The key to effective social marketing during Covid (and other uncertain times)

Effective social marketing during Covid requires you to listen, be human and stay connected. Baseline? You need to know your customers inside and out.

Overwhelmingly, the most popular question I’ve received lately is: “what should I be posting on social media right now?”  And it’s a fair enough question too, because there is so much uncertainty around what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s perceived as politically astute and what’s not, what’s appropriate and by whose standards, and what sounds just downright delusional.  So I want to talk you through what I believe is the key to effective social marketing during Covid – and by the way, this works in any uncertain times.

Tough as it may be, as a small business owner you can’t afford to stop marketing or selling right now, and that therefore includes posting (strategically) on social media. Why? Because your followers are spending more time online than they ever have before, which presents you with a unique opportunity to deepen your relationship with them and increase brand affinity.  The challenge however, is that you can’t just pretend that it’s business-as-usual either, or you risk coming across as tone-deaf to an audience who potentially have heightened anxiety and sensitivities.

And the hardest part? It feels like our world continues to change by the day (or hour if you’re in Victoria!).  So how do you keep up? As a small business owner, with often limited resources, how do you plan for all of this and then execute it when the goal posts are shifting so much?

Businesses are without doubt presented with a very unique challenge. We are encouraged to embrace an unsettling time by becoming as human as possible on our social media channels, while juggling the necessary mechanics of marketing and selling needed to stay afloat. To overcome these challenges marketers and business owners must switch gears to adapt to the ever-changing situation, whilst staying focused on what matters – the people who need your help.

The underlying key to effective marketing in Covid times, actually in ANY times, is to know thy audience.

If you’re feeling out of control, you can pretty much guarantee they are too.  Homeschooling, partners losing jobs, working from home, distant parents, sick neighbours, financial stress, uncertainty around restrictions… it all adds up to pretty hairy ole times.  We are all suffering from information overload and that overwhelm has only increased in 2020.  What typically happens when in overwhelm is that people respond by filtering. It won’t be anything personal, but to deal with overload plenty of people stop reading every email in their inbox and flick more wildly through their social accounts.  The thing is, they still need help with their problems and challenges.  So your job is to help them find what they need, calmly and easily.

My advice to is to first observe what’s happening with your audience.  What do they want that they’re not getting? What breaks your heart to read/hear/see?  Who is doing the right thing and inspiring you, so that you may take inspiration from them? From the observations of your peoples’ struggles and challenges,  you must then come to some realisations.  These will be the ideas you have about you can make those things better.  Focus on their wellbeing and how your business can help them through these trying times. Understand that some will be obsessing about the pandemic and others will be craving normalcy; you’ll need to decide how and who you can help.

One thing you definitely CAN control in these seemingly uncontrollable times, is how you speak to your audience.

What worked last year, or even in February of this year, may not work anymore.  What you knew then may now be off the mark.  You need to know what truly matters to your audience NOW: what do they care about, what’s driving them, how have their purchasing and media habits changed, who do they trust, what sort of content are they consuming, and how have their priorities shifted.  Don’t make assumptions – ask them.

Conversations are key.  Listening is vital.  Having real chats with your prospects and past clients will give you hugely valuable insights. You might find that they they’re unable to pay upfront anymore, so you may need to consider payment plans.  They may not be comfortable with online ordering, so you may need to consider a phone option.  They may want to try before they buy, so you might offer a free trial.  Their feedback is actionable information. You can change your messaging to get in step with that they want right now. You can reflect back to them their needs, in THEIR language, and tweak and improve your business to suit.

Think empathy, understanding and trust.

Once you re-engage with your customers’ desires and attract their attention honestly and authentically, don’t abandon them! The key is to help, not overtly sell. What can you do to add value to your offering? How can you educate your market further? Being honest and approachable is the only way to cut through the noise and clutter online.  Keep up communications and consistently seek feedback. Keep offering to help in different ways, then tweak and offer to help again.

Importantly, don’t be afraid to sell. You are not a charity you are a business and you have a right to be in business at this time. Your people still need help – be the one to provide it in whatever way works for both of you.

Effective social marketing during Covid times comes down to marketing 101 – know thy customer intimately, regularly check in with them to seek feedback, make offers that resonate with your audiences’ current needs, communicate with them consistently, and always be as human and real as possible.

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