Since the outbreak of COVID-19 – the novel coronavirus – digital media usage has skyrocketed.
From OTT streaming platforms to online gaming, digital media across the board is having a moment.
This is especially true for social media platforms.
In fact, Facebook recently revealed some specific stats around increased usage:
- 50% increase in messaging platforms over the last month
- 2X increase in voice and video calls on Messenger and WhatsApp
- In Italy, over 1000% increase in group calls (3+ participants)
Surprised? Not really.
In these times of social distancing and isolation, it’s only natural that people are turning to digital ways of staying connected.
And, considering 76% of people in countries with advanced economies own a smartphone, keeping in touch is easier than ever.
With the spotlight on these social media platforms, the companies behind them are taking strides to address the COVID-19 outbreak and adapt to these immense changes.
For digital marketers, staying informed about these responses is essential for more than one reason.
First, you can make sure you stay on the right side of online regulations when it comes to what you can and cannot say in ads.
Second, you may discover that there are tools, grants, loans, etc. provided that you can use or are eligible for in order to help you succeed during these difficult times.
Lastly, digital marketers are people, too.
Understanding how these social media platforms are trying to make a positive impact and assist those in need can bring a little brightness amid dark days.
Whatever your reasons, take a look at what each major platform has done so far.
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp
Provide Accurate Information
Many of the initiatives started by social media companies during the coronavirus pandemic have centered around providing the most up-to-date and accurate information, practices, and resources.
And Facebook is no exception.
This page holds all of the measures the platform has taken in the face of COVID-19.
And on it, there are many strategies that specifically address how Facebook is providing accurate information across its suite of apps.
Pop-ups and a new “Coronavirus Information Center” introduced on March 18 on Facebook give users tips and resources about the virus.
On Messenger, Facebook unveiled a plan that connected world health organizations with free access to developers.
Doing so allowed these health agencies to reach people directly with timely and accurate information about the novel coronavirus.
On WhatsApp, they launched a WHO Health Alert that any user can opt into.
This and the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub give users access to official information, alerts, and resources directly from the WHO, UNICEF, and UNDP.
These are just a few of the measures taken, with more added to the list almost daily.
Removing False Claims & Misinformation
Just as important as giving people access to accurate resources and information is ensuring that all false claims about COVID-19 are removed.
To this end, Facebook has also launched a variety of initiatives.
One of the most prominent examples of this is their banning of certain ads.
These include those advertising surgical face masks, hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, and COVID-19 test kits.
It also includes banning ads that seem to use “exploitative tactics”
For example, this includes any ads for products that claim they prevent the virus from spreading.
On Instagram, the company is taking precautions to keep users informed, too.
Using fact-checkers, blocking hashtags that seem to spread misinformation, and showing leading health agencies at the top of coronavirus and related search results are all examples of measures being taken on the app.
On WhatsApp, Facebook is making a concentrated effort to shut down spam accounts spreading misinformation.
Using machine learning, they’re identifying accounts that are sending bulk or automated messages.
Supporting the Community & Economy
Beyond focusing on coronavirus itself, Facebook is also taking part in efforts that support local businesses and communities impacted by the pandemic.
One of the greatest examples of this was its announcement of a $100 million grant for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Facebook Small Business Grants Program provides both cash grants and ad credits to over 30,000 small businesses across 30 countries.
Additionally, they’re giving $1 million in grants to U.S. and Canadian news organizations covering coronavirus.
Beyond these grant programs, Facebook continues to make a concerted effort to keep their apps stable.
Additionally, they are working to provide training to parties utilizing local alerts, and keep users safe.
The Business Resource Hub is a great example of this.
This objective of this collection of resources, tips, and tools is to help see businesses through the crisis.
Additionally, it helps connect visitors with other business owners.
Across Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook, the organization is rolling out new initiatives regularly.
These are intended to touch all 3 pain points of the coronavirus:
- Getting access to the most up-to-date information and resources
- Removing and preventing the spread of misinformation and harmful content
- Supporting communities, businesses, and local health agencies
Using Machine Learning to Prevent Harmful Content
Like Facebook and its collection of apps, Twitter’s main focus in its coronavirus response has been to provide accurate information to its users and dispel any false claims.
And, like Facebook, the company is keeping a running blog page with all of their initiatives.
To do this, the company expanded their safety policies to ban any tweets that could be harmful when it came to the spread of content related to COVID-19.
Using machine learning and automation, the company can identify these potentially dangerous tweets.
Additionally, they instituted a “content severity triage system”.
This can help contextualize the tweets and ensure that no account is wrongfully banned based on the AI results alone.
Directing Searches to Reliable Resources
As the coronavirus outbreak began in January, Twitter introduced a search prompt.
It’s goal is to direct users to national health organizations when they search for terms relating to COVID-19.
Across the globe, the platform has partnered with local healthcare agencies.
This ensures the most accurate, localized information appears to users.
Ad Credits and Grants
While Twitter went ahead and banned similarly exploitative ads as Facebook, they also introduced an Ads for Good credit program.
Essentially, the platform is giving nonprofit organizations ad credits so they can build fact-checking campaigns.
This includes partnerships with reputable agencies like the Taiwan Fact Checking Center and International Fact-Checking Network that support organizations which debunk false claims.
In addition, Twitter announced it’s donating $1 million to two separate journalism organizations, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation.
In the platform’s recent blog post, Vijaya Gadde describes the reason behind the donations:
“Right now, every journalist is a COVID-19 journalist. From the stories of healthcare workers on the frontlines, to analysis of the real human and economic cost of the pandemic, reporters around the world are still writing, still exposing themselves to harm, still giving us the facts. Journalism is core to our service and we have a deep and enduring responsibility to protect that work. This week we’re contributing to two critical organizations that are working tirelessly to uphold the fundamental values of a free press during this pandemic.”
While not usually making a list of top social media platforms, Reddit earns a spot here because of its coronavirus subreddit.
In just a matter of two months, the subreddit “/r/coronavirus” grew to be over 1.2 million members.
As of the writing of this article, it’s 1.8 million strong.
And, every day, the subreddit fields about 50,000 comments.
This reflects a larger surge in traffic on the platform, which is anywhere from 20-50% higher.
However, the platform has come under fire for not doing much in the ways of dispelling misinformation about the virus.
It’s true that unlike the other social media giants, they don’t have an explicit policy or blog post that houses all of their COVID-19 reponses.
The most obvious effort, in fact, is the banner that appears at the top of the page like on so many other sites.
Instead, the platform put out a call for medical experts and other officials to step in and respond directly to false claims.
This is right in line with Reddit’s whole identity as a user-led and moderated discussion board.
And it’s not necessarily futile.
For example, Bill Gates recently did an AMA about coronavirus on Reddit.
You may be saying: “He’s no medical expert!”
Well, those officials did an AMA, too, in the form of a Johns Hopkins public health expert and chief medical writer for the Associated Press.
For a social media platform without a newsfeed and that’s heavily visual, Snapchat has actually done quite a lot when it comes to their COVID-19 response.
Their blog post outlines their major efforts, along with some interesting insights into user trends relating to coronavirus on their app.
The closely moderated, closed nature of Snapchat has enabled them to quickly dispel misinformation and ban exploitative advertisements.
Their efforts with official health organizations are outlined as such:
“We’re also working closely with the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control to ensure Snapchatters have all the latest information from the experts themselves. WHO publishes regular updates from their Official Account, and we’ve worked with their team to develop custom content to answer questions from the Snapchat community.“
Leveraging Platform-Specific Features
Snapchat also took advantage of some of its native features to present accurate information in an engaging, user-friendly way.
This included leveraging their AR filter, stickers, and new search tool.
When they partnered with the WHO, the app created an AR filter that highlighted helpful tips and information for users.
With this filter, they also unveiled a series of stickers that promote safe health practices.
Lastly, Snapchat rolled out their “Here for You” search tool.
The tool was originally intended to provide users with safety resources from mental health experts when they searched certain topics like “anxiety” or “depression”, providing more resources beyond mental health blogs.
Then, the platform introduced a coronavirus-specific section within the feature.
So, now when users search, content specifically around coronavirus-related anxieties appears.
And to ensure this information is accurate, Snpachat partnered with official health organizations including the CDC, NHS, Crisis Text Line.
Going After Misinformation With AI
Having already had a steadfast policy in place to combat anti-vaxx propaganda in 2017, Pinterest had a solid foundation for dispelling harmful content relating to coronavirus.
As outlined in its extensive community guidelines, the platform removes any content it deems is spreading misinformation.
Regarding medical claims, specifically, the guidelines are focused on removing content that involves:
“Medically unsupported health claims that risk public health and safety, including the promotion of false cures, anti-vaccination advice, or misinformation about public health or safety emergencies”
Using AI, Pinterest is finding Pins that violate these guidelines by targeting certain keywords or text that have been associated with misinformation.
Not Just a Banner Ad
Pinterest outshines the other guys when it comes to their approach to coronavirus-related search terms.
Instead of just having a banner appear at the top of search results, the platform created an entire “custom search experience”.
So, when users type in a COVID-19 term, they are taken to a curated landing page.
On this page are a few key features.
The first is a callout at the top that encourages users to contact a healthcare provider directly for medical advice.
Then there is the selection of curated Pins from the WHO with resources, information, and tips to slow the spread of coronavirus.
It also encourages people to follow WHO’s verified Pinterest account.
A New “Today” Tab Highlights the Most Current Information and Tips
The latest tool out of Pinterest is a “Today” tab that appears on the home screen.
Pulling from trending searches, the tab provides timely recommendations curated by the Pinterest team.
Soon it’ll offer the most up-to-date tips and information from official health organizations like the CDC and WHO.
Combined with this expert health information, this tab will provide users with daily inspiration that is tailored to current life under coronavirus restrictions.
This can include everything from ideas for work-from-home workspaces to kid-friendly baking ideas.
Stay In the Know
As the novel coronavirus continues to impact the globe, social media platforms are updating and shifting their responses.
It is every marketer’s responsibility to stay informed and up to date about these changes.
Understanding the state of the online world and how these platforms are responding is all part of what comprises a successful digital marketer.
And like we said at the beginning of this article: The world is a stressful place right now.
Seeing the efforts these social media leaders are making can help inspire you to stay positive and visualize the brighter days to come.