Facebook has seen a turnaround in usage in Ireland, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has seen his social media numbers skyrocket during the coronavirus lockdown, a report claims.
Figures researched by Mulley Communications indicate that Facebook's decline has been reversed, with an additional 100,000 users since September, halting a trend that had seen the social media giant lose 300,000 between January and September of last year.
The company's strongest usage gains here are among users between 40 and 50, with all demographics over 40 increasing their engagement. However, it is also holding steady among younger users, with 1.2 million people between 13 and 35 still on the service.
"Because people have Facebook already on their phones, it's a good way of catching up with friends and family when they are socially distancing," said Mulley director Damien Mulley.
Mr Mulley also expressed doubt over recent online speculation about whether 'Twitter bots' have been set up to support the Irish Government's handling of the lockdown. "Maybe we can see that all those bots are actually people from this [older Facebook] demographic using Twitter for the first time," he said.
Meanwhile, Irish political leaders have seen spikes in their social media followings. Mr Varadkar has seen the biggest immediate gains due to his direct public addresses.
Mr Varadkar's Twitter count rose by 60,000 during March to over 300,000 followers. He also tripled his Instagram following to over 80,000.
Health Minister Simon Harris has also seen hefty increases in his following, with Micheál Martin seeing more modest gains. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has seen a steady rise, with gains of between 5pc and 10pc weekly. She has almost double the Facebook followers of Mr Varadkar.
"Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris are the public faces of the current pandemic in Ireland and they are being seen as calming voices during this," said Mr Mulley. "People are going to follow them directly to get information. It's interesting that Fine Gael itself does not seem to have benefited in social media growth from this, with the main focus being on Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris.
"The only party that has seen social media growth is Sinn Féin, but their numbers have been on a steady upward trajectory since before the general election."