In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social media landscape is evolving faster than it took to read this sentence. In fact, every 45 milliseconds, someone tweets about the pandemic, and #Coronavirus is now the second-most-used hashtag of 2020.
What we are facing — not just as social media professionals, but also as parents, friends and colleagues — is unprecedented. In times of crisis, people look to leaders and institutions for guidance, and now they’re looking to businesses as well. Social media has always been a powerful tool for businesses to provide direct communication to customers. But these days, your audience is also turning to social media for a sense of connection and community.
As we navigate uncertainty together, we hope the tips below can provide a starting point to refocus your social media strategy during these challenging times.
This Crisis Is Not a Sales Opportunity
When it comes to your social media strategy, you simply cannot approach the current crisis as something to capitalize on. COVID-19 has life and death consequences for many individuals and families, so don’t link your brand to a health scare just because the world is talking about it.
Instead, look for opportunities to lead by example when it makes sense for your organization. Understand the role your brand plays in your customers’ and employees’ lives, how that role has changed with the current situation and how your brand might provide relief.
This doesn’t mean you should stop marketing and selling your products or services during this crisis. After all, the success of your business impacts people’s livelihoods. But every post, campaign and ad you put out into the world right now needs to be viewed through a lens of empathy.
Keep Up to Date, Shift Accordingly
Given the influx of news about the outbreak, it’s important to keep a close eye on the conversations discussed on social media. As the situation evolves, a post that might have been spot on to send yesterday might appear insensitive today. Keep an especially close eye on your scheduled posts, and edit or delete them as needed as new information comes in. Generally speaking, it might also be a good idea to pull back on the frequency of your posts so people can focus on what matters. If you post too frequently, there’s a chance your brand may appear tone-deaf.
Social listening can help you keep a pulse on the conversation and understand how your audience is responding. It can also unearth opportunities to show empathy and provide value in the posts that you choose to share.
So, how should you go about social listening? Advanced social listening tools are designed to monitor conversations at scale across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr and other platforms, using hashtags, keywords and handles. If you don’t have access to a social listening platform, just check your customers’ and competitors’ feeds to see what they’re posting or do some digging using the hashtag #Coronavirus.
The bottom line is when you know exactly what’s on your audience’s mind, you’ll know how to best serve them and the community at large.
Consider How You Can Help
Once you’ve taken steps to listen and better understand your audience’s state of mind, ideate the type of content your brand should share on social.
Start with your brand’s tone. People are speaking to each other differently right now and your brand should speak differently too. Avoid sarcasm and jokes. Aim instead for factual information, compassionate updates and helpful tips that might ease people’s fears or suffering. And be prepared to back up anything you promise with real action.
Like always, only share trusted, vetted sources. As an intelligent, community-conscious brand, it’s important to do your part to combat the spread of misinformation on social. Fact check, fact check, fact check.
If your business can provide a critical product or service, make sure that information is accessible. For example, Mailchimp is offering free accounts to help organizations disseminate critical public health information.
You can also provide general tips and resources on how to adjust to the new way of working while practicing social distancing, like Slack has done.
Similarly, Adobe has gathered resources to help teachers and students work better online.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is focusing on inclusivity by asking its audience to provide tips on how to work and learn remotely.
While all these examples include some type of offer, don’t feel as though your brand has to follow suit. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just acknowledge the current situation and be transparent about the steps you’re taking to reaffirm your commitment to your clients and teammates.
Transparent communication also means responding to inquiries and complaints quickly. Make sure you have set up proper message routing systems, and monitor your response times and rates. With so much uncertainty in the world, many of your customers will look to you for answers. Ignoring or sitting on hard-hitting questions for too long can damage brand loyalty in the long run.
Consider how Olive Garden responded to a tweet and turned an emotionally charged situation into a positive.
While many organizations are taking similar measures to help people, don’t feel like your brand has to be particularly innovative in this moment, either. If you don’t feel like your products or services have a role to play, that’s fine. You can focus on showing a more human side to your business by highlighting nonprofits that provide resources and relief to people affected by the pandemic. Right now, it’s really more about reaching out than standing out.
Take a Break
These days, the news can feel overwhelming, and you may want to take a break from any and all brand-related social media for a moment. It’s important to add some distraction and positivity, and reflect on what really matters.
But consider this bright spot from Twitter: COVID-19 tweets represent just 1% of total tweets right now — people are craving an escape.
Whether it’s sharing a picture of a team member’s work-from-home buddy …
… showing the struggles of your new home office …
… announcing a new family member …
… or even just reminding people to take a deep breath.
Remember that good things are still happening. They are all around us. Be that reminder.
When the Time Is Right, Think About What Comes Next
Regardless of the route you choose to take, stay true to yourself and your brand. Don’t force yourself into conversations, but also don’t ignore the power of social media in connecting people when we are all literally isolated.
In an effort to help you navigate these complex times, Walker Sands wants to offer our support. If your B2B technology or professional services brand needs help crafting messaging for its social media presence, contact us for a free consultation.
But most importantly, stay safe, and stay connected.