Beth Thompson
15/07/20

How has COVID-19 changed social media messaging?

Head of Social Media at Visualsoft, Dan Dixon, discusses how much the Coronavirus epidemic impacted how brands use social media to communicate and what the lasting impact of the current situation may be. Dan details what lessons we can learn from this in the world of social media marketing.

Businesses of all sizes and industries are now faced with a very different marketing landscape, one that in a time of international crisis can seem like a precarious walk along a tightrope to continue marketing - and we saw many brands paused or scale back activity.

Whilst brands and agencies were faced with arguably the challenge of their careers as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and well-oiled strategies became potentially harmful to brands overnight, we assess what lessons can be learned from the new, more thoughtful and supportive approach brands are taking to their marketing.

Constant reassessment

During the pandemic, our teams have been working hard every day to analyse the tone and message of our content to ensure it is sensitive and relevant given the situation on any given day.

Whilst we have always been mindful to ensure our content is appropriate given current affairs, the fluidity and rapidly changing situation we currently find ourselves in has meant this is now more important than ever, with a plan B (and plan C) always ready to roll out if anything unexpected changes.

This need for intense monitoring and the readiness to pivot has brought brands and marketers back in touch with every piece of content across their social channels. The lasting impact of this is likely to be brands and marketers held much more closely to account (by themselves as well as their audience) on the appropriateness of content given the wider market, national and international environments.

Creative considerations

Imagine having a campaign mapped out, creatives loaded and ready to go, only for something to change and the new animation you just made, or the 10 image carousel you created now being inappropriate.

This is the situation that thousands of brands have found themselves in recently - whilst governments around the world enforce lockdowns and social distancing measures, brand images of groups of people in bars, or hugging, shaking hands etc used so successfully to showcase products now fly in the face of not only the government guidelines but the public mood.

In a world before Covid19, brands who found real success through social, did so not just through the correct paid ads strategy, but with eye-catching, high-quality visual content that made the audience feel a connection with the brand and product - having carefully considered the wants, needs and motivations of their target audience and matched that back to what they create. But for every brand capturing the audience’s imagination, is another just throwing out the same old imagery of their products.

This has led to brands taking much more time to consider how their creatives look based on who their target audience is, what their audiences’ motivations are and the reasons why they should consider purchasing from the brand during the current situation in almost forensic detail. But these are (or should be) fundamental tactics and considerations for any creative process connecting brands to consumers through social.

Value / values

The two points already covered are fundamental considerations for brands and marketers that have been magnified given the current situation.

The very nature of performance-driven channels like paid social for eCommerce retailers presents a fine balancing act between driving action from your audience whilst positioning your brand and what you stand for. Careful consideration is needed for the message brands are conveying whilst pushing their products as the former will have a lasting impact on how the brand is perceived long after this is over.

The art of finding the right balance between driving results for your brand whilst aligning your values to those of your customers, regardless of current circumstances, is one that has perhaps been lost over the last couple of years as brands blindly throw their products at paid channels with little consideration for how they position their brand.

As brands are now being forced more than ever before to align their values with those of their customers, and communicate this in empathetic, considered ways, this will hopefully have a lasting effect of brands being more in tune with their customers and surroundings - and delivering value, whilst communicating what they stand for.

Budget & Platform

With businesses of all industries tightening their belt as a result of any downturn, marketers and agencies are looking to squeeze the maximum value out of every penny spent. With as many as two-thirds of marketers facing moderate to significant budget cuts, brands are evaluating which channels and tactics are really driving them towards their objectives, and which are supplementary or ‘nice to have’.

The result of this is, all previous points on reassessing the current climate, creatives, audience motivation and brand values considered, is a more streamlined approach to social strategy in terms of spend, platform and placement. It is the matching of the right message, delivered in the right tone, on the right platform driven by creatives that not only engage consumers

Summary

Whilst a lot of the above may seem like social marketing 101 in terms of creative, budget, audience etc - the last couple of months has forcibly reminded us of the core principles of the role brands can and should play in people's lives - and given marketers the opportunity to go back to these principles and focus on quality, efficiency and the human connection.


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