Coronavirus Shakes Up the Digital Landscape


Here’s what nonprofits need to know

Coronavirus is shaking up businesses, consumers and donors alike. With the pandemic in full swing and uncertainty around when it will end, digital marketing for nonprofits has become more important than ever. 

One thing is certain; coronavirus is changing the way we live our lives. It’s changing how we shop, how we interact and ultimately how we conduct business, and it’s happening at lightning speed. As cities continue to be ordered to shelter in place and social distancing is enforced across the nation, technology has emerged as a vital lifeline for human connection as well as business activity. 

“Never has it been more important for nonprofits to have a strong online presence and a robust digital marketing strategy. The ability to adapt quickly and make changes nimbly will be the difference between organizations who survive and even thrive and those that don’t make it. Digital media channels are more scalable, flexible, and adaptable than traditional media channels.  The ability to make strategic changes on the fly based on trends and insights identified in digital data and analytics will be key to how nonprofits get through this economic downtrend.” – Francis Skipper, Director of Digital Strategy, THD

Below, we’ll dive into some of the latest updates on how the coronavirus pandemic is shifting the digital landscape. This industry news roundup will serve as the first in a dedicated series of blog posts aimed at informing, educating and providing actionable insights to help your nonprofit navigate these uncharted waters. 

Consumer Behavior: Cause & Effect

Changes in consumer behavior are leading to some interesting trends across the digital landscape. Here’s what we’re seeing:

  • Online Search Time. Search patterns have changed in relation to when consumers are searching online. Google trends reveals that the coronavirus is often on our minds — especially early in the morning and late at night.
  • YouTube Slashes Video Quality.  To reduce bandwidth concerns due to the surge in internet congestion, YouTube has reduced the quality of its videos from high to standard definition across the globe.
  • Email Overload. There’s been a snowball effect of organizational announcements.  Before we knew it, our inboxes were flooded with coronavirus related responses whether relevant or irrelevant, making it more important than ever to think critically about your organization’s email strategy.
  • Virtual Events. Many in person events have moved virtual — and will for some time given the uncertainty surrounding the timing of this crisis and social distancing measures.
  • Mobile search traffic cut by nearly 25%. With more sedentary behavior on the rise, we’re actually seeing a shift back to desktop devices.

Advertising Disruptions

There has been a surge of online traffic during this pandemic as more and more people are forced to shelter in place. Here’s what we’re seeing in the digital ad space:

  • Content Blocks. Google and Bing updated their ads policy for inappropriate content to include ‘public health emergency.’
  • Facebook Usage Soars, while advertising has gotten cheaper. The company said “The usage growth from coronavirus is unprecedented across the industry, and we are experiencing new records in usage almost every day.” This increased usage hasn’t been tied to a corresponding increase in ad revenue, and in fact, we’ve seen a decrease in cost per impression.
  • Social Media Ad Spend is up 29%.  For the last few weeks social media marketing activity has increased tremendously. 

What this Means for your Nonprofit

For organizations looking at their 2020 budgets and seeking opportunities to reduce their marketing dollars, it’s important to note that how you weather this storm will have a direct effect in the years to come. By adapting to the new digital landscape, you will position your organization to weather the storm, and increase potential for fast recovery and growth once the pandemic ends.  Here’s a few things to think about: 

  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race. In the nonprofit community, we’re currently running at marathon speed — it’s not a sprint. Organizations that choose to cut spending drastically in response to economic downturns tend to see substantially longer recovery periods in subsequent years. Our data indicates that on average, for every year of expenditures cut, it takes at least three years to recover — and even longer to experience growth.
  • PPC: Keep the Lights on. While you may be forced to minimize spend, it’s almost always advisable to continue your branded campaigns at least to “keep the lights on.”  Not only will it contribute to your other digital marketing channels but it helps advertisers maintain credibility with search engines, which can keep CPCs lower and minimize ramp time when it’s time to increase spend again.
  • Content is King. Maintaining and strengthening your relationship with your donor base should be priority number one during times of uncertainty/economic downturns. Producing high quality content on a steady cadence can not only keep you top of mind with your donors by offering them something of value, but it can also help you maintain your SEO rankings and mitigate potential organic traffic losses.
  • United by Social Media. Social media has proven itself an important lever in uniting and strengthening relationships during this pandemic. As the crisis continues, this channel will only strengthen. 

The shift to the digital landscape will only continue to grow, change and adapt as time goes on. 

We will continue to bring you updates, data and POVs on how to adapt to this ever changing landscape and continue to drive your mission forward.

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