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Any social media manager facing the weeks ahead in the new reality of COVID-19 must be realistic about the behavior and tendencies of social media users and the implications for marketing.
In the US, many are entering the first week of working from home. Globally we are moving quickly to social distance and face lockdowns, forcing individuals into new habits and patterns. Uncertainty is the underlying theme. I’m not saying this to scare anyone, but to begin to understand what it means for using social media effectively.
Putting myself in your shoes, I wanted to capture the immediate first steps I would take and how to explain that to my marketing team and leadership.
Pause scheduled posts
First things first, cancel all scheduled social media posts. Take a hard look at the social editorial calendar and each post. Now is not a time to be pumping tons of messages about your upcoming webinar, your album release, or a recent blog post — especially if you’re not attuned to the conversation at large. News is changing rapidly. Hour by hour, a story can change. Your scheduled posts that are previously determined might just fall at the wrong time. We can’t predict the news cycle.
Another reason to pause previously scheduled posts is that typical work hours will be adjusted. With people working from home, the 9-to-5 workday will shift. When working from home, schedules are more flexible and apt to change. You can be online at any time to answer emails or crank out a piece of work. However, many people working from home also have kids and family members at home to care for and households to manage that likely will happen during traditional working hours.
I’m no exception, with three young children staying home from school and my husband reporting to his office. I’m prioritizing time first thing in the morning, from 5-7 AM, and after my kids go to bed, 8-10 PM as primary hours that I can be online and focused on client needs. Attention during my daytime hours will be split until I can arrange for childcare help. I won’t see a lot of social content or participate in the conversations that are happening “during work hours,” and I know I’m not alone.
Post in real-time
Pausing scheduled posts doesn’t mean throwing them aside. Social media managers must get into the native channels and scope out conversation, trending topics, and what your audiences are doing. Rely on the social listening tools and skills you’ve developed and use the insights to inform content. Then post natively once you have a chance to tailor a message to fit that moment in time.
If you’re used to setting a schedule of content from 9-to-5, think about people being online at different times throughout the day. Test posting at various times during the day and give the algorithms and schedule predictors time to catch up to this new reality. In the short term, the AI won’t be able to predict the best time to publish. Giving yourself time to listen before publishing allows you to make your content more relevant and post at a time when it’s most likely to be seen.
Prioritize conversation over clicks
Social media starts with conversations, especially in these uncertain times. Retrain our expectations and how social media outcomes are valued to move away from click-driven results. Being part of a conversation, in a Facebook Group, on Twitter, or even TikTok needs to be prioritized. Content created and shared should result in conversation and amplification, not through conversions.
As we go through a stage of uncertainty while coronavirus spreads, business will slow. Budgets are tightening. Consumers and businesses are starting to think harder about how they spend money. I’ve yet to see the client that can’t afford to stop tweeting or posting to Facebook umpteen times per day because of the resulting transactions. Use your owned channels, like email, to personalize offers and drive conversion. Lean into what social media does exceptionally well, which is driving conversations, building community, supporting each other, storytelling, and sharing entertainment.
Leverage your community
While social distancing, most of us will have more time on our hands. Create an alternative to Netflix binging and offer more educational content that supports curiosity and personal development. When conferences scheduled for March, April, and May started shuttering (postponing), my inquiries for joining virtual events and webinars spiked.
Follow this trend to put together collaborative content: research your employees, influencers, advocates, and biggest fans. Get in touch and ask them to create with you (not for you). Use groups, chats, webinars, live video, social stories, and Reddit boards to spotlight these people, their stories, and their creativity in a way that is compelling for your audience.
Create appointment viewing habits
Take an in-depth look at your editorial content production and posting schedule. At Convince & Convert, we teach clients how to use a content show strategy, a la TV networks.
With a show-driven editorial approach, you can start creating appointment-driven demand for your “must-see” content shows. You know, the things that we’re used to tuning into at a specific day and time, like Grey’s Anatomy and live sports. By publishing an episode (new content) on the same day of the week in the same format every time, you will train your audience to show up and tune in.
This could be a Twitter chat, live video, pre-produced video, a podcast episode, AMA thread – however you deliver relevant, meaningful content at a specific time and place, packaged in a way that your audience wants to receive it.
Ann Handley does this with Total Annarchy, her fortnightly email newsletter that hits inboxes every other Sunday. It may take a day or two for me to open and read it, but I know when it’s coming and where to look for it. Episodic content creates a de-facto appointment in your audience’s mind to spend time with and enjoy that content.
While this isn’t the only guide to using social media in the age of coronavirus, it’s a head start into the new reality of work. Social media managers have to pivot in real-time to stay relevant and avoid missteps. Keep messages on point and based on education, inspiration, or entertainment. Act now to set up the weeks and months ahead.