Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.
Everything is moving online, whether its your weekly poker game or your 10 a.m. meeting with your sales team.
That’s OK for all the connections that you already have, but what about reaching out along more tenuous connections, to customers or the general public? The coronavirus crisis is one more reason why it is crucial to be a wizard on social media.
How should your social media strategy change and what are some opportunities for social media to be a solution for the problems posed by the crisis?
We caught up with Kristin Johnson, VP of content and communications for Sprout Social, a social media management platform, for insights.
Here’s what she had to say:
PR Daily: What are some tactics for using social to replace planned in-person events/activations?
Johnson: In-person activations and events are a core component of many businesses’ customer acquisition and engagement efforts, which creates a big obstacle for marketers in our current climate.
The good news is that we are more digitally connected than ever before, and with the right strategy brands can create impactful experiences online. For those looking to leverage social in this area, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Get a pulse on your audience’s interests. Before turning an in-person event into a digital experience, be sure to check in with your target audience to ensure the content is still relevant and they’re interested in engaging and attending virtually. For some audiences, it will be an easy and welcome transition, but others might only want the in-person networking opportunities that a digital event can’t quite replicate. Social media is a great place to learn which is applicable for your event—run polls, start up a live chat or ask open-ended questions to your social community to gather feedback and new ideas.
- Direct conversation to social media channels. Use social media as your home base for attendee interaction and participation in your digital event. Start a Twitter thread for general conversation around the event, create an event hashtag or have people submit and answer questions. Asking for real-time feedback is a great way to encourage your community to come together and feel connected to one another—even though they can’t be in the same room.
- Amplify once the event is over. A digital event doesn’t have to end after the last session, and neither does your social promotion of the event. Share session recordings or event recaps across your social channels. This will extend the life of the event and offer your audience continued ways to engage with and learn from the content produced.
PR Daily: What channels and tactics are your best bet in the current media climate?
Johnson: One of the major challenges that brands face during a global crisis is knowing when and how to adjust marketing strategies, which is why it is more important than ever for brands to listen to their audience during this uncertain time.
Social listening is a great place to start when looking to gain a deeper insight into discussions surrounding your brand as well as the broader industry and community. By keeping a finger on the pulse of the conversation and applying those learnings to the end approach, brands can be a considerate, organic and valuable contributor to the conversation.
PR Daily: Are you seeing an uptick in planned livestreams? Any tips for brands looking to add this tactic?
Johnson: Video is an essential and effective tactic for brands to connect with their audiences on social media, which is why it is not surprising to see companies continue to leverage this medium right now.
Consumers are increasingly on board with video content, especially livestreams—in fact the 2019 Sprout Social Index found that 45% of consumers note live video as a tactic they’d like to see marketers use more of in their strategies.
As brands evaluate where their resources should be focused in the weeks to come, Facebook and Instagram live, YouTube, webinars and other video channels should be top of mind. They create an opportunity for marketers to deliver content in a way consumers want and provide a more engaging experience.
PR Daily: What mistakes should brand managers be sure to avoid during COVID-19?
Johnson: Relevance is key as brand managers navigate this global crisis. While some businesses may naturally find themselves at the center of the conversation, especially those in healthcare and adjacent industries, others won’t be.
Brand managers should listen to the conversation on social media and determine if their audience wants or needs anything from them. If the answer is “no,” that’s OK. Forcing a message can easily look like you’re capitalizing on the situation. Therefore, it may be best to publish a single message to showcase empathy and support.
Audiences can smell opportunistic brands from a mile away, and they won’t be scared to call out those that aren’t being authentic.
PR Daily: What channels are working for comms pros looking to share information about the virus?
Johnson: The communication channels that work best will be dependent on the brand and their audience. Brands should lean into the channels that enable them to connect with their audience and that usually means going where you already have an engaged community.
PR Daily: Do you recommend scaling back on social media posting right now? What tone should brand managers attempt to use?
Johnson: While it can be difficult to postpone or even cancel projects, brand managers should consider reducing—or completely pausing—promotional content planned for their social channels.
Your audience is being inundated with information around new developments and serious updates from their personal networks. At best, a product push will feel out of place in their newsfeeds; at worst, it could turn them off to your brand altogether.
Use this time to lean into authentic and genuine communications geared at connecting with your audience instead of selling to them.
How are you using social media to engage your audience? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Looking for more insights on how to respond to COVID-19 and safeguard your organizations reputation? Join Ragan’s Crisis Communications Virtual Conference March 31.