As the impacts and effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic continue to unfold, we are committed to being by your side through it all—we’re #InThisTogether. We’re keeping a pulse on marketing and communications trends in the industry and beyond so we can help you stay ahead of the curve with best practices. We’ve seen messaging on social media evolve over the last several days and believe that we are now entering phase 2 of social media messaging during this crisis. 

According to an American Association of Advertising Agencies survey sent out on March 18, 43% of consumers find it reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust during this time, and 40% want to know how companies are responding to the pandemic. Additionally, 56% of respondents are pleased to hear about how brands are taking actions like making donations of goods or services. However, the current climate is changing quickly, so sentiments may change. In fact, a more recent survey published by Digital Commerce 360 on March 27 shows that 43% of consumers believe that messages about the pandemic from retailers all sound the same and are losing their impact.

So, how do you balance the expectations of your stakeholders, while cutting through the noise? Read on for recommendations from our team of digital strategists for the best next steps to take in your COVID-19 social media response strategy.

Evolve social media posts to fit all three of our new assessment criteria: helpful, eloquent and aware

In our Social Media Action Plan: Covid 19 Response post, we suggested limiting your social media publishing to only share posts that fit all three original assessment criteria: positive, helpful and necessary. While these guidelines were appropriate in the beginning, there has been a shift in messaging. People and businesses have been greatly impacted by the global pandemic and the conversations are growing and deepening. 

Although it’s feeling very abnormal, people are trying to adapt to their “new normal.” While this is not the right time to open the floodgates to share anything and everything (especially blunt sales messages), we believe the qualifiers of what is appropriate to share on social media have changed for the time we’re in now:

  • Helpful – What you share needs to be of some value to the recipient. Everyday is ever changing, and people are looking for tools, guidance and resources to figure out how to operate successfully in their new environments.
  • Eloquent – Your message needs to be well-delivered. It should be clear, compelling and tasteful in its delivery. Many brands are getting creative with their thoughtfulness.
  • Aware – Some companies are focused on being present, while others are portraying themselves as visionaries. That isn’t necessarily a bad approach, but they also need to be aware of the world around them and determine what is appropriate right now. Awareness requires empathy, concern and general understanding. 

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Align your messaging with your brand qualities

As your team is crafting messaging during this time, always consider what is on-brand. Don’t feel the need to say something just to be part of the conversation (the #coronavirus and #COVID19 threads are oversaturated as it is). You want to add content that provides value to your audience but also positively represents your brand. For example, if your brand is innovative and visionary, humorous or pulls at the heartstrings, your current messaging should align with those qualities—tastefully. Be true to who you are, especially now.

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Listen to your audience and engage appropriately

Now is the time to listen to your audience and to use monitoring tools to understand what people are saying about your brand. This data can help inform your messaging strategy moving forward and pinpoint conversations in which you can add value by engaging. For example, diving into conversations around trending topics on Twitter can help you uncover information that may be helpful for your audience. And on LinkedIn, look at what influencers in the industry are posting about and how their audiences are reacting and commenting. This can be a great place to research what content your audience may be looking for. 

Additionally, if you had a chance to review our Social Media Action Plan: COVID-19 Response post, one of the immediate actions we suggested taking as this crisis was unfolding is anticipating questions and preparing responses. You want to arm the members of your social media team with answers to frequently asked or expected to be asked questions, so they can respond efficiently and effectively to all audiences. A missed message or question on social media is a missed opportunity.

Monitoring your brand’s social media interactions regularly will allow you to identify additional questions and messaging topics. Finally, let your audience know you are listening and that you are accessible. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you (and tell them how to get in touch with you) if they have any questions. If you have a social media monitoring platform already, now is a good time to utilize its listening and trend analysis capabilities. If you don’t have listening software, here are some free tools you can give a try. 

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Trust your gut and intuition

While this situation is unprecedented and unpredictable for all of us, we’ve all faced challenging situations in our lives that have required decision-making with integrity. As business professionals, communicators and humans, we know how to do the right thing. If you question whether you should share something, if it feels a little off or if you just aren’t sure: trust your gut and use your intuition. And if you’re still questioning it, collaborate with a passionate teammate who knows your brand inside and out. 

Lastly, be sure to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think about how you would react if you were scrolling through your newsfeed and read your message. Would you engage with it? Would it provide value to you or benefit you in some way? Or would it be viewed as distasteful or just more noise online? It may not feel like it in the midst of a crisis, but you’ve got this.

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Every organization is different and must stay true to their brand and the needs of their stakeholders. Scaling back on messaging at this time may be the best action for your business to take, while others may ramp up their messaging efforts because they are recruiting for essential services. We hope these tips and guidelines will help you determine the next steps forward for your organization.

Whatever your needs, know that ClearEdge Marketing is here to support you through the expected and unexpected challenges ahead. We’re #InThisTogether.

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