If you post a brand-focused, non-coronavirus update to your social media account, how will your audience take it?
During a recent PRNEWS webinar, communicators mulled over the question, many of them concerned that promoting goods or services, fundraising efforts or other non-coronavirus content would come across as tone-deaf.
To help clear up questions about when, why and whether to post in an unforeseen digital environment, we asked seven communicators for their takes.
As one might expect, their viewpoints varied by industry and individual philosophy. Here's what we learned.
Kristin Thomas, Retail and Brand Social Media Manager, Vanguard and Board Chair, SocialMedia.org:
- If your brand can help customers or the public through the coronavirus crisis by sharing actionable, educational or reassuring content, then it makes sense for your organization to be posting on social media.
- If your organization can’t find a way to help, and your products or services aren’t useful during this time, your content may be interpreted as sales-y or even offensive.
- How much content to post and how often will be dependent on the extent you can help. A by-product of this virus is volatile financial markets, so at Vanguard, we have a responsibility to all investors to keep them informed, educated, and reassured.
- It’s imperative to adopt a “clients first” mentality. Figure out what your clients need. Analyze what they are asking of you on social media and elsewhere. Look for gaps in content that you aren’t filling.
- Look at the response from your industry. What are others doing that you admire?
- Ultimately, marketers and communication professionals should aim to be a “helper brand” their clients can look to in these uncertain times.
Brian Fanzo, Digital Futurist & Founder, iSocialFanz:
- Embrace social listening, as well as engaging and supporting your community where they are at.
- Everyone wants to feel a part of something, and to not feel alone. Reach out and reply to a tweet, comment on an Instagram post or share a user’s Story.
Manu Muraro, Founder, Your Social Team:
- We will be living in the reality of this pandemic for months, and it's impossible for organizations not to post their business messages altogether, especially at a time when most companies have already lost revenue and need to make payroll.
- Everyone needs a lift, so find a tasteful way to give it to them. Show your audience you are human—a note signed by your CEO can go a long way.
- Highlight other businesses or personalities. Strengthen existing connections.
- Create lead magnets: Give people something they need free of cost, and grow your email list so you can sell to customers when things get better.
- Consider posting helpful resources to your target audience, a photo of your home office or even comic relief (depending on your brand voice). Funny posts have been among my highest engaged content. Balance this with communicating that you take the crisis seriously.
Justin Buchbinder, Social Media Director, Finn Partners:
- Folks are looking for entertainment, a way they can help or feel in control, or something that will make them smile.
- If it is in line with your brand to provide any valuable services, by all means do so. For example, Disney has been sharing Zoom backgrounds from its films. That is a whimsical solution (and you better believe I’m taking my conference calls from Central in “Inside Out”).
- As for cadence, post as often as you want. I see no need to slow your posting unless there’s a specific reason to do so.
- Caveat: Be sure to check your content for tone—the images you use, your copy, your sources.
- If you’re a marketer, the right balance is a mix of business as usual, insight and currency. Show clients and employees that you’re staying on top of the research and trends, and that you have an opinion.
Danica Kombol, CEO, Everywhere Agency
- The show must go on, so brands need to keep their social media feeds alive.
- Now is not the time to sell products or avoid the crisis like the plague (pun intended). It’s more an opportunity to share solutions and show empathy.
- Share what you are doing to take care of employees, and highlight CSR initiatives.
- Anything you share about the virus must link to a valid source, such as the CDC or World Health Organization.
Carmen Collins, Senior Social Media & Talent Brand Manager, Cisco
- With people working remotely, social media usage is going up, up, up. The business of social media continues, but it’s not business as usual. Brands should be posting, but as in any crisis, have a plan for how to adjust to this #NewNormal.
- The @WeAreCisco channels are posting employee-generated content to drive business goals, but also offering good news in the midst of a difficult time.
- Check your paid campaigns. Are they appropriate for this particular time? For day-to-day content, is your content noise—pure marketing, push not pull—or is it useful in some way?
- Use #coronavirus hashtags only when posting content relevant to the conversation and your brand.
Tom Garruto, Director of Operations, The Social Edge:
- For most brands and organizations, posting on social right now will likely require a pivot in messaging.
- Even posts about products that are especially appropriate right now (home workout equipment, cleaning products) might come off as opportunistic if ads are pushed too aggressively. For nonprofits, fundraising efforts might seem inconsiderate unless the funds support those affected by coronavirus or related downstream issues.
- Highlight the ways you are protecting and supporting employees. After the labor market bounces back and people are applying for jobs, a big question on applicants’ minds will be how a potential employer treated their workforce during this time. Does the company regard its employees as part of the family or just a cog in the machine?
- This messaging may also be more valuable for a company's reputation than promotion of PPE manufacturing or donations, which may come off as virtue signaling.