Photo Credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Refocus Your Social Media Efforts During The Pandemic

By: Christina Hager

This article first appeared on Forbes.com on October 29, 2020.

Many marketing executives, social media managers, and business executives have been struggling to adapt their marketing and branding efforts so their social media content remains relevant and appropriate during the pandemic.

In a previous article, I addressed how you can use social media to communicate during a time of crisis, but now where do we find ourselves? The sheer length of the pandemic means we can’t continue to function in full-scale crisis mode, but many of us simply aren’t “business as usual” yet.

How do we move our social media efforts forward in smart, meaningful ways that are sensitive to this ever-changing climate?

According to the “Digital 2020” report, released at the beginning of the year, 4.54 billion people worldwide were using the internet. That’s a 7% increase from the previous year, and we’re nearing 60% worldwide internet penetration.

Once the pandemic hit, internet and social media use increased across demographics. More time is being spent on social media sites, but the ways people are using social media has changed. Here is what marketing executives and social media managers need to know now:

1. Logging In For News

It’s no surprise that back in March and April of this year, people flocked online to get updates on Covid-19. Many chose to visit specific social media channels, and they used those channels’ internal search engines to find updates, news and information. We had started to see this trend in news consumerism over the last few years. Last year, for example, 55% of Americans got at least some of their news from social media. But reliance on social media for news seemed to really take off in response to the pandemic.

With so many people using social media for news, it’s important that your content stay topical and also sensitive to the news cycle. While your brand may be fun or sarcastic, you’ll need to understand how your content might be viewed in a user’s feed when sandwiched between two news stories.

That said, embrace this trend and share news about your business! Your customers and even your employees might be looking at your social media for updates — to see if you’ve made modifications to your services during the pandemic or find out if you’re still in business.

2. Best Times To Post

In January, I would have said that while key times to post vary by industry, channel and demographic, we commonly see surges in use at lunchtime, in the early afternoon and between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. However, that’s all changed since the start of the pandemic.

With so many people working from home, using Zoom for conference calls instead of in-person meetings, I’ve found that social media peak times have shifted to the morning. In fact, one key window is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with much less use in the evening. Maybe we can assume that by that time, many people are seriously “screened out” and want to relax.

So, in order to target most segments of the population, I recommend focusing on distributing your content and key engagement in the morning. Don’t make the mistake of trying to reach your demographic when they aren’t online.

3. Give Them An Escape

When it comes to the kind of content users are consuming, I find that content that is inspirational, educational and fun (as opposed to just sales-pitching) always does better on social media. This applies even more right now. According to a recent study on consumer sentiment during the pandemic, “43% of survey respondents said it’s reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust.”

So keep posting, but stop trying to sell (this is great advice for content creation efforts anytime). Tell a story about how your organization is contributing to the greater good or about an employee who has overcome adversity. Share how your product or service can make life a little easier in the current conditions, or post a nice graphic that will make people smile. Such posts help link your brand with good feelings and entertain people who are hungry for entertainment. Remember, many may want an escape from the reality of their daily lives.

Also, be sure to share how your company is handling issues related to Covid-19. Are you open for business? And how have things, in general, changed for you? The same research mentioned above found that 40% of users want to know what brands are doing to adjust during the pandemic. Giving a glimpse behind the scenes is a good way to keep people interested in your organization.

At the very least, post regular updates. That might be a daily LinkedIn update or a quick video from a senior leader. Or choose to go live on Facebook so you can “talk” with your customers. Going live can also help you get good placement in people’s feeds.

4. Adjusted Ad Spend

Ad spend is always a hot-button question: How much money on a particular channel will lead to how many views and what kind of engagement? Or how many leads? While that’s different for each social media channel and each industry, it’s safe to say that ad spend is down at the moment.

In short, your social media ad dollars can go pretty far right now. Start by boosting your organic posts that already have the greatest engagement. Then, you can create micro-targeted ads and run an A/B test to see how your audience responds. This is a great way to test the waters if you’re new to social media advertising.

To stay relevant, business leaders, brands, and organizations of all kinds must adjust to the new online landscape.

People have shifted their use of social media, and your strategy, content, and distribution efforts must shift with them.

Don’t get left behind because you’re using best practices from before the pandemic. Meet your consumers where they are. Stay open to the next wave of changes, and keep telling your story. And remember, if you don’t, your competitors will.

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