Pandemic changes in social media and consumer behavior

In many ways, COVID-19 has forced us into a ‘back to basics’ mode, asking us to re-evaluate what we find worth in. We can see this unfold in consumer shopping trends, digital adoption across generations, and the changes in how a growing online audience engages with content.

There is a tremendous impact on our mental health. In the UAE and globally, surveys show negative emotions in consumers are stronger, with stress being higher among Gen Z and Millennials, and anxiety being higher among Gen X and baby boomers.

However, we’re seeing a simultaneous increase in positive emotions that are based in our relationships with others – like connection, compassion, and gratitude.

Social distancing, it seems, is leading us to seek more meaningful social connection. These positive emotions are strongest in Gen X and Baby Boomers. We see heightened levels of empathy and concern for others online and off.

While this is true, self-isolation and many other changes in our routines has increased social media usage, most brands (unless in healthcare and essential services) have seen a decrease in engagement as audiences turn to connect with loved ones, consume information and entertainment.

For example, Netflix was one of the top-performing brands on Instagram during Q1 this year. Health care and entertainment, both of which have become top of mind as people seek out reliable updates for news on the pandemic, and in the case of entertainment, look for everything from distraction to inspiration during social distancing.

According to a recent report by Social Bakers, the brands that are being proactive and making contributions to their communities, and employees have seen the most engagement on Facebook and Instagram. Here’s an example of top-performing posts related to coronavirus:

– In Q1, the post that got the most interactions on both Facebook and Instagram came from Brazilian brewery Ambev, which announced that it would use its production lines to make 500,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for local hospitals and the cities hit hardest by COVID-19.

– Another top post on Instagram came from Ferrari when the company pledged €10 million in support of the crisis.

We’ve gathered a few points here to help you move forward with an agile, supportive, data-driven response to your audience’s needs:

  1. Listen and keep a close eye on your data. Having an ear to the ground is crucial so that we are sensitive to the emotional tenor of our audiences.
  2. Despite tightening ad spend, we are seeing costs per click and costs per mille becoming cheaper in several platforms. Organic content still scores higher in terms of engagement rates, so the best strategies will include authentic and reliable organic content with smart paid targeting to reach the most suitable audiences when you need to.
  3. When it comes to your communication strategy, use a nimble approach. Brands will face challenges over 2020. This is an opportunity to show the world that you understand what your audience needs from your brand.

If you would like to know more about the social listening tools you could use, how to evaluate your marketing strategy during this time, or if you have any questions about the data used in this post, email us at, we’d love to hear from you.



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