Why Zoom has become a COVID star

|| May 22, 2020

By Jordan McDonald

55 comms social media coordinator

We are in this unfamiliar world where physical interaction is restricted and craved. It’s truly bizarre, our normal day-to-day interactions are now feeling like things we took for granted. Social media is bound to keep us connected, yet many around the world feel completely isolated. For social media apps it has presented a truly unprecedented opportunity - a problem looking for a solution: how can we keep people connected online better than before? All the major social media apps have seen a tremendous spike in usage as people look for ways to fill their empty days. But one social media company has really come to notice from seemingly nowhere – Zoom. The video-chat program has been around since 2011 and operates much like Skype, a video chat solution for business meetings, a way for friends and family apart to connect in real-time. But why has Zoom become the app of the pandemic? Why not the others, like Skype or Microsoft Teams? And will it survive post-pandemic? I’ve been researching this topic, let me explain: 

Why has Zoom become the app of the pandemic?
This is simple – integration, reliability and popularity. The main reason for Zoom’s success is its simple integration into every users’ online activity. There is an option for a free account that boasts enough features to make the app plenty useful, and there’s a paid version that lifts certain limitations placed on a free account. The simple integration into online activity and social media in particular has generated rapid word-of-mouth and quickly become the recommended tool online when people wanted to connect. Equally vital to the app’s success is its reliability. CEO Eric Yuan placed enormous significance on the app’s ability to handle volume – his knowledge as a software engineer from his previous role as corporate vice president of engineering at Cisco helped this. As the pandemic began closing down businesses, employees started to use the program to conduct business meetings from home. Eventually, universities and schools adopted the app to keep some class schedules on track. Then gyms, musicians, celebrities – suddenly, it was THE way to connect. And Zoom responded to the increased use offering institutions, organisations, businesses free access in an ongoing effort to keep businesses alive. And it really worked – before you knew it, Zoom was everywhere. 

Why not the others, like Skype or Microsoft Teams?
This question sparked my interest in this topic to begin with because I grew up using Skype, and having used Zoom now, I did wonder. Fundamentally, they’re the same, so why did they miss out? A lot of the Zoom success can be attributed to the fact that for a lot of people it was a new app, and new usually means people want to investigate. That first experience with Zoom is really pleasant – if, for example, you’re using Zoom for the first time to talk with a client, you’re simply given a link and a meeting password – visit the link, enter the password, voila, you’re away. With Skype and Teams the feedback isn’t as complimentary – it’s a longer setup, you need an existing account, the process is slower and less fluid. Another important feature was the various customisations in Zoom which could make your appearance unique to others in the meeting. Changing backgrounds was a fun feature included in Zoom that was a common meme on social media, all the more drawing attention to the app. There were some reported security concerns that gained mainstream media coverage and prompted some large organisations to order staff off Zoom. But that could be weighed against the critical reliability issue faced by Skype, Teams and others, particularly when experiencing increased volume. Skype and Teams in particular documented reports of crashes in light of COVID-19 as the mass influx of users looked to connect. Simply being able to withstand that volume was one of Zoom’s greatest qualities and ultimately placed it above the rest. 

Will it survive post-pandemic?
Zoom is very well placed to survive when normality returns, whenever that is. There is this feeling that a lot of the changes in business practice during COVID-19 have actually suited a lot of businesses, and particularly employees, so there’s certainly a place for Zoom post-pandemic. I’m not saying businesses who are struggling have enjoyed that struggle, I’m speaking more to the internal works of businesses. Being able to work remote from an environment that is more comfortable and often more productive, is ideal for a lot of employees, and some businesses may be all right with that moving forward. As for larger organisations, I’d suspect a large number to transfer over from an alternate simply because of the reliability and widespread use. Where I do see Zoom slowly evaporating from the main interest is with the younger audiences who were ultimately using it for either uni or to socialise with mates. Uni might still keep it in place, but the young ones are itching to hang out again (much like the everyone really) and I don’t see where Zoom is needed for them as much after that.