How does COVID-19 affect the social media strategies of companies?
The coronavirus, the pandemic that affects the entire planet globally and has put our social structures in check, has changed the strategic approaches of companies overnight.
It does not matter if you are a large corporation or an SME, what is currently happening has led marketing departments to change planning without a solution to continuity. For practical purposes, events have led to a widespread social media crisis: now it is not just one company that is in trouble at the network level, there are practically all of them.
What is a social media crisis and how does it affect companies?
A social media crisis is a situation in which the vision of the company, in terms of the users of its networks and society, is called into question. Traditionally it comes together with a barrage of criticism on the different platforms that are unmanageable in the short term, and requires quick actions on the part of the brand to solve them.
Let’s take an example of a social media crisis: the one experienced by American Airlines in 2018, when a video on social networks of how they managed overbooking on one of their flights went viral: a traveler was violently taken from the plane, dragged on the ground and beaten.
The company did not know how to manage the situation and it took months to alleviate the vision on the part of the users. Even today, more than two years later, it is a recurring theme in their networks, and the tweeter who ends up reminding them of it in an open thread is not rearranged.
And why is COVID-19 a social media crisis?
From the point of view of this definition, the coronavirus would not suppose a social media crisis as such, since there is no generalized criticism of a management or an act, but it does imply a modification of the ways of communicating and coming into contact with the users.
These days requires a drastic rethinking of the messages that are released to the community. The products do not matter, but the values and the content that helps to overcome the moment. But what to do if we have spent our lives launching commercial messages (in many cases without great success)?
Companies that want to get out of this situation in which we find ourselves have to apply all their anti-crisis procedures to achieve this: you cannot continue to communicate as you did ten days ago. If the attitude is the same, the criticism from the users will end up arriving and then we will find ourselves in a situation of traditional social media crisis.
Why is it necessary to change the way of communicating?
Until just two weeks ago, social networks were another distribution channel, helping us to:
Build customer loyalty.
Convert customers into brand lovers.
Get new leads.
It was a communication channel for our products.
The social media department had to combine and balance the need to sell the virtues of its brand’s products and services, with the generation of value for the user.
Now the situation is different: users are confined to home and the list of tasks that can be done throughout the day is negligible. In addition, the marketing of a myriad of products has been prohibited, so we may not even be able to distribute. Does this imply that we have to remain silent? No way.
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Against this background, there are very few companies that can continue to launch sales messages without their reputation being compromised.
Most brands, and there is the work of the social media team, they have to pivot their message and forget about direct sales actions. Now is the time to work on branding and help, in this time of hiatus, the brand to stay in the top of mind of users.
What to do on social media during the period of confinement
The fundamental task of the company is, as we said in the previous paragraph, to work on branding and corporate social responsibility.
This is the time to put ourselves more than ever on the side of the user and society, and show that corporate networks are a platform that supports and with which, viewing their stories, their tweets or their publications on Facebook one is comfortable .
The main job of the social media department is to show how the company empathizes with society and does its part to help.
What can work then and what will help maintain engagement?
Interact with users in Instagram stories, asking them about the current situation. The ideal is to publish all the answers and comment on them in the same publication, empathizing with the sentiment of the person who has written.
Generate content that entertains: publications that lead the user to dedicate time to a task (record themselves, prepare an image, write a text).
Conduct product giveaways.
Promote healthy lifestyle habits.
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Use a tone that is close, even fun: most of us are working at home and “social norms” have changed. We have to give an image of flexibility and adaptation to events.
If we can offer some kind of free service that does not cost our company, it is a perfect time to launch it. It will have an impact far beyond our networks, as the news may be covered by the media.
Host webinars and live broadcasts at scheduled times to entertain, inform, and teach. Never forget that misfortune is still the content that works best on networks.
Try new channels and formats: youtube, videos, vblog, more personal content, infographics, memes … Experiment and discover how your brand can be related in another way, even though you had not dared to do so until now.
Provide value: everything that you consider adds to society in the moments that we live. Empathize with your audience, listen actively and act according to what they need.
What not to do on social media during the period of confinement
The answer is simple: basically you have to try not to sell explicitly. No publications about the products and their virtues. No services, promotions, intrusive advertising. The time will come to regain the rhythm when everything returns to normal.
On the other hand, if our product is not for use during this time of confinement, we must avoid discount codes and large price drops: the vision they give is of urgency to sell and be completely counterproductive.
In short, and as a summary, COVID-19 is time to work on our branding and corporate image. This is not the time to sell and use social networks as a sales portal.
We could say that these weeks can be an opportunity to come out stronger as a brand, but we will only achieve it if we work on that image that we reflect and we do it by putting ourselves, more than ever, on the user’s side: you have to empathize and be very close.
If you think it is time to dedicate time to branding and you want to focus on it, we recommend the Master of Community Management, with which you will train to know how to manage a brand in all kinds of scenarios.
What are the brands that are doing the best for you right now? Comment and share!