If there’s one thing that’s true, it’s that social marketers know how to roll with the punches. Given how many curveballs 2020 has thrown at us so far, it’s more important than ever before for marketers to maintain their agility and adaptability.
The COVID-19 crisis has certainly put social marketer’s flexibility to the test. Faced with a global crisis, social marketers have had to rethink their entire strategies and even scrap whole campaigns that no longer feel relevant. And without a playbook with clear next steps on what to do in a pandemic, social marketers are turning to their peers for guidance in a time where few people have all the answers. We asked our community what questions they have and what resources they need to navigate COVID-19, and the responses span everything from how to stay motivated to figuring out the right tone to take with social posts.
Just trying to shift focus on different content to post. Cancelled all campaigns promoting services for the time being, but social has me thrown. Moving to live home tours since open houses are cancelled, but then my brain just stops there. 😕
— Christine Robbins (@ForksFlash) March 18, 2020
Just trying to keep with all the questions and concerns coming in. Staying motivated. Figuring out how to keep students engaged on social once this calms down but we’re still all remote…
— Alexa Heinrich (@HashtagHeyAlexa) March 18, 2020
In addition to learning from other social marketers and brands, there’s another team social marketers can turn to for advice on navigating the COVID-19 crisis: internal communications. Internal communicators have a bird’s-eye view of everything going on across your organization and are responsible for keeping employees informed of company news. As social teams continue to refine and adjust their social strategies during COVID-19, consider borrowing the following lessons from the internal communications team.
Create one central source of truth
The problem with a crisis of this scale is it can easily lead to the spread of misinformation, creating confusion for everyone including your team and your audience. For social marketers, it can be difficult to know where to share pandemic-related information and how to consolidate questions and feedback from your audience.
One way internal communicators mitigate misinformation is by creating a singular source of truth, or designating a central location where information is regularly updated. At Sprout, for example, our team created a dedicated Wiki page for the COVID-19 crisis, containing information on office availability, remote work policies and health resources for employees. We also have a central location where employees can submit questions and concerns they have about all things related to COVID-19.
Similarly, social teams should consider using platforms like Twitter to post frequent updates relevant to your audience. Some brands are pinning Tweets with crucial COVID-19 information, which have since been replaced with the brand’s Black Lives Matter statements. If you’re a retail business, you may want to use Twitter to share information regarding store hours and what steps you’re taking to ensure everyone’s health and safety. Additionally, with so many unknowns surrounding states’ reopening plans, consider asking your followers to thread any questions they have so you can easily find and respond to their concerns.
- Determine where you will share timely updates about your business and solicit feedback from your audience.
- Direct your audience to other published materials (e.g. your website or blog) that are being continuously updated by your team.
- Assume everyone has the same level of awareness of COVID-19 and up-to-date news about your region’s reopening plans.
- Stay silent about what steps you are taking to ensure the health and wellbeing of your employees as states begin relaxing restrictions.
Be flexible and open to change
One of the biggest challenges every team experienced during the beginning of the pandemic was centered around pace and precedent. Given how quickly information around COVID-19 was evolving, social teams had little time to prepare and adjust their strategies accordingly. Under these circumstances, marketers may find themselves having to create social content in real-time.
To accommodate an evolving situation, social teams should consider following in the footsteps of internal communicators and put together a rapid response team. Comprising stakeholders across the organization, the response team is willing and able to drop what they are doing to help timely, external messages. They can support social teams in gathering the latest crisis information and can support content creation so the burden doesn’t fall solely on marketers.
In addition to establishing a weekly meeting to touch base on recent developments, consider setting up a private Slack channel so response team members can share timely updates and collaborate on social messages as needed. Social listening can also help response teams stay on top of rising trends in the COVID-19 conversation and inform the direction of their messaging.
- Be ready to scrap your original messaging as new information about the crisis emerges at the local and national level.
- Ask for help when it comes to curating and creating timely content as the situation continues to unfold.
- Feel pressured to comment on every COVID-19 update in real-time, as this is a quick way to overwhelm yourself and your team, and can lead to burnout. Prioritize information that matters most to your audience and keep an eye on trends that are starting to gain traction.
Admit what you don’t know
While we joke about “uncertain times” being the phrase of the year, the reality is we are all trying to navigate a situation with no clear roadmap or playbook. None of our previous experiences could have prepared us for COVID-19 and it’s okay to admit we have no idea what we’re doing.
An effective internal communications strategy includes knowing when to admit you don’t have all the answers. Employees would much rather hear from internal communicators that they’re working on finding those solutions than to hear nothing at all. Likewise, social teams should consider incorporating this level of transparency into all of their communications during a crisis. Let your audience know you need time to formulate a brand’s official statement and how you’re approaching the current situation. You’d be surprised at how many people will say they empathize with you and appreciate hearing your vulnerability!
- Acknowledge when you don’t have all the answers and commit to sharing updates as often as you can.
- Prioritize transparency and empathy in your communications, and let your audience know what steps you’re taking to find solutions to your immediate challenges.
- Wait to have all the answers before saying anything. It can leave your audience feeling ignored or left in the dark.
- Go radio silent or assume the crisis will pass unnoticed. It is better to admit you need more time to formulate an in-depth response than to have your followers make assumptions about your next move.
Looking ahead to a post-pandemic world
In a perfect world, social teams could plan out their content calendars months in advance. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that even the best laid plans can quickly be disrupted over night.
The pandemic forced marketers to rethink their original strategies, and it’s also challenging them to start thinking about what lies ahead as states begin to reopen. There is no going back to business as usual and marketers are tasked with creating messages that reflect a post-COVID world. And while we all find ourselves in uncharted territory, internal communicators can provide social marketers guidance on how to develop communications strategies under volatile circumstances. Equipped with these lessons from the internal communications team, social marketers will be prepared to deal with the next curveball COVID-19 throws their way.