The fact that online activity has increased everywhere during lockdown is no surprise – figures show almost half of internet users spending longer on social media – but marketers may be more interested in how much of this new behaviour sticks after the COVID-19 outbreak passes.

Data from GlobalWebIndex (GWI) indicates that 47% of internet users aged 16-64 across 17 countries are spending longer on social media (23% “significantly” longer); and in the US specifically, Nielsen data points to a recent surge in social media app usage, from 20.8% of total mobile app usage early in the year to 24.1% since the middle of March when statewide stay-at-home orders were issued.

The use of digital platforms to socialise is only to be expected, given the lack of alternatives. GWI finds that increased usage has been most pronounced among the younger age groups – 58% of 16-24 year-olds are spending more time on social, for example – but the effect is evident across the board with a third of 55-64 year-olds doing the same.

As this higher level of social media usage settles into a multiple-times-a day habit, there’s a good chance that much of this behaviour – not just messaging but video calls in particular (witness the surge in downloads of Zoom and Google Meet) – will outlast the pandemic itself, especially if, as expected, lockdown is lifted in stages.

“A move to more ‘face-to-face’ digital interactions may be an important legacy of coronavirus lockdowns on the world’s social media behaviours,” Axios notes.

GWI’s global research suggests that 15% of surveyed internet users expect to continue spending more time using social media post-pandemic.

TheNextWeb also notes that ad engagement on social media has increased at the same time as the cost of digital advertising has decreased.

“These trends suggest that – if you’re able to secure budget – the current opportunities offered by digital advertising may be particularly compelling, especially compared to pre-pandemic performance.”

The bottom line, says Axios, is that the coronavirus pandemic is having the effect of deepening users’ immersion in social media at a moment when society had begun to question it.

Sourced from The NextWeb, Axios