Using social media during a global pandemic: advice for brands

Written by Rachel McCallion

What do the Queen, Ozzy Osbourne and David Beckham all have in common (other than a great hairdresser)? They’re all staying at home during the pandemic, of course. And we can’t prove it, but we reckon they’re all keeping a closer eye on their social channels too.

Neilsen found that staying home ups the amount of content we consume by around 60%. Something most of us can relate to since Boris started dictating our social lives. According to The Drum, TikTok and Instagram have seen a 25% increase in user screen time. And we were hardly social media-shy before.

In other words, your audience is glued to social, so now’s the time to perfect your posting. But before you start posting, bear in mind that COVID-19 has shifted the rules. Here’s what you need to know.

Check in on your audience profiles

Think of someone who’s been unaffected by the pandemic. Nope – we couldn’t either. Even if your audience profiles or buyer personas are already mapped out in high-definition, revisit them. What’s going on for your audience right now? What do they care about? If everything in your profiles rings true, great. If not, make some tweaks.

Hold on to your authenticity

Adapt your brand message to respond to new consumer needs, yes. But don’t abandon the things that make your brand, your brand. Your audience wants more of what they love about you, just with a COVID-19 twist.

Tweak your tone

Social media is usually the place to turn a bold tone of voice up to 11. But in a world where everyone’s feeling slightly bruised, going in strong is more likely to alienate than endear. If irreverence or humour are part of how you communicate, stay true to your tone, but adjust the balance. Reduce the volume on any aspects that feel out of step with our new reality.

Aim for brand loyalty, not sales

Business is business, but no one likes an ambulance chaser. Go in hard with a sales message now and you’ll give off all the wrong vibes. Instead, focus on building relationships with your audience. Relationships that might just turn into conversions when normality resumes.

Find a way to stand out

It's not just your audience who have become more social. Your competitors have, too. The Drum found that influencer #ad content has gone up by 72% during lockdown. It’s rough out there. Here’s how to give your posts a fighting chance.

1. Connect with your audience

Once you’ve figured out your audience’s priorities, build a strategy to engage. People are desperate for relief from the boredom. They want a connection – any connection – that’s deeper than the one they have with their sofa and fridge. If you know who your audience is and relay your brand message in a poignant way, you’re likely to see engagement soar.

Engagement breeds engagement – Twitter’s algorithm factors in recency, engagement, rich media and relevance. That means it shows popular posts to more people, so the effort to start a conversation pays back two-fold.

2. Tell a story

Storytelling is a great way to engage an audience. It’s also a great form of escapism, which, let’s face it, we all need right now. How many stories can you recount from memory? And how many generic marketing messages? Exactly.

It could be as simple as speaking directly to your audience from home or giving an insight into the daily workings of your business. A story is anything that will draw the reader in.

3. Respond to comments

Sprout Social found that brands who didn’t respond to customer messages on social media were rewarded with a 43% drop in advocacy. But a reply can increase it by 20%. Stock replies won’t do – send individual responses to earn true brand loyalty.

4. Use consistent design

Life has gone from crowded Tube platforms to crowded social platforms. Both places where audience attention is in short supply. How do marketers get their Tube ads to stand out? A consistent logo, colour palette, bio and handle. Use the same tactics to make sure your audience recognises your brand as they scroll on social. It will also help you align your online efforts with your offline brand, and vice versa.

5. Remember best practice

Some things haven’t changed – you still need to remember what makes each platform tick and adapt your content to suit. Blindly cross-post at your peril.

While everyone from monarchs to rock royalty is spending an inordinate amount of time at home, adapt your strategy and show your customers that you’re in this together.

For more information about getting your brand message across and improving SEO, check out our Guide to Optimising for Search.

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