Late December of 2019, China reported 44 cases of pneumonia from unknown causes. Less than three months later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, with over 125,000 infected worldwide.
Although the scientific community is speeding up research and knowledge exchange, many countries continue to struggle with the virus. As of July, more than 16 million cases have been recorded across the globe. Close to 10 million patients recovered but more than 600,000 expired.
The novel coronavirus drastically changed our every day. Following health protocols, we are advised to observe social distancing and minimize human contact. As a result, countless business operations were brought at a standstill and the majority of our functions have migrated online.
Now more than ever, marketers are faced with the challenge of keeping their customers engaged amid trying and uncertain times.
Effects of COVID-19 on businesses
It’s no question that COVID-19 caused major setbacks and continues to disrupt the economy as we speak. Countless businesses have reported great losses, some of which had to make the decision to close permanently.
It’s important to have a good grasp of today’s turbulent climate for you to lead your business successfully. The following are some of the most important facts you need to know about how COVID-19 is affecting businesses:
- Global retail sales are projected to lose $2.1 trillion
- Organic traffic and conversions dropped for most industries
- COVID-19 exposed the financial fragility of SMEs
- 73% of small businesses are experiencing reduced local demand
- The search volume for “buy online” skyrocketed
Effects of COVID-19 on businesses
The business landscape has never been more virtual. With storefronts closed and movement majorly constrained, COVID-19 opened a new era for digital marketing, particularly on social media.
A resilient marketing campaign during the pandemic hinges heavily on your social media marketing strategy.
According to a study in 2019, 90.4% of Millenials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers are active on social media. Amid the pandemic, platforms like Facebook and Instagram saw a 40% increase in usage.
In order to craft an effective social media marketing strategy, you must first understand its role in the COVID crisis. Beyond connecting people and entertainment, social media is now:
A major source of information
Checking social media is second-nature when we get a hold of our mobile phone or laptop. That is why it is no surprise that news travels fast on the four corners of our screens.
Social media plays a major role in keeping people informed in this time of crisis. From proper hygiene to reports of new COVID cases, you can find almost every bit of news on Facebook. Of course, these platforms don’t replace original sources of information.
A platform to call for change
Many citizens have taken their concerns to social media since the spread of the virus. Calls to improve government response are widespread on Twitter and Facebook. The most common pleas are those concerning mass testing and providing aid to health workers and vulnerable sectors.
Regular citizens and influencers have also joined online awareness campaigns to promote the use of face masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing. There are also calls to support local businesses to help them stay afloat.
A way to ease anxiety
Despite these uncertain times, there is still a handful of good news to go around. From simple joys like free online concerts to people setting up fundraisers for social aid, there are bits of positivity if you seek it.
Using social media is also a great way to combat loneliness. Posts describing the day-to-day experiences during lockdown help ease some of the anxiety that goes with prolonged isolation. By staying connected online, people can have a sense of community and know they are not going through this harrowing time alone.
The impact of COVID-19 on social media marketing
Other than its impact on the economy and SMEs, COVID-19 sent shockwaves to the social media marketing scene. Specifically, the virus sparked the following events:
- Engagement rates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are at their lowest and still declining
- 74% of brands are posting less on social media
- 41% of businesses plan to strengthen their presence on social media
- Engagement on informational posts by influencers reach over a billion
Adapting your social media marketing to COVID-19
The effects of COVID-19 on social media marketing is unprecedented. Although there is a significant increase in usage, engagements have fallen across all platforms. People are simply preoccupied with more pressing issues and are adjusting to the new normal.
Adapting your social media marketing to COVID-19 calls for the following recalibrations:
Provide value-adding content
The demand for online content is at an all-time high. People are looking for ways to kill time and stay calm, which are good reasons to keep on posting. That said, you don’t want to just roll out generic material.
Provide organic value by focusing on your customers’ needs rather than your own. Ask yourself what challenges they may be facing and come up with content that communicates solutions to these problems. You can make tutorials, guides, or simple reminders for when people have to go out.
Make sure your content is easy to digest and fun to consume. Consider using infographics, listicles, or short video clips to present otherwise boring information.
Above all, fact-check meticulously and rely only on credible sources. Sharing misleading content breaks brand trust and it won’t be easy for you to bounce back.
Extend your business’ support and empathy through social media. Let your customers know you acknowledge their difficulties and are one with them in weathering the storm. At times like these, the most important thing to do is to humanize your brand.
Be sensitive to the current context when planning your social media marketing plan. Stay in the know of relevant issues and assess where your business can extend help. If your industry is not directly concerned with eradicating the virus, don’t force yourself into the scene. Instead, highlight what your brand uniquely offers and let that speak for itself.
Keep in mind that some people have lost jobs and loved ones, so add an extra layer of care to your posts. Never capitalize on real-life struggles. The pandemic is a global crisis, not a marketing opportunity.
Stop irrelevant campaigns
It’s likely that before COVID, you had your entire social media marketing campaign mapped out. With the pandemic on-going, it’s only right to rethink your whole strategy. Kill irrelevant campaigns and evaluate which of your future posts should be put on hold.
Overly-positive ads and celebratory content should be avoided. Posting as if nothing has changed will come off insensitive and deter customers from engaging with your brand.
In promoting your products or services, it makes a huge difference to add lines that acknowledge the current situation. Captions like “it’s a difficult time for everyone,” “it’s weird to be promoting anything right now,” and “we know it’s been hard” communicate that you’re not blind to what’s going on.
Brands with excellent social media marketing campaigns
A tried and tested formula for effective and targeted social media marketing in our current climate does not exist. Regardless, there are brands faring better than others by being empathetic and sharing their resources where they can.
The most notable brands with excellent social media marketing campaigns during COVID-19 include:
Nike created one of the most memorable reminders to observe social distancing. In their ‘Play for the World’ campaign, they stated: “Play inside, play for the world.” These words blew up on all social media platforms with the matching caption “Now more than ever, we are one team.” The campaign did more than urge the public to adhere to the health protocol. Its most compelling effect came from instilling a sense of togetherness, reminding everyone that we are all basically on the same boat.
Sony’s PlayStation is one of the most followed brands on Twitter with 18.7 million followers. Amid the pandemic, PlayStation joined the call to stay at home with their #PlayAtHome campaign. The company released ‘Unchartered: The Nathan Drake Collection’ and ‘Journey’ for free to the delight of over 10 million gamers who downloaded the copies. This earned them a lot of positive feedback and set a prime example of how to leverage your brand’s strengths to encourage responsible social behaviors.
Dove is known for its ‘Real Beauty’ ads which have been criticized and revamped multiple times over the years. Their latest installment, however, won the hearts of Instagram users all over the world. The ‘Courage is Beautiful’ campaign honors health workers tirelessly working to treat patients with COVID-19. Dove’s short video clips show medical practitioners’ faces bruised and marked from wearing protective equipment for hours on end. To encourage engagements, Dove asks viewers to tag friends and family in the medical field to say thank you.
Publix Super Markets Inc. responded well to the effects of COVID-19 on social media marketing without fancy slogans. When the company decided to dedicate shopping hours for the elderly, they stuck to delivering the information clearly without any gimmicks. Actually fulfilling the needs of customers and announcing the change in schedule ahead of time set them apart and top of mind.
Wendy’s is famous for its snarky humor on social media. Pre-COVID, their sarcastic jokes were a huge hit among consumers. Thankfully, the brand picked up quickly on using a more appropriate tone during these times. Today, tweets and posts from Wendy’s are earnest and kind. The fast-food chain’s social media strategy has shifted its focus on driving positive change and supporting social movements.
Every marketer is navigating through uncharted territoryat this moment. There are still many unknowns, but what we can say for certain is brands should exercise empathy and be sensitive to the struggles of their consumers. At the end of the day, your slogan comes second to what you’re doing to alleviate people’s stress and help fellow businessmen to stay afloat.
Hello! I am Manuel, the Chief Content Officer of Startup Credo. My writing proficiency covers topics about social media, digital marketing, technology, and mobile applications.
When I was younger, I fell in love with writing my emotions through poems, and as years gone by, I used my gift by making informative articles regarding new technologies to reach out to my reader’s souls.
When I’m not writing you’ll see me in my garden with my plants to refresh with nature.