The term ‘business as usual’ doesn’t quite cut it these days. Being in the middle of a health and economic crisis makes it rather tough to continue trucking along in life, let alone business.
It can be difficult to navigate the uncharted waters in a deeply sensitive conversation, both offline and online.
However, we are now starting to see brands peek from underneath the cloth, attempting to find a creative way to spread the message of social distancing through the power of social media and online conversation.
Brands the last few weeks have been jumping into the trending topic online that is COVID-19.
Risky? Sure. But wait.
The majority of consumers these days actually want brands to take a stand on what happens in our world today, where 64% worldwide will make a purchase based on a brand’s social or political stance.
Consumers like brands that are genuine, authentic and that have a good story. They like to connect with a brand and not just have a transactional relationship.
The more authentic your content, the more people will read it.
What’s more, consumers actually believe that the platforms brands stand on, combined with their social following, gives them the power to help address and solve social issues.
There’s no better time like the now, for businesses to look to their consumers as the source of marketing inspiration. Your audience is indeed the one who knows exactly what they want from your business.
Shocking, I know.
So why not start listening to what they have to say?
Your social channels are an extension of your brand values
What exactly are Social Brand Values? What does this even have to do with my relationship with my audience on social media in times of crisis?
Firstly, glad you asked.
Hang tight, we’ll get to that second question. Let’s tackle the direct correlation your brand values has on your social channels.
Social Brand Value is defined as the perceived value derived by exchange and interactions with other users of the brand within a community (Social Brand Value and the Value Enhancing Role of Social Media Relationships for Brands).
In a nutshell, engagement on social media with your audience is what sustains your community and propels your content into new ones — generating even more brand awareness.
However, don’t be fooled. Branding is an ongoing process, and very much relies on a feedback loop from audiences. Kind of sounds like most relationships — a bit of a give and take. Or rather a listen, speak and repeat.
“The social character of brands and the significance of engagement in co-creating brand value reinforce the role of social media platforms as a brand awareness channel. The participatory potential of social media enables users to affect brands in multiple ways.” (Fueller, Schroll, Dennhardt, & Hutter, 2012;)
In sum, audiences play a massive role in brand reputation and perception. It’s safe to say that a brand strategy must also involve social listening, to equip marketers with the latest and most relevant insights — directly from your target group.
Brands that are mastering cause-based marketing
We already know that consumers today are much smarter and informed than ever before.
This is the internet age where everyone is using one or more smart devices to stay updated on things that interest them.
This is the time of information overload and it is difficult for brands to create content that stands out.
But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that your brand doesn’t have an authentic voice in worldly issues. It just means you must be listening to conversations on social media about your brand, industry and your competitors.
Let’s have a look at who’s been on board with social distancing and ever so cleverly balancing the right branding with a strong message, and likely listened to their industry and audience to sharpen their strategy.
Time to stay in
Now, due to government advised closure of restaurants and bards in major cities. Not only are they suffering the effects of social distancing, but so are companies that thrive within the Media, SaaS and Tech space.
Time Out Magazine has rebranded itself as Time In.
Due to most restaurants and bars in big cities temporarily closing suffering from the effects of social distancing, Time Out magazine has rebranded itself as Time In.
In addition, they started creating content that revolved around staying in your home. Putting the focus on cozy activities and the perfect takeaway dinner pairing to match. In doing so, they are encouraging their audience to stay inside, and still read Time Out.
Miss Chiquita is “already home”
Chiquita, the infamous banana and fresh produce company posted the iconic logo on Instagram without its mascot, Miss Chiquita. The caption explained that Miss Chiquita was removed, as she’s “already home”. It urged followers to “do the same and protect yourself”.
You can even see in the comments, users using the hashtag #stayhome, used by Instagram itself as a story tag for users to connect with.
Circus Bakery is now on tour
Not all businesses rebranding to adapt to consumer behavioral changes are huge international companies. Local businesses have a role to play as well.
They have an even stronger chance at encouraging user-generated content, to help spread the word of their shift in social-distance friendly services.
Local bakery and cafe based in Paris, France (where we’re based too). In an effort to abide by self-quarantine regulations, circus bakery is joyfully bike-delivering to Parisians in desperate need of cinnamon buns. This service caught wind (no pun intended) through user-generated content shared on Instagram.
Instagram users have been recording their delivery from their windows and using Instagram’s “Stay Home” story tag in their posts.
How to discover creative brand reputation tactics
Brands today cannot afford to not have a presence on social, nor can they afford to not have a voice in timely topics. So why not take a proactive approach to brand reputation — this means not staying silent, especially when everyone is already talking.
The way that your brand can navigate reputation management is to let your consumers help shape your content, your messaging and your service, to an extent.
How your brand communications on social media in times of crises will depend on three things:
- How strong your consumer-feedback loop is. Are you listening to what your audience is talking about? What are they saying? Have their needs changed?
- Mapping out your strategic plan. What are your competitors saying on social media? What is the general reaction? What can this be built off of?
- Your ability to humanize your brand. Now is not the time to lose sight of your brand’s tone and personality, ensure it’s intact and allow your message to walk in your consumers’ shoes. What does your audience need to hear?
The most digestible and thoughtful marketing campaigns this month will be the ones that are able to offer the right message, at the right time and on the right channel.