How to Adapt Your Social Media Strategy for the Coronavirus Pandemic
Updated: May 12
As concerns over the rapidly-developing COVID-19 Coronavirus grow, people are spending significantly more time on social media platforms.
That’s true across all age groups, according to a new study by GlobalWebIndex. 30% of Millennials, 29% of Gen X, 27% of Gen Z, and 15% of Boomers say they’re now checking social media more often to stay up to date.
This means that right now, you have a unique opportunity to more easily connect with your audience — and to connect with them more deeply, too.
But many business owners and marketers seem to think that, with everything going on, now isn’t the right time to be pushing their products and services on an anxious, possibly cash-strapped public. Marketing yourself right now might feel icky, like you’re taking advantage of your customers.
However, there is a way to market your business and still be sensitive to the difficulties surrounding all of us. Remember, you started your business in an effort to help people, and now more than ever, people — and the economy — need your help.
Take it from one of my favorite marketers to follow, Laura Belgray of Talking Shrimp (be sure to tap all the way through the post):
To market through this moment with your conscience intact, you’ll need to adapt your social media strategy to fit this unprecedented situation. Below are the 3 major steps you need to take to be effective on social media during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
1. Be a good human.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you adjust your marketing is that emotions are high. To cut through the noise and get people to listen to you, you’ll need to tap into those emotions and connect with them on a personal, human level (something your marketing should already include anyway).
Show them that you understand where they’re coming from. Chances are you’re grappling with a lot of the same fears as your audience, and by acknowledging that, you can be an example of bravery, clear thinking, and hope for many people who are finding it hard to see the silver lining.
After all, how you made them feel when they were at their most vulnerable point is what they’ll remember once the crisis is over and life returns to normal. Remember the famous Fred Rogers quote:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
— Fred Rogers
During this time when it seems like there are more scary things in the news than you can count, find a way to be the helper.
Here are just a few posts I’ve seen this week from people and businesses looking a way to be extra helpful …
Spanx CEO Sarah Blakely offered to loan her wedding dress to brides in need: “My heart is breaking for all the brides out their [sic] having to cancel and postpone their special day so I thought why not offer my dress to more amazing women!”
Girls Night In made a calming playlist for their followers who are anxious about being stuck at home:
Plastic surgeon Dr. Richard J Brown offered patients virtual consults, after first encouraging his audience: “For every story I’ve heard about people acting selfishly, I’ve heard many more about people acting selflessly. It’s those simple acts of kindness that can get us through these isolating times.”
Most of all, avoid using fear-based tactics to take advantage of panicked customers. Not only is it a terrible way to win over their hearts and wallets, but it could also get you in trouble with various social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all cracked down big time on posts spreading misinformation and hysteria surrounding the coronavirus, and the last thing you need right now, on top of everything else, is for your account to get shut down because of a hasty marketing decision.
2. Get creative with how you share your message.
One of the side effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has been a massive amount of disruption across nearly every industry. That makes now a natural time to try something new. Use the current chaos as fuel for your creativity and invention.
The first method to test: video. Video is already the top-performing type of content across all major social platforms, so it would be a smart move to incorporate it into your strategy even if there weren’t a global crisis going on.
But with that added pressure, video can be an excellent way to get your message out faster and spread it farther. Posts that include video get 48% more views than other posts, and generate 13X more shares than text posts and image posts combined.
Viewers also retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to only 10% when reading it in text.
Including people in your video will also give you an extra edge. As the general public practices social distancing, some of your audience may start to crave human interaction, and even a short video of someone speaking to them can help combat that loneliness and isolation.
And if your client meetings are canceled anyway, or if you’re working from home in a dedicated workspace, you probably have more time and space to play with video right now than you might otherwise.
You can also test using other platform features that you normally wouldn’t otherwise. Here are some ideas …
Try using Facebook Groups to communicate important updates to staff, referral partners, or VIP clientele.
Use Stories (both Instagram and Facebook) to share a behind-the-scenes look at how you’re adapting on the fly. Within Instagram Stories, use features like Questions and Polls to gauge your audience and check in with each other.
If you don’t already, use social messaging and chat features as a customer service channel.
Received a lot of questions and concerns from your customers? Hold a Q&A session on Facebook Live or Instagram Live and address issues in real time.
If it turns out that these methods don’t work for your business, there’s no rule that you have to continue using them. But they might turn out to be the key to really connecting with your audience during a chaotic time.
3. Choose your content carefully
With Coronavirus everywhere on the news and social media, it may be tempting to post about that almost exclusively for the next week or two. After all, it makes sense — if that’s what people are talking about, why not join in?
But in this situation, I strongly caution you to be strategic about what you post. A good rule of thumb: Only reference Coronavirus if you have new information to share.
Depending on your business, this might mean you post about it only once or twice, or it might mean you’ll need to post about it daily. In a developing situation such as this one, businesses that rely on in-person visitors (restaurants, shops, salons, etc.) will likely need to update their audiences more frequently than online companies.
Here are some topics that you can and should post about in relation to the Coronavirus:
Any precautions you’re taking as a company. Have you moved your team remote? Have you provided any extra support to them or their families?
Any new policies you’ve instituted in response to the virus. Are you making home deliveries or allowing pick-ups? Is this normal for your company? Or are you shutting down entirely? How will this affect your loyal patrons?
Any extra steps you’re taking to help out in your community. Have you donated food or supplies to medical personnel? Are you volunteering your services to help vulnerable populations?
Here’s a great example of that last topic in action, from a private Facebook group for the residents of a town near mine. As people began to prepare for a possible quarantine, a local construction company volunteered to buy and deliver groceries and run errands for families who couldn’t afford to stock up or felt uncomfortable leaving their homes.
Later that day, they followed it up with a second post:
The positive response to the posts was overwhelming: 1,454 likes and 286 comments combined, with many of the commenters offering to pitch in and help. American Construction was able to make a real impact on its local community simply by posting on social media that they were ready and willing to do so.
And I’m willing to bet that later, if pressed to name a local construction company, most of the people who saw those posts will immediately think of American Construction (I know I will).
Finally, remember to keep your regular marketing content circulating as much as possible. The industries hit hardest by the virus, like travel and entertainment, may not be able to promote services or events right now, but you can remind your customer base that you’re still here, holding down the fort, and that once this blows over, they’ll still be able to count on you for their needs.
Plus, this keeps you from losing momentum entirely while we hunker down for the next couple of weeks.
Are you changing how you approach social media marketing as a result of the Coronavirus? What are you doing differently now? Tell me about it in the comments below.
And if you need more specific help adjusting your strategy, I'm offering FREE 1-hr coaching sessions for a limited time only in an effort to help you out during this difficult time. Click below to get on my calendar: