Social Media & Covid-19: How to Communicate During a Crisis
How do you market your business on social media during Covid-19?
It’s a tough question that we don’t have all the answers for.
But as people around the world are adjusting to the new normal of social distancing, small business owners and social media managers are scrambling to pivot campaigns, adjust content calendars, and come up with new creative ideas to market their products or services.
Staying connected is now more important than ever, with people and businesses relying on social media to stay in touch with friends, consume the news, and be entertained.
In fact, Facebook and Instagram have seen a 40% increase in usage due to Covid-19, with views for Instagram Live and Facebook Live doubling in one week.
But just because people are spending more time on social media doesn’t mean it’s business-as-usual.
So how should you be using social media for business in the age of Covid-19? Keeping reading for best practices, tips for what kind of content you should be posting, and ideas for projects to work on:
Navigating Social Media during Covid-19
Overwhelmingly, the most popular question we’ve received lately is “what should I be posting on social media right now?”
You can’t afford to stop marketing or selling, and that includes posting on social media.
Your followers are spending more time online than they ever have before, so it does present you with a unique opportunity to deepen your relationship with your audience and increase brand affinity.
But you also can’t just be running business-as-usual, or you risk coming across as tone-deaf to an audience with heightened anxiety and sensitivities.
And the hardest part? It feels like our world continues to change by the day (or hour).
“This presents brands and social media managers with the unique challenge of embracing an unsettling time—becoming as human as possible on their social media channels—while juggling the necessary bit of marketing and selling needed to stay in business,” states social media expert Steph Gilbert.
But remember: this is brand new territory for all marketers (including myself). No one is an expert in how to market your business on social media through a global pandemic.
So while we can’t offer you tried-and-tested strategies for marketing your business through this challenging time, we can give you some guiding principles to help you think through your posts and make decisions as the crisis evolves.
5 Guiding Principles for Social Media Marketing & Covid-19
1. Listen & Acknowledge
Ignoring Covid-19 or pretending like everything is normal can come across as inauthentic at best, and tone deaf at worst. Let your followers know that you’re listening and acknowledge our new normal.
Even a simple “It feels weird to promote something right now, but…” can go a long way in showing your followers that you’re listening and caring.
Celebrity & business owner Kristin Cavallari did a good job of explaining why she was promoting a sale for her jewelry brand Uncommon James, by simply stating that she has 100 employees and will do everything she can to help them keep their jobs, which means promoting her sale on Instagram.
Sounds simple, but just adding that context and acknowledging the current climate really does make a difference in humanizing your brand.
2. Keep Posting
Your followers are spending more time online than ever before, and you want stay connected to them! If you’re unable to market or sell your products or services right now, focus on sharing content that aligns with your brand values instead.
The copy in your captions is more important than ever before as it can provide context for the content that you shot weeks ago.
I think @thewoodlandshouse in Sandy, Oregon is doing a good job of staying active on Instagram and promoting their business in the most sustainable and healthy way they can. As a small business in travel, one of the hardest industries, they are having to get creative in finding ways to keep the lights on.
This is a well-written caption: they are acknowledging the crisis, pro-actively providing answers to sanitization concerns, and only offering their home as a place to self-isolate and practice social distancing, if you need a little more space.
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How is everyone doing out there !?! Such scary and wild times, and we’re over here wondering (along with everyone else) how long is this going to last?? All this definitely causes us to re-order our priorities, and to focus on the things that matter most. We sincerely hope you all are weathering this storm ok. We know this will pass and we are hopeful because we are all in this together. . We just wanted to update people and let you all know that we are still accepting stays if you are interested in getting out of town to isolate. We have a bunch of availability so if you are in need of a place to lay low, or maybe just need a change of scenery and some more space 🙂 The mountain air is quite healing! We want this space to be restorative, emotionally and physically for you all. . . We have reduced our normal nightly prices by 25%, to make it more reasonable for single families as opposed to usual multiple families stay. As well as taking an additional 20% off for those interested in stay for more than 7 days. . . Also, we have increased our cleaning and disinfecting practices to ensure guests stay safe: . – We open up all exterior doors to air out the home in between guests. – We are only using linens that have been washed on the hottest wash and dyer settings, and then stored and unused for 72hrs. – We are cleaning all surfaces, then disinfecting them with Clorox wipes. This includes door handles, light switches, etc. – We are asking only guests free of symptoms, and free of known exposures to stay.. – And yes for now we are providing (a limited amount) of toilet paper, to be used during the stay and not to be taken home. . . For people looking for longer stays…. if you don’t see the availability you were hoping for, message us and we might be able to make adjustments. . . #isolation #socialdistancing #shelterinplace #cabinlife #cabinlife #cabininthewoods #airbnb #interiordesign #interiorinspo
3. Be Empathetic
Covid-19 is affecting everyone around the world, but in different ways. Remember to think outside of your own situation, have empathy for your followers, & offer compassion. With this mind, think twice before posting memes!
You don’t have to mention Covid-19 explicitly in all of your content, but do take into consideration the tone of your captions and how it could be interpreted by people facing a different reality than you might be in.
Remember that some of your followers have lost their jobs, are caring for a loved one, trying to work at home with a toddler, might be sick themselves, etc.
4. Provide Organic Value
Turn your Instagram into a valuable resource for your audience. Focus on engagement first, instead of driving traffic, by providing extra education through videos, carousel posts, or captions – instead of constantly asking to swipe up or click the link in your bio.
Here at Later, we are making a big shift in our social content to follow this principle. Instead of using Instagram to drive traffic (fun fact: stories are our top traffic driver!), we are now hyper-focused on just providing value and education organically on Instagram.
For example, you can look at this carousel post about Instagram Live. Instead of trying to drive our followers to read the blog post, we distilled the main points of the blog post into one handy and helpful post:
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We’re all craving connection right now – and Instagram Lives are giving us a little slice of authentic interaction with each other. 💕They’re allowing for real time conversation and providing an opportunity to show a totally unedited, human side of your biz. But just because it’s live and unedited, doesn’t mean you can’t go in with a plan and prepare in advance.🌟 In fact, taking a little time to strategize can help you reach more people and feel super confident before you hit that button to go live. ⠀ 👉 Swipe through to get some of our favorite Instagram live hacks for real time connection. And for a deeper dive into going live, we've got a blog post to walk you through it all step-by-step. 💫 ⤴ Link in bio: Instagram Live: A Step-By-Step Guide for Businesses ⤴
Another way to provide value is by shifting your overall content strategy to address social distancing and give your followers what they’re needing the most right now.
For example, the Insta-famous brand @Revolve is known for their epic influencer vacations and travel content, and they’ve had to dramatically shift their content strategy.
So instead of #revolvearoundtheworld, they created a new hashtag #revolvearoundthehouse to encourage their followers to “stay positive, stay productive, and most importantly, stay connected.”
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it feels like our world has been flipped outside in – literally. #REVOLVEaroundthehouse is our way to inspire and motivate our community to stay positive, stay productive, and most importantly, stay connected! so show and tell us everything – how are you spending your time? what do you do to find inspiration? show us your ootd! tag @revolve & #REVOLVEaroundthehouse to share a little bit of your life with us, and we'll do the same ❤️take care & stay safe babes!
They are then sharing a ton of helpful, organic content that they know their followers want to consume right now, and have turned their Instagram account into a destination for stay-at-home lifestyle content.
Like smoothie bowl recipes on IGTV:
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@aimeesong creates 3 homemade smoothie bowls inspired by 3 of her favorite @songofstyle tops! not into cooking at home? support your local businesses by ordering pickup or delivery! shoutout to @amazebowls! #revolvearoundthehouse shop the looks: bit.ly/2WNI4xQ music by: @epidemicsound
Daily work-outs on Instagram Live:
Instagram Stories takeovers from influencers:
And even a weekend DJ set over Instagram live! That being said, Revolve has decreased their post frequency a bit, from 5+ posts per day to what looks like now an average of 3 posts per day, which is totally normal (and encouraged).
5. Ask for Help
If you’re struggling, it’s okay to lean on your community, that’s what it’s there for. Get vulnerable in your content, share your story, and clearly communicate how your followers can support your business right now. And remember: we’re all in this together.
I really liked this approach from my local lunch spot Kokomo, who committed to giving back $5 for every $50 gift card purchase to our local community women’s shelter.
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We are beyond grateful for our community. The calls, texts, DMs and love sent from all corners of the world have been humbling for this small business. You've asked how you can help and we have an answer—GC’s are a great way to support local business through these tough times. To keep up with the momentum of all the donations to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, for every $50 gift card purchased, we'll give $5 to the DEWC. This feels right for us: we get to continue to give to our community and allow you to support us at the same time. Thank you for your love and support of other small businesses in our community. No matter how this may be affecting each of us, we’re in it together and that’s the silver lining. WE LOVE YOU 🧡
What to Post on Social Media during Covid-19:
Now that you have 5 social media principles to guide you through communicating during Covid-19, let’s dive into some specific types of content that you can (and should) be posting on social media right now.
The type of social media content that you’ll be posting right now is directly related to the state of your business and how Covid-19 has affected your industry. You’ll likely either have the goal of retention, sales, or awareness.
Below, we’ve broken it out into three scenarios: closed businesses, open but hustling businesses, and then businesses who are in a strong position.
Scenario #1: Open, but hustling
If your business is open but working hard to survive right now, like many retail stores and restaurants are, you’ll be wanting to share content with the goal of getting sales from social media.
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We’re so grateful to see you guys making space for superfoods in your home self-care routines 💚 answering a couple of FAQs: 1. Yes we’re still shipping out orders! 2. Order fulfillment may be delayed by a couple of days due to high demand in our warehouse 3. Free shipping is still available on every order for now 👋🏽
This is a super stressful and busy time for you, and you’re likely leaning on free organic channels like Instagram more than ever before. Here are some ideas:
- Show up on stories every single day. It doesn’t have to look perfect, but it’s more important to stay top-of-mind with your followers now more than ever.
- Connect your online store to Instagram Shopping so you can tag products in posts and stories, here’s how to get started.
- Encourage your loyal followers and customers to share about your business on social media. Share user-generated content in both your stories and your feed to thank your followers for shopping or ordering from you during this time.
- Don’t stop trying to sell, but use your captions to provide context, educate your community, ask for support, and communicate gratitude.
- Video is a great way to share a lot of valuable information in a quick, digestible way. Plus, it performs great on the Explore page, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are some tips for using video on Instagram.
You need to make sales in order to keep your business going, and you likely don’t have a ton of time to devote to social media right now.
In this case, you’ll want to be focused on working smarter, not harder. Now is the time to create efficient workflows, simplify your process, save time, and save money.
Sitting down and scheduling a week’s worth of content at once will allow you to spend more time actually running your business.
Scenario #2: Closed (for now)
If your business is closed or unable to operate right now, such as wedding photographers, hair stylists, florists, etc, you want to share content with the goal of retention: staying in touch with your existing followers, so that you are top-of-mind when they are able to use your services or book an experience with you again.
For example, my amazing hair stylist in Vancouver @hairbyjulias normally doesn’t post a lot of tutorial content, but is using her time at home to create step-by-step tutorials in her Instagram Stories:
Julia is using this time to strengthen the relationship that she has with her clients, while also building her brand and getting *new* followers through her social media content, something she didn’t have much time to do before.
Some ideas for what you can post or work on right now are:
- Share educational videos, whether that’s through your stories, Instagram Live, or IGTV. If you wouldn’t normally create video content, now is a great time to start learning!
- Run an Instagram audit. Create on-brand highlight covers, update your bio, and archive any old posts that don’t fit your aesthetic. You can use our free Instagram audit checklist to keep you on track!
- Launch your TikTok! It takes a while to truly understand the platform and figure out how to make TikToks, but the best part about TikTok is that you can have 5 followers, create a video, and get 1 million views. You don’t need to have a large following in order to get your content seen, so if you find yourself with extra time, this is a great investment to make in your brand.
- Invest in growing your Pinterest account! Pinterest is a search engine, not a social network, which means that the content you pin can reliably bring you a ton of traffic every month. Like SEO, it may take a while to reap the rewards, so it will be beneficial to you in a few months when you need it the most.
- Create healthy habits. Now is a great time to establish healthy habits that you can sustain all year, whether that’s scheduling a month of content at once, or setting aside 30 minutes every day to engage with new people on Instagram.
Scenario #3: Business as (un)usual
If your business is in a strong position, or you’re not worried because you have a decent amount of cash in the bank, you’re in a healthy spot to create content with the goal of awareness.
You can use a slower time to invest in growing your brand instead of your bottom line, start new social channels, or run an influencer campaign.
If you haven’t already started a Youtube channel or an IGTV series, you should think about doing that now, even if you’re just working on the planning stages of it (here are some tips from Instagram about how to create your IGTV strategy).
But I would encourage you to buy a ring light and start recording anyway! We are currently filming our new IGTV series – a weekly social media show called “Screen Time” – out of the corner of my tiny apartment.
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Our latest episode of Screen Time with Later is here! This week’s episode looked a little different — @taylor.loren filmed this on her own, in her city apartment, now turned video studio. While the world around us shifts and adapts, we can’t help but notice how social distancing is affecting how we are using social media, and we think it’s important to keep the show rolling weekly and have a conversation about the changes that we’re seeing. ⠀ ⠀ This week we’re covering: ⠀ 👉 Instagram Live’s sudden resurgence ⠀ 👉 New Instagram features that put the social in the distancing⠀ 👉 A zoom hack to keep things interesting⠀ 👉 Why you should quit snoozin’ on TikTok⠀ 👉 Some wise words from @schwarzenegger ⠀ ⠀ See a trend and want our take? Curious about a social rumor you’ve heard? Have a little known social media fact? Comment on our weekly video 💬 and we may just cover it next week! Share, save and watch with friends! 📳⠀ ⠀ Want to learn more?⠀ ⤴ Link in bio: Read the latest social media strategy, tips, tools & more on our blog ⤴ ⠀ or if you’re watching on IGTV, tap right through: https://lat.gr/LaterBlogST 👈⠀ ⠀ #socialmediatrends #tiktoktrends #socialmedianews #instagramnews #laterscreentime
The production may not be perfect, but with people spending a lot more time on social media, it’s only natural that video consumption is increasing among all social platforms.
Another way to increase brand awareness and maximize your marketing spend on social media is to run an influencer campaign.
According to influencer marketing platform Fohr, 58% of influencer campaigns have been paused and 18% have been cancelled.
Because of reduced demand during this time, 48% of influencers are reducing their rates for sponsored content, with an average cost savings of 30% for brands.
Combine this with the fact that engagement is increasing and people are spending 40% more time on Instagram, and it’s easy to conclude that it’s actually a really good time for brands to be running influencer campaigns.
A creative strategy I heard recently was to reach out to influencers you have worked with in the past and ask them to re-post content from an older campaign at a reduced rate.
Since influencers usually shoot multiple photos for a campaign, but likely only post a few, this is a win-win for both influencers and brands.
It allows influencers to still receive income at a time when a lot of them aren’t, and it is more affordable for brands who need to be cutting costs while also driving more sales.
In fact, a lot of influencers have seen higher engagement on their sponsored posts than normal, and are just tweaking their content and captions to align with the new normal of staying at home.
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I’ll be coming out of this quarantine with the best skin of my life! Haha! I’ve been doing a mask almost every night! One of my faves is the one I have on in this photo. It’s the @kiehls overnight mask which is the most satisfying thing you can put on your face at the end of the day. It’s incredibly cooling and you wake up with the most hydrated skin of your life. @kiehls blends the finest ingredients for your skin (And hair and body too!) Swipe to see some of my favorite products from Kiehl's and it’s all available at one of my favorite beauty destination’s @nordstrom! @liketoknow.it #liketkit liketk.it/xx #nordstrom #ad http://liketk.it/2LZOO
More Social Media & Covid-19 Resources
Like I said earlier, no one is an expert in marketing your way through a pandemic. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember that no one really knows what to do right now.
And in a time of heightened anxieties and uncertainty, you should also expect decreased productivity out of yourself and your team.
Here at Later, we’ve created a Covid-19 resource page which has details about our Customer Relief Program and other programs available to small businesses at this time.
If you’re wanting to learn more about how to navigate social media during Covid-19, here are some more excellent resources to check out:
- The State of Influencer Marketing during Covid-19, a free webinar by Fohr
- How Brands are Posting About Covid-19 on Instagram, helpful case studies from The Social Media CEO
- Coronavirus Support Guide from Marie Forleo
- Crisis Communication Tips from Twitter
- Tips for Sharing on LinkedIn During Covid-19 from LinkedIn
- Mental Health Tips for Social Media Managers from us
We’ll be sharing more tips about how to market your business during this time through our newsletter and on our social channels at @latermedia. Have a question? Send us a tweet or a DM!