Social Media Marketing During COVID-19: March 23 Update

One week ago today, we wrote a blog post on how to think about social media marketing during the COVID-19 outbreak around the globe. After what felt like the longest week in history, I’ve decided to update the post with the latest thinking as things are changing rapidly.

Social Media Use, Engagement and Paid Efficiency are Way Up

We’re seeing a significant increase in social media usage as people work to stay at home amidst a growing number of states ordering people to do so. In Asia, which had significant impact from the virus before us, 53% of people reported browsing Facebook more often. Mark Zuckerberg himself said that Facebook services are facing “big surges” well beyond typical spikes seen during holidays.

We did a sample of activity across brand pages and, unsurprisingly, saw big spikes in key industries such as grocery stores and utilities. They saw a median daily increase in page likes of 544% while the overall sample rose just 6%. We’re seeing more engaged users (60%) across the whole sample, but for key industries that median increase was 882%.

We also sampled some of our clients’ costs for paid advertising and we’re finding that cost is down and efficiency up. This is likely a combination of less competition (a lot of brands have paused spending) and increased inventory (from all the extra scrolling). Here are just a few examples:

  • Client A saw a 37% decrease in CPM;
  • Client B saw a 58% decrease in CPM, a 36% decrease in CPC and a 38% decrease in CPLPV (cost per landing page view)
  • Client C saw a 21% decrease in CPM, a 36% decrease in CPC and a 38% decrease in CPLPV.
  • Client D saw a 46% decrease in CPM, a 51% decrease in CPC and a 51% decrease in CPLPV.

There is significant variability among clients and public response to paid boosting, so we still recommend you approach with caution. Having said that, it does seem to be a buyer’s market right now.

Communication and Entertainment Apps Are Dominating

A quick look at the Apple Appstore on Friday shows that apps for virtual meetings, news, entertainment and social are very popular. Right behind Zoom is TikTok on the charts.

Top App Downloads

What is Working Well for Brands on Social Right Now

At Ignite, we’re meeting every morning to review each client’s strategy and paid media plans for that day to make sure they make sense in the rapidly changing environment. What we’re seeing working includes:

  • Support groups: Brands either highlighting or participating in groups and conversations around the web offering ways to help.
  • TikTok: TikTok usage is through the roof as the 2nd most popular app in the AppStore right now. For the right brand, with just the right tone (be careful here), TikTok could be a win.
  • Revisiting influencer content: We’ve seen very high engagement on influencer content that recognizes the situation tastefully. People are increasingly looking for distractions and normalcy. And while tacky isn’t the way to go, many people seem to recognize that influencers are also small businesses being hurt by this.
  • Revisiting brand content: Simple brand content that offers a moment of zen, a helping hand or updates on how brands are (really) helping are also doing well.
  • Pin a Post to the Top of Your Page:  Have important messages? Pin them to the top of your brand Facebook page so people can find them.
  • Use Unusual Formats: This is a great time for brands to look at webinars, Facebook Live sessions, IGTV long-format content and other. Consider what you have to say or offer and then think broadly about the best format.
  • Be Ready for Common Questions: You can likely anticipate common questions you’re going to get as a brand around refunds, safety, cancellations and the like. Draft those responses. Offer them as a pinned post, a blog post, Instagram stories (put in Highlights) and more. Try to avoid cutting and pasting canned responses unless the volume is simply overwhelming.
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What is NOT Working Well for Brands on Social Right Now

As with most things on social, getting the tone just right is key. And recognizing what people do and do not expect from you as a brand determines how they react to your content. With that caveat, in general what we’re seeing that is not working includes:

  • Retailers Going Dark: While many brands can go dark on social right now, those retailers and others who welcome the public in every day cannot. People want to know if you’re closing, changing your hours, sanitizing more or making other accommodations. Brands that aren’t answering those questions are getting skewered in social media posts.
  • No Mention of Employee Protection: People are watching how brands treat their employees during this period of uncertainty. We’ve seen everything from immediate layoffs to brands promising to pay workers even if there’s nothing to do. Others are taking steps to protect employee health. Brand reputations are being made and lost right now and the long-term benefits/damage could be higher than the short-term.
  • Blindly Running Media Buys:  Lots of brands (smaller ones in particular) are running the same ads they ran before the virus. While this is sometimes ok, it’s not if the product involves coming into the office or other violations of “social distancing.” This is happening a lot. Turn off your media buys if you’re not sure.
  • Tone Deaf Images and Content:  Today is not the time for images of lots of people gathered closely together, or posts that talk about “celebrating” or groups. In short, revisit all your content (words and images) to make sure it still works.

Don’t Reflexively Go Dark on Social

Last week was a good time to step back and reconsider everything on social. Going dark during that reconsideration phase was the right thing to do. But this week, expect people to look for entertainment, ideas they can do from home, messages of support and ways to process the “new normal.”

Brands can do themselves a lot of good by striking the right chord at this time. While going dark is safer (if you’re not a retailer), it’s not likely to provide any long-term benefit. While this doesn’t mean every brand should go back to posting, it does mean every brand should consider going back to posting. It’s a worthy debate.

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