Social media engagement in marketing | Sunday Observer

Social media engagement in marketing

24 January, 2021

Last year was a nightmare for marketers all over the world including those in Sri Lanka. With trade activities down the lowest due to constant lockdowns and stringent health restrictions, the companies were forced to either completely shut down or downsize operations to a great extent. Health issues emerged due to the pandemic compelling budget cuts and curtailing in-store shopping in every country in the world.

Evidently, Sri Lanka’s scenario was better than many countries in the world at the initial stages, until the renewed second wave surfaced in October last year. Till then Sri Lanka maintained its position as one of the highest-rated pandemic controlled countries in the world.

The irony was that business was rapidly normalising and the trade activities, particularly the retail trade, were almost on the verge of full recovery by early October last year. Marketing activities were also gearing up to start advertising and promotions campaigns when the second wave emerged suddenly. 

With the resurfacing of the Covid-19 in several variants and with dangerously enhanced strength, this year also will be unpredictable to marketers. The trends will also be irregular and uncertain in many ways. Hence, the marketers in Sri Lanka will be forced to adopt different strategies and innovative alternatives to sustain the business.

Change in focus

Covid-19 has changed the focus of people across the world in communication. From the beginning of the outbreak, people relied on social media platforms to stay in touch with each other due to lockdowns. Widely used platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become a necessity to maintain relationships with families and with work as well. The emergence of the virus has hastened the digitalisation of commercial communication faster than ever before.

Social media has been used to market and sell products for some years. However, the use of social media will be compulsorily necessary for this year. Customers are already getting used to exploiting social media platforms to obtain information about the products or services they want to purchase. Individual or business advertisements have become an easy way to buy or sell products or services. Also, the ongoing system allows them to directly purchase through Facebook and some other platforms.  

For example, all you have to do is to publish a post on Facebook to buy and sell any type of product or service. The result is amazing with offers, information, advice, or recommendations. Plenty of places that sell or buy such products or services will respond, most of the time instantly. Depending on the number of contacts in the account, the response also can become thicker. 

According to the statistics, internet use in Sri Lanka has increased by an astonishing 4.1%  (nearly 400,000 connections) between 2019 and 2020, marking a clear increase due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Similarly, the usage of existing social media stands at 6.1 million has been increased by 8.3% with nearly 500,000 new users between April 2019 and January 2020. 

The mobile connections in Sri Lanka stood at staggering 31.8 million connections, (more than the population of the country) with an increase of 7.5% with 2.2 million new connections. Of the 6.2 million social media users, 92%  (5.5 million) of them access social media platforms through mobile phones, according to surveys. This figure indicates the impact mobile connections can do on social media marketing in Sri Lanka.  


According to market information, almost every platform has gained increases in use since the outbreak of Covid-19 early last year. Particularly, Facebook has revealed that the increase in usage is 70% for the past few months. Many marketeers in Sri Lanka and the world have pulled back from traditional channels and engaged themselves in social media to sustain business revenues. Marketeers are concentrating more on social media due to the sharp increase in usage that enhances the impact on customers.      

Social media has now become the core of marketing in the present volatile situation where masses depend heavily on online communication, predominantly on social media. It is revealed that an average person spends a minimum of an hour a day on popular platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Watsapp, or Viber, making marketing in social networks a must. This provides marketers not only target audiences but also far better reach for advertisements instantly.  

The social media platforms allow the marketeer to engage its subscribers or gain new followers with efficiently and creatively crafted posts to promote a product, service, or brand. Also, unlike conventional media, the posts can be edited and the contents can be changed within minutes with fresh ideas or news or images as required. 

Social media is the most popular catchphrase in internet marketing at present. The success of the new generation of social media platforms and new channels of digital channels have taken over the efficiency of advertising to a great extent due to reasons such as cost efficiency, speed, reach, and ease of operating.  

Social media advertising also offers an opportunity to include images created to suit the target audience. The images, whether graphics, photographs, or downloads, help the advertisement to gain more attention.Unlike offline advertising, social media creations have more freedom to include several images in an advertisement, if it’s not cluttered. Another advantage of social media marketing is the optimisations of social setup where the reach can be maximised to obtain more mileage. By monitoring the response closely, the advertiser can gain important information on competitors. The monitoring can be easily done daily through software programmes and keep a tab on daily progress etc.

The Covid-19 will likely stay put for an indefinite period even with several vaccines rolled out in several countries. Companies understand that social media is the best solution to communicate with their audiences effectively. The companies need to focus on best practices and adhere to them during the crisis. The selected strategies can be incorporated to support the engagement even when the pandemic is subdued eventually.

Most effective 

In this unstable situation, social media is perhaps  the most effective and most reliable way to contact the customers with ideas, comments, suggestions, or even questions about the business and the products.  By posting meaningful content, even about important information and guidance on the pandemic, the messages can be effective and engaging. 

In social media platforms, the best practices continue to evolve. However, now that society has grown accustomed to the new social media engagement, the standards are changed. Businesses attempt to show the audiences that they are there to help.

The contents of the message speak of the commitment to the protection and welfare of the society at large. Quarantine practices have affected the media habits of people tremendously. Average social media engagement has increased several folds and if the marketeers play their cards intelligently, the mileage that can be achieved will be enormous.