In the span of just a few months, the coronavirus crisis has changed the way we live. Our innate need to connect with one another has been turned on its head as we’ve undergone social distancing to stop the spread. Unable to see each other face to face, people are turning to social media now more than ever to get the latest news on the virus, connect with friends, and fill their time at home.

For businesses laid low by abrupt shutdowns, staying relevant and connected with their customers means stepping up on social media. It’s likely your organization already has a presence on social media, but step one of using social media effectively in these uncertain times is to reassess your approach. Put yourself in you customer’s shoes. How would you respond to a sales pitch right now? A joke? Be mindful of what your audience is going through and adapt accordingly.

“Things are not ‘Business as Usual’ – and that’s okay,” says Appleyard Agency’s social media specialist Sarah Patton. “We’re all trying to figure this out. Best practice tip: don’t post the same content you were posting before all of this. Pause your current social plan and begin working on content that’s topical to what’s happening now. People will respond to it.”

Don’t Go Dark

Now is not the time to stick your head in the sand until all this blows over. Not only do we have no idea how long COVID-19 will be with us, consumer analysis has shown that customers are more likely to stick with a brand that’s transparent and uses social media to help people connect.

You don’t have to be everywhere all the time. Prioritize your most important social channels and make sure your website is up to date and mobile-friendly. Shut down any social channels that you don’t use. Google yourself to see what customers see and try navigating your website from your phone. Make sure it’s easy for new website visitors to find the information they need to get in touch.

Listen

Just like reading the room at a dinner party, it’s important to understand how your customers are feeling about the current situation and how they’re adapting. Social media provides powerful tools for gauging customer sentiment. Community groups on Facebook, hashtags, on Twitter and Instagram, and consumer research reports can all help inform your strategy.

When you know how your customers are thinking, you can gauge whether your brand or business has a role to play in the conversation. If you do, great, step forward and let your customers know what you’re doing to help. If not, that’s OK, too.

“No brand wants to give the impression that they’re injecting themselves into a crisis for the sake of visibility or marketing, says Sprout Social’s Kristin Johnson. “By keeping a finger on the pulse of the conversation and applying those insights to your approach, your brand can be a considerate, organic, and valuable contributor to the conversation.”

Lead with Empathy

You don’t have to have all the answers. With so much uncertainty, people will understand if you’re not yet sure what’s next for your brand or your business. Use your experience to make your content authentic and relevant. Keep your messaging informational, sensitive, and calm. Build trust with your customers now and they will reward you in the future.

If you’re able, try to help your customers through this difficult time. A GlobalWebIndex survey found nearly three quarters of consumers surveyed approve of promotions, offers or loyalty perks. These kinds of offers might be welcome to those keeping a close eye on their finances amidst the economic uncertainty. Just be sure to craft your messaging carefully so as not to be perceived as “cashing in”.

Show Social Proof

With more and more buying decisions moving online, the need for brands to demonstrate social proof is more prevalent than ever. Social proof, the idea that people are more likely to trust and follow suggestions of their peers, has been a mainstay of online marketing for more than 20 years now.

These days, social proof is everywhere. Customers can review almost any business on Google, Facebook, Yelp or directly on many sites. According to a BrightLocal study, most shoppers require at least a three-star rating before they’ll consider using a company.

Positive reviews, customer testimonials, user/customer counts, awards and even your social media following can all be effective forms of social proof that can give potential new customers the confidence to engage your business. Comb your online presence for positive endorsements and display them prominently.

Be Ready With Answers

As staggered re-openings roll out across the country, many are turning to social media to find out whether a business is open or not. It’s important that your most up-to-date information about hours of operation, available products and services and any safety protocols be easy to find on your most used social media pages.

Verify that your Google My Business listing info is correct and consider pinning a post with the most relevant information to the top of your Facebook page. You can also set up auto-replies on Facebook to respond to some of the most commonly asked questions.

If that all sounds overwhelming and you’d rather leave it to the experts, get in touch.

About Will Isern

Will Isern began his career as a journalist, working eight years in Pensacola media before joining the Appleyard Agency in 2019. Now he works daily to help agency clients craft and share their stories with the world.

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