growth versus the previous week (and the second highest week-over-week growth of the year with the highest being 4.7% growth the week of Feb. 24 to March 1)." The graphic can be seen below.
  • According to Criteo research, more than fifty-two percent of Americans say they will shop online more in the next two weeks as a result of COVID-19, and fifty-one percent report they’ll purchase more groceries online.
  • As Chinese consumers spend more time at home, some advertisers are reducing their ad spend over concerns that supply chain shocks might keep them from getting products to market, even though digital media consumption in China is on the increase.
  • According to Comscore, in Canada, news consumption in general is on the rise in terms of total daily unique visitors and visits over time. Additionally, as Canadians respond to the COVID-19 crisis, their interaction with digital communication channels has notably risen. "When comparing daily engagement with email, instant messengers and social networking sites between the week of March 9-15, 2020 and the benchmark week of Dec 30, 2019 -Jan 5, 2020 as it relates to the percent change in usage, a large increase in activity was observed." Overall Canadian digital consumption across the internet has increased by 10% and time spent online has increased by 14%. The graphic can be seen below.

Best Practices: Social Media Marketing During a Crisis

Surprise and delight your customers

  • Although this is a time to be mindful of content, it’s not necessarily a time to go dark altogether. While the world practices social distancing, people will continue to seek out community and connection with others through digital channels. Brands can respond in kind by making customers feel valued and cared for, showing appreciation through surprise and delight, and engaging directly through brand love. As an example of this, Walgreens and CVS are waiving prescription medicine delivery fees during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • As another example, Disney+ announced that it would be releasing Frozen 2 early on the streaming platform. Although this move came with the added benefit of driving site traffic, it led with empathy for the many parents who would soon be working remotely alongside their children in the weeks ahead. The brand received positive responses from parents, the general audience of viewers who enjoy Disney movies, and the media.
  • A question to ask is whether the brand have offerings that could support those in times of need, or is there something the brand could be doing to spread joy to customers?
  • According to Dylan Max, head of growth marketing at Netomi, the thought behind the concept of surprise and delight is to build a strong emotional connection between the consumer and the brand or product. As a result of this emotional connection, consumers will become die-hard supporters of the brand. “There are many reasons why surprise and delight is such a useful tactic. It all comes down to the fact that we are emotional beings. So it's no surprise that multiple studies support the influence of emotion in a buyer's purchasing decisions. People want to feel special and nothing says 'I care' better than a thoughtful gift!”


  • The COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving, so what passes muster today as a social media post, may be seen as tone-deaf tomorrow. It’s important to continue to evaluate the situation and listen to customers through social listening and responses to content to determine the best path forward.
  • Clorox, Purell and 3M are great examples of brands that are maintaining educational, calm, and sensitive messaging on their social media during the COVID-19 crisis. While their products are quickly selling out in stores, they have consistently stayed dedicated to remaining helpful despite the uncertain times. Customers will reward a brand if they know they can trust them.
  • In the event that a post ends up coming across as tone-deaf later on, pretending it didn’t happen isn’t necessarily the best way to regain consumers’ trust. It needs to be dealt with immediately, and with complete honesty.
  • According to Joshua Spanier, Google’s global marketing VP for media, as the market dynamics change rapidly, a company should constantly reassess campaigns, creative, and even guidelines. "What we decided two weeks ago isn’t necessarily appropriate today. The one constant assumption we have in this situation is that things will change. Because of that, we’re reassessing every possible touchpoint for our brand across paid and owned channels, from video ads to the automated emails we’re sending via customer relationship management (CRM) systems. We’re asking ourselves every day, “Is this creative or ad placement right for this moment and in this context?” And when the answer is no, we pivot. For instance, we’ve had an Android campaign running that referenced being “out and about.” Was that OK in the U.S. market a few weeks ago? Sure. Today? Not so much."

Case Studies: Brands/Companies Leveraging Social Media During a Crisis

As COVID-19 is a recent crisis, there are no publicly available fleshed out case studies to present. What has been curated here instead is a list of four brands that are activating in a positive way during the COVID-19 pandemic, All examples show clearly how leveraging social media during a crisis can be done in a thoughtful way designed to attract new customers, as well as keep current customers engaged and involved with the brand.
  • Chipotle is sharing a consistent drumbeat of surprise and delight on social media. First, by offering free delivery throughout the month of March, and then by leaning into the movement of virtual meet-ups to host a series of digital lunch parties on Zoom. According to Thrillist, the parties will feature Q&As, celebrity guests, and free burrito giveaways.
  • Nike is advocating quarantining and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, in their social media messaging. On its Instagram account, the brand posted its iconic logo along with the message, “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.” The message was brainstormed with Wieden + Kennedy Portland and it follows Nike’s announcement that the brand promised to donate more than $15 million to support COVID-19 response efforts.
  • St. Patrick’s Day had a much more serious tone in 2020 as traditional parties shut down amid the COVID-19 crisis. To speak to that, Guinness released an inspiring and positive message for the holiday, which was posted on their Twitter account, as well as elsewhere. “When you raise a pint of Guinness, also remember to raise each other up,” Guinness conveyed in its YouTube video, also reminding consumers that it “wasn’t going anywhere.” This is a great example of how to create a marketing message in a way that is meaningful and facilitates a connection with both existing and new customers, during a crisis. The company also gave $500,000 through its fund “to help the communities where we live, work and celebrate.”
  • In an effort to help people remain healthy while staying in their homes, Planet Fitness is offering free online workout classes through Facebook Live. As reported in USA Today, Jeremy Tucker, chief marketing officer of Planet Fitness, said: Our daily routines have changed in unexpected ways, and we know that people may not be able to get to the gym. That’s why we’re offering a free, daily virtual fitness class for everyone on Planet Fitness’ Facebook page from Monday through Friday." As physical and mental health is extremely important, during stressful and uncertain times, This is an outstanding example of a brand demonstrating that this is important to them, which will be appreciated by those existing customers that cannot go to the gym because of the mandatory closure, but also shows potential clients what they have to offer and how they view their clients.