How to Build a Social Media Strategy in a Time of Change

Social media covid-19

In the wake of COVID-19, brands have no choice but to adapt quickly, adjusting their products or services in support of the millions of self-isolating customers around the world. While some brands were impacted more heavily than others, one thing is clear: business is not going to continue as usual.

In such a tumultuous time, it’s common for brands to struggle with what to say on social media. Do you stick to your old messaging and proceed as normal or do you curate a COVID-19-only feed from now on? While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, we can guide you through a social media strategy that helps you continue to build your brand and engage customers in a genuine way.

In this article, we share tips on how you can connect with your audience on social media in the COVID-19 era, best practices from Facebook and Instagram, and examples of brands doing it right.

You’ll learn:

  • What to share on social media (according to Facebook and Instagram!)
  • How to engage and connect with your audience
  • What consumers want to see from brands during COVID-19

Social Media Strategy: The Role of Social Media During COVID-19

Whether you’re hosting IG lives, sharing your baked goods online or just joined Tik Tok, one thing remains the same: people are craving a sense of community. As a social media professional, how are you taking this time to show up for your followers and bring them together?

While not many marketers and brands can say they weathered a pandemic storm, here are some guidelines to help inform your company’s decision-making as this crisis evolves.


4 Guiding Principles for Social Media Marketing During COVID-19

1. Spread messages from health organizations

After the cancellation of Nike’s much anticipated LA half marathon, the fitness apparel giant took their initiatives indoors.

As governments and health organizations enforce social distancing measures, it also makes sense for brands to echo the message online. Nike’s most recent initiative encourages people to ‘play inside’ and ‘play for the world.’

Nike has even taken a step further by sharing a video of people’s efforts of staying active indoors.

From the kitchen to the driveway and beyond, Nike’s emotional plea to ‘play inside’ shares one sentiment: “We may not be playing together, but we’ll keep playing together.” Simple, effective and a great reminder of the power of community.


2. Maintain a positive outlook: Offer messages of hope, encouragement and strength

Brands can help relieve concerns by sharing the ways they’ve been addressing current challenges. At a time when people are losing jobs at a rapid pace, Toronto-based casual restaurant, iQ Food, took it upon themselves to extend a helping hand to those who are financially impacted by the pandemic.

Despite iQ Food’s direct impact by COVID-19, they’re now offering free coffee along with a food item at a staff discount to members of the restaurant industry as well as those who have lost their job.

Such an initiative serves as a great reminder to brands to lead with empathy and value-first offers. Even though the restaurant industry was one of the first to feel the impact of COVID-19, causing over 800,000 loss of restaurant jobs in Canada during March alone, IQ is stepping up and providing messages of support and offering what they can to help other who are lacking the financial means to stay afloat.


3. Help consumers maintain daily habits: Offer free services online or provide activity ideas for individuals, families and kids

When the Insta-famous brand, Revolve, known for taking influencers on extravagant trips around the world is on travel lockdown, they take their #REVOLVEaroundtheworld hashtag indoors.

As the mega fashion retailer, Revolve recognizes the importance of staying positive and motivated during this uncertain time, they are helping their consumers stay connected by offering free workouts every day on Instagram Live through #REVOLVEaroundthehouse.

More so, the brand is incorporating other types of content under #REVOLVEaroundthehouse such as live Q&A sessions and a #selfcareroutine Story takeovers by Revolve influencers.

By turning their Instagram into a valuable resource, the brand doesn’t only build a stronger connection with their followers, but they also connect with new audiences. Similarly, the ease of keeping up with influencers on Instagram Live positions the influencer as a friend rather than a distant celebrity, allowing Revolve to build brand trust online.

Still need ideas? We’ve got you covered. Check out how some of our very own are staying busy at home with family and kids.


4. Stay connected with your audience

Ever wanted to speak one-on-one with a Glossier employee about all things beauty? Now you can. In their latest creative initiative, the cult-favourite beauty brand is now accepting online appointments with Glossier team members, allowing their followers to ask beauty questions and share their favorite products.

As an eCommerce retailer with a physical location, remember to offer your audience a new way of staying in touch at a time when we’re all craving authentic interactions with each other.

Even check-ins with your audience can be helpful. A friendly reminder such as Sephora’s “You’re doing enough” can encourage followers to start a conversation in the comments where they can share their stories. This way, the brand can express a personal sentiment outside of the day-to-day posts to remind customers that we’re all in this together.


More Social Media and COVID-19 Examples

Other examples of brands pivoting their content on social media to provide better value to customers while staying true to their brand:

Pinterest: #StayINspired

Spreading inspirational content while tying their message into real product use cases.

Hinge

The popular dating app is normalizing virtual dating while remaining integral to their lighthearted brand personality.

Jeep: #StayOfftheRoad

Jeep is inspiring people to stay home with a video series titled #StayOfftheRoad, combining empathy, inspiration and social responsibility with specific brand messaging.

For example, their latest video copy “even if every day feels the same, please keep outdoor adventures inside your dreams,” promotes staying indoors while using car visuals in contrast with a man in bed.


What NOT to Do on Social Media During COVID-19

Remember to cancel tone-deaf scheduled content

In this current environment, it’s important to adjust your tone and revaluate any scheduled content that doesn’t seem relevant right now. If you’re not sure, consider asking yourself “does this creative or copy apply now and in this context?”

For example, if your copy says “out and about,” it’s worth pivoting your messaging to support the existing cause. Focus on having a flexible marketing plan in place for the coming weeks and months ahead in light of the virus. 

Avoid opportunistic marketing

In a recent blog post, Twitter urged marketers to not capitalize on the pandemic.

“This is not a ‘marketing opportunity’ to capitalize on, and we do not recommend brands opportunistically linking themselves to a health scare,” said Twitter’s Alex Josephson and Eimear Lambe.

For example, brands including Coors Light and Hershey’s have suspended their US campaigns in March, both of which will be replaced by product-centric ads, while KFC suspended its UK campaign to avoid potential insensitivity around COVID-19 concerns.


How to Engage and Connect With Your Audience

Now that you know what to share on social media, how can you engage your existing audience and connect with new audiences?

To help with this, Instagram shared key tips for staying connected via Instagram Stories during COVID-19.

1. Make it easy for people to support your brand

Promote your business by using Instagram’s new gift card and food ordering stickers. Don’t forget to save Stories as Highlights to ensure they stay on your account beyond 24 hours.

Instagram tips on social media during COVID-19
Source: Social Media Today
2. Uplift and inform

Instagram advises brands to “share positive stories around kindness and sacrifice, support health and safety messages from trusted sources” as well as encourage people to stay indoors with a Stay Home sticker.

3. Share your story

Let the audience in and provide them with some behind the scenes footage of your business as a result of COVID-19, and how you’re supporting your team and community.

Instagram tips on social media during COVID-19
Source: Social Media Today
4. Start a conversation

Use the question sticker to engage with your customers and ask them how they’re feeling, or what they’d most like to see from you. Also, consider using the Countdown sticker to build anticipation around digital events.

Instagram tips on social media during COVID-19
Source: Social Media Today
5. Answer FAQs

Use Stories to highlight answers to common questions you’re receiving during this time to maintain the customer’s interests in your business and keep them up-to-date with what’s happening.

Instagram tips on social media during COVID-19
6. Engage your community

Create challenges and templates for people to re-share in their Stories. Tag their friends to maximize reach!

Instagram tips on social media during COVID-19
Source: Social Media Today

What do Consumers Want to See from Brands During COVID-19?

In addition to organic content, businesses are looking for guidance on how to navigate advertising during COVID-19. To help brands communicate better, Twitter recently released a report based on user survey results that examines audience behavior during this time. Here’s what they found:

64% said brands should continue advertising products as normal

Despite the sensitivity around messaging during COVID-19, the consensus seems to be that people understand that some brands need to maintain their operations through advertising. While not every brand can advertise during this time, there are significant opportunities for those looking to maximize reach since advertiser competition is down.

52% agreed that seeing/hearing ads gives them a sense of normality

This reinforces the first statistic that people are open to advertising as a form of comfort and normality. In an ever-changing environment, it makes sense for people to seek normalcy, even through ads.

77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment

Supporting the communities that support your business is key to establishing a stronger connection with the audience and promote your brand. It also enables you to be part of the larger conversation about lessening the impact of COVID-19.

Only 7% of respondents said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice

People have high expectations for brands navigating this situation. Despite their support for advertising at this time, it’s a matter of acknowledging what’s going on and adhering to the evolving environment.

70% of respondents said brands should boost positivity and share positive stories

Similar to what was said earlier about sharing inspirational content, now is the time to move people with feel-good stories and broader relief efforts. Whether it’s a community coming together for a virtual book club, endearing online birthday celebrations or an initiative to help healthcare professionals, it goes without saying that people are craving comfort and connection in times of physical distancing.


What’s Next

Social media used to be a place people go to for distraction. Now, people resort to social media for human interaction. Whether you’re offering free services, spreading messages from health organizations or offering messages of hope, continue to support your social community during this time.

Focus on listening to and empathizing with your audience, and fostering a sense of connection as they cope with the uncertainty of COVID-19. Through this approach, you can position your brand as a leader in the space. With an effective strategy in place, you are ready to offset any future crises.

If you are looking to improve your social media results or have questions regarding the latest platform updates, we’d love to chat!