Tech Q&A: Community Engagement during the Pandemic

Posted by IAB Australia On May 14, 2020 Research & Resources

How technology has enabled different communities to collaborate and genuinely engage online during COVID-19

Most publishers and platforms are currently experiencing dramatic growth in user activity during COVID-19. Hence, we wanted to get some insights from some of our council members that enable online communities on what topics are proving particularly popular.

We were also keen to see if there had recently been any unexpected shifts in terms of topics and themes of conversations – and also how content creators and brands are engaging with consumers.

We hope that you find this useful…

Angus Keene, Sales Director, Twitter Australia

One assumes that Twitter has seen a significant increase in usage and conversations during COVID-19, what have been the most popular themes over the past few weeks here in Australia?

We have seen an increase in people coming to Twitter to stay informed, be entertained and connect with others during the pandemic. In fact, we just reported our highest year-on-year user growth rate as more people turned to Twitter to remain connected. 

Australians have been drawn to the platform to find credible information on the crisis from experts in real-time. In March alone, there was a COVID-19 Tweet shared every 45 milliseconds. However, this has also been complemented with a growing interest in entertainment content. 

Conversations around Entertainment, Music, Hobbies and Gaming have grown immensely in recent months as more people delve into new conversations and interest networks, as they seek a sense of togetherness and joy. Narrowing down further here, one interesting topic we’ve seen grow 4x is conversations around video conferencing — likely a result of more of the nation moving to work from home. Conversations on arts and crafts also saw a huge lift, almost doubling in April as we shared and consumed information on how to keep ourselves and our children entertained. We’ve also seen an increase in chatter around exercise and fitness as many of us looked for creative ways to remain healthy while in lockdown.

Do you have any compelling examples of how Twitter has enabled content creators and brands to find creative ways of engaging with their customers during isolation?

The Coronavirus pandemic represents unchartered territory for brands. And while it’s important to remember this is not a marketing opportunity to capitalise on, we have seen brands stepping up to produce meaningful, creative and valuable content that informs, supports and entertains consumers.

Woolworths is a strong example. It has used Twitter to inform consumers about its focus on creating up to 20,000 new jobs to meet growing demands and to make life in lockdown easier for the thousands of people that rely on its service every day.

We’ve also seen brands use Twitter to entertain and unite interest groups. While live sporting events have been put on hold, the Socceroos took the opportunity to create nostalgia and connect fans by live Tweeting the famous 2005 World Cup qualifier match between Australia and Uruguay, and encouraging fans to relive the moment again with the hashtag #AUSvURU.

Netflix has also helped basketball fans around the country reunite to celebrate the launch of its latest docuseries on Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, teaming up with NBA Australia to live Tweet the first two episodes of the series. 

Ultimately, it’s the brands that have remained true to their identity and shown a strong understanding of the unique role it plays in people’s lives, how that has changed, and how it can help or be useful, that have resonated best with consumers during this crisis.

Prue Cox, Director of Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

Has there been an increase in activity on LinkedIn through the COVID-19 lockdown and what have been the most popular topics or themes?

As a result of the environment we’re navigating, individuals and businesses are leveraging LinkedIn to connect across a range of touchpoints.

Advertisers in particular are using LinkedIn to maintain a brand presence with their target audience wherever they are in the world. We have experienced a number of companies (including Salesforce and Cisco locally) launch virtual events, to connect with their community and share important updates. For example, the World Health Organization now has more than 2 million followers on LinkedIn with their live broadcast on the platform offering sought out and trusted news advice.

At an individual level, LinkedIn is being utilised to be part of a conversation and to stay connected. #COVID19 has been in the top 100 hashtags on LinkedIn since January as members share updates on news in their country, and changes to their professional lives. In addition, we’ve experience a 55% year-over-year increase in conversations among connections March 2019 to March 2020. This includes reacting, commenting, resharing and replying to comments as a result of people looking to reconnect with their network, and sharing advice and tips as we negotiate this working environment together.

Are you seeing an increase in usage of LinkedIn Learning during isolation and are there any online courses or subjects in particular that are proving most popular?

To support our community in such unprecedented times, we opened up 9 learning paths for free for individuals and workforces across the globe. This has led to many around the world using this time to learn and upskill, and as a result, nearly 4 million hours of LinkedIn Learning content was consumed in March and a massive 7.7 million hours of content was viewed in April.

Over this period, the top three roles we saw an increase in learning came from (Sales +116%), Purchasing (+106%) and Operations (98%). Interestingly, executives are also pivoting to online learning with a 63 per cent spike in C-level professionals viewing courses between February and March.

Locally, we’ve found there has been a range of courses being consumed by Australians, with the top courses on the platform in April being; Time ManagementWorking from HomeRemote Work Foundations and The Six Morning Habits of High Performer. We are also seeing increased viewing of mindfulness courses, showcasing a need for more emotional support, as businesses go online and normal means of communication and camaraderie amongst colleagues dwindle.

Paul McCrory, Group Director – Global Business Group, Facebook

Have you seen interesting consumer trends from your users on Facebook recently during the quarantine period?

We’re seeing a shift back to community-first values and a new-found appreciation for social connections. From bin isolation outings to community volunteering, we have moved on from panic buying to displays of empathy and connection. More than 200,000 people in Australia are members of 400 local Facebook support groups set up against COVID-19.

It also seems we are finally there with COVID fatigue. What once was massively newsworthy and grabbed our attention has over time become part of our everyday lives. Interactions with COVID-related public posts on Facebook and Instagram have fallen back significantly since peaking mid-March and news content consumption is declining.

Three ways that brands can increase resonance and drive value on our platforms are via Say, Act and Access.

Say: Showing up through words
Act: Showing up through actions
Access: Showing up through customer service and e-commerce

Are there any specific Australian community-related projects that have been launched by Facebook during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We recently launched the Covid-19 Information Centre across Facebook. This dedicated space helps elevate official information and provides advice and tips from authoritative Facebook Pages. To ensure people have access to locally relevant information, we are featuring detailed information to access mental health and crisis helplines. In Australia, Lifeline, Kids Help Line, Beyond Blue and Headspace and in New Zealand, Lifeline & Youthline and 1737 Need to Talk all feature in the Covid-19 Information Centre.

Carin Lee-Skelton, Australia and New Zealand Country Manager, Pinterest

Have you seen any especially noteworthy activities, themes or topics from your communities on Pinterest during the COVID-19 quarantine period?

As people stayed at home over the past weeks working, homeschooling and cooking during quarantine, we’ve heard from Pinterest users that Pinterest is their positive space to find helpful tips and ideas for everything from quick recipes, kids activities, self-care and more. Searches for working from home were up 3x, self-care checklist up 4x, spa day at home up 4x and Netflix aesthetic up 8x as people bask in images of their Netflix obsessions.

Pinterest has been helping people around the world feel better and stay inspired as they stay inside. Globally, Pinterest has hit all-time highs in engagement over the past weeks – searches have been up nearly 60% year on year, with new sign-ups, click-throughs on links from Pins, and Repins (saves) up about 40%. In Australia, searches have increased 51% year over year and boards created increased 49% year over year.

One of the most interesting spikes is in new board creation. Board creation is at an all-time high on Pinterest, up 60% compared to the same time last year. As more people come to Pinterest for ideas while they’re at home, they’re starting fresh with new boards and new projects in categories like food and beverage, home and fashion.

How can Pinterest enable marketers to leverage any of these evolving consumer trends or actionable insights?

On Pinterest, we’re now seeing a shift to people escaping the present by turning to the future. It’s no surprise that Australia is already here, joining Pinterest users in other European and Asian countries, who have been in this stage for some time. This is a big opportunity for marketers to shift messages from support to inspiration and give people something to look forward to tomorrow, like future travel and ideas related to postponed life events. 

Pinterest has surfaced meaningful trends and best practices to indicate where consumers are headed, and can help brands better predict what’s to come for their category with a new white paper, How to Inspire Through Uncertainty

The white paper includes:

  • 4 important phases for marketers to consider to align with emerging consumer behaviors and search trends on Pinterest, from triage to rebound
  • Trendlines on consumer mindset based on searches for information now vs. future planning
  • Suggested media mix and messaging varying by industry
  •  Actionable best practices at every phase
  • Predictions on permanent changes in consumer behavior by vertical

Pinterest CMO Andréa Mallard summed it up with her thoughts in this blog post, and here are some highlights:

  • There are four important phases for marketers to consider as they’re planning—or re-planning—their advertising investment in light of COVID-19
  •  Recent searches on Pinterest suggest people are returning to planning for—and getting excited about—the future. Over the last two weeks searches about the future have been steadily rising—and we expect that trend to continue.
  • While consumers look forward, most marketing messaging still looks back.
  • In addition to best practices at every phase (detailed in the report), we anticipate some industries will see permanent changes in consumer behavior after months of isolation.

Marketers that are able to share their story effectively will stand out to consumers.

Ricky Chanana, Head of Sales AUNZ, Twitch

Are you seeing an increase in activity recently on Twitch during isolation and are there any interesting themes or topics in particular that are proving most popular?

Yes. On average, there are 1.5 million people tuning in to Twitch at any given time, and that number continues to grow, particularly now. Specifically, hours watched grew over 50% in the four weeks since the start of social distancing. To give you a frame of reference, in 2019 there were 600 billion minutes watched on Twitch. This growth is continuing through 2020.

Regarding themes, music is one area where we’ve seen the most significant growth, both in hours broadcast as well as hours watched. We’re seeing strong interest from both musicians and our community who are able to connect live in a way that is only possible on Twitch.

Meanwhile, gaming continues to grow. To begin with, gaming has always been mainstream. In the United States, the gaming industry accounts for $27.3 billion USD in revenue, compared to $46.2 billion for music, and $161.6 billion for TV. Globally, that figure is even bigger. Gaming drives $137.8 billion USD in revenue. That’s more than music, which generates $105.7 billion. Gaming is especially popular now that people are spending so much time at home. People are looking for online entertainment and ways to connect with a broader community, and Twitch is benefiting from this.

Has Twitch launched any specific initiatives during this lock-down period to further help users engage or collaborate?

Making it easier for users to engage an audience is always a top priority for us. Twitch is, after all, built on interaction and community. Prior to the lockdown, we already were hard at work in building products that make the ads experience better for everyone on Twitch: from streamers to viewers to advertisers as well. The result is an experience where ads are less intrusive, more interactive, and come with opportunities for advertisers to lean further into Twitch’s creator community.

As viewers shelter in place, Twitch has seen an influx in organic non-gaming content, from music and entertainment to sports and even theatre. During these uncertain and scary times, we’ve looked to our most powerful asset, our community, to help continue to foster connection. In March, we hosted Twitch Stream Aid, a 12-hour charity stream, which ended up raising more than $2.77 million USD for the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

The event brought together amazing talent across music and sports including John Legend, Joe Jonas, Ellie Goulding, and Monsta X. We also featured Creators from our own Twitch community within the broadcast. Ultimately, we were able to bring the community together, and welcome new comers, in support of those most affected by COVID-19.

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.