TikTok, social media challenges and live streaming: communication strategies during the pandemic
There is only one correct way to wash your hands, but there are a thousand ways to communicate it. There are also plenty of ways to stay home but not feel lonely, thanks to creativity in social media. And there are new territories to explore, like TikTok.
The global crisis over coronavirus is triggering creative responses from organizations, governments, companies, the media and citizens. Many of them serve as inspiration to build our own communication strategy as we navigate through the pandemic.
In our case selection there are teens developing programmes from their homes, influencers writing compelling posts on their social media platforms, and media outlets redesigning part of their business strategy to reach more readers with accurate information and organizations such as the World Health Organization venturing into new languages like TikTOk.
Washing hands will never be the same
Wet, apply soap, rinse, scrub, repeat and wipe (and don’t forget about the thumb!). Combined, all those steps need to last at least twenty seconds, or the chorus from Baby one more time, or the beginning of Bohemian Rhapsody (up to Nothing really matters…). William, a 17-year-old developer from the UK, put together a site that creates instructions for washing your hands correctly to the rhythm of the song you choose. In its first week online, the site had more than 1.2 million unique users, who downloaded over 3.6 million posters. At Sociopúblico we chose the Babyshark song, which became the official handwashing anthem in the office (and later on in the home offices, since we are social distancing).
Gloria Gaynor also contributed to raising awareness, with a video in which she sings I will survive while washing her hands (our constructive criticisms for Gloria: she leaves the tap running all the time and forgets to scrub the thumb and under her nails). Uruguayan songwriter Jorge Drexler went a step further and wrote a song about the prevention measures.
Also in the genre “creative ways to spread handwashing”, we came across this campaign for the Unicode committee to incorporate a handwashing emoji. It was started by Lemi, a travel app, and is already supported by Unicef and Twitter.
Continuing with the prevention category, this tool: Iconfinder, a marketplace and icon search engine, is giving away more than 300 icons related to virus prevention.
Finally, to understand why washing our hands is so important, we found a thread on Twitter that explains how soap works in a very didactic way. One of the challenges that communication around coronavirus faces is that it involves transforming technical and scientific concepts into simple communication products for the mass public. Palli Thordarson, a chemistry teacher, accomplishes this really well.
Adults venture into TikTok
Thanks to the pandemic, the adult world is entering for the first time this territory that until now has been exclusively inhabited by teens. The need to disseminate information across all sectors of the population leads organizations to try new languages.
The World Health Organization opened an account on this social network right after the crisis started. There, it shares instructional videos on handwashing, as well as other preventative measures, and explains concepts such as how the contagion spreads.
In Argentina, the government of Buenos Aires city experimented with original ways to greet each other without a kiss in the cheek (a widespread practice in Argentina, even in work environments).
The Washington Post is also dedicating its TikTok account to coronavirus content. Here are some creative ways to navigate quarantine:
And a glossary of the terminology we learned thanks to coronavirus illustrated with legos from Star Wars:
Of course, it’s not just the big media and organizations. Individual users are also creating content related to the pandemic. For this reason, every time someone uses the #coronavirus hashtag on the platform, TikTok adds a link that leads to an internal landing page with information about the disease and how to prevent it.
Media outlets adapt to reach a broader audience and keep people who are isolated company
Many media companies that use subscription models made some changes so that information about the virus is accessible beyond their paying users. The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News removed the paywall for coronavirus related content, although some continue to ask users to log in (that is, to leave them an email for their database). In addition, many magazines published their editions for free on platforms such as Zinio, to contribute to entertainment during quarantine and social distancing.
And in Spain, on March 15, the most important newspapers in Madrid and Barcelona came out with the same message of encouragement on their covers:
The same happened in Argentina on March 19.
The hashtags that promoted staying home to avoid contagion started in Italy and Spain (#iorestoacasa and #mequedoencasa) and later on expanded to places where, at least for now, it is not yet mandatory for everyone, although recommended.
Under those hashtags, and their associated idea, many musicians who had concerts scheduled for these weeks, and then obviously canceled, are broadcasting home concerts through social media. Here is one by Alejandro Sanz y Juanes. And New York Metropolitan Opera is streaming for free every night at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern Time).
All content universes are now taken over by the pandemic: from government and business communication to fashion. Chiara Ferragni, for example, is an Italian influencer with almost 19 million followers on Instagram, who went from creating content about fashion and her luxurious life to taking advantage of her platform to raise awareness. “This is to explain the situation to my foreign followers (70% of my 18.7 million),” she wrote on Instagram, and then urged other countries to start serious prevention measures sooner than Italy did.
And to understand why social distancing is important, we found this simulator that calculates how many people you can infect if you carry the virus, even if you are not aware of it, and circulate freely.
In first person: what it is like to carry the disease
Sometimes a communication piece is not effective because it is innovative, but because of the precision and simplicity of its content. The post in which Tom Hanks announced that he and Rita Wilson had contracted the virus does not spare or miss a word, and the effort to inform and be responsible without creating panic is evident. He emphasizes the importance of following the instructions provided by the medical authorities and he describes his and Rita’s symptoms carefully so that others can eventually identify them.
Not only celebrities who contracted the virus are sharing how it is like through the platforms. David and Sally, for example, are an older British couple who have been broadcasting almost every day on YouTube since they were confined to a cruise ship in Japan, where they contracted the disease. They are already recovered and back at home in the UK, but they did go through difficult times getting there. Their videos have up to five million views.
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