The Zignal Tech Labs Report: How Zoom Became a Household Name
Welcome to the Tech Labs Report from Zignal Labs, your latest dive into the issues currently driving conversations in tech. For today’s report, we’re exploring the conversational landscape around one of the biggest household names of the past year. This product has been around for a while, but only in the past year or so has it become truly ubiquitous, permeating both our professional and personal lives. It’s a product you may well have used just minutes before reading this, or that you’ll be using minutes from now.
We’re talking, of course, about Zoom.
Zoom has been on quite a ride since early 2020, and the narratives that have formed around it online reflect this. Keep reading as we dive into questions like:
- How has the conversation around Zoom evolved throughout the pandemic?
- What lessons should we learn from this evolution?
- How can narrative intelligence help companies like Zoom anticipate emerging risks?
Learn more about narrative intelligence for tech companies on our Technology Industry Page.
“Zoom” Becomes a Verb
Zoom wasn’t always so prevalent. Until around February of 2020, if you worked in an office, you probably associated the brand name with software demos for prospects or the occasional meeting involving a coworker in a different time zone. If you didn’t work in an office, you may have never even heard of it.
Then, just a month later, everyone knew about Zoom – and they were using it not just for work meetings, but for regular hangouts with family and friends. It even became common to use the brand name as a verb: “Should we Zoom this weekend?” you might ask some friends who lived only a few miles away from you. Suddenly, it had become a product for all of us, and served an essential function in a challenging time – it may have been disorienting to receive Zoom dial-in info from your mother instead of your boss, but it meant that you were able to see the people close to you even if you couldn’t be with them in person.
Zoom’s sudden explosion in popularity is reflected in Zignal narrative intelligence. Just look at the platform’s Twitter mentions over the last 2 years:
The brand name even became shorthand for an entire category of products – the “Band-Aid” or “Kleenex” of video conferencing software. Perhaps this owed to its quick, monosyllabic name, savvy marketing, ease of use, or some other X-factor. Whatever it was, Zoom had become a household name.
Narrative Shifts Point to Possible Challenges
Make no mistake: Zoom is still dominant in the video conferencing software space today. But since the first few months of the pandemic, the online conversation around it has begun to shift. These shifts are slight, at least for now, but they could be early indicators of a sea change in public sentiment around the product that the company should be aware of.
“There are signs that the public is starting to experience burnout from over a year of predominantly screen-based interactions, both socially and, for many, professionally. It’s a trend known as “Zoom fatigue” – and it has been showing up in our narrative intelligence.”
Note that, in the graph in the previous section, while Twitter mentions remain far higher today than they were before March of 2020, they’ve begun to taper off, and have yet to repeat the record set with the initial spike. At the same time, there are signs that the public is starting to experience burnout from over a year of predominantly screen-based interactions, both socially and, for many, professionally. It’s a trend known as “Zoom fatigue” – and it has been showing up in our narrative intelligence.
On Twitter, the term saw a bump in mentions in late April of 2020, followed by several months of quiet. Since then, as the pandemic dragged on, it has seen numerous spikes, some of which were much larger than the initial bump last spring. Notably, excluding the spring bump, spikes in mentions of “Zoom fatigue” began shortly before the company’s stock started to taper off from its peak in mid-October of 2020.
“Zoom fatigue” isn’t the only term related to Zoom that has seen a recent increase in activity on Twitter. The sudden, widespread shift to remote work is clearly tied to the company’s recent success – but in January and February of this year, as the vaccine rollout gained steam and COVID-19 cases declined, mentions of and related to the term “office reopening” crept up:
What Are the Lessons Here for Companies?
We’ve now established that as mentions of “Zoom” in general have declined, mentions of “Zoom fatigue” have started to tick upwards. In other words: A common complaint about Zoom has come to occupy a larger share of the overall conversation about the company and product.
“One big lesson seems to be that even for a company that has achieved Zoom’s dominance – record-setting usage rates, household-name status – the next challenge could be coming over the horizon. But with robust narrative intelligence resources, that company can see that challenge coming from far away, and take the steps necessary to get ahead of it.”
What can we learn from this? One big lesson seems to be that even for a company that has achieved Zoom’s dominance – record-setting usage rates, household-name status – the next challenge could be coming over the horizon. But with robust narrative intelligence resources, that company can see that challenge coming from far away, and take the steps necessary to get ahead of it.
The dominance Zoom has achieved may well survive the gradual return to the office and an increasingly restless public. But no matter how well a company is doing, there’s always a risk of being blindsided. That speaks to what is, at the end of the day, one of the primary functions of narrative intelligence: keeping businesses and organizations from resting on their laurels as unforeseen threats emerge.
This analysis was conducted using Zignal Discover, a tool that tracks Twitter mentions of various keywords and phrases over any desired timeframe, dating back to the platform’s inception in 2006.