Before the Capitol Hill riots, Covid-19 lockdowns propelled huge growth for many of the digital platforms. It feels like 2020 was the year of the digital migration.

For a huge number of digital-last businesses, pivoting to remote work would have been a real journey. While technophobes were trying to work out how to get their video call audio working, digital platforms were experiencing super-charged growth.

Naturally, New Zealand’s lockdowns forced us into new ways of working, meeting, and connecting with each other.

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Between February and April, local Google searches for Zoom took the cake, which were up from 22,000 searches to 823,000, an increase of 3607 percent.

Messaging platforms like Slack also saw considerable growth, increasing 83 percent from 14,800 Google searches in February to 27,100 in April. While Slack’s increase would usually be nothing to sneeze at, it seems like New Zealanders were slightly more risk-averse with trying out a messaging platform for the first time, compared to video calls.

Some old school practices such as the “Phone Tree” also saw a bit of an interest spike, with searches increasing 15x over the same period.

“There is a greater calling than profits, and Mr Zuckerberg and Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, must play a fundamental role in restoring truth and decency to our democracy and democracies around the world.
– Greg Bensinger,

Digital connection

As international travel dried up and people stopped being able to catch up in “normal” ways, Kiwis moved onto new digital formats in droves.

Heaps of fads kicked off this year – remember Houseparty? Probably the closest thing to a one-hit wonder an app can become. Regardless though, people were looking for new ways to connect and platforms like Houseparty solved that need.

The rise of TikTok grew to match similar levels of search demand as Facebook Messenger this year, with around 135,000 local searches for each platform in April.

The unique algorithm that powers the content TikTok delivers is hyper-personalised, meaning everyone’s experience is a little different – leading to huge engagement and your everyday Kiwis turning into local (and global) TikTok stars.

In an interesting twist, Instagram also launched its TikTok competitor Reels in August, giving its users even more ways to connect and get creative with their social posting.

It has not just been about connection though. With the impact of Covid-19 and the instability of in-person annual appeals, digital advertising has become a backbone in a lot of charities’ marketing strategies and it has been awesome to see new ways of fundraising kicking off.

To date, more than 2.6 million people have raised more than $87 million through Facebook Fundraisers this year to combat climate change, promote ocean clean up, animal protection efforts and much more.

At my own company, Aro Digital, we’ve seen success with the likes of Wellington Free Ambulance’s Onesie Day, which had to pivot from their traditional strategy of ‘shaking the bucket’ along Lambton Quay. This year, Onesie Day successfully raised over $120,000 in the Wellington Region.

A new type of election

This was a different type of election, with more money spent on social media advertising than ever before.

In an effort to combat the rise of ‘fake news’ and misinformation, many platforms championed transparency. And for the first time ever, both Facebook and Google opened up to share the amount different political parties were spending, to anyone that was curious.

All up, Kiwi political parties spent around $1,192,000 on Facebook this year during the election season with 5,972 different ads run. Comparatively, around $839,200 was spent on the Google network across display, text and You tube ads.

We could also keep tabs on how much political issue groups, like the electoral commission were spending. Over the election period the electoral commission spent $384,198 on Facebook in an attempt to increase voter turnout, which of course seemed to work, with our highest youth voter turnout and advance voting to date.

What’s next?

There’s no turning back from the migration to digital. It’s changed the way businesses run, how people connect and ways elections operate.

The only question is, what will digital gobble up next?

After the year we’ve had, it’s hard to say what 2021 will hold, but keep an eye out for the growth of new search platforms like Apple Search and Ecosia (a search engine that plants trees) increasing in popularity.

Open Banking will also start to make waves in New Zealand, and particularly with apps like CoGo recently launching, we’ll start to see more brands mixing new tech with purpose-driven outcomes to positively impact the world.

Tim Dorrian is Managing Director of Aro Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Wellington

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