5 tips for smart, strategic social media during COVID-19

Are you struggling to produce pertinent posts during the pandemic? Here’s how to strike the right balance in the age of social distancing.

'Good vibes only' words on lightbox over white wooden background, top view. From above, overhead, flat lay. Copy space.

Audiences are overwhelmed with COVID-19 messaging, updates and posts.

Here’s how to stand out from the chaos and offer helpful, tasteful content:

1. Get a pulse check and innovate. “When COVID-19 happened, we created a taskforce to rejigger our planned content to make sure our social media campaigns weren’t tone-deaf,” says Amy Copperman, a senior content manager overseeing editorial and social media at Adobe Spark.

Her team then sent out a survey via email and Facebook Group to see what the Spark community wanted from them. That informed their content strategy.

“We created new content and experiences based on the feedback,” Copperman says. “For example, we’re now doing a new livestreaming show called SparkLive on Tuesdays and Fridays across all our Adobe Spark social channels. We host social media experts and members of our product team. A few weeks ago, we had Brian Fanzo on talking about how to create a cool virtual experience.”

[Discover more video and social media best practices during COVID-19 in these upcoming Ragan Training webinars: Wed., May 20, “DIY Video Storytelling in Times of Crisis” (speakers with Microsoft, Edelman, Credo Nonfiction), and Fri., May 29, “TikTok in a Post-Pandemic World” (speakers with Kroger, Red Havas, Movers+Shakers)]

2. Lead with empathy, and pay it forward. “Life has changed, and people are grieving,” says Copperman. “It’s more important than ever to show up with empathy and vulnerability in your business communications and marketing.”

Providing helpful resources is a great way to do that. “It helps create an ongoing customer relationship in terms of terrific service and paying it forward,” she says.

For example, her team recently offered two months’ worth of Adobe Spark for free, as well as gratis resources for businesses keen to maintain their social media momentum and formulate new, sustainable marketing plans during the crisis. Here’s a roundup.

3. Share good vibes and facts. Another approach is to share uplifting content. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization, for example, uses Spark templates to share stories like this one on Instagram around kindness under the hashtag #quarantinekindness.

Fun and inspiring content doesn’t always fit a brand’s voice, however.

“In those cases, remember that social media is an energy exchange,” says Copperman. “The quality of your online communications is more important than ever. So you have to ask yourself if what you’re posting provides value. Are you posting factual, relevant information? Is it truly helpful? Does it delight and soothe—or worry and inflame?”

Here are some free templates and examples of inspiring, informational posts you can use on your own social media channels.

4. Beware of C-word burnout. “We’re all inundated with COVID-related communications, and data is showing consumers are having a negative reaction to it,” Copperman says. “So try to provide value without specifically using the C-words when you can.”

For example, “Instead of jumping on conversations like #covid19 #coronavirus, see if your brand can play in more uplifting spaces, such as thanking essential workers with hashtags like #dontcancelreschedule #inittogether and #alonetogether,” she says.

5. Build bonds, and show vulnerability. “Businesses that can connect more deeply with customers online are faring better,” says Copperman.

For example, Practical Martial Arts has been in business 27 years, teaching boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and self-defense to students of all ages.

“They went online and were candid about possibly having to shut down,” Copperman says. “They asked for support from customers they had formed bonds with who relied on membership as an after-school activity.”

As a result, the family-owned business started livestreaming classes.

“They turned it around quickly,” says Copperman. “By Tuesday, they took to their basement for their first livestream class on Facebook. By Wednesday, the teachers posted nine videos to the dojo’s social media pages to keep their students engaged and working toward their next belt. And by Thursday, they had upgraded their operation a tad and successfully hosted four live classes of 25 gleeful students each on Zoom.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and event producer. Discover more video and social media best practices during Covid-19 in these upcoming Ragan Training webinars: Wed., May 20, “DIY Video Storytelling in Times of Crisis” (speakers with Microsoft, Edelman, Credo Nonfiction). Fri., May 29, “TikTok in a Post-Pandemic World” (speakers with Kroger, Red Havas, Movers+Shakers).

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