July 7, 2020


Erica Perry


The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the businesses and industries that appeared to be on the path to future growth. Distance work, e-commerce, home fitness, connected television and games – each of them became dramatically more relevant in the age of social distancing.

Among these is an emerging category that is made up of “social utilities” or companies that offer concrete value by bringing people together.

Zoom enables everyone to mimic a social experience of IRL. Citizens puts a social level on current news and events on a hyperlocal level. Peloton offers fitness motivation in the form of a digitally networked community. Public.com makes stock market investing a social experience so you can share ideas with friends and experts as you build your portfolio. The list goes on.

This is the reason why social utilities are on the rise in the age of social distancing.

The community is driven by insecurity

In uncertain times, most people find comfort in not feeling alone. This could lead to more frequent video calls (zoom has grown by more than 50 percent since January) and messaging (Facebook recently reported a 50 percent Jump in messaging and has launched a zoom-like rival called Messenger Rooms.

And the desire to participate in other companies can also be observed in niche areas such as exercise, career development, eSports and even financial services. During the peak of market volatility in March and April this year, Public.com a 70 percent According to TechCrunch, social activity in the app is increasing.

Sub-communities create a sense of belonging

People don't just want to connect in times of uncertainty, they also want to feel like they belong to them. Within a larger network, sub-communities enable participation in a global conversation while curating a more specific experience based on interests and values.

Peloton, which has seen an increase in app downloads and device sales since March, has introduced a new feature called tags to promote the organic sub-communities that have already emerged in the larger community. Tags allow users to select subgroups they want to join in the community, such as B. the hometown (#NYCRiders), Alma Mater (#GoBlue), Favorite teacher (#BensArmy) or professional background (#WomeninTech).

Here at Social Media Week, we recently completed a one-month virtual conference that brought our community even closer to our content. Social interactions and the building of micro-communities within individual conversations and meetings were the core of the experience.

Synchronous social attracts attention

According to eMarketer, the time spent on social media is expected to increase by more time 8.8 percent in 2020, no doubt due to social distance measures that have resulted in people spending more time at home with their devices.

In addition to this broader trend, there is the spread of digital "events" that attract attention at certain times. Synchronous social media is not entirely new – people have been tweeting live news and award ceremonies for years – but it has certainly gotten a boost lately.

Take, for example, D-Nice, the DJ who attracted large crowds on Instagram during the planned "Club Quarantine" sets, and the House Party video chat app, which recently hosted a three-day virtual festival. Twitch, Amazon's eSports platform that allows people to watch and comment on live games, has reportedly had one 57 percent Increase in usage in the month following the introduction of social distancing guidelines.

While social media certainly receives a fair share of legitimate criticism when it comes to promoting divisions, it has also served its stated purpose of making connections when it isn't otherwise. For many products and platforms, including Social Media Week, this social level – accelerated by uncertain times – serves a clear purpose for consumers.

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