What does coronavirus mean for brands on social media?

A make-or-break moment

The coronavirus pandemic represents uncharted territory for businesses. Companies are being challenged on multiple levels: consumers are asking questions not just about their advertising, but also about their core values, how they treat their employees and factory workers, and how they’re contributing to the cause.

Modern consumers are savvy. They demand transparency and they see through posturing. As social specialists, brands sit close to culture and are exposed to feedback and critique. Social media provides consumers with a direct line to brands, and consumers are using that to question and challenge us.

While businesses are under scrutiny, the coronavirus pandemic also offers an opportunity for brands to rise to the occasion and make a memorable impact.

Should we go dark?

Under immense pressure to deliver, some brands are going dark on social.

However, unless the inherent nature of your product puts your brand at risk of coming across as insensitive, opportunistic or profiteering, we do not recommend going dark.

Instead, take this moment to re-evaluate your approach to social media marketing. Steer away from hard-sell content that directly promotes product, and shift focus to how your brand can provide value for consumers.

How should we act?

People’s health, livelihoods and wellness are being impacted by coronavirus. Think about the state of mind and changing behaviours of your audience right now, and make sure that your brand is following these five principles:

1. Listen first

The coronavirus pandemic is causing consumers to experience mixed emotions, leaving them unsure of how to think or feel. Every reaction to the pandemic is marked by an equal and opposite reaction. With such a sensitive and anxiety-provoking subject, it’s imperative that brands listen first, then respond.

Conduct daily social listening. Pay attention to how your brand is being talked about on social and stay tuned to the larger social conversation around the coronavirus and how it’s impacting people’s lives. Set up google alerts and align on a list of key words and hashtags for social monitoring. Bookmark live dashboards like this one from Sprinklr.

2. Be sensitive

Re-evaluate content for tone and message. Use the checklist (in the full report download below) to evaluate your brand’s live content, upcoming posts, opportunity moments and organic content. Consider pausing or revising content that may not be well received in the current social climate.

3. Be transparent

Consider issuing a statement about how your brand will act during this time. Even if you’re choosing to carry on with social as usual, explain that your brand is aware and has deliberately chosen this path. Communicate openly and take feedback.

4. Adapt your strategy

Unsurprisingly, with increased self-isolation comes increased media consumption. Eighty-five per cent of Chinese consumers reported an increase of at-home screen usage during the crisis, and 84% said they tried at least one new service for the first time – ranging from online doctor consultations (34%) to online education courses (33%) and online banking (13%).

The US appears to be heading in a similar direction. According to a March 2020 GWI survey, 39% of US consumers already say they are reading the news more frequently, 29% say they are checking social media more frequently, and 28% say they’re shopping more online in light of the virus.

Adapt your strategy based on shifting consumer behaviours. Revisit your channel mix and ad spend based on evolving consumer behaviours and performance results.

5. Rise to the occasion

A global crisis at the scale of coronavirus can be a make-or-break moment for brands – testing not only their values and commitments, but also their agility, creativity and spirit. Consider whether your brand is in a position to contribute to CSR initiatives in a meaningful way. Is there an opportunity to calm mass panic or provide value to consumers?

Even if your brand is not in a position to donate money, sometimes a practical effort can mean even more. You may be able to use your expertise, resources, facilities or platform to contribute to solutions or share helpful information.

For more in-depth insight and actions read Ogilvy’s What does coronavirus mean for brands on social media?

Renata Mittnacht & Carly Gibson

Associate Director, Strategy & Strategist, Ogilvy

published on

26 March 2020



Related Topics

Consumer behaviour COVID-19 Industry insight

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