7 Ways Consumers Are Getting Innovative on Social Platforms

Advisory Board member Will Platt-Higgins of Facebook weighs in on how users are taking to its apps during quarantine

Green background and an illustration of a smartphone with apps coming out of it
The more we pay attention to what people are hiring us to do, the more we can understand what they need from us. Getty Images

This new reality has come on quickly. Depending on the country we call home, we are weeks or maybe months into this new normal. I speak to colleagues in Hong Kong and Singapore who have been working remotely for more than eight weeks. On Mothering Sunday in the U.K., the prime minister’s message was: “Don’t visit your parents.” Who could’ve imagined?

As we all adapt to this new reality of social distancing and physical isolation, many business leaders ask us about how people are using our apps. What we are seeing is that people are using technology and companies like ours to check-in on their families, send photos, share and forward information (and of course, jokes) and video chat. In many of the countries hit hardest by the virus, we’ve seen that total messaging across our apps has increased more than 50% over the last month.

For businesses, whatever marketing campaigns were poised and ready before Covid-19 might not be anymore. Now we must reassess our plans, our strategies and our deployment of resources.

The first thing we need to do is understand what people are hiring companies for right now. What are people looking for when they go online, shop or chat? Here are some examples.

Provision of comfort and connection

We all have a greater desire to be as present as we can with our families, friends and loved ones, and we’re seeing that people all over the world are coming together and rallying using technology. In Italy alone, time spent across our apps is up 70% since the crisis started.

People are using technology to connect with their communities virtually. In one group, neighbors in Kent, England are finding ways to coordinate help among each other. In a recent social media post, writer and author Tricia Lott Williford wrote an open letter to teachers titled “The Sadness Is Real,” which said, “I miss my kids. Plain and simple. I miss our routines, our inside jokes, our end of the day high fives and everything in between.” It has been shared 38,000 times as of time of publication.

Education and sharing of health information

With the situation at the local, national and regional level changing daily, people are using technology to consume large volumes of news content including videos, op-eds and expert analysis. Popular topics of interest include facts on hand-washing, symptom analysis or how to self-quarantine.

We’re also seeing that people are creatively sharing this information for audiences of all ages, like the lighthearted post from Mrs. Woods for her third graders, shared almost 89,000 times when school was still in session. And people around the globe are electing to display the new Stay at Home Instagram sticker (used over 100 million times in the first week) and profile frames like Quaran-Team to encourage others to stay inside.

Support for donations and fundraisers

People want to offer and demonstrate their help in ways that they can. We’re seeing this support showing up through fundraisers and donations.

Less formally, in the U.K. for example, the hashtag #HitTheAmbulance has amassed 70,000 followers in the last few weeks, allowing users to “hit” ambulance staff with a small gesture of appreciation such as sweets, toilet paper or a just a simple thank you selfie.

Resources and suggestions on homeschooling

With schools closed, people are using groups to share links to online resources, feedback on what parents are finding effective and photos of games and family activities. One homeschooling group in Australia, which provides online resources for parents, effective teaching strategies and other ways to make the best of the new normal, saw 10,000 members join in the last 30 days.

Families now at home together during school holidays are asking for suggestions for vacations at home and sharing their own creative ideas. Despite many libraries being closed, people are sharing lists of books to read and many Buy Nothing groups are spreading on where people post toys, games and books that they are giving away for free to be collected (without personal contact) from their front doors.

Inspiration in the kitchen

There is a new premium on practicality and creativity as people at home make do with what they have in stock and what they are able to find in local stores. There is also a new interest in dishes that can be prepared quickly and with minimum fuss.

For some people in large cities, people are having to learn the basics again and are using online resources to inaugurate their own ad-hoc cooking schools. Jamie Oliver is running “Keep Cooking and Carry On” shows every night. Accounts including BuzzFeed’s Tasty are sharing quarantine friendly recipes and creating online dialogues about different things to whip up at home, too.

Tips for maintaining physical and mental health 

From the avalanche of information, anxiety-inducing news cycles that we find ourselves glued to and worries for our families and friends allied to the shuttering of yoga studios, gyms, YMCA’s and playing fields has created an increase in conversation around exercise, wellness tips and practices at home. To help people keep fit, gyms like Planet Fitness are livestreaming workouts you can do from home. Similarly, to keep people calm and centered, meditation centers are also leading online mindfulness classes.

Finding humor and entertainment

Finally, of course, people are finding ways to keep their sense of humor while making the best of things, sharing videos of conference call mishaps, home exercise innovations, creative uses of downtime and even bored sock puppets eating traffic.

Musicians are making short videos bringing hand-washing into their lyrics, celebrities are dancing and monologuing and DJs like D-Nice are hosting massive social dis-dance parties. Dua Lipa released her new album Future Nostalgia a week early and has been livestreaming on Instagram.

So, what does this mean for us business leaders? Looking ahead, if we want to understand how to connect with people during this time of change and crisis, what we need to continue to do as a business community or simply as people looking to support ourselves is listen. The more we pay attention to what people are hiring us to do, the more we can understand what they need from us and the more we can be there to serve them in times of crisis and joy.

Will Platt-Higgins is the vice president of global account partnerships for Facebook.