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Should you post that? Coronavirus and social media

There hasn’t been a situation like this in modern times. So, it’s understandable that businesses and brands are desperately trying to find the right approach to managing their social media channels. With over 3 billion people currently being encouraged to stay at home, social media usage has surged with a 76% increase in the number of likes on posts (according to a study by Obvious.ly). So, it’s vital that you take right the approach to social media during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Read on to find out what that approach could look like for your business…

 

Coronavirus and social media

Should you hit ‘pause’?

The first reaction amongst many brands is to hit pause and ‘go dark’ on social media. But is halting all social media activity the right thing to do for your business? 

It’s an important decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken without consideration of the public and your customer base. Modern consumers are savvy, well-informed and can see through attempts to make hay from a distressing situation.

It’s a make or break moment for brands.

But our advice is to continue posting on your social media channels. Don’t go dark. But with one important caveat…. If your product or service is a crisis essential such as hand sanitiser, then it’s wise to pause the social activity lest you be accused of trying to profit from a difficult situation.

If you’re a business that sells a product or service which isn’t a pandemic essential then you should consider the continuation of your social media, but using a revised strategy. We’ve set out some tips below as to what that strategy could look like.

Revising your social strategy

If you’ve made the decision to continue posting to social media, what should you say? What tone of voice should you adopt? What type of content should you be using? Should you be including calls to action?

With over 30 years’ experience working with brands big and small, we’ve crafted an approach which should help you answer these questions and create a thoughtful and sensitive social media strategy.

Listen to your audience

Before you start posting, listen to the conversation that’s happening within your particular industry/sector. How are people talking about your brand (or your competitors)? Only once you’ve developed a thorough understanding of what consumers are saying can you then respond.

Some useful actions to take (if you haven’t already) include setting up Google Alerts for your brand name, your services/products, and the name of key staff members (if they are public figures).

On platforms such as Twitter it’s important to monitor hashtags in collaboration with your brand name. Useful hashtags to follow include:

#coronavirus, #COVID-19, #flattenthecurve, #socialdistancing #handwashing, #stayhomesavelives, #coronovirus, #covid2019, #stayhome, #safehands, #keyworkers, #COVID19, #protectheNHS, #YourNHSneedsyou.

Check yourself 

Be sensitive. The Coronavirus pandemic is having a deep impact upon people’s lives. You should re-evaluate all of your proposed social media posts in terms of their tone and content. Now is not the time to be flippant.

Be open

If consumers are asking you questions, answer them. And answer them transparently. Now is the time to listen, learn and act. If you’ve got some legacy posts which are being criticised, apologise and explain that they were made in the pre-Coronavirus era.

Keep evolving

As we are all aware the Coronavirus pandemic is changing rapidly. This means the conversation on social media is continually changing. You must stay abreast of this conversation and adapt accordingly. At the moment, it’s probably not wise to schedule weeks’ worth of content. By the time it goes out, the conversation may have changed drastically – and your brand could be badly damaged by a tweet that only a week ago was appropriate – but now isn’t.

Be helpful

Is there anything that your business can do to help people? Because if it can, now is the time to step up and do so. Remember though, don’t do something that could be perceived as opportunistic or as an act of profiteering. If you struggle to think of ways your business can help directly, then perhaps you could consider a donation to support relief efforts.

Be prepared

Make sure you have prepared statements/key messages for your social media managers and public-facing staff. It’s vital that you respond to queries in a consistent, transparent and timely way. Consider the most common questions you’re likely to receive such as:

  • What actions are you taking to protect your staff, suppliers and customers?
  • Can you continue providing your service/product?
  • Will the Coronavirus pandemic affect the level of service you provide to customers?

As with the other suggestions in this article, make sure you are continually evolving your prepared statements and key messages. As the Coronavirus pandemic changes daily, you don’t want to be caught out responding with an outdated/inappropriate message.

In particular, if you are a consumer-facing brand, you may want to put out an initial statement on your social channels, explaining what your approach to social media will be going forward, why you are continuing to post and encouraging open dialogue with your audience. If you have the resources, it’s also worth asking your audience what they want to see from you as a brand. Creating a dialogue can demonstrate that you are taking a nuanced, informed approach towards a very complex situation.

Adapt your content

With people spending more time at home, and consequently online, it’s an opportunity to think about what content formats you are posting on social media. Consider creating digital experiences for your audience to enjoy; in-depth videos of your products/services or dynamic 3D visuals of your latest clothing line. Maybe now is the time to launch that podcast you’ve been thinking about? 

People have a lot more time to consume media, especially that which is long-form or in-depth. Apply one of the previous lessons in this article; be useful! If you can inform and educate as well as entertain, your audience will thank you.

Keep updated with social media platforms’ own Coronavirus responses

All of the major social media platforms are developing their own responses to the Coronavirus pandemic. So far, we’ve seen platforms: banning ads that seek to profiteer from the crisis; stepping up content moderation; issuing revised brand guidelines; making donations and other contributions to relief efforts.

Ensure that you’re up to speed with each platform’s approach to ensure you don’t fall foul of their revised content guidelines.

Here’s how each of the major social media platforms is responding:

  • Twitter has adjusted its inappropriate content policy to include any Coronavirus related content. With reference to paid promotion, they will not be accepting any ads which contain the words coronavirus or covid19 (with the exception of government agencies or health bodies). Twitter has also created a custom handwashing emoji which is backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • Facebook has said it will ban all paid ads that refer to coronavirus and stockpiling. The social media giant has also partnered with the WHO to ensure that relevant and accurate information about Coronavirus is readily available across the platform. In addition, Facebook is working with the United Nations Foundation and the WHO to create a COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
  • Instagram is placing Coronavirus prevention techniques front and centre by pinning key messages to the top of the main content feed. If users search for #coronavirus or #covid19 they will be presented with a message asking them to go to the WHO website for up-to-date information. Like the other major platforms, Instagram has also stepped up its content moderation efforts to reduce the spread of disinformation or fake news.
  • LinkedIn has been producing content and insights for businesses to help them protect their workforces, customers and communities. Echoing other platforms, LinkedIn has also pinned COVID-19 information at the top of news feeds.

So, should you post that? A checklist

We hope that you will find this information helpful for you and your business. We realise that there’s a lot to take in, and particularly during this complex situation, it can be a challenge to stay on top of everything. To help you keep your social media posting at the right tone and sensitivity, we’ve created a short checklist that you can use at-a-glance.

  • Could your post make your business appear to be opportunistic or taking advantage of the situation?
  • Is there a chance that your post could upset someone or add to a sense of panic/unrest?
  • Does your post include anything that goes against current health advice such as insufficient social distancing, face touching etc?
  • Does your post use an appropriate tone of voice?
  • Does your post make a meaningful contribution? Is it helpful?
  • Do you really need to post this? What would your audience think of it?

We hope this helps. 

It’s a make or break moment for brands.