Lisa Dubina
Lisa is a Senior Analyst at Mintel responsible for the Consumer Culture and Identity library, creating reports focused on the underlying psychographic factors that impact how consumers identify and express themselves, as well as purchase behaviors across categories.

As the country calls for mass social distancing and preventative quarantining due to COVID-19, Americans are turning to social media for news updates, entertainment and social connection. Could temporary isolation revitalize Americans’ appreciation for and trust in social media companies?

Social media provides comfort and community during COVID-19 social distancing

At the direction of federal and state leaders, Americans across the country are retreating to their homes and avoiding large gatherings in an effort to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this strange and anxiety-ridden time of isolation, many Americans are turning to social media to not only receive news updates but also to combat loneliness and boredom.

Brands and celebrities alike are taking to their social media accounts to provide content and comfort. Musicians such as Chris Martin, P!nk and John Legend are utilizing Instagram to livestream free concerts from their living rooms. Playbill, a digital database of Broadway news and media, is hosting a virtual movie viewing via Twitter, inviting Broadway fans to join them in simultaneously streaming the 1965 movie-musical, Cinderella. Additionally, public institutions like zoos and museums are using their social media accounts to provide educational and entertaining content in an effort to help parents who are now homeschooling their children.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only a quarter of Americans say they have any trust in social media companies.

What we think

In recent years, public opinion of social media platforms and companies has declined. Americans’ trust in these companies dwindled following events such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russian interference in the 2016 elections via social media channels. According to Mintel research on American values, more than two in five American consumers feel social media has had a negative impact on society.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only a quarter of Americans say they have any trust in social media companies, according to Mintel research on Coastal and Heartland Consumers. As the country goes into COVID-19 isolation, however, social media sites are becoming a shining light in a sequestered world. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are allowing Americans and other global victims of COVID-19 to maintain human connection and interaction despite social distancing. Video chatting, content sharing, and digital commiserating are all made possible through social media platforms.

The current situation is reminding consumers how fortunate they are to have digital capabilities to talk, connect, and share despite physical limitations. Although we are confined to our homes, we are not alone. As more people turn to these social media platforms for social refuge, we may see a positive spike in Americans’ perceptions and attitudes towards social media companies. According to Mintel research on Coastal and Heartland Consumers, as of early 2020 only one in five Americans said they feel it’s important to keep up with social media trends. Americans post-COVID may have a renewed interest in social media trends and fads. In order to further improve their brand equity, social media companies should encourage and help brands and creators share positive content and messaging at this time.