I have been a part of enough prep calls and Zoom meetings that have left me frustrated about how many people are approaching ‘business as usual’ now that we’ve all taken the time to ‘discuss how COVID-19 has impacted and shifted our business.’
In fact, one such call I was on earlier this week had the facilitator speaking about how they’d already, “discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses,” and so they “don’t want to talk about it anymore,” they just want to “get back to normal.”
Newsflash: Normal isn’t here anymore.
While businesses may have come to grips with what they’re doing to change/pivot/modify the mode of conducting business, in my experience, many are not concerned with (or maybe never were) how they are coming across to customers.
Continuing to post content without recognizing the change in the world—that we are all facing right now—can be viewed as insensitive.
And this lady right here? I absolutely view it as insensitive.
I’m a 40-year-old, working mother of four living in the suburbs. I’m a Gen X that *should* have disposable income. I’m working up the proverbial professional ladder. I’m in the prime of my life. I fit the profile of so many target audiences.
However, this global pandemic has hit my household hard. And without having to unpack that personally (we can grab a socially distant coffee if you want to get into it), I’m here to tell you as a brand manager, as a company or business marketing leader:
You need to continue to be cognizant of what the world around you is experiencing.
The crisis isn’t over. Brands need to continue to show empathy; show that you realize, in these times, we (read: your target audiences) are all experiencing something different.
Social media usage is up due to COVID-19, due to the current pandemic, due to the unrest—we gravitate toward those channels to receive additional information, to keep in touch with our loved ones, to pass the time.
Maybe we have more time on our hands due to various scenarios such as working from home, furloughs or lay-offs, navigating new schedules with kids’ distance learning, etc. All of the things.
There’s still trepidation among audiences. We’re all feeling some levels of anxiety.
When this happens, as consumers, we are looking to brands to be able to provide a little bit of entertainment and creativity. We like to have the feel-good content come across our newsfeed.
But more importantly…
We’re looking for brands to provide a connection. To provide some comfort. To be authentic and positive in the messages that they’re putting out there.
Your experience isn’t your customers’ experience
It’s important to keep in mind that just because you are not experiencing economic hardships or other pieces of the puzzle—anxiety, nervousness, worry about finances—other impacts during a global crisis, doesn’t mean that your customers (or potential customers) are in the same boat as you.
We need to be mindful about the content that we are putting out on our social channels (and really, on all of our channels—digital, print, whatever medium you’re using).
I’m sure you’ve all come across companies who are just moving along with the same old, same old. They’re ignoring the elephant in the room. They’re putting out content the same as they did at this time last year or the year before. And we need to make sure we are not being tone-deaf to what’s happening around us as we continue to think about the messages that are appropriate to put out there on our digital channels to connect with our customers.
Brands that take a stand win out
Customers are looking for brands that are not afraid to address, respond to and be a part of social justice and create cause-based content to show real values and empathy.
Your digital channels should reflect this.
Let me give you a couple of examples courtesy of Engage for Good:
- 85% of Americans expect companies to help address racial inequality
- 89% of consumers say they want brands to shift money and resources to produce products that help people meet pandemic-related challenges
- 72% of Americans say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values
We’ve shifted, as consumers, as to what we are looking at from brands to provide to us. The types of content we’re looking for.
It really comes down to what I call using our digital media manners. And the biggest piece of that is to put our listening ears on.
To listen harder.
Customer communication has increased via social media specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an easy way for your customers to reach out to you to get in touch, to feel engaged with, whatever services/products they may need from you.
It’s your responsibility during these times to be accessible. To engage with your audience. To monitor the conversations that are happening. To be a part of those conversations. To answer.
It’s about people. It’s always been about the people.
Adapt to connect
Now is not the time to be frivolous with posts. Be honest. Don’t beat around the bush. Face things head-on.
Adapt visuals to reflect what your audience is seeing—and experiencing—during the current times.
That may mean creating visuals that show images around social distancing, masks, learning/working/purchasing from home. Images that reflect your audience; can they relate to and see themselves in your posts?
Inspire and educate. Provide relevant, helpful information to your audiences. Focus on the help versus the sale.
But what about revenue?
Obviously, as companies we need to produce revenue to keep going. We need to make a profit. But, there is a fine line between selling in the same ways we have always done and be aware of the current surroundings and state of our customers. First and foremost, focus on helping.
Up your transparency and communication across all channels. Start simple:
Have your business hours changed? Ensure they are updated on all of your social media channels and your website. Have you moved to online services when you used to provide in-person services? Communicate this everywhere you have a digital footprint.
Make sure your bios are updated on all of your social media channels. Pin important posts. Stay relevant. Make those quick-changes to your website. Ensure top-of-mind or frequently requested information is on the home page of your site.
Make it easy so that wherever and whenever your customers are looking for information, to most up-to-date, correct pieces of information are there for them, no matter the channel.
We’re all going through the same pandemic, but we’re all in different stages of the process.
I’ve been saying to my husband during all of this: We’re all weathering the same storm, but some of us are doing so in yachts, others are in pontoons and some are in canoes (he asked where dingys come into play … trust me, they’re there too).
You get the point. And your customers want to know that you get it, too.
Re-group and re-structure your content during a crisis
If you haven’t made a change, now is the time to start. Use these five tips as your guide.
- Don’t ignore the obvious. Address it up front. Be empathetic.
- Think about immediate needs—what can you solve now for your customers? Reassure them you are still here for them.
- Showcase what you are doing to be innovative and roll with the punches. Many of you are doing this already and that’s awesome.
- Use video demonstrations, live feeds or photos of your teams working hard at home.
- Don’t assume your audience is consuming content the same way they always have. Use your metrics. Review them regularly.
Workshop your current digital content strategy with your team. Schedule a time to sit down and discuss what’s working, what’s not and how you can pivot.
Some questions to get you started:
- How can you listen better using social media channels to understand your audience’s needs or what they are experiencing during this time?
- Social impact matters. How has your company (or one that you respect) used digital media to show support of or taken a stand on recent issues of social impact/social justice?
- What can you do in the next 30 days to shift your digital content plan to provide more immediate solutions to current customer pain points?
- What challenge(s) do you have with digital media in terms of consistent content, engagement and channels? What steps will you take to fix those?
- How can you continue to sell your products and services in the midst of the crisis in a way that still resonates with your consumers?
I’m curious to hear what others have experienced during this time from both a consumer and a brand standpoint. Share your thoughts and insight and let’s help one another navigate this from all angles, together.