The entire world is facing an unprecedented situation with the coronavirus, and businesses have not gone unscathed. Unfortunately, many companies have been forced to close their doors temporarily while the virus takes control, but the still-up-and-running companies are questioning how their methods of operation should change during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re an executive, you’re likely wondering how your customer and employee communications should change, and whether or not you should even be posting to social media during the coronavirus pandemic.
And that is a question every business needs to answer for itself. There’s one reality you can’t ignore: Business must continue. In some cases, to assure your customers that you’re still there and working hard, the best approach may be to take a hiatus from social media and focus your energy and staff on direct, personal interaction with customers and other important stakeholders. However, for other businesses – especially B2C companies with thousands, even millions of customers, for which personal interaction is out of the question – social media may be the best way to stay in touch until the crisis ends. Every situation is unique. You should turn to your trusted advisors, especially your public relations experts, to help you decide the best course for your business.
If you decide that staying active on social media during the coronavirus is right for your company, you can still be present and engage with your audience without sounding insensitive to the tragedy that is occurring all around us. Here are five things to consider when planning your social media strategy during the outbreak:
1. Highlight a product or service that can help those in need
Consider what your company currently does (or could do) to make a difference during the pandemic. You may be able to raise money or donate supplies to benefit healthcare workers, grocery clerks or those less fortunate. For example, Nashville’s Corsair Distillery is pausing whiskey production and using its facility to make hand sanitizer. You can also make a difference in seemingly smaller ways, such as providing relief to those living in quarantine. Disney released themed Zoom backgrounds to make video calls more enjoyable, and the Morning Brew is including in its newsletter a daily planner including at-home workouts, recipes, work soundtracks and more. These are great examples of how to make a difference during the trying times, and you can highlight them (or similar ideas related to your organization) on social media to continue promoting your business in a tasteful way.
2. Offer information relevant to your customers.
During the outbreak, the entire world is looking for information about how to stay safe, connect with friends and family, operate a business and more. This is a great opportunity to provide helpful information to current and future customers, establishing yourself as an expert and thought leader. Think about what your audience might need and how you can help. For example, many Americans are worried about the stock market volatility caused by the virus and how it will affect their investments. If you have expertise in this area that will reassure anxious investors, offer it up. Pharmaceutical companies can offer hope by using social media to share information (articles, videos, blogs, etc.) about the state of the pharmaceutical industry, current vaccine trials and more.
3. Be a positive outlet in a dark time.
Social media is a place for people to turn for relief while the news is on a grim, 24/7 cycle of infection rates and death tolls. Upworthy, a publication dedicated to positive storytelling, is using its Instagram account to share positive stories surrounding coronavirus, such as the student who made masks for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients, and humorous posts, such as pictures of the art gallery a person set up for her gerbil. Actor John Krasinski launched a YouTube series called Some Good News to share good news during the pandemic. Think about how your company can help spread joy to your followers – consider featuring a fun fact about employees, sharing photos of remote employees’ pets or thanking essential workers such as hospital staff, mailmen and grocery store clerks.
4. Think of your audience first.
The key to not sounding too salesy on social media is not thinking too salesy. Priorities shift in uncommon times such as this. Instead of focusing solely on selling your products or services, prioritize building and maintaining relationships with current and future customers. If they feel supported by you now, they will be more confident purchasing from you in the future when things return to normal. When deciding your social media plan, think about your target audience first and foremost. How do they feel? What do they want to see? How can you help? Remember, we’re all going through the same pandemic, so think about businesses’ communications and social media posts that you’ve appreciated over the last few weeks, and implement similar strategies for your company.
5. Decide on a posting frequency.
Just because your company posted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram every day of the week before the coronavirus doesn’t mean you have to continue at the same frequency. (The coronavirus also doesn’t mean you can’t post on the same schedule. You can if you want to!) Once you’ve decided on your social media strategy, think about how often you want to post. You might not have enough content to continue posting every day, and that’s OK. The important thing is that you develop a schedule and stick to it. It helps to show people that you can be counted on.
These are certainly trying times, and companies are forced to rethink their marketing and public relations plans, including social media strategies. With these five things in mind, your audience will turn to your social media pages for relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more tips on communicating during the coronavirus, click here.