By Shirley Tat, Head of Social, Bastion Effect.
Should brands stay quiet on social media during COVID-19? And if not, what should they say? Our Head of Social Shirley Tat weighs in.
“Stay Home” – an instruction from the government turned Instagram sticker turned aggregator of ‘in iso’ Stories. It’s a command that has us very much disconnected from the outside world, but at the same time very much connected within the digital world. We’re on Zoom calls, Teams meetings, Google Hangouts, you name it and our media consumption is reflecting this.
In recent studies, Nielsen predicted a 60 per cent rise in media consumption within the US during COVID-19, while Whatsapp is showing a 40 per cent increase since the early days of the virus and Facebook Messenger has experienced a 50 per cent increase in the last month. Usage on infamous Chinese social media apps Weibo and WeChat has climbed by 37 per cent recently and time spent across the Facebook family (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) has significantly increased by a whopping 70 per cent.
Now let’s pause for a second, because you might argue that’s just millennials or something. But, if we consider how much time we all already spend on our devices, it’s a significant increase we can all relate to and in amongst this changing behaviour is the upside for brands.
Despite the challenges COVID-19 presents, many brands are moving from surviving to thriving. We know gyms have closed, but home fitness brands are surging. We know restaurants have closed, but food delivery services are booming. We know in-person events have been cancelled, but live streaming has taken over. What’s the common thread? Social and digital.
Now, more than ever, is the time for brands to build their equity and create demand for when confidence returns. People are indoors, they’re socially distanced with a need to kill time, find solace and stay in touch with their friends and family. Consumers are on the frontline, ready for brands to communicate with them by adding value to their lives. Brands shouldn’t be thinking about whether they should post on social or not, but rather what they should be posting about – this is where the opportunity lies.
Interestingly, a study by Social Bakers showed paid media spend is on the decline as numerous brands are pulling their campaigns. What this tells us indirectly is that there is a clear opportunity for brands to cut through the clutter (and the coined ‘infodemic’ by the WHO) – wisely and cost effectively.
Whether your content is designed to inform, entertain or inspire; keep communicating. Remaining silent is only creating more distance between brands and consumers. Consumers are craving connectivity – be it with friends, family, colleagues, influencers, or brands.
To put simply: our needs have dramatically changed and herein lies the challenge for brands. Rather than spending too much time on sympathy messages, businesses should consider and find new ways to engage consumers through content that demonstrates their brand values and purpose. Essentially, this is what creates meaning for consumers and drives a range of benefits from consideration to conversion.
Often, more than half of the social content pushed out by brands is considered as ‘clutter’. It’s time to throw away the pre-COVID-19 content calendar and start creating valuable content. Here’s a four-step framework that can define what ‘valuable content’ looks like for brands as a ‘TRUE’ model:
Truthful: the content must be accurate and feel authentic, staying true to the brand’s values
Reactive: the content relates and responds to the current situation in a timely manner, earning attention through instant relevance
Utilitarian: the content offers a helpful balance of being informative and practical, providing consumers with a user benefit based on individual needs
Empathic: the content is designed for social – a two-way conversational channel – with a strong focus on showing compassion and being human
With all this said, there’s been no shortage of brands around the world that have been successfully communicating and connecting with their consumers. It has broadened their global awareness, enhanced their reputation and demonstrated their purpose. Amongst a plethora of very generous healthcare donations including newly-innovated ventilators and face masks to big dollar commitments, we’ve seen other creative initiatives such as modern furniture company West Elm offering free virtual backgrounds, Nike empowering people to stay home and remain active, Colgate bringing our community together by keeping everyone smiling, through to iconic logos being changed to remind people about social distancing.
It doesn’t just stop here. Smaller businesses and local brands are also creatively coming up with TRUE content, where chefs are providing in-home cooking meals on IGTV, food brands are sharing easy-to-make recipes, DIY brands are using Stories to provide parents with arts and craft hacks at home, retail in-store experiences are being turned into virtual shopping experiences, fitness brands are offering free in-home workouts on YouTube and much, much more.
Whatever your brand’s purpose and offering is, now is a highly relevant time to keep communicating through social media. Provided your content follows the TRUE model, what you’ll garner are measurable results that are far greater than what you would have achieved by remaining silent.