With much of the world currently experiencing stay-at-home orders and lockdowns due to COVID-19 concerns, people are spending more time than ever online. Over the past few weeks, social media engagement alone has increased by 61%. But with the world in a state of crisis, it can be tricky to know what to say or if anything should be said at all, especially for brands.

Despite the challenges, there are still ways to positively connect on social media. Read on for our top three tips for posting during the pandemic.

Stay Engaged

While it may seem like the world has paused in many ways, it’s actually a good idea for companies to keep posting on social media. This doesn’t mean all messaging should be “business as usual,” and you will probably need to cancel previously scheduled posts, especially if they could now be construed as insensitive. However, with so many people turning to social media for entertainment and connection, companies have the opportunity to engage with consumers and build positive sentiment for their brand.

In times of crisis it’s often better to overshare than under share when it comes to company changes. Inform followers of any relevant updates to your company including store closures and new policies, and be sure to stay engaged with comments, answering questions in a timely manner. Let your followers know you are still here, ready to assist and support them.

Companies can also share internal updates. In a recent study, 78% of consumers say they expect companies to take care of their employees’ health and implement flexible working options. By sharing how you are taking care of your employees, your followers may love you more, resulting in more loyal brand fans.

If it is currently unsafe for people to use your services (such as travel companies, large events or festivals, restaurants, etc.), consider sharing aspirational content. Encourage followers to share happy memories, and focus on messaging that points to the future. However, when sharing aspirational messages it’s still very important to acknowledge the current situation to avoid being perceived as insensitive. 

Show Empathy

As you adjust strategy and continue to post, your content needs to strike the right tone. With fear, disruption, and uncertainty everywhere, it’s essential that your messaging becomes more empathetic to remain effective.

How do brands become more empathetic on social? First, by acknowledging difficult circumstances and showing elevated concern and awareness. It’s easy to fall into clichés — at this point, the phrase “in these unprecedented times” has been shared at unprecedented levels — but noting the stress and oddness of the current situation, particularly when they conflict with the core of your business and messaging, is important. Used appropriately, a simple acknowledgement of “we know things are hard…,” shared sincerely, will go a long way to building good will.

Empathy can have an unspoken role in your content too. At a time when much traditional messaging seems gauche or oblivious, well-placed User Generated Content has the potential to show that you are still in tune with your audience. By featuring UGC, you can build new trust and brand affinity, just by sharing genuine experiences direct from your followers. Be sure to vet UGC carefully — with strict rules and high expectations for conduct in place all over the world, gaffes and bad behavior shared online have a new potential to spark a social firestorm.

Empathy shows in action too. Many companies are launching campaigns focused on giving to those in need, shifting operations to help their communities, or offering direct donations to charities. By putting new focus on philanthropy, you can show that your brand is engaged and working to make things better, whether highlighting existing outreach or debuting new initiatives with social-first components (asking followers to suggest charities that need assistance, for example). 

Be Creative

As more people spend their time on social media and engagement is higher than normal, it is important to maximize your reach and use the creative features Instagram has to offer. If you own a small business or are a brand that is currently not utilizing certain platforms or features, this is the time to get the most out of digital marketing. Social media offers the amazing ability to reach so many unique audiences and develop relationships with your community. Being active on social media and using the creative features offered is important for both small businesses that cannot be open right now and larger businesses that may be negatively affected.

There are many ways brands can creatively reach their audience during this time. Using IG Stories, IGTV or IG Live are great ways to communicate with followers. Certain brands are taking the initiative to be extra communicative, which is important during this time of uncertainty and increased questions. Flower Bodega, a florist shop, made a graphic with frequently asked questions they were receiving in their DMS and posted it as an in-feed carousel, demonstrating a great way to be as transparent as possible during this time. More brands are utilizing stories and in-feed posts to share with their followers how they are navigating these times.

While scrolling through social media sites like Instagram, one will see fashion influencers, fitness influencers, nutritionists, instructors, and many others taking this time to share their expertise through IG Live Q&As and IG Stories. As a consumer of social media, it is very obvious the wealth of knowledge that is floating around on social platforms at the moment. Users can use this time to learn something new while using app features they previously didn’t have the time or desire to utilize.

If your brand has tips, expertise and/or any knowledge, now is a great opportunity to share it with users who are constantly on their phones consuming content.

Written by Andrew Bitto