A GLOBAL CRISIS USHERS IN A NEW ERA OF SOCIAL MEDIA We are living through a very confusing and uncertain time. With COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, disrupting life across the entire globe, more and more people are forced to work from home, maintaining social distancing and isolation practices. With such a radical decrease in face-to-face interactions, people have begun turning to social media to fulfill their need for a sense of community. For many, social media can fill the void. It is a way to reach out and stay engaged in the world. For other people, it is their primary source of information, a virtual grapevine for sharing important news and quarantine strategies. Aside from connectivity and entertainment, social platforms have evolved to fill a necessary economic role as well. They are a means of seeking out goods and services in lieu of venturing out into potentially dangerous situations. THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DURING COVID-19 The COVID-19 outbreak has had an unprecedented effect on social media traffic. With a large amount of the North American population stuck at home, millions of people have turned toward Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a social outlet. As the outbreak has progressed, people have received news, information and medical advice through social media in an attempt to cut through the mixed media messages on major news channels. The new platform TikTok has seen a large increase in user engagement as well, demonstrating that users are turning to social media platforms as a source of entertainment and escape, not just as a source of information. CHALLENGES OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND SOCIAL MEDIA The coronavirus has proven itself to be a disruptive force in the world of social media. The disease, and its ever- present inclusion in the news cycle, brings with it a host of problems regardless of what social media platform people are using. The most obvious problem is in the spread of misinformation. At its worst, social media works like a very advanced version of the telephone game. If unethical parties, also known as “bad actors,” insert incorrect information into the conversation, the nature of social media amplifies and spreads that misinformation, ultimately poisoning the well. Despite the public’s general conception, social media platforms are not exempt from the human cost of a pandemic either. As the virus takes its toll on both human health and business operations, human moderators at the major social media platforms may succumb to the infection or may be forced to quarantine at home. That means that artificial intelligence filters must take over moderation duties. The result? Social media content is subject to incorrect and unintended moderation. That means that valid information from legitimate sources may be prevented from reaching its intended audience while harmful posts slip by. THE BEST WAY TO MANAGE YOUR ACCOUNTS With so much uncertainty scattered across social media, it’s far too easy for well-intentioned companies to make mistakes with the information that they proliferate through their social media accounts. False news stories and misinformation can run rampant if left unchecked. Even worse, conditions may be present to allow incendiary or defamatory speech to slip past the usual social media safeguards. An incorrect or poorly worded message plus an increasingly vulnerable public can spell a public relations disaster that your brand may never truly recover from. The best way to mitigate disaster, stay on brand and reach the customers who need you the most is to take back control and oversight of your digital marketing efforts. Partnering with an ally to help you run a strategic digital marketing campaign can be a powerful tool to help your brand avoid a serious misstep. A strong professional can help you accomplish that through paid social advertising.