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Reece Halkett, Digital Marketing Manager, Better Agency

 

In the current climate, it’s easy to see why companies are starting to panic. We all know it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive, but let’s face it – how many of us legislated for a pandemic? It’s a crisis which poses a number of unique, unprecedented challenges, and navigating through the ongoing strategy of self-isolation and social distancing is going to prove difficult for any business.

With the UK government advising us to avoid all but essential travel, many of those who can work from home will. While these measures are important to adhere to – and most crucially, will save lives – they will inevitably have an impact on the ways that some businesses operate for the foreseeable future. But social distancing doesn’t mean neglecting your online social platforms – quite the opposite.

Before we continue, if you do experience any of the typical symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as a high temperature or persistent cough, please do follow the current NHS guidelines which can be found here.

Maintaining an online presence

With a significantly reduced opportunity to engage or interact with your customers physically, maintaining share of voice on digital channels will be critical. Share of voice and share of market are intrinsically linked. In ‘How Brands Grow’, Byron Sharp stated that brands should ‘continuously reach all buyers of the brand’s service/product category, with both physical distribution and marketing communication’. In our current situation physical distribution is significantly more difficult to achieve, but digital communication remains a key tenant of growth. Sharp also places as emphasis on maximising reach as cost effectively as possible, and there are few channels that can deliver targeted CPMs as cheap as Paid Social.

When customers can’t visit your brick and mortar stores, social media is perhaps the most important channel available to you when it comes to staying in touch with them. Screen time across the country is set to increase massively, and a study carried out by influencer agency Obviously has already linked the COVID-19 outbreak to a significant spike in social media usage. Many are also predicting that the pandemic will have permanent ramifications for attitudes towards health and consumer behaviour, even after quarantines and restrictions are lifted.

It’s vital, therefore, to have Organic and Paid social media strategies in place, for both the immediate and the foreseeable future.

Organic

 First and foremost, resist any temptation to address the outbreak directly with anything other than relevant information regarding your brand; such as cancellation of events or anything else that directly impacts your brand or your customer base. With anxiety running high at the moment, leave discussions about the outbreak to the experts – there’s enough misinformation being spread already.

Although it might not feel like it at the moment, at some point normality will return. Rather than going dark on social media, you’ll want to build your brand equity to ensure that you still have a share of the conversation. You can do this by offering value-driven content such as product tutorials, Q&As, or even a Facebook Live stream. Facebook Live can be a great way to continue offering customers ‘face time’ (albeit one-way) in lieu of face-to-face interactions. Above all, communication and consideration are key when it comes to organic social posting in the current environment.

Paid

You can augment your organic brand-building efforts by boosting your posts or running a dedicated awareness campaign. It’s important to stay in touch with the community you’ve built on social media, but you’ll want to extend your reach beyond your existing followers to ensure that you stay top of mind during the ongoing shutdown.

Paid social is also where you can afford to be a little more forthright with your marketing efforts. This is one area where you’ll look to cut the deficit, and fill the void left by store closures and trade-show cancellations. If your customers can purchase your goods or services digitally, there will be few places you can reach them with as much efficacy as social media over the coming weeks.

Whilst it’s true that social media traditionally sits higher in the funnel, its direct response offering is not to be sniffed at. Lead-generation ads across Facebook and LinkedIn can bridge the gap seen by a lack of physical interaction, and Facebook’s app ads can help users stay engaged with your mobile application.

Don’t overlook your remarketing efforts either. Make sure that your CRM lists are up to date, and upload these to your social platforms for retargeting purposes. It’s an effective way of keeping in touch with your existing customer base, at a time where it’s more important to do so than ever.

At the moment, the only thing we can be certain of is that the future is uncertain.

We don’t know when this global health crisis will end, or when life will return to normal. In the interim, brands are going to need to adapt to an unprecedented situation. However, through social media we have an opportunity to stay connected when we might feel more isolated than ever before. It’s important that we make the most of it.