Over the past two years, the value of online content and its creators has come into stark relief. The uproar of content creation and its consumption has been a visible ripple effect of the pandemic. What has gone unnoticed are the silent but salient partners of content and their creators – the platforms. Looking back on 2021 and 2020, the impact of COVID-19 on social media platforms becomes blatantly clear. Each took well-grounded steps to engage and retain their users’ attention.
Instagram reacted to mental well-being
As a reaction to mental struggle, the pandemic caused in people, Instagram launched Guides in 2020. The feature, accessible from the book-like icon next to Stories, Reel, etc. is a curation of posts, recommendations, tips and helpful advice.
It began with a sole focus on content that helped manage anxiety, grief, and improve overall well-being. So it was available only on the profiles of participating accounts. Two of which were @deepikapadukon and @heads_together, a mental health initiative spearheaded by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
As the two years went by, Guides expanded to all sorts of content, making it easier for a user to discover reliable content and content from their favourite creators.
Pinterest made shopping easier
With stay at home orders in force for huge chunks of 2020 and 2021, shopping leisurely became out of the question. In Pinterest’s own words, “in these times browsing the aisles of a favourite store just isn’t possible.”
The savvy image-sharing social media platform realised the unmet need and worked to bring the experience into the digital world. They made shopping possible while surfing through home décor and fashion boards by adding a Shop tab to both.
Pinterest also added the Shop tab to Search. It appears when a Pinner searches for terms such as ‘office décor.’ What made Pinterest take this specific step was the 70% rise in ‘home office setup’ searches in March and April 2020 as people bound to home needed ideas to furnish work stations.
The site introduced Shopping Spotlights on the Search tab in May of the same year to take the personal shopping experience up a notch. The feature was analogous to a catalogue tailormade for a person using curated recommendations from influencers and guest editors.
YouTube targeted brands better
If there was any sector that reaped benefits from the pandemic, then it was OTT platforms. They saw a steep spike in their screen times and brands scrambled to gain those eyeballs.
YouTube, the perfect blend of OTT and social media, was quick to grasp that digital communications took precedence over any other format, from TV to radio. So it reimagined and unified its content solutions to launch YouTube Select.
Select helps brands tap into content that is relevant to them, authentically reach an audience they can’t find elsewhere and do it all at scale. With it, an advertiser gets an audience spread across all YouTube verticals.
With international borders closing and reopening constantly, focusing locally has become the need of the hour. YouTube understood this facet way back in 2020 and offered customisation of YouTube Select plans for each market.
Reddit adapted for influencer marketing
Influencer marketing has emerged as one of the few weapons brands have in their arsenal to stay on top of their audience’s minds since the pandemic started. While the likes of Instagram and Twitter are natives it, some platforms took their time waking up to its merits.
Reddit was one of them.
To make it more attractive to marketers after COVID-19, Reddit launched Trending. The new section allows brands to pay to trend on the social media network. The ads, which Reddit calls Trending Takeovers, play for a day on the Search and Popular Tab. The latter is one of its most visited segments, with more than a third of users landing on it every day to get a feel of trending topics.
For brands, this represents a unique opportunity because the 300 million people who use Reddit are avant-gardes. By getting your content in front of them, you capture the interest of an extremely hard-to-catch audience.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok and Reddit have been at the heart of the two waves of COVID-19 (and for the current 3rd wave). Sometimes they were a curse, spreading confusing misinformation. But most days they acted as a blessing by providing much-needed laughs.
Irrespective of how you view them, one thing remains clear that they did their part to adjust to the new normal.