COVID-19: The Corona Pandemic and Social Media

Social Media Good

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

One good thing about social media: you do not need to wear masks. You can spout anything at any time or all the time as is happening during these COVID-19 hit times. The pandemic has brought certain areas into sharp focus, sharpened rounded edges, widened the chasms, and, at the same time, bridged some gaps.

The toilers like doctors, paramedics, and those who feed the poor do so with mouth shut behind masks. Those who are badly affected by the pandemic and with no education find no way to use social media to let the world hear their visceral cry of hunger. Well-fed fatcats share recipes and use social media to showcase how they are passing the time.

What Are Social Media Doing For The Pandemic?

Facebook reportedly donated 720,000 facemasks and promised to source and supply more. It made a promise to donate $145 million to health workers and small businesses.

Whatsapp created a Coronavirus information hub and allowed WHO to launch a chatbot to warn people about coronavirus risks. It has reportedly pledged $1 million to Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network to support coronavirus facts alliance present in 45 countries through 100 local organizations. There is a 40% increase in Whatsapp usage.

Instagram needs to be praised for taking steps to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Twitter users have increased in number by about 23% in the first three months of 2020 and the platform is banning tweets that could impact the spread of coronavirus. Twitter is donating $1 million to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation.

LinkedIn unlocked 16 learning courses that users can access for free and it is publishing tips for business on what they should post during the ongoing pandemic.

Netflix promises fresh content to keep people entertained during the enforced lockdown.

YouTube is doing its bit by restricting ads related to Coronavirus.

Sprinklr compiled statistics that show COVID-19 and coronavirus related terms were mentioned over 20 million times on social media, news, and TV sites.

The list goes on with Snapchat, Pinterest, and other social media channels chipping in. That is all to the good but how are people using social media during the pandemic?

The Good of Social Media

People have to stay at home compulsorily and that leads to spending more time on social media. 80% of people consume more content and 68% of users search for pandemic related content. Thankfully, not everyone is just passing time.

Quite a few concerned citizens have created a social web through which they offer and distribute home-cooked food to the needy besides pointing out places for shelter and primary healthcare to the needy in their cities. For instance, a Mumbai based group of people started using their resources to cook food and distribute it to the needy. It grew into a helpline and a website with more people joining in the activity across other cities.

K Ganesh of Big Basket, Juggy Marwaha of JLL, and Venkat Narayana of Prestige Group launched startup FeedmyBangalore to help economically disadvantaged during this Covid19 pandemic. They will provide food to about 3000 underprivileged children and their families through Parikrma Humanity Foundation. Their goal is to serve 3 lakh meals during the lockdown.

feed my bangalore
Image credit: JLL

NGOs are doing their bit to provide food, sanitizers, grocery kits, and masks during this pandemic lockdown.

Celebrities chip in with gratuitous advice on how to be safe and protected. It is assumed people are more receptive to advice when it emanates from celebrities.

However, there are downsides, too.

The Bad of Social Media

When there is widespread hunger and people are starving there are celebrities who take advantage of social media to show the exotic recipes they are preparing as a way to pass time.

Not just in India but the world over, especially in the US and in Europe, Muslims have been at the receiving end of hate posts blaming the entire community for the pandemic. Fake news and video, as well as inciting posts, are proliferating, which is a deplorable thing.

Political parties try to make hay while the COVID Sun shines. They could show a bit more sensitivity instead of politicizing the virus.

As usual the unscrupulous take advantage of social media to push spurious remedies that could be riskier than COVID-19. Some wish to commercialize the opportunity. Others offer advice or news that can mislead such as: The Chinese deliberately plan to infect the world and take over…, Sip water and gargle to wash down the virus…, Eat raw garlic…, Use cow urine and cow dung…, Light lamps and candles and burn incense to drive away corona… Children cannot catch it… and so on. Then there are people offering corona tracking apps that contain malware.

The ugly head of communalism finds fertile ground in social media and the rift is likely to persist long after the coronavirus vanishes or subsides.

Marketing With a Humane Touch

The beauty of social media is that you can focus purely on promoting your brand and reputation and you can use it purely for social interactions. Marketing today has shifted its stance a little to add a humane patina to its activity.

Companies now use social media to show concern for customers and reach out to assist in any way they can, not just product-related assistance. This is a time to build trust, boost confidence, and nurture relationships. Caring companies are doing just that. Earn goodwill today. It will translate to revenues later on because people remember.

Digital marketers used straight keywords culled from research. Now they must re-research keywords with emphasis on COVID-19 related terms to create a different and telling impact on targets. One must also keep in mind Brandwatch finding that sentiment around corona virus-related posts is mainly negative.

One noteworthy thing about the pandemic effect on social media is that YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are working to democratize information and detoxify poisonous posts.

From a broader perspective, one can say that those who are using social media to do good will do so and those who are inclined to use social media to work mischief will do so. The pandemic has changed things a bit on social media but, as they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same. We will know, six months from now.

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