Why Social Media Marketing Is Critical in Times of Crisis
How the right messaging can make your brand stronger
It’s hard to justify marketing spend in the midst of an unprecedented demand shock. Variable costs are the first to go. A shift in the marketing mix is already underway among big companies.
Advertising in traditional channels like television now skews heavily towards healthcare. The companies spending are the ones with open distribution channels — drug makers, home entertainment providers. The founders of Peloton look like geniuses and make no mistake, now’s the time for it to double-down on traditional media.
For businesses with cratering demand, social media marketing is more important than ever. It’s a chance to take the lead on corporate citizenship. People are looking to business leaders and community organizations to bring us together. Strong messaging sets companies apart from their peers. For many retailers, it’s an opportunity to double-down on e-commerce channels.
Smooth user experience is critical — from UX to packaging. Competition has moved completely online. We don’t want to live in a world of Amazon and nothing else. There’s always a place for strong independents, and loyal customers will keep making feel-good purchases.
In normal times, the impact of social media marketing is hard to measure. Raw impressions often mean little. Facebook and YouTube ads irritate more than they engage. I’ve never even watched a full YouTube ad. Facebook is more targeted, but it’s just a tool to get sign-ups.
The real work is in converting sign-ups to customers and developing long-term relationships. Facebook isn’t where people shop, but strong corporate profiles and Twitter feeds in a time of crisis can go a long way toward building customer loyalty. Specifically, messaging around what companies are doing to protect workers and employees, and how they’re easing the burden for healthcare providers. When the recovery takes hold, companies with a strong track record on social media will emerge winners.
Social media has always been a delicate dance, and now the stakes couldn’t be higher. Messaging needs to be carefully crafted. The world is watching. Twitter and Facebook traffic is up significantly. Winners and losers have already emerged. Elon Musk’s downplaying of the crisis has backfired.
Many long-time admirers have expressed outrage on Twitter. These aren’t the people who criticized him for smoking a joint with Joe Rogan. His commitment to producing ventilators is a positive step, but earlier comments won’t be forgotten.
Apple has been a leader all along. It closed stores early and sent employees home. Tim Cook continues to be a steady hand on social media. He assures people Apple’s doing what it can to help. In a recent Twitter post, he made it clear Apple is sourcing supplies and sending millions of masks to healthcare workers in the U.S. and Europe.
Sadly, this sort of messaging is more important than what’s coming from Donald Trump. The educated class has already lost faith. There’s more trust in business than the government. For all its faults, Big Tech is stepping up. The smartest people need to be working on the hardest problems, and the coronavirus is driving talent to where it’s needed.
Social media is reallocating resources and workers. Domino’s is poised for a hiring binge on the back of consumer trust. It released a step-by-step guide to contactless delivery on Twitter. Uber Eats eliminated delivery fees and pledged 300K+ meals to healthcare workers on Twitter. It expressed support for competitors like DoorDash and Grubhub, a rare show of solidarity in a cut-throat business environment. Uber’s messaging will only improve its relationship with restaurants and customers when the recovery takes hold.
The impact on small businesses is tragic. Unfortunately, it’s the big brands that are top of mind. The sight of shuttered Starbucks stores brings home the magnitude of the crisis, but it’s the neighborhood shops we tend to forget. Small businesses need to be heard, and they need to speak up on social media.
Many of these businesses operate on the “1,000 true fans” model, whether it’s a neighborhood coffee shop or an indie fashion label. Now’s the time for these businesses to make their voices heard on Twitter and Facebook. It may seem like a desperate call for help, but people want to help. They want to buy gift cards and do everything they can to tide them over.
For companies with strong e-commerce platforms, the right messaging can even be incremental. Thinking Mu, a Barcelona-based maker of organic cotton clothing, is offering a “together” tote bag for free. Its homepage simply reads “we are all in this together.” It’s building community in a time of crisis.
Customers remember how companies respond. As strange as it sounds, there’s market share up for grabs. The big brands won’t be the only ones left.