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India has been in lockdown mode for over a month now, on account of the coronavirus outbreak. During this quarantine time, people are spending more time than ever on their smartphones and on social media too. Open your Instagram app today and you’ll find yourself flooded with a series of cooking videos, crooning celebrities and fun home workout routines. Nitin Chopra, Industry Head – E-commerce & Retail, Facebook India tells us that the flurry of activity on the platform has definitely grown in the past few weeks since India went into lockdown mode. This is best demonstrated in the fact that Instagram Live views have increased by a good 60% (as of March 24, 2020). Chopra tells us why brands and influencers are taking due cognizance of this surge in Instagram activity, and are connecting with consumers in a way that is impactful yet compassionate.

Driving efficient influencer marketing

As physical distancing becomes a reality for people and communities around the world, businesses need to communicate with customers in creative ways using digital platforms, while driving efficiency with every dollar, explains Chopra. “The platform can help businesses stay relevant and keep giving people the things they love in this uncertain time. That means bringing communities together in the moment, offering further ways to shop online instead of in-store, and providing a place to educate and entertain customers with interactive video experiences,” he states. Influencer engagement therefore has become a way for brands to showcase their true value in a personal manner.

Engagement with heightened consumer empathy

Social distancing has compelled people to stay connected with friends and loved ones on various platforms. Instagram has recognised this and is therefore curating experiences like the ‘Live

In Your Living Room’ live music festivals. “Culture is going ‘Live’ and that can be seen with the increase in Instagram Live views by 60%,” adds Chopra.

From a business perspective, Chopra notes that it is necessary from brands and marketers to act with heightened consumer empathy. “Having said that, the most loved and trusted brands always focus on defining the role they play in the consumers’ lives, even today. We believe that brands can step up right now, and bring meaningful experiences to people in multiple ways, including on Facebook and Instagram,” he points out. An interesting statistic brands would do well to take note of is that many of the countries hit hardest by the virus have seen an increase in messaging during March by more than 50% on apps like WhatsApp and Messenger. Similarly, in places hit hardest by the virus, voice and video calling have more than doubled on Messenger and WhatsApp.


Instagram in the lockdown

  • In India, Instagram Live views have increased by more than 60% [growth percentages are w/w increase in viewers, comparing past 7 days (3/18 to 3/24) with the 7 days prior (3/11 to 3/17)]
  • In the first week since launching, the Stay Home sticker was used over 100M times globally
  • In India, the ‘Stay Home’ and ‘Ghar Pe Raho’ sticker was used over 6M times

How brands are staying connected with the consumer during this time

  • Lenskart – The company is posting content highlighting its delivery of glasses to customers because they know they are essential.
  • Dunzo has started an #EveryDaySuperheros campaign on Instagram to honour delivery partners who are risking their lives during this challenging time
  • Zomato India has recently started a series called #ZomatoLockdownRecipes where they post a compilation of food items and tag smaller businesses who share recipes on their respective profiles to create the dishes


Democratising content creation

Chopra lists down three key trends that are increasingly gaining momentum during the lockdown period:

  • The first is that users are providing a vital stream of entertainment and information. He lists Chefs Saransh Goila and Ranveer Brar as examples, with their unique ‘Mornings with Goila’ and ‘RB Lockdown Cookbook’ respectively. Even Indian yogi and author Sadhguru is conducting live sessions on Facebook and Instagram daily at 6pm, responding to questions with the hashtag #BeatTheVirus.
  • The second noteworthy thing during this time is the emergence of everyday people as new creators, thus democratising the creation of content. Chopra illustrates this with the example of Tejas Gambhir from Pune, who made a version of the song ‘Suno Na, Suno Na’ into his own ‘Karo na, Karo na’, educating people about washing their hands and staying indoors. The video went viral as celebrities such as Vidya Balan and Arbaaz Khan shared it.
  • The third is the availability of new tools from Instagram, which are enabling the sharing of credible information on COVID-19, along with ways for people to express themselves. This includes the ‘stay home’ and ‘Ghar pe raho’ stickers to encourage people to stay at home.

Countering the growing popularity of TikTok

With TikTok becoming increasingly popular especially in tier II and III markets, we ask Chopra how Instagram is working to engage with users in smaller cities. Chopra maintains that the Gram continues to see a strong momentum in India, given that it is a global community of one billion. “People across India use the platform for accessing the best aggregated content from public figures, creators, and brands, along with cultural and social movements. We also launched the ‘Born on Instagram’ program last year to engage with creators from big and small cities, because of the increasing creativity we’re witnessing from all across India,” Chopra points out. “Some of the prominent trends from last year on Instagram in fact included saree-grammers and Urdu poetry. That’s why businesses, from Upgrad to Swiggy use Instagram to drive awareness, increase customers and share their story amongst a highly engaged audience,” he adds.

Insta support for small businesses

In the light of the economic impact the lockdown has had on small businesses, Chopra tells us that the company has announced a global grant of $100 million to support more than 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries where it operates, including India. “We have also taken several of our India-focused programs for skilling SMBs online. For instance, our Facebook Advertiser Vintage program has been taken to more than 800 businesses through a virtual format since mid-March to offer customised support during this period,” says Chopra.

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