Community engagement is especially crucial now."

The pandemic and recent civil unrest over racial injustice have upended marketing plans of every type, and social media marketing is no exception. Our clients are coming to us for answers to three key questions: What type of content should we be posting? Should we be doing more paid posting? What’s the right way to engage with our followers now?

The answers to these key questions put into focus the heightened importance of leveraging social media listening tools, creating a strong community connection and looking ahead to the future of social media.

Here’s how we answer our clients’ top three questions:

“What type of content should my brand be posting on social media right now?”

Across social media platforms, traffic and engagement have spiked as Americans turn to social networks as destinations for information, connection with friends and family, and comforting content. Rather than go dark on social media, brands can respond with content that’s relevant, responsive and meaningful.

Empathy is key. Responding, therefore, requires careful listening. Leveraging social listening platforms, monitoring relevant hashtags and optimizing platform-specific owned tools, such as Pinterest’s business blog or Curated by FB, should guide how you and your social media team respond in such an emotionally charged and volatile environment.

This type of research can also help you uncover novel ways your consumers are using your brand, spotlight unmet needs and identify potential opportunities to support community efforts.

“How should I be thinking of organic versus paid?”

Now’s the time to consider your business needs while prioritizing goodwill and helpfulness in paid content. For instance, prioritize paid promotion of content that is informative and inspiring, focused on community relief efforts or spotlights strategies for well-being. This type of paid content will resonate with your audience in their current mindset and position the brand as a relevant thought leader. Organic content should aim to nurture, entertain and communicate with your existing followers.

Other considerations include:

  • Frequency of message —Though frequent posting is typically the norm, consider that consumers are currently navigating a flood of online information; a careful and thoughtful cadence of communication is more important than ever.
  • Effectiveness — Monitor cost-per-result and engagement metrics to ensure paid ads are resonating with your audience. If CPM skews high or engagement is low, shift to a different piece of content or iterate elements of the campaign.
  • Optimization of content — Test multiple messages in paid ads, just as you would with any campaign, to determine the brand expression that best resonates with an audience at this moment.
  • Platform selection — If your brand normally activates on Instagram, now may be the time to consider increasing your presence on a platform like Pinterest, where we know consumers are going for inspiration while they remain at home.

“How do I engage with my community on social media?”

Community engagement is especially crucial now. Failing to respond in the midst of such a tumultuous time in your followers’ lives threatens the loyalty a brand has worked to establish. Assess current social conversations around your brand and category and develop a cohesive messaging and engagement plan based on what is now most important to your followers in real time.

For instance, in the consumer packaged goods category, out-of-stocks may trigger social mentions asking where products may still be purchased. Plan to be prompt and responsive to consumer needs. Now is not the time to sound like a robot. Tailor responses and communicate with humanity.

A few other considerations are:

  • Brand alignment — Use a communications response tree to align your social community management team with on-brand messaging and tone. Revisiting and updating this tool is imperative as followers’ needs are rapidly evolving.
  • Community management tools — With engagement for some brands potentially increasing, these tools can streamline the management of comments, direct messages and brand mentions into a unified inbox.
  • Chatbots — These artificial-intelligence-powered apps can automate frequently asked questions and needs, such as a product locator or product information, thus freeing up your community manager’s inbox to focus on more involved questions and community interactions.
  • User-generated content — Many brands are seeing increased levels of user-generated content. Reposting this content provides a human connection with your followers and encourages future engagement.
  • Rewards — With many consumers re-prioritizing value, surprise and delight brand loyalists with digital coupons or discounts in recognition of their engagement.

Beyond these key questions, several clients have asked for our perspective on new trends we see emerging from the current social media landscape. Here are two trends that will continue to grow in importance for brands:

1. Video conferencing is the new social platform.

Climbing from 10 million daily users last December to 200 million by recent estimates, the video conferencing platform Zoom has become the new social network seemingly everyone is now using to maintain a more visceral form of human contact while physical distancing. Business meetings, parties, graduations, dates, support groups, church services and many other forms of connection are happening on Zoom with other video conferencing solutions from Google, Facebook and Microsoft also in hot pursuit of these audiences.

Long after social distancing measures are eased and we resume the new normal, we expect interactive video to be integral to our social networking experience. We also anticipate more branded efforts, such as Chipotle’s new series of daily “Chipotle Together” Zoom gatherings to emerge as these platforms integrate more social features in their user experiences.

 2.  Video games have evolved into large social networks.

According to a recent report from Verizon, game usage has increased 75% since early March, while other sources report that Twitch has seen a 10% increase in viewership and YouTube Gaming a 15% increase. Though we’ve long encouraged clients to consider the world of gaming in their marketing strategies, we believe the current surge in gaming will help to spotlight the inherently social nature of many gaming communities and experiences.

We expect to see brands across a variety of categories tap into these communities where consumers are connecting and forging brand loyalties with companies already creating in-game activations and engaging in the rapidly growing world of e-sports.

Liz Aviles, vice president of market intelligence, Upshot, contributed to this blog.

Advantage Solutions

Laura Bluett
Senior Social Media Strategist

Laura Bluett joined Upshot, an Advantage Marketing Partners agency, in 2017, specializing in social media strategy and content creation.

Visit Upshot