As small businesses clamor to get access to funding in the form of loans and grants to keep the lights on, keep their employees paid and keep their doors virtually open, there are many still wondering: How do I stay relevant?
While it’s one thing to stay in businesses, it’s another thing to have a business that’s still getting in front of the right eyes during the COVID-19 crisis. And since many businesses will have to cut any pre-existing marketing or advertising budgets, now is the time to start tapping into authentic, self-generated content.
Edge One Media Director of Marketing Megan De Salvo emphasizes that now is the time to get creative on social media and find your voice.
“The brands that get out there to start conversations about how they’re being impacted, how their people are coping, what measures they’ve taken to change or what they’re doing in the community — those are the brands that will propel forward,” De Salvo said. “Brands that bury their head in the sand and don’t take this opportunity to be heard, will not.”
Social media marketing is critical right now because it truly is the only way a business’ customers can connect. De Salvo broke it down into two easy trajectories: use the crisis to 1) create a sense of community or to 2) create a teaching moment.
Small and large businesses across the country have stepped up to get involved with local, charitable efforts in lieu of being able to perform regular business operations. The list is ever-growing but includes people creating masks, protective medical equipment and hand sanitizer. We’ve also seen headlines applauding those making food donations or providing labor to create homeless shelters.
This is not only noble but is a great way to signal to the community that you, the business owner, care. And it’s something customers will remember when we’re back to a new normal.
There is also an opportunity to teach right now, which could be particularly important for non-essential businesses. Telling your story through the lens of how you do what you do can generate instant buy-in from the community who are simply looking for things to do. If you’re a jewelry maker, show your followers how to make a bracelet. If you’re a hairdresser, teach them how to do a proper hair mask for a relaxing spa day. If you’re a mechanic, offer up an under-the hood how-to. If you’re a barista, it may be a great opportunity to teach a little latte art.
“There is an opportunity to have a voice because there are eyes on you right now,” De Salvo said. “Whatever you were doing before, it’s time to double those marketing efforts. If you were posting three times a day, make it six. If you weren’t posting at all, start.”
Because the world of social media marketing is so multi-faceted, De Salvo provided a comprehensive list of tips that business owners can start implementing right away:
• Get comfortable with video and different platforms. Customers have different platforms that speak to them and now is the time to experiment.
• Start using Facebook and Instagram stories – this is the place to show the “authentic” you because people are more forgiving on stories. You do not need to be polished and your posts don’t have to be curated. It’s about being natural.
• It’s OK to be honest and say, “things are not going great.” Be transparent.
• Consider creating a virtual community around your brand and setting up a Facebook group. Don’t be afraid of competition in here either — it’s community over competition.
• Be responsive on social. Your customers are expecting answers in a timely manner.
• Be careful about the images you post — no group photos even if the photo was taken before COVID-19. Be sensitive to tone your content has.
“It comes down to being thoughtful about your messaging,” De Salvo said. “If you don’t change your social presence to address what is going on, the community will call you out. Instead, drive conversations toward something positive and try to add value.”
(Danielle Kane is the Oregon State Director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.)