The Three Main Roles of Social Media in the COVID-19 Crisis
Social media has become an essential everyday tool in informing and connecting citizens, so the COVID-19 crisis gives it a critical mission within our societies.
I have identified three key roles for social media and broadcasters during this emergency, with examples.
Argueably social media producers’ most important job, to produce life saving information in a form that users will engage with, understand and then share with friends.
In a recent online session for EBU Academy, I shared best practice learnings including how information and awareness can be particularly powerful when combined with engaging storytelling.
This example from journalist Malaka Gharib at npr in the US is incredibly relatible and draws you in from slide 1 to 10.
Malaka wrote an accompanying web article in which she asked professors in epidemiology to assess her efforts to keep safe, emphasising key advice.
Every day on the BBC, programmes give the public the chance to put questions directly to experts using social media and the hashtag #BBCYourQuestions
Do not underestimate the power of this simple mechanic.
Social posts can help audiences understand why we are being asked to follow advice too.
As my fellow EBU Academy member, Brendan Miller explained in a recent online session of his own, visual content can help demystify terms such as “flatten the curve” or explain why social distancing is necessary.
And — crucially important — cater your message to your users.
Like the hamster on Tik Tok, with its massive youth audience, clocking up more than 7 million views for his public health guide.
Click here to watch!
Right now people are isolated. People are scared. Social media gives them access to virtual friends, so they no longer feel quite so alone or afraid.
Presenters have a big opportunity here to reach out.
Read this thread of tweets from BBC 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne.
What’s even more impressive is seeing that Lauren also responded to a number of replies she received.
I discussed in my session for EBU Academy the importance of a strategy regarding interaction with users, for example, how do you cope with hundreds or even thousands of responses?
Our best friends in real life tell you the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear, but they balance it with realistic hope and positivity.
The latter must be in the mix on social media.
From celebrating real life superheroes, like Italy’s medics on the Instagram account of the country’s public media RAI…
…to what a group of Welsh pensioners did to brighten quarantine at their care home, shared globally by all forms of media.
Germany Deutsche Welle calls social content like this “bright spots”.
Put simply, a friend makes you feel better and also helps you out.
This US based make up artist has had this Coronavirus life hack Tik Tok viewed 11.6 million times at the time of writing.
We all need to be distracted by content to make us smile. Escapism.
There are a non stop stream of GIFs and memes but these need to be handled with care by authoritative public media.
I have been impressed by the efforts by public figures to bring people together to have some fun.
British actor Brett Goldstein started a film club on Twitter.
Meanwhile, actress Rita Wilson asked fans to help her build an isolation playlist while she was locked away with husband Tom Hanks.
For news departments look to the entertainment arm of your broadcaster — are there some opportunities to cross post content?
I hope this exploration of the three roles of social media during the COVID-19 crisis is useful and you are inspired by some of the examples.
Public media colleagues can keep connected with the EBU Academy for further online support during these difficult times.