Where social media was once a supplemental piece to your overall brand strategy, it has now become one of the most crucial forms of communication your organization can deliver. It needs to be done, done now and done well—no pressure. This is because social media is the absolute best way to remain top-of-mind during a crisis without appearing intrusive. But where your typical social strategy may have been second nature to you, you now need to find compelling ways to keep your audience up-to-date without coming across tone-deaf. Suffice it to say, we are no longer doing business as usual.
You’ve probably already shared the basics: new hours of operation, updated policies, your company’s dedication to the CDC’s guidelines regarding rigorous cleaning. This is a great place to start, but it was just that—the beginning. Consumers are overwhelmed with messages of their favorite brands either resuming new hours, temporarily closing or telling them all about the safety measures they have undertaken. You now need to find ways to provide consumers with helpful content, project genuine positivity or provide much-needed relief from the COVID-messaging overload. And you need to do it effectively and in a way that shows your awareness of the situation at hand.
So how should you approach your social media in real time?
1. Speak to the special interests of your audience.
Think about what your target audience is going through. What are their needs? What can you offer that is unique that they are not getting from other sources? Your audience is looking for ways to adjust to their “new normal.” Help them by creating new content or adapting existing content.
2. Know your channel.
Consumers respond differently to content based on the social channel used for delivery. If you’re unsure of what content to post where, social channels are making it easier for you by providing some helpful updates. LinkedIn has rolled out a blog on the best ways to share your insights and experiences on the platform from Vice President of Product Kiran Prasad. These tips include staying informed from trusted sources and using hashtags to discover and comment on content relevant to your brand. Facebook is focusing efforts toward its Facebook Live feature as we move ever deeper into our virtual world during this crisis. The platform will now be providing automatic closed captions for live streams, as well as the option to listen to an audio-only version of your stream to make the functionality more inclusive.
3. Adapt your services to the situation.
If your product or service doesn’t seem relevant to promote right now, find a way to leverage it that is useful to your audience. Are you a college that isn’t currently open? Provide tips for students on how to be successful at online learning or offer virtual tours to high school seniors in the decision-making process. Are you a senior living community currently closed to visitors? Host virtual visiting hours, or a virtual happy hour for residents. Are you a restaurant that’s currently closed or only offering takeout? Offer up recipes or virtual cooking demonstrations of fan favorites from your restaurant.
4. Don’t try to sell.
With increasingly more emails, social media messages and web updates being delivered each day, brands run the risk of coming across desperate. During these tough times, you want to avoid directly asking consumers to buy your product or service. More than 3 million Americans have lost their jobs either directly or indirectly due to COVID-19. People who may have previously bought your product or service no longer have the money to do so. Rather than trying to sell your service, offer solutions. Nothing comes across more tone-deaf than saying “We’re open for your business” right after a message about how your consumers’ well-being is your top priority.
5. Don’t try to plan too far in advance. And have a plan B!
It is impossible to know exactly how the virus will evolve or what the next government mandate will be. While we would normally encourage you to plan your social content at least a month in advance, we’re going to offer some new advice: Take it one day at a time. Be flexible in your planning schedule, because as new updates roll in, new content will need to be rolled out. What’s relevant today might not be tomorrow. So if your first attempt at social content creation during this crisis falls flat, be equipped with a backup plan. If people aren’t engaging, be prepared to understand why. Did something come across tone-deaf? Is your content being tailored to the wrong demographic? Did a new development in the crisis occur? Be prepared to answer these questions in real time so if something doesn’t work out, you’re ready to attack with plan B.
As you continue to design, develop and evolve your crisis strategy, remember: Social media will be one of the first places consumers check for updates. It is also considered to be more trustworthy than advertising, especially in this unconventional environment. Focus on fostering meaningful connections with your consumers and you’ll have your position locked in as an admired brand in no time.