There is an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times”. This has certainly rung true in our generation.
We are indeed living in the most interesting and uncertain times any of us have ever witnessed.
The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, ordered the nation to stay at home for 21 days, starting on 27 March and because of this, we have started living the reality of being “socially antisocial”. This time, though, it is not by choice but by circumstance.
Everyone is turning to their mobile devices and to various social media apps to check on their loved ones around the country and the globe, sending them virtual love and themselves trying to feel less alone during this time.
As a result, social media usage has grown dramatically and now, new data from insights and consulting firm Kantar has revealed exactly how much some apps are benefiting.
WhatsApp usage has jumped
According to a survey of more than 25 000 consumers in 30 markets conducted from 14 to 24 March, WhatsApp is the social media app that has experienced the greatest gains due to COVID-19. Overall, Facebook owned WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage that grew from an initial 27% bump in the earlier days of the pandemic to 41% in the mid-phase. For countries already in the later phase of the pandemic, WhatsApp usage has jumped by 51%.
Across all messaging platforms, the growth has been the largest in the 18 to 34 year-old age group, the study found. In addition, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram saw a 40%+ increase in usage from this same demographic. This is the working class demographic, the household decision making population.
While some people perceive social media in a negative way, especially for Gen-Zers, platforms such as TikTok have been a source of comfort for this generation during this time of social distancing. Teens on TikTok are bringing people together with memes about coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Videos with the hashtag #Coronavirus have been viewed more than 5.5 billion times on TikTok. Other social media channels have been awash with various challenges and conversations as people try to remain socially close while maintaining the social distance they have been mandated.
Everyone around the globe is looking for the latest information on the spread, the impact, the effects and a possible cure for the virus. With the number of fake news articles going around, people are hungry for authentic news. With that, social sites such as Twitter and online news channels have seen a spike in traffic this year. Twitter’s daily usage has jumped by 23% this year as people flock to the service, over and over, to keep track of what’s happening.
Some companies have not fallen far behind; most have taken advantage of this scenario and have moved budgets to amplify digital while the nation is locked down. Other companies have cut back on advertising spend because of the uncertainty that lies ahead (which in our view is a mistake for any brand).
Social media however, has moved beyond just keeping busy by not only entertaining and connecting us with our friends and family, but by being a true catalyst of cohesion and certainly the glue that is holding us together as a people.
Mawo Bakasa is a digital strategist at Meta Media with over nine years’ experience in the industry which according to her, translates to 14+ digital years! She’s currently working on the Nestle account as strategist and digital lead. Mawo loves the outdoors and is an avid reader and road runner.