21 day lockdown: Social media platforms, users find novel ways to stay engaged

New Delhi: From live music peformances on Facebook and Instagram to online antakshari on Twitter, to hashtag challenges on TikTok egging users to suggest ways to beat the lockdown blues, social media platforms and their users are finding novel ways to stay engaged.

Industry insiders said usage and engagement rates of TikTok and Instagram's live videos have gone up significantly during the lockdown with more content and views being generated by users. But, despite digital usage going up, brands and advertisers are holding on to digital spends fearing a backlash.

“I think the most trending platform currently is TikTok where they have new hashtag challenges every day and requirements are basic. More people are spending a lot more time on TikTok. A lot of influencers on Instagram are exploring TikTok and are even doing cross promotions of their TikTok channels on the app. In terms of virality we see more TikTok videos being shared on other platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram,” said Akshay Popawala, co founder at digital marketing agency Togglehead.

TikTok said it has been leveraging celebrities and musicians to bring more live content for its users.

The company said its #GharbaithoIndia campaign which was launched in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, asking users to suggest ways to beat the lockdown blues has generated 4.6 billion views.

TikTok’s users have been coming out with ‘musical renditions’ about their experiences on self isolation.

The Chinese social media app said other users can use these tracks to make their own videos on soundtracks created by artists like Tony Kakkar, Aariz Saiyed, Kartik Aaryan and others. Trending hashtags on the platform across categories like fashion, health, and food include #workfromhome, #homefitness and #plankchallenge, #TikTokchef and #1minlook among others.

Facebook’s photo sharing app Instagram has also been leveraging music to strike a chord with users. On March 29, day five of the 21 day lockdown, Instagram launched Live in your Living room, a virtual music festival featuring 14 artists including Armaan Malik, Lisa Mishra, Arjun Kanungo, and Monica Dogra among others who performed on the app’s IG live feature for half an hour to make way for the next artist. Instagram said its live views have increased by more than 60% in the last week.

Music platform Hungama Artist Aloud in association with Facebook is broadcasting a series of music performances, on Facebook Live, each day at 4pm for the next 15days, featuring artists such as Shibani Kashyap, Manasi Scott and Mame Khan. Personalities like Sadhguru are doing live sessions on their Facebook, Instagram accounts each day, Facebook said. People can ask questions to the spiritual leader by using the hashtag beatthevirus. Other influencers also are doing daily live videos on the platforms across categories like comedy, health and food.

Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships at Facebook India said in line with the government's efforts, the platform is engaging with creators to amplify accurate information pertaining to COVID19 and reiterating guidance from WHO with a ‘Safe hands’ challenge. "We’re also curating and augmenting experiences working with public figures and creators, using Facebook and Instagram Live and sharing new features such as the ‘I’m staying at home’ Facebook badge, ‘Stay Home’ and ‘Ghar Pe Raho’ Instagram stickers and co-watching on Instagram.”

On YouTube, comedy videos on the lockdown, and news items on the move are among the trending videos on its home page garnering millions of views.

Sanjay Vasudeva, founder of influencer marketing firm BuzzOne which works with brands like Amazon, Nissan and Reckitt Benckiser, said brands and influencers are cagey of advertising for products amidst the outbreak for fear of getting trolled.

“Socially relevant content is being encouraged. Most conversations with clients are around COVID-19. Users are focusing a lot more on live videos,” he said.

Popawala said brands are being conservative when it comes to engaging in any digital media spends. “Influencers also don’t want to use this time for big collaborations or promotions. They want to engage with their audience at an emotional level.”