By Amaris Modesto
With coronavirus spread on the rise, we’ve only begun to see the impact in the U.S. and witness its full expression in the world. These are, without question, uncertain times. And people are actively searching for information online: “coronavirus” may be the largest Google search trend in history, and every 45 milliseconds someone searches the term “coronavirus” on Twitter. There is information overload and a serious appetite for more.
Brands, opinion leaders and media have a responsibility to help people filter through the noise and share factual, relevant information quickly and often. Are you a bio-pharmaceutical company working on a potential treatment with thought leadership to share around spread prevention? Is your restaurant offering meals to those who can’t cook at home? Are you a productivity expert with tools and tips to share on remote work?
Of course each business case is unique and should be assessed individually, but the bottom line is that now is the time for a critical shift in how brands define and deliver value. It is a challenge, but also a responsibility. Here is what to consider as you navigate the social landscape in the face of the current public health crisis.
Your value proposition is key.
With social distancing, people crave connectivity, and they achieve that through shared beliefs, values, and purpose. In the current landscape, everyone’s priority must be evaluated in relation to the public health crisis we are facing. Consider weighing your brand purpose against the urgent needs facing humanity and develop a statement that speaks to this. Once developed it can be read and discussed on a livestream and shared as quote/image cards.
This is not business as usual.
While some businesses will continue to operate through the crisis, many will have to adjust in one way or another to the changing conditions. Many companies have shifted to work from home, retail stores are hosting dedicated shopping hours for seniors and vulnerable populations, staff across sectors have been downsized due to shelter-in-place policies, and more is sure to come. The key is to remain flexible and nimble with the changing situation. What may be a relevant social media message today may not be appropriate tomorrow. As your audience’s needs change, the content you communicate on social media will likely need to change, too. Simply put, this is not business as usual.
As you make decisions internally, communicate clearly and often. Eighty-six percent of Americans believe transparency in business is important, and they want to be brought along for the journey. Per Amy C. Edmondson of the Harvard Business Review, “Be clear what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re doing to learn more.”
With so many people following their newsfeed constantly, particularly on Twitter, making an impact requires more frequency and thumb-stopping content. To that end, Twitter recently published a marketer’s guide on how to develop meaningful content in this period.
With content and more eyeballs comes a need for more community management activities, which will ultimately help cultivate the community you’ve built. Develop responses to frequently asked questions, generate a response protocol, and begin interacting. There may be a need to revisit your company’s policy on two-way dialogue so this process can run efficiently.
Do you have an event (e.g., conference, town hall) planned in the near future that had to be postponed or cancelled altogether? Host it as a live broadcast on social media instead. Communicating meaningful perspectives from your C-suite and other employee thought leaders through virtual events is a great way to stay “on” and offer valuable content to your audience. For example, have them take over your social media channels to share the latest company news, program statuses and updates. Use Voice Notes or a basic Instagram template to standardize outputs so that anyone with a smartphone can contribute to content creation.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are crowd-favorite options for easy-to-use livestreaming, and some include multi-phone capabilities, which enables you to switch between participants (perfect for Q&A). When going live, it’s important to be mindful of your environment: Stream in a controlled, noise-free setting, ensure your background is neat, and expect bloopers, particularly if this is a new format for you. Find a few more livestream recording tips here. As a bonus, live videos can be repurposed for future content and edited in post-production to shorter, snackable segments that can also be shared.
Be a trusted resource.
People are looking for resources to help them understand the implications of the crisis and your company’s response. Companies like Uber have toolkits for their consumers, drivers and restaurant partners; Home Depot and Lululemon provided their response strategy and corporate remarks in a written statement on their website and social media. Consider developing a resource or FAQ landing page on your website that you can drive your audience to through social media, and couple it with a corporate webinar that explains the statement with a live Q&A. Now is the time to engage directly with stakeholders across multiple touchpoints and exhibit transparency.
Refresh your target.
With a captive online audience and a shift in the social conversation, it may be time to consider updating calls to action, creative, and audience targets to reflect the current news cycle. Are you creating monthly editorial calendars? Consider a more real-time approach to content creation, in line with the changing climate. Does something you drafted a few weeks ago for a post scheduled for today sound tone deaf or stale? Consider opting for low-production, high-impact posts that are more focused on what’s happening today and solicits audience input.
Use your tools
Third-party social listening platforms play a big role in relating behavior trends and navigating the conversation shift. Tools like Sprout Social offer real-time monitoring of social conversation around coronavirus + your business or industry. Explore the thought leadership, themes and players behind the most engaging posts and join in the conversation.
In this time of uncertainty, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, it’s important to stay visible, provided trusted resources, and maintain transparency. If you’d like an evaluation of your company’s specific social media strategy, please reach out to Amaris Modesto. And if you have suggestions of your own, please let us know in comments — we’d love to learn with you.