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Going Digital in a Pandemic: The Data Tells the Story

I love mucking around in a good data set, especially when it is super interesting. There are two such data sets that were released last week, and both of them have applications for companies interested in social media or digital marketing. Let’s dive in.

Data set #1: Facebook published its latest State of Small Business Report, which was extra interesting because it serves as a good snapshot of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted small and mid-sized businesses. Read the Social Media Today writeup here, or download the full report here. If you are not familiar with this report, it’s an international survey that Facebook does regularly. It’s large enough in scale (this time, 36K+ businesses in 27 countries) that it can provide a fair amount of really interesting insights.

It is highly worth your time to review the whole thing but the one item I want to discuss in detail was within the digital transformation section of the report. Not surprisingly, the majority of businesses reported that the COVID lockdown changed the way they utilize digital tools, including social media. A full 33 percent of the more than 36,000 businesses surveyed said that COVID changed their processes for interacting with customers. In other words, they are doing more interacting with customers via online channels.

Source: Facebook Global State of Small Business Report March 2021
Source: Facebook Global State of Small Business Report March 2021

If you own a business that has been migrating more of its customer interactions to social media, here are a couple of really important things to consider:

  • Consumers on social media have different expectations that consumers who write you via your website or call and leave a message. Consumers online expect a response, and they expect an immediate one. Within an hour ideally. Seven days a week. If you are not equipped or prepared to do that, you may want to shift some resources or find some help. Or you may want to take advantage of some of the features on some of the platforms like the auto-reply on Facebook. Such a message can buy you a little time to answer without seeming totally unresponsive.
  • If you are in any way exchanging sensitive information with customers like names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or account numbers, you need to really think about governance. That is sensitive information that your customer expects you to keep private. Depending on your industry, you may have regulatory requirements for archiving and protecting it. Make sure you have proper processes and procedures for moving these conversations offline and handling such data responsibly (and in a way that won’t get you fined).
  • Remember that very sensitive things like social security numbers should never be exchanged by social media. Period.
  • Safety of your accounts is paramount if you are using them more. Make sure your passwords are secure and consider a password tool like LastPass or Keeper Security. Change your passwords routinely and make sure they are not easily guessable. Make sure you have protocols and processes in place. Consider a management tool like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Khoros or Sprinklr to add even more security. And you may even want a social media governance tool like Brandle.
  • Create true protocols, guidelines or an official company handbook for how social media is managed. You’ll appreciate being able to say “this is how we do that,” and you will also benefit from consistency and clear expectations.

My prediction? This trend is only going to accelerate the longer the pandemic fallout stretches on. There’s no time like the present to get a handle on these things. Just view it as setting yourself up for future success.

Data set #2: Google’s “A Year in Lockdown Trends.” This allows you to pick any one of a very wide-ranging number of hobbies and see the Google Trends data about how popular Google searches on that topic were on any given day of the last year.

Source: Google A Year in Lockdown Trends
Source: Google A Year in Lockdown Trends

The list of hobbies you can explore is entertaining to say the least. If you just like poking around data sets, this one is for you. You can look at the data for bear hunting, bow fishing, duckpin bowling, kite surfing, metal working, tap dancing and woodturning. The Google data will show you the overall activity and highlight days when that topic was particularly hot. For instance, napkin folding was perhaps unsurprisingly really hot on Thanksgiving weekend. 

In addition to being really fun and super fascinating, this data could be useful for small businesses that sell supplies for some of these hobbies. While there’s nothing that says that trends from 2020 will repeat themselves in 2021, if I sold napkin holders, napkin rings or napkins, I might be looking at making some special content or special offers right around Thanksgiving time. Check it out – it’s fun stuff and it might help your marketing plan for the rest of this year.

Know of a good data set related to this space? Share it in the comments. Data nerds unite!

This article was originally published by Sue Serna here.

Mandatory disclosure: I am not paid or compensated in any way for mentioning any of the tools in this post.

Sue Serna

Sue Serna is a Consultants Collective member consultant and the founder and CEO of Serna Social, a social media consulting agency focused on social media governance, risk, security and strategy. Sue is one of the nation’s top experts on social media safety and spent nearly nine years leading the global social media program for Cargill, one of the largest private companies in the United States. Sue pioneered many industry best practices that the world’s largest companies use to keep their social media footprints safe. While in that role, Sue managed Cargill’s more than 50 partner relationships with social media agencies around the world. In addition, Sue is an accomplished social media trainer and an established communicator with a passion for creating compelling content. In 2022, she was named to the Advisory Committee of the National Institute for Social Media.

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