How brands should behave on social media during COVID-19
The Coronavirus pandemic is perhaps the largest challenge most brands have ever faced.
As the world changes rapidly before our eyes it’s vital that we respond appropriately in this trying time. Companies are finding themselves being challenged by consumers like never before – be it about the treatment of workers or how they’re contributing to the cause, how your brand acts on social is more important now than ever before.
Your inclination might be to go quiet across social media. We understand that urge. How do you compete with a global pandemic? Is it even ethical to do so? A number of high profile brands directly affected by the pandemic have made that decision – there hasn’t been any Twitter activity from easyJet since 17th February as they contend with refunding and rearranging their customer’s flights and hand sanitizer producer Purell haven’t tweeted anything aside from official statements since February. Hygiene companies such as Purell could be accused of profiteering so their silence is probably a wise choice. However, unless the nature of your services or product puts your brand at risk of being insensitive, we strongly suggest you do not go dark.
Done well, this moment represents an important opportunity for your brand. Perhaps surprisingly, SOPRO has reported that as much as two-thirds (65%) of all industries will experience stable or increased demand – with more than a third (39%) likely to see increased demand during the pandemic. Therefore, it’s vital that you keep active on social media to keep your business afloat, however, this must be done in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
So how do you navigate this confusing time? Whether your business has temporarily ceased trading, is still in full operation or if you are contending with fewer customers (or too many panicked customers) we’ve assembled these guidelines to help you find a new focus to your digital content strategy.
First things first, 2 very important rules:
Do not try to profit from the crisis, or do anything that could be interpreted as profiteering:
A global pandemic is not a marketing opportunity. It would be not only insensitive but downright dangerous for a brand to try to profit from this tragedy. Corona (who, granted, are in a very unusual situation sharing the name of the virus) have come under fire for running a campaign for their new Corona Hard Seltzer with the tagline ‘Coming Ashore Soon’. It should go without saying, but Coronavirus is not something you want to associate your brand with.
Do not run campaigns that could be considered ill-timed amid a global pandemic:
KFC recently paused their ‘Finger Lickin’ ads, amidst criticism that encouraging customers to lick their fingers during the global spread of coronavirus was a rather bad idea. Geico also halted their campaign ‘Perfect High Five’ after customers made noise on Twitter about how inappropriate it was. A Coors ad titled ‘Official Beer of ‘Working’ Remotely was also put on hold over concerns that the message would come across as tone-deaf as most of us transition to working from home. The lesson – a campaign that was seemingly inoffensive a month ago could be seen in a very different light today.
A New Social Strategy
Due to panic, curiosity or the fact that a majority of people are now stuck at home, time spent on social media is significantly up. 85% of Chinese consumers reported an increase of at-home screen usage during the outbreak. Bearing in mind that your content will likely be sandwiched between rolling news coverage on Covid-19, you should consider the following when creating content amidst the pandemic.
It’s important to steer your focus away from hard-selling. Remember, the increased time we are all spending online is prompting a lot of people on social media to be even more vocal than usual, particularly on platforms such as Twitter. If your company comes in trying to make a hard sell for a product that feels ill-timed, your followers will let you know about it.
In these economically uncertain times consumers are looking for distraction, so consider what you could offer for free to provide that for your customers. Offering tips to survive lockdown is a good idea, as is providing ideas to keep the kids entertained.
Now is the time to build a sense of trust in your brand. ‘Trust content’ allows you to spend more meaningful time connecting with your audience, something they will appreciate when things return to business as usual. Consider creating long-form content such as articles, video series, podcasts or training content. Adjusting the volume of social media content, you post is perfectly reasonable right now. Give additional attention to creating high quality, meaningful trust content instead.
Figure out how your company can create good will and stand by your customers during this time. Be it offering more customer service across social or extending return windows, it’s a chance to deepen that all-important brand awareness and trust.
People are seeking social communities online like never before. Virtual communities are popping up across social media – from bands performing live streamed concerts to fitness trainers providing live streamed classes – people are coming together for a whole new type of experiential moment. If your brand can offer this type of experience, great! If not, think of other ways you can rally your audience together, such as sharing content that connects us all to help build that feeling of coming together over a common cause.
Consider changing the focus of your campaigns from hard-selling to raising brand awareness. Community- building should be the focus of your social campaigns, maintaining your recognition level, so your customers can respond when they are ready to spend. For instance, set new conversion goals on your Facebook campaigns so they are raising brand awareness rather than trying to make sales.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
With the indefinite timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be challenging to look to the future, but brands can serve a vital role in doing this. This does not mean offering discount codes for 6 weeks down the line, but just providing simple positive messaging that reminds us all this will come to an end. Switzerland’s tourist board is a particularly good example of this, giving their social media followers a slice of Switzerland from afar, using hashtags like #neverstopdreaming and #staystrong to bolster morale.
Companies must remember that there will be a point someday where everything will return to business as usual. If your business has gone quiet on social media for months on end the effects could be catastrophic; customers would have good reason to think you had gone out of business during the pandemic. Instead, use this time to distract, connect with and support your customers. If you can successfully adapt and offer your customers value in this time of uncertainty, you will win their trust and when normal life resumes and they do spend again, it will be with you.