How to modify your social strategy during a global crisis
If this strange time has been great for anything, it’s marketing research, trend monitoring, and social listening. Since the start of the madness – hard to believe it’s been well over a month – I’ve been paying extra attention to and analyzing, as a consumer, everything that graces my social feeds. I’ve seen several creative and effective strategies. I’ve also seen countless desperate grabs for attention and business, and enough redundancy, melodrama, and complete ignorance for a lifetime of scrolling.
As if being a target of all the crisis messaging hasn’t been enough, I’m also on the other side, as a digital marketer, contributing to it. If you’re in such a role for your business, you understand what it feels like to tiptoe the delicate line the COVID-19 crisis has drawn. I get it; every business wants – more than ever – to earn a spot in their customer’s mind and wallet, to preserve loyalty and maintain some stream of revenue, or the promise of future sales.
I think it’s challenging enough without a raging virus to connect with your brand’s audience in a meaningful way, which is exactly what businesses are scrambling to do right now. Keep pushing on, fellow marketers and social media managers, this will not be forever.
Meanwhile, to help you prepare for possible future global crises (please no), or carry you through the end of this one, I’ve gathered some recommendations on what you should and shouldn’t include in your pandemic social strategy.
Don’t: Carry on with business as usual. You need to stop and reevaluate current campaigns, promotions, etc. After all, your services may be on hold, and your messages need to reflect that. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue selling your brand or services, but the last thing you want is to be perceived as prioritizing sales over world health and safety. Ick, what a turn-off.
Do: Address the situation at the very start, letting people know how it’s affecting your business and your employees, and how you’ll be moving forward. It’s like an elephant in the room – you need to clear the air and acknowledge what’s happening, demonstrating to customers that you care and have their needs in mind.
Don’t: Position your business as an expert unless you truly are. Speaking specifically on health crises, do not use your “best judgement” to come up with recommendations and guidelines. Don’t spread false information just to bolster your brand. You can be a voice of hope, but you shouldn’t be subjective about predictions, risks, timelines, etc. Leave that to the pros and check your sources.
Do: Show compliance with guidelines and mandates! The quickest way to lose trust or become a viral joke is taking a crisis lightly and not being as safe as possible. That fun BTS video you shared on your story? Well, one of your essential employees was breaking protocol, and now everyone is sharing it for the wrong reason.
Don’t: Post just to post. Hey, it’s okay to cut down. If you don’t really have anything worthwhile to share (which is understandable for many types of businesses during a health emergency) just lay low and provide the important stuff. You are not going to disappear off the social radar forever, and people prefer not to be flooded with meaningless words and photos.
Do: Stay informed with changes and provide updates to your customers. Every day. Monitor how the situation is evolving – locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Adjust your services and your social activity accordingly.
Don’t: Be overly formal with every post. Stop beginning every caption with “In these unprecedented times…” or the like. You only needed to make a press-worthy statement once, at the beginning.
Do: Be transparent. You don’t have to put on a brave face or make empty promises. People value honesty and vulnerability. How is this impacting your business and your employees? Tell people! Ask for support. We’re all in this together.
Don’t: Take on a completely new voice. Your business plan may look a bit different for a while, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still you.
Do: Be more conversational. Now is the time to really connect! Even if you’re posting less, you can talk more! Jump into comments. Share mentions or even content from others. Create polls, quizzes, or Q&As. Ask how people are doing. All the time you’d normally spend perfecting your social calendar – dedicate a chunk of it to just being present and engaging with your audience.
Don’t: Copy exactly what others are doing. It’s lame, first of all, and risky when people are spending more time on social media. Right now repetitive language and content are seeing a quicker burnout than usual.
Do: Help in your own unique way. How can you take a creative angle, even if it’s unlike your normal activity, to make a difference?
Don’t: be insensitive or tone deaf. Again, stay informed. Avoid tasteless jokes (assuming you aren’t running a meme account) or saying anything to demonstrate you have no idea what’s going on in the world.
Do: Think like your audience. What are they going through? Do they have the income or ability to purchase right now? Are they working from home, baking more, acting as teacher to their kids, or fostering a pet? Are they feeling anxious, scared, or overwhelmed? Be a human. Each time you develop a post, really explore what would catch your attention and meet your needs right now if you were experiencing exactly the circumstances of your audience.
Don’t: Be corny and patronizing. Please. If you say anything along the lines of, “We’re HERE for YOU” or “Times are hard, we know you need us” …stop. This is the perpetual goal of marketing copy – establishing authority and trust while still empowering your customers.
Do: Focus on making people feel happy, hopeful, and informed. Be a little hub of positivity! If your business can’t be open right now, this approach helps secure your future sales/traffic once things get better. If you are still serving customers, demonstrating empathy and purpose can help sway a purchase decision your way.
BONUS! Here are a couple of dos and don’ts that extend beyond social media:
Don’t: Use resources and manufacturing capabilities to assist with relief efforts, then upcharge for the product(s). You know how we all condemn price gauging during natural disasters? Yeah, don’t be that guy. Great idea: altering your operations temporarily to produce hand sanitizer because there’s a huge need. Selfish idea: Selling said hand sanitizer for $8 for 8 oz. It can’t be a collector’s item when it’s a necessity.
Do: Provide a static resource for the latest updates regarding your business. This could be a landing page or banner added to your website, or even a pinned post. Take the important info and FAQs and give them a home. Put it somewhere easy to access, and update it regularly as the situation evolves. This way you don’t have to fully reiterate the info every time you post, and you’re catering to those who don’t get all their info on social media.
Final marketing ideas and operations to alter during a difficult time:
- Pause your regular email newsletter or remarketing emails unless you are changing them to be relevant to the time.
- Put marketing initiatives that won’t be effective in terms of ROI or perception on hold.
- Use the time to plan, improve, and prep.
If COVID-19 circumstances have you feeling a little aimless or disoriented as a marketer, you are totally not alone. Brighter days are ahead, and the balance will be restored! Just keep soaking up info, thinking on your toes, connecting with your customers, and planning how you’ll come out ahead when the craziness settles.