Managing social media during a crisis

How to handle brand’s digital presence during the Covid-19 outbreak and the Irish accounts getting it right

By Gráinne Glenny

THE DISRUPTION THAT Covid-19 crisis has had on our daily lives has had an impact on our priorities and sensibilities. As a result, it’s completely understandable that brands might be fearful of their digital communications.

However, as unprecedented as the current situation is, we will see an end to it. Brands should continue their digital efforts, not only to get to the other side of this crisis as best they can but to suffuse and encourage the spread of useful information, community spirit, goodwill and positivity in these trying times.

Speed and transparency

If you haven’t yet shared an update on how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting your business, make this a priority, especially if you have unfortunately had to halt business activity.

If you’re still operating, the most important thing to do is to reassure customers that you’re following the guidelines to protect them. Next is to provide information on how best to reach you if customers have important queries. Remember to use all of your channels – social media, email and website.

A website pop-up is a good idea to ensure any visitors are informed of your situation or changes in service – especially if orders are running later than usual. Don’t forget instant replies on social media or chat support – you might need to amend your response to bring it in line with current operations. And remember to update accordingly as changes arise.

Consider all placements carefully

From scheduled posts, reactive posts, display and social ads, newsletters, influencer campaigns – you likely have a lot going on. Make sure you consider every activity to remove the risk of appearing insensitive.

You might need to end, amend or postpone certain promotions to fall in-line with consumer sentiment. If you’re running a promotion that encourages in-store footfall, this might be considered careless. Are you inadvertently encouraging ill-advised contact?

By the same rule, don’t shift your messaging to cleverly associate yourself with this pandemic if you don’t have the authority to – the short of it is, it can’t be done.

What you can do is add a little careful, relatable humour – the light relief is needed and appreciated. Take, for instance, Innocent Ireland’s innocuous post earlier in the week which focused on the reality of working of home.

Focus on real value

Think of the concerns of your customers and how these concerns are affecting their behaviours and feelings? Perhaps it’s separation from family, unwell relatives, overworked loved ones, working from home, home-schooling, finance – the list goes on.

Harness the real power of social media, bringing communities closer together, and use your platform to action real value.

Hotel Doolin, for instance, was first to the post with its social media update offering free dinner deliveries to anyone in the community in need.

There are lots of ways to add value that is beneficial and affordable for all parties virtually. Dog food brand Werewolf Food came up with a simple way to add value to its customers ahead of Mother’s Day.

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Vigilance and education

Unfortunately, you are going to have be more vigilant than usual when it comes to monitoring comments to minimise the risk of and spread of fake news and harmful opinions related to the coronavirus.

If uninvited comments do arise, the best approach is to reply to these comments as soon as possible, rather than deleting or hiding.

Be unequivocal but pleasant reminding the person that they are more than welcome to their opinion but that your page is not the most suitable place for it to be shared, and that if they want to, they can message you directly to discuss further.

Gráinne Glenny is the director of Boola PR, a Belfast and Dublin-based marketing communications agency

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