Jessica Wells Russell

To say that things have changed recently would be a gross and ridiculous understatement. We’re all getting used to this so-called “new normal,” characterized by extended periods of time inside, coupled with the shift from the office (or another work setting) to remote, home-based work.

Just because we’re physically separated for the sake of public health doesn’t mean that we can’t join together and unite using digital channels. And, in light of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders across the country, many of us are doing just that.

Brands rethink their 2020 marketing budgets

One of the biggest impacts that the novel coronavirus has had is on business operations, including marketing efforts. Marketing summits and live conference events across the country are being rolled back or canceled altogether. And as brands typically allocate 30-40% of their marketing budget to trade show and conference expenses, companies are looking for other ways to make the best use of this spend.

Some organizations are using these resources to create more digital content. After all, as more consumers and business decision-makers alike stay home, they’ll be looking for content to read, watch, analyze and share on social.

Other businesses are going the digital route and adapting their previously planned events so participants can take part at home. Take IBM, for example, which shifted its annual Think conference to a Digital Event Experience.

In this environment, it’s moves like these – devoting more resources to content creation, and creatively using digital technology – that will have the biggest impacts.

Voice calling is back

In a surprise to no one, Verizon noted a considerable uptick in voice calling to the tune of 25% from March 12 to March 19. And this is good news, as the cellular service giant was reporting quite the dip in voice calling over the past few years, as more users took to text.

Not only are people actually picking up their phones and speaking into them, but these voice calls are lasting about 10-15% longer, too. Now that you actually have the time to sit down and call your grandma (because she’s never been able to figure out Skype), take advantage!

“For years we’ve seen a steady decline in the amount of time people spend talking to one another, especially on wireless devices,” Kyle Malady, Verizon CTO told TechRepublic. “The move to staying at home has reignited people’s hunger to stay connected, voice-to-voice.”

Remote workers collaborate from home

Also not surprising is a sharp uptick in the use of workforce collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft. In fact, the Financial Times reported that the huge shift to remote working has relit the burning rivalry between these two tech giants as they work to attract newly home-bound remote workers.

Slack has seen 7,000 new customers since February, comprising a 40% increase in the use of its popular platform. Microsoft, on the other hand, more than doubled its number of Teams users, which jumped from 20 million to 44 million.

Potato-fied on corporate video conference

As work collaboration platforms and video conferencing alike see more users, there’s no shortage of hilarious anecdotes about people getting used to this new technology. Take Lizet Ocampo (aka, Potato Boss), for instance, who couldn’t quite figure out her conference platform’s filter settings:

The story, of course, went viral on social, where all of the potato puns took place. A little levity in these trying times is a good thing.  🙂

Party streaming

In addition to remaining connected while on the clock, people are also turning to technology to fight off isolation in their downtime. Users can now stream and watch together, so to speak, with special in-app features or browser extensions.

Netflix Party, for instance, lets subscribers sync and share their streams with others, and also adds in a group chat function so viewers can discuss their favorite moments in real-time.

Other tools like the Scener Chrome extension, and even Facebook’s Watch Party tool are growing in popularity as well.

Social for distant socializing

When it comes to staying digitally connected while physically apart, top social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the veritable kings. The vast majority of Americans were already turning to social as a top news source, and now that users have more time on their hands, many are spending it by lounging around, scrolling their feeds and doling out likes/reacts like candy.

It’s hard to argue with social as a leading digital channel for staying connected. Even workplaces are leveraging the platforms these days, and we’re not just talking about LinkedIn – Workplace by Facebook, for instance, gives employees a familiar and fun way to connect while keeping their professional social media interactions separate from their private profiles.

And it’s not just individual consumers who are staying in touch with friends and family members.

Social has also become a leading avenue for brands to remain engaged with their target audiences and maintain relevance in their online presence. Particularly when some brands have had to scale back hours or close their brick-and-mortar locations, social provides a way for them to keep their brand name out there, and top of mind with customers.

Online coupons and takeout/delivery updates

Some brands are using social for its advertising power, running ad campaigns that include coupons or discounts for e-commerce or other delivery services.

Other brands, particularly those like restaurants, are making customers aware of new options for takeout, curbside pickup or delivery.

In fact, a group of chain restaurant owners looked to support this dining service shift with its Great American Takeout event in March, which encouraged consumers to order takeout and support local eateries impacted by a lack of dine-in sales.

Engagement through user-generated content

Quite a few brands are putting out the call for user-generated content amid this outbreak, and there honestly couldn’t be a more perfect time.

Many people, especially those whose regular employment might have been impacted, are looking for activities to fill the time. What better way to get through the day than taking part in a fun, brand-sponsored user-generated content challenge?

In light of news that March Madness (and numerous other sports) were canceled, Buffalo Wild Wings put together a montage of user-generated content featuring people getting active while sheltering in place:

Jack Daniel’s provides another example of putting user-generated content to use in its new and incredibly timely ad.

The spot features people observing social distancing rules through video conferencing and other activities, using actual JD customers’ content. Complete with an at-home serenade of “True Colors,” this ad really pulls at the heartstrings and serves as a powerful reminder that even though we may be distanced, we’re still united.

We know we didn’t get them all – what other ways are people using content and technology to stay connected? Let us know below!