3rd April 2020

Brands take heed: the nation is resilient, looking for positive content and wants to be entertained

With the UK now firmly in Lockdown, people are turning to the one place they know they can get a continuous stream of news, entertainment, educational content and for some, five minutes peace from the kids! Unsurprisingly, there has been a massive surge in online activity with 95% of consumers saying they’re now spending more time on in-home media consumption activities*. But what kind of content are they looking for and how can brands be certain they’re using the right sentiment when communicating via social?


At a time when it’s so easy for brands to appear ‘tone deaf’ or to look as if they are profiteering from a crisis, we wanted to look a little closer at the increase in specific channel useage but also how audiences want to be spoken to and the right way in which to do it.


Social media use in particular is rapidly increasing as Facebook usage increases by 37% and Twitter by 23%.  People don’t just want to be spoken to however, audiences are now spending more time communicating with each other and interacting with content, for example there has been an 76%** increase in Instagram engagements, 27%** increase in TikTok engagements and a 22%* increase in Instagram campaign impressions.


Needless to say that a large proportion of this conversation is about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the majority of media coverage has covered the death toll and the severity of the lockdown. So to understand how the nation is responding we used our social listening tool, Brandwatch, to look at all of the online conversation around Coronavirus and COVID-19 during March in the UK.  

While it’s clear that people are displaying fear, sadness and even anger, the cloud shows the biggest emotion being used on social channel interaction is laughter. 20% of emojis in the cloud are positive and 81% of the emojis are either positive or neutral; using hearts, fist bumps, thumbs up or laughing emojis to show love, strength and fun, while the neutral emojis display references to country, emergency services, as well as a number of emojis, including a house and loud halers pointing to the desire for people across the globe to stay indoors.


Put simply this shows the resilience of the nation as people find a way through the lockdown and look for ways to entertain themselves and find positivity in the situation.


Coupled with an increase in social media activity, Vodafone has reported a 30%** increase in data usage, coupled with a 50%*** rise in internet use with people working from home. And in between work commitments and home-schooling, people have been searching for content that provides emotional respite; warmer more emotive stories that lift the spirits.

The big question is, how can brands use this information to ensure they’re creating the right kind of content and sentiment for their audiences?


  1. People want light relief – whether it’s entertainment like virtual drinks, pub quiz and house party apps, stay at home challenges or emotional stories and restorative exercises, the public want a break from the monotony of lockdown and the continuous media stream of Coronavirus coverage. Think about what your brand can do to facilitate this need but don’t force it, if your typical brand content is more corporate or doesn’t typically have a lighthearted tone, think carefully about how you can incorporate irreverent content without it jarring with your brand values

  2. Know where the line is – yes people want fun and entertainment but there is also a very serious global crisis happening and it’s all too easy to get carried away creating something that can appear ‘tone deaf’ in the current climate. Always sense check with multiple members of your team to make sure the tone is right. Most importantly, add value to the online conversation and don’t try and capitalize on it by shoe-horning your product/service in there. Be authentic, be real and add value

  3. You don’t necessarily have to keep it short – people are spending more time at home and do have more time to spend reading content, where they might normally only just skim it. Challenge your audience,

  4. Use the time to test – You have an unprecedented captive audience so use this time to test mechanics, messages, platforms and see what your audiences respond to

  5. Be available – people want to talk to brands, for many it’s their only outlet for conversation and information so make sure you have a robust community management process in place to deal with this. You need to monitor in the day, evening and weekends, people are online 24/7 and they expect you to be too, so make sure you’re in a position to respond quickly.


Overall, this is a challenging time for businesses globally and the situation is constantly changing. Be prepared to be flexible with your content plans and most importantly ready to pull anything scheduled immediately to respond to announcements or news updates.


The main advice, LISTEN and keep listening, your audiences will show you the kind of content they want and they are happy to be served. Use this time as an opportunity to build a relationship with your online communities.


*GWI, 2020



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