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Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community During the COVID-19 Outbreak

By Julie Welles,
Digital and Social Media Specialist


Our lives have been dramatically changed amid the Coronavirus crisis. With social distancing and self-isolation becoming the new reality, we have no choice but to connect in a different way. It’s natural for us as human beings to crave contact, belonging and a sense of purpose. Especially in times like these.

That’s why online interaction has ramped up more than ever before. As the pandemic grows, people are flocking to the internet to consume news, shop and order online, stream online entertainment and gaming, and use social media in unprecedented levels. Basically, our lives outside our home are now taking place online.

More importantly, people are re-discovering a new sense of community. Staying connected with family and friends through video chats, group calls, online happy hours, binge watching, neighborhood groups through social and online apps.

The pandemic has leveled the playing field. We are all facing the anxiety, fear and uncertainty together. The more we are physically apart, the more we crave to connect with our communities.

Let’s take a look at how people are fulfilling this need online.

STAYING CONNECTED

Work lives and social lives don’t necessarily stop because of a lockdown. We still need friends and to get work done – we just have to get creative about how we’re doing it.

Social Media Consumption is WAY up

IZEA, our influencer marketing partner, released recent poll results that overall social media consumption will increase meaningfully while people are confined to their homes. 66% of regular social media users believe their social media usage habit would increase. YouTube, Facebook and Instagram top the list of apps people believe they will use most.

So far, it seems the poll predictions have come to fruition. Social media usage has spiked over the past weeks. The three apps mentioned above have all had to lower their video streaming quality to alleviate the incredible demand in certain regions of the world. As more people seek to stay connected to the news and with others, we think social media usage will continue to rise.

Video Chats

Popular apps like iOS Facetime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, and Houseparty are seeing usage surges of 50% or more. Video chat is going to continue to grow. We can’t be together physically, but Face-to-Face chatting is the next best thing.

Working from Home

Many businesses, including Donovan, chose or were forced to have employees work from home. Staying at home and working from home may feel very isolating (or overwhelming if you have kids around!) We’ve made heavy use of Zoom Video conference meetings and conference calling apps to stay connected with each other and with our clients.

Glimpses of our co-worker’s homes, pets, roommates and significant others in the backgrounds has enabled us to see a side of our co-workers that we don’t typically see at work. Our virtual gatherings help us feel more connected. For example, our monthly happy hour wasn’t cancelled, we simply had it virtually.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

BELONGING

Shared stories and shared experiences are a way we cope in times of crisis. It helps us understand that we are not alone. That we belong. That we are part of a community sharing the same stresses, concerns and anxiety.

“Stay At Home” Instagram Stories

At the end of March, Instagram’s “Stay At Home” Instagram stories almost took down the Instagram platform in the first hours it went live. The feature was designed to enable users to share what they are doing while staying home and encouraging others to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

“On the Bright Side”

We love how BRIGHTLAND is creating shared experiences. They’re a hand-sourced, custom-blended olive oil company in California. From Calm Cooking, Community Poetry Reading to Monday stretches, their “On the Bright Side” live-streaming events on IG Live and Zoom offered followers a great space to come together for a moment of calm positivity.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

A SENSE OF PURPOSE

For many, the feeling of community is expressed in helping others. Now more than ever, people are coming together online to help each other in times of need.

People Helping People

With empty grocery shelves, neighbors are helping neighbors by sharing supplies and services
Like this woman who made up care packages:

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Or this viral story of a woman who gladly shopped for an elderly couple:

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

This man sets up in a parking lot and gives away a truckload of free toilet paper.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

A teen who works at a local grocery store offers to deliver groceries for free.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

And then there’s this heartwarming story:

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Facebook

Bartering

There is even some creative (and funny!) trades happening:

Like this woman who will go to extremes for some yeast…

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Or this hilarious tweet from Chrissy Teigan

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Grassroots Efforts

Communities are spreading joy and creating a sense of togetherness with some homegrown activities

Neighborhood teddy bear scavenger hunts for kids who are cooped up in their houses.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Twitter

Teachers are flocking to their vehicles and parading around student’s neighborhoods

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Twitter

Then there was this “social distancing” dinosaur parade:

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Food & Beverage Marketers: what does this revived sense of community online mean?

First, let’s go back to the basics. Social media has always been about building relationships. It’s about providing what your community wants and needs. The very foundation of social media is about BEING SOCIAL.

People want to be recognized, appreciated and engaged. Somehow along the line, marketers and brands lost sight of what social really means (and we would even put ourselves in this camp at times!). Seek first to understand who your community is, what they want and how they wish to interact and then go deliver it!

There is no better time than now to step back and course correct your social community from talking to your community, than being with your community!

Listen And Interact

Spend time listening and watching social media users and the groups/communities that matter to your business. How can you participate and enable social connectedness, belonging, and a sense of purpose among your social community?

  • How are they interacting? What are they sharing and discussing? Consider how you could add value to the trending topics that are already top-of-mind.
  • What are the problems they are having? What solutions could you offer?
  • How are they helping others in the community? Is there a way you can help, too?
  • Be mindful of negative triggers that other brands are experiencing. Are they coming across as too “opportunistic” and inauthentic? How can you avoid the pitfalls and truly be meaningful and helpful?

More than ever, brands are expected to be present in the social dialogue. Even more so in times like these. How you react (or don’t react) has consequences in how consumers perceive your food and beverage brand.

A recent report, “Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic” says that sixty-five percent of respondents said that a brand’s response in the crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of purchasing it in the future. Brands that step up and interact with authenticity and transparency on a long-term basis reap the rewards.

Meaningful Content

Give your community what they want and need. Based on what you found out with your listening and interaction, it’s time to deliver. Brands need to be a resource, a problem solver, an entertainer, an encourager, or a source of inspiration. Your actions should have meaning for your community and synergy with your brand.

Take Chipotle, for instance. They get their audience. Gen Z and Millennial audiences crave community. Between their daily “Chipotle Together” virtual hangouts on Zoom and the “Chipotle Challenger Series” online gaming tournament, they have created innovative ways to connect people while they are social distancing.

Jim Perdue of Perdue Farms created this inspirational selfie-styled video to thank all of the unsung heroes. The post was low budget, but had high engagement. This goes to show that all it takes is a guy with heart, a mobile phone and an authentic message to bring us all the feels.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

“Fried Chicken n’ Chill” – Popeyes chicken rolled out a social media campaign that the first 1000 followers to post images eating Popeyes chicken and #ThatPasswordFromPopeyes could gain access to the brand’s Netflix account. The brand recognized that people would need entertainment while self-isolating.

With lots of kids at home, parents are desperate for ideas to keep kids occupied. Nature’s Bakery developed a website dedicated to helping parents find #SnackSizedAdventures like making a GIANT outdoor tic tac toe board with bean bags to having a puppet shadow theater. By helping to alleviate parent’s anxiety, you can bet that people will remember them after the crisis ends.

Craving Connectedness: The Rediscovery of Community during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Brands Giving Back

Jameson Whiskey pledged $500,000 to support the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program and will match up to $100,000 donated by followers. It makes perfect sense for them to aid bartenders who are out of work during the unprecedented restaurant and bar closures. Bartenders are an integral part of local communities and Jameson’s business, too.

HEB grocery stores in Texas created a Senior Support Line and a delivery service for the 60+ crowd. Keeping seniors safe and protected shows how they value their most vulnerable populations in their community.

A small pizza shop, Sauce Pizzeria in NYC started delivering 250+ pizzas a day to hospitals and first responders. Due to the overwhelming community response, they set up a way for people to contribute to buy a “Cheese Pie for a Hospital” or contribute to their GoFundMe Page to keep up their daily deliveries.

Take Action

The time to recreate a meaningful connection with your consumers is now. They’re craving connectiveness, and you can help deepen your relationship with them through purposeful, relatable content.

What ideas do you have? We’d love to help bring them to life. Schedule a virtual happy hour with us, and let’s discuss!