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With COVID-19 driving a drastic increase in the number of people working from home, video calling platforms have boomed in popularity as people seek ways to connect with co-workers and conduct meetings. While industry stalwarts such as Skype are still around, it is Zoom which has risen from relative obscurity to become the most popular video calling platform of the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

Mediaverse social research shows that Zoom was the most widely discussed platform in Australia in April 2020 having been mentioned in the highest number of posts of any of the major video conferencing options. But will this boom in video conferencing last? Are we witnessing a revolution in workplace and social interactions, or are we starting to grow zoom-weary? Using social media monitoring, Mediaverse looked at the conversations about this conference call culture and how these are shifting over time.

Even world leaders have had to go virtual for international conferences and meetings
[AAP Image/Gary Ramage]

People loved the novelty

Zoom has been around since 2011 but has only recently become a household name. The sharp growth in the need for video call solutions at the beginning of April saw discussion around these platforms spike. Zoom’s user-friendly interface and “fun” customised options also saw the platform quickly gain attention as both a professional and personal solution to physical distancing. Social media mentions of Zoom spiked, with April 3rd and 4th seeing more than 10,000 posts each. Key words that regularly appeared in conjunction with Zoom and other video conferencing platforms included “walking”, “accidentally”, “background” and “potato” – indicating the broad amusement people have had with Zoom-related functions and mishaps.

Related to this, our results showed that the “Crying with laughter” emoji was highly prominent at the beginning of the month. However, use of the emoji in connection with Zoom significantly tapered toward the end of April.

People are growing weary

The initial buzz associated with the novelty of video calling and Zoom’s creative video effects gave way as April progressed. After the notable spike at the beginning of the month, volume of mentions decreased to under 1,000 per day and the tone of conversations about Zoom shifted. Increasingly, the term ‘zoom’ was used as a general reference to any kind of video call, regardless of platform. Concerns about privacy, both relating to the Zoom platform and for video conferencing in general, filtered into the conversation, and people became increasingly exacerbated with tech issues interrupting the flow of social interactions. Frustration became a more prominent tone of discussion and ‘zoom fatigue’ appeared to overshadow the initial excitement.

The types of accounts talking about Zoom also changed. At the beginning of April, discussion was led by individual users, predominantly everyday Australians sharing funny content about their video conferencing experiences, with some gaining huge traction. However, as the month progressed news outlets and organisations tended to drive more content, sharing news stories and promotional content. Audience engagement levels with social posts about Zoom also decreased, indicating less interest from everyday users.

Did we take the Monday morning meeting for granted?

Like Pokemon Go, the dot.com boom and The Baha Boys “Who let the Dogs out”, will video conferencing be just another flash in the pan? Perhaps COVID-19 has shown us that no matter how good the technology and how useful it can be, nothing replaces those small but important social interactions we have day to day, in the office, classroom, or just heading down to our local café.

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