Nov 23rd 2021

The changing social media landscape

I don’t think that any of us could have predicted that a global pandemic would cause us to spend most of 2020 and 2021 in a national lockdown. Apart from the pandemic changing our general lifestyles, it is also important to consider the effect that it has had on the way that we use social media. Many of us found ourselves more dependent on social media to not only keep in contact with friends and family, but also to keep up to date with news and engage with brands when restrictions forced shops and other touchpoints to close.

Social stats

Countless studies have been conducted into the effect that the pandemic has had on the use of social media. Hootsuite, for instance, has reported that social media platforms gained an additional 490 million users in 2020, which is a 13.2% increase compared to 2019. To break that down a bit further, it means that social platforms gained 1.3 million users every day, or 15.5 every second in 2020. Also, Hootsuite has reported that a staggering 90% of internet users use social media. According to Statista, the biggest increase in social media usage can be seen in TikTok’s figures. The social media platform has seen a 38% increase in monthly active users from 2019 to 2021, which is significantly larger than other social media platforms such as Facebook, which only saw an increase of 19%. What are all these users doing on social media? Lots of us seem to be heading to these platforms to watch and read news content. According to  Ofcom’s research just under half of adults in the UK (49%) get their news from social media.

I think that the best example to demonstrate the changes in the social media landscape is TikTok. TikTok is a short-form video-focused social media platform which allows users to share a wide variety of video content, including anything from dancing videos to videos reporting on current affairs. Through the acquisition of Musical.ly in November 2017, TikTok managed to make a big impact in the social media space. In 2020, it generated around $1.9 billion in revenue, which was a 457% increase year-on-year. The app has also reached over one billion active monthly users and has been downloaded over 2.6 billion times around the world. It is also important to note that this increase happened during the pandemic, which makes me wonder whether TikTok would have increased its user base and revenues to this extent without a push from our pandemic lifestyles.

But what does this mean?

These figures clearly show that social media has become a bigger part of peoples’ lives since the pandemic, putting even more pressure on content creators and brands to produce a higher quality of content, whether it is entertaining or factual. This growth also opens up a realm of possibilities for businesses to grow their influence and engagement. Due to the increase in people using social media platforms, a much wider audience has been created for businesses. Furthermore, new and improved approaches to analytics are enabling these brands to target more specific markets. This is something I know well from my time so far at Babel, as I’ve been using analytics platforms to monitor our social media pages and ensure the right message gets to the right audiences at the right time.

Countless brands have used the pandemic as an opportunity to make themselves stand out on social media. Many parents with young children found the pandemic difficult to deal with as they soon ran out of activities for their children to do inside. Cincinnati Zoo took advantage of this and produced a live online event for kids which took place every day. The event was called ‘Home Safari Facebook Live’. A new animal would be the focus each day, and children had to create projects about the animal before presenting these to everyone at the end of the day. Another example is IKEA which launched its #StayHome campaign. It shared a video on social media to encourage people to see their homes from a new perspective and reconnect with the domestic space. Although no IKEA furniture was featured in the campaign, I think the brand managed to come across as caring for its customers; something that will help it greatly in the long run.

I think that the pandemic has changed the way in which we use social media, a change that I believe will be permanent. Many people have become more dependent on social media, which I think will cause platforms to continue experiencing the growth that occurred during the pandemic. More specifically, I think that TikTok will to continue to grow and soon catch up with social media giants such as Facebook.

At Babel, we offer social media management and content creation as part of effective, integrated PR programmes. Over the course of my initial two months at Babel, I have seen first-hand just how important having a dedicated social media marketing strategy can be to a brand. My favourite part of my role here at Babel has been watching our social media platforms grow and seeing our investment in these channels pay off. Content interaction on our Instagram page, for instance, has increased by an average of around 1,000% since August, and our followers across all of our social platforms have also been increasing. I’m excited to how far social media can take us and our clients.

To hear more about how Babel can help you to grow your business using social media, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Lauren O'Harrow
Lauren O'Harrow