7 ways social media can build relationships while social distancing

The COVID-19 crisis – and the new norm of social distancing – has made digital communications, and social media in particular, more important than ever for organizations.

How can leaders maintain and strengthen the relationships that matter most to their organizations and brands?

Argyle’s digital team has identified seven social media best practices you can use right now.

1. Keep talking
People are spending a record amount of time on social media. Now is not the time for organizations to go dark; it is imperative to continue with long-term brand-building. Data from the 2008 downturn shows that organizations that continued to invest in their brand by continuing to communicate came out stronger than ever. There will be exceptions – some retail and government advocacy campaigns come to mind – but almost no brand should go “completely dark”. Consider this: Are you missing opportunity by going quiet?

2. Speak – and act – according to values
Organizations are referring to their purpose, mission and values to chart their course of action. Those doing it right telegraph their values through not only through what they say, but also what they do. Argyle client Facebook is demonstrating its support of small business by offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits on its platform. Beverage alcohol producers, including Ontario gin-maker Dillon’s, are showing community values by shifting production to making hand sanitizer and disinfectant and providing them for free to health care workers. Companies whose “clear purpose is almost anchored around something other than the company’s own self-interest” have the best opportunity to speak and act according to their values.

3. Offer utility
Even organizations that don’t have the means to manufacture hand sanitizer or ventilators still have the opportunity to give back to their communities by selflessly offering value. ‘Empathize’ is a verb: it’s a brand’s action that matters. Quickbooks paused its ad campaign and redirected the budget to support small business. Aviation Gin launched a #tipyourbartenders campaign. Brands like Audi are providing Zoom background images. The golden rule of utility is that content created to help, sells, and content created to sell, doesn’t.

4. Pivot with influencers
The opportunity for brands to gain third-party credibility and reach new audiences via influencers continues, especially given the scale of audiences currently using social media during these days of isolation at home. Brands must tread carefully, however, and review influencer relationships and campaigns through the same lens as other content. Influencers who continue to publish content without heed to the public health crisis risk not only their own reputations, but those of their brand partners. Brands that pivot with their influencer strategies in light of the public health crisis stand to strengthen their relationships with audiences and influencers alike.

5. Demonstrate resourcefulness
At a time when traditional creative resources (studios, locations, and teams) are diminished or inaccessible, content creation demands resourcefulness. This might be the time to sift through your ‘content well’ and dust-off archived assets or rediscover stock assets, both of which may be repurposed, re-cropped, or re-captioned at a fraction of the cost of new creative. Or what about content that can be shot on a phone, in your home? With its #SportsLiveOn campaign, Buffalo Wild Wings demonstrates how UGC (user generated content) can be creatively leveraged to make both a consumer connection and a brand statement.

6. Get transparently human
We’ve collectively entered a new phase of transparency. It’s a time when at-home Zoom calls reveal the ‘humanity’ behind the work-world – our sweatpants, cluttered living rooms, louder-than-average kids, and curious pets. Could this also be an opportunity for brands to acknowledge, emulate, and even celebrate these endearing moments of transparency? Consider ‘pulling back the wool’ on your own operations, to demonstrate your organization’s humanity, teams, integrity, and accountability. Now is a time to consider live social media broadcasts, walk-throughs, or behind-the-scenes examples of who and how your team gets it get done normally, and how they are getting it done together at a tough time.

7. Monitoring
During times of crisis, it can be easy to let the monitoring of your brand’s social accounts slip, particularly when focusing on supporting employees and keeping your business afloat. However, social media can be one of your strongest channels for communicating with your audiences, getting inspiration from other brands who are adapting products and services to a near wholly digital economy and catching and responding to “hiccups” that may arise as your business adapts to an unpredictable environment. Make sure to monitor your brand mentions, branded hashtags and other relevant keywords to stay in the know with your audiences and the swiftly evolving online economy.

Crisis is a crucible with the potential to strengthen – or weaken – relationships. Communicate according to your values, show transparency and offer utility while being creatively resourceful.

What an organization says and does in a crisis, regardless of the platform, will have an impact on its relationships – with employees, customers, influencers and policymakers – for a long time.

About the Author

Patrick Thoburn

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