How Have Social Media and User Behavior Changed After Covid-19 and The US Election?

Social Media

The lives of many people changed dramatically in 2020. The amount of time spent at home increased due to Covid-19, and the use of social media changed into something completely new. This article will examine the changes of social media and its users.

1. Covid-19 × media × user behavior

1-1. Introduction

“Intimate” was chosen as the kanji of 2020, but “connection” and “together” are appropriate characters as well. There were many movements where people said, “Let’s do 〇〇 together,” as people sought to connect with one another online.

Remote drinking parties, which are now quite common (the picture below illustrates the author at an online drinking party with his family).

Gen Hoshino’s “Let’s Dance at Home” has become a popular piece of content for people from the general public to the entertainment industry, who danced around at home.

Source: YouTube. Gen Hoshino official artist channel. April 5, 2020 “Gen Hoshino – Dancing On The Inside

In the midst of this trend, there was an increase in searches for keywords related to refraining from going out and spending time at home.

Source: Google trends. Search results for each keyword.

The growth of these keywords represents a major characteristic that is directly related to the relationship between users and the media in 2020. We can break it down into five major themes.

1-2. The growth of VOD services

Many people saw an increase in the time they spent at home in 2020. The number of people watching YouTube in Japan increased exponentially, and the number of monthly users for September exceeded 65 million.*1

When people stopped going out as Covid-19 spread, they spent time at home and used video streaming and sharing services. In response to this trend, 74% of YouTube users said their use of the service increased.

*1: Think with Google. December 2020. “2020 domestic survey: YouTube surpasses 65 million monthly users with use on television doubled”

The use of subscription-based video-on-demand (SVOD) also showed growth across the market.

In particular, Netflix’s “Crash Landing on You” and “Itaewon Class” and ABEMA’s “M: Beloved One” became major topics of discussion on social media.

*In-house research by IREP
(Tweet count trend for the keyword “Crash Landing on You”)

The graph spikes every Friday from July to around September, and a search of Twitter shows that many people tweeted while watching the show together.This shows that Twitter has good synergy with real-time content and topics, such as TV and sports.

1-3. Livestreaming and live commerce

The use and expansion of live-streaming functions on each platform was also notable.

On YouTube, a lot of content intended for mass audiences was released, such as musicians premiering live music performances.

On Twitter, Twitter Japan and its content partners have been continuously delivering band-style live-streaming programs, and on Instagram Live, celebrities have been collaborating with fans while live-streaming their personal lives. It can be inferred that celebrities have been using the platform to communicate with their fans.
Among these services, the use of Instagram Live has been particularly active. As Covid-19 was ravaging the world, the average number of times Instagram Stories posts were viewed, as well as the time and frequency with which users viewed Stories, increased. The number of times features on Instagram Live were used increased by 50% worldwide.*2

In addition, growth in e-commerce and home delivery services also contributed to the growth of live streaming. According to the survey, the pandemic triggered a digital shift in product purchases, and the number of people who make purchases online is expected to continue growing. 

*2: Accenture survey report. April 2020. ”How COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behavior”

As a result, many live-streaming customer service methods were also adopted.

Source: SHIPS SHOPPING TV
Source: BEAMS LIVE SHOPPING

Instagram Live and Twitter were also used for a lot of these live commerce activities.

▼Introducing products on Instagram Live
From “To the sea” Instagram account
https://www.instagram.com/tothesea_hawaii/

▼Twitter livestreaming show “Kamaitter TV” × Adidas Japan
Kamaitter TV Official Twitter
https://twitter.com/KamaitterTV/status/1342062642823774216

IREP provides services ranging from planning to e-commerce management for live commerce on Instagram and other platforms. Please click here for more information about our “Social Commerce One-Stop Package.”

1-4. The rise of audio media

Third on our list is the increase in the use of audio media. This is thought to have been influenced by the spread of smart speakers, wireless earbuds, and listening engaging in household chores and workouts.

Image source: https://o-dan.net/ja/

At Spotify’s “loveAudio Oct. Webinar: The Future of Voice Advertising,” an event for business audiences held last October, it was announced that Spotify’s Japanese advertising business grew 140% year-on-year, and for the period July-September 2020, it grew 350% year-on-year.

According to a Spotify survey of its users, 56.9% of all users said that their use of podcasts has increased since the effects of Covid-19.

Of the devices used to listen to podcasts, 77.2% use smart speakers, 81.5% use game consoles, and 89.3% use smart TVs, indicating that use of devices other than smartphones and PCs is prominent.*3

*3: Spotify Advertising news “loveAudio Oct. Webinar: The Future of Voice Advertising for Brand Marketers. Recording now public.

Recently, audio social media services such as Clubhouse (see related article here) have been trending, and audio streaming services such as Stand.fm, Radiotalk, and Voicy have also seen increases in the number of users. (I’m also seeing more friends around me streaming on these services.)

For more details, please see our upcoming article on audio content!

1-5. The activation of sharing culture

As described at the beginning of this report, while connecting and sharing were prominent behaviors, there were also changes in the way each social media service was used.

LINE is now used not only as a chatting tool, but also as a way to watch videos and have conversations together.

Instagram has changed from being a place to just watch to a place to spread the word. Many of you may have heard about the so-called “Stories baton” being passed around.

Image source: https://guide.line.me/ja/

Instagram has changed from being a place to just watch to a place to spread the word. Many of you may have heard about the so-called “Stories baton” being passed around.


▼Charades and word games are popular in the “Stories baton,” where people tagged their friends and spread the stories while quoting them.

▼ Music services such as Spotify and Apple Music, and even TikTok content can be shared on Instagram Stories.

Some users also spread information on Twitter along with comments and screenshots of events from Instagram Live. Perhaps the prestigious feeling of being able to watch an event live also plays a role.

▼A snapshot of the increasing number of tweets with the keyword “Instagram Live.” A noticeable increase can be seen during Golden Week.

Source: In-house research by IREP 2019/12/01~2020/05/31

In the fall of 2020, Twitter also introduced a new feature that is expected to make posting more casual.  Fleet is like Instagram Stories, where images and videos are displayed in full, and posts disappear after 24 hours.

Twitter has been primarily a text communication platform, but the introduction of this feature may change the way it is utilized (for now, we have the impression that official accounts of companies and celebrities are using it in conjunction with posts on Instagram Stories).

▼Fleet posting image. You can also tweet with your own Fleet post attached.

1-6. Trending short video social media platforms

When it comes to short videos, TikTok comes to mind. The total number of downloads increased by 500 million*4 in the five months from November 2019 to April 2020.

When it comes to video social media, it’s the gold standard.

*4: SensorTower. April 29, 2020 ”TikTok Crosses 2 Billion Downloads After Best Quarter For Any App Ever

TikTok has so far released three issues of its “TikTok User White Paper.”

Notable findings include:

  • People discover something after lurking without any particular purpose
  • The service is perceived as a place where users can stumble upon interesting videos by chance.
  • People suddenly and unexpectedly purchase a product or service after becoming interested.


In the summer of 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, which, like TikTok, allows users to post short videos. In Japan, official accounts began catching on quickly, with entertainment agency Yoshimoto hosting the “Yoshimoto Reel King Championship.”

Source: Arakawa Elf Twitter account. December 28, 2020 (https://twitter.com/hzkzkzh/status/1343230313292390401)

We are watching user trends because we believe that there will be similarities and differences in terms of how Instagram Reels spread when compared to TikTok.

2. The responses of Facebook and Twitter on the U.S. presidential election

2-1. What were the responses to the U.S. presidential election?

The 2020 U.S. presidential election was met with caution on social media platforms.

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, campaigns using social media heated up, resulting in a situation where people were swayed by information of uncertain authenticity and hate speech (slander and libel).*5

*5: Wall Street Journal Japanese Edition. November 11, 2016. “Social Media to Play a Big Role in the U.S. Presidential Election”

In response, Facebook and Twitter have been taking measures for several years. (Not all of the following are intended to address this issue.)

2-2. Facebook and Instagram

(1) Thorough implementation of two-factor authentication settings

To guard against unauthorized logins, two-step verification is mandatory for both business manager/personal accounts.

(Two-factor authentication screen)

(2) Changes in the news reel algorithm

When there are multiple news items on the same theme, the AI analyzes which one is the original, and changes are made to prioritize the display of the original news article.

Source: ITmedia, Inc. May 17, 2019. “Facebook Changes News Feed Algorithm to Prioritize More Relevant Content”

3. Twitter

(1) Labels placed on approximately 300,000 tweets
Twitter labeled tweets related to the U.S. presidential election and made changes to display the relevant tweets after labels and warning messages were applied.

(2) Encouraging quoted tweets
To curb the spread of misinformation, the default retweet feature was changed to the quoting function. Retweets decreased by 23% and quoted tweets increased by 26%, according to the report.

(3) Background information added to the “Recommended” section under “Trending.”
According to Twitter, its goal is to help people understand what is happening now, while at the same time ensuring that background information is presented on trends that may be misleading.
*Source for the three points above: Twitter help center “The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and Twitter”

(4) Controlling who can join the conversation
The ability to limit the range of accounts that can reply to tweets serves to prevent attacks on users.

3. Summary

This article discussed changes in user behavior and media. And the following is a summary of the five points raised in the introduction that are worth noting.

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Irep Inc. is an award-winning global digital marketing agency based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our headquarters are in Tokyo and our network spans more than 20 countries. In Japan, we are ranked No. 1 for performance-based marketing. We also offer highly specialized market entry, as well as integrated marketing and localization services. Since 1997, our data-driven solutions have effectively led our diverse international clientele to continuous success in Japan, Asia, and beyond.


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