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The Connectivity of Social Media

Twitter's Andrea MacDonald Speaks to Watch Parties and Branding

— August 20, 2020 — Business
Social distancing guidelines have tasked brands with creatively ensuring consumers are staying connected and entertained, and while some have struggled to engage, brands like Twitter have excelled. Twitter's Watch Parties are a prime example of how brands can leverage social media and technology to facilitate connections for consumers, as the social media-led campaign invites Twitter's global user base to tune into a show or event at the same time. With the use of the term seeing a 500% increase, and 45 tweets being generated a millisecond, it's clear that Twitter's ability to generate and lead consumer conversation and behaviour is unparalleled.

To learn more about leveraging social media and brand messaging during these sensitive times, we had the opportunity to sit down with Andrea MacDonald, Head of Tech & Telco at Twitter Canada.

Could you start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your role with Twitter?

I lead the Tech and Telco team at Twitter Canada. We work with some of the biggest national and global brands in the market and our job is to help them get the best use out of Twitter, to help them get the best use of the platform strategically, and to help drive some of their business outcomes.

How have you seen consumer behaviour shift since the start of COVID-19?

From an entertainment perspective we knew that when we entered lockdown media usage was going to rise. Canadians on Twitter are spending more time across all of their devices - from smartphones to smart watches. This increased screen time is reflective of all types of content, not just streaming. We’re seeing a new tweet every 45 milliseconds globally, and while aspects of life start to trickle back into normalcy, 68% of Canadians on Twitter say their shopping habits will change post-COVID. Diving a little more into that, some new habits that we’re seeing from Canadians is that they’re visiting stores less frequently, they’re buying more things online, they’re browsing more and researching online, and they’re using self-service checkout much more.

Is there a result that has surprised you on how people are consuming media at this time?

What has really surprised us is how Watch Parties have really taken off. We saw that media was expected to increase, but what hasn’t changed is the desire to watch it with large groups of people. Using Twitter as a global living room has allowed individuals to stay connected. What we’ve seen are significant increases in the term ‘Watch Party’ and Netflix Party, which have risen over 500% on Twitter in Canada.

The engagement that has come from Watch Parties is significant. What advice would you give to business leaders or companies that are struggling to engage with their consumers in the same way?

The conversations that we’re having with our partners have evolved in recent months. We’re trying to help them navigate this uncertainty. When it comes to helping our brand partners pivot, the message we’re reiterating is that this pandemic is not a marketing opportunity to capitalize on. We do not recommend any brands opportunistically link themselves to a health crisis. Instead, we’re helping brands lean on strengths by commissioning research and data on Twitter to help our advertisers better understand those fundamental shifts in conversations, offering creative and strategic council on how to craft and distribute brand messages during such a sensitive time, and we’re offering tools and resources that help brands connect to live video options that are becoming increasingly important as people are continuing to social distance.

Watch Parties are a very safe brand option. People are looking for entertainment, people are looking to have fun. So we’re advising a lot of our brand advertisers to connect that way. They are uplifting, and it doesn’t come across as opportunistic.

How do you envision your industry changing in a Post-COVID world? Do you have any predictions for the next 5-10 years?

The world has changed so much in the last few months. What we will see is a lot more work from home, of course. Companies like Twitter have always been very flexible in allowing our employees to work wherever they’re most comfortable and what has come out of this pandemic is that we’ve been given the opportunity to work from home forever.

Some of these changes we’ve experienced, and these habits we’ve come to have will stay with us for some time. The programming you watch, the ways that you engage with content, how social media really helped connect people when we can’t be together, and the importance of connection that technology can facilitate continue to become increasingly important in keeping those connections alive and well.

Do you have any advice you would give to brands navigating these sensitive times?

The world has really changed, but when brands are launching something new during a downturn they experience 15% greater share of voice and growth than the general average growth. So while this may appear as a time to withdraw and not communicate, it’s important to engage. When there's a downturn, it’s actually a great time to launch because people are looking for new products, people are looking to be entertained. It makes for a good opportunity for new products to launch during this time, so long as people are not being opportunistic about capitalizing on or aligning their brand with a health crisis.
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