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Marketing in a COVID-19 World: Social Media Smarts

In the wake of COVID-19, audiences have turned to social media in record numbers. But with all the uncertainty in the world right now, is this the right time for your brand to be present on social? Here's how to adapt your social media plan in changing times.

COVID-19 has impacted everyday life in a myriad of ways, particularly as social distancing and self-isolation have become the norm. All that time at home has led to a lot of time online and a lot of people looking for ways to connect. It’s no surprise then that social media usage, already robust, has skyrocketed in recent weeks with platforms reporting usage increases of as much as 70%. If you are a brand or business using social media marketing, you may be wondering what exactly that means for your own audience. Is now the time to engage or pull back?

Don’t Stop. Adapt.

Now is a time to communicate. If you are already on social media, don’t stop posting. Do transform your content to be appropriate to the current environment. Acknowledge what’s happening, express care for your followers and your community. Adapt your tone with sensitivity to the challenges we are all facing. And listen. Remember social media is not supposed to be just talking at people. It’s a conversation. So listen to what your customers are telling you, and reply, empathize or help wherever you can. You may think you know your customers well, but keep in mind that you need to know them now in their current situation which for most of us is unprecedented.

If your business is not on social media, the time to move is now. The current crisis has only further cemented the central role of digital experiences in our everyday lives. If it’s not a part of your current plan, it should be – not just for the current crisis but for the longer term as well. Social media is a powerful and cost-effective tool in your digital marketing playbook that can help you to build awareness, loyalty and ultimately sales in ways you’ve perhaps never considered before. A smart, targeted plan for social media is a must-have part of your marketing strategy in a post-COVID world.

Inspect Your Expectations

Whether you’re generating organic content, placing paid ads or both, it’s important to have a clearly focused goal. Now is a time to review and re-evaluate those goals in the context of the current situation.

The most obvious goal for any business is sales. But is pushing hard for the conversion the right thing to do right now? That depends. If you are a restaurant or small business owner struggling to survive, you need to make the sale by all means. Acknowledge that truth and, to the extent you can, be honest with your audience about your challenges as you put forth what you currently have on offer.

For everyone else, be realistic in recognizing that people may be hesitant to buy and even more, may be put off by a direct sales pitch right now. That may mean that strict sales conversion ROI will be harder to come by for the moment, but it does not mean that there are not other worthy objectives for your social media programs during this time. If your business is currently closed, focus on retaining or even growing your audience and reinforcing the loyalty you’ve built. Likewise, if your business is still operating as you work through this crisis, focus on building awareness and audience that will still be with you when sales behaviors start to rebound. Think more about your engagement metrics to know how you’re doing in building meaningful connections with a growing audience.

Be Helpful

A switch from sales to awareness mode may be a difficult transition depending on your previous content strategy. One sure way to start in today’s world is to focus on being helpful. What value or service can you provide for your audience right now? Maybe it’s a tutorial or demonstration. Maybe it’s education or guidance that can help with today’s new challenges. Maybe it’s offering inspiration or even just a pleasant distraction. Find a genuine place where you can plug in and contribute and you may just find growing audiences and deepening connections naturally follow.

Try Something New

As you are retooling your social media plans, it’s a great time to think about new tools or formats that you could employ to broaden your reach and interact with your audience. Video is an effective way to still be face-to-face (virtually of course) with your customers. If you’re building awareness, think about whether an influencer partnership should be part of your strategy. Influencers are used to working in an online-only world and can offer new audiences and new perspectives. If you’ve not spent much time on Stories, now may be the time to dive in. Or think about new ways to engage with an audience that is eager to interact with things like polls or even user-generated content campaigns.

As we navigate the fallout of COVID-19 as a community, we recognize now, more than ever, that we’re all in this together. You and your customers are in it together too. Leveraging social media’s unique ability to connect and communicate with the audiences that matter most to you can help make sure that your business is in the best position possible during this time of crisis and long beyond.

Header Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

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