Business in the times of Corona: Staying social in lockdown
Social media has emerged as the number one isolation survival tool, both for businesses and consumers. With more time on our hands and limited access to the physical world, people are spending increasing amounts of time online. Indeed, internet providers such as Virgin Media and Openreach have reported a doubling in daily usage as a result of the UK’s Coronavirus lock-down.
Your customers are using social media to stay connected, so you should be too.
Unsure where to start? Fear not, here are some key approaches to staying social during lock-down:
This may seem like an obvious one…
Although your doors may be closed, it is important to keep the lines of communication open and to keep your customers informed, particularly with regards to changes to your business during lock-down. For example, changes to opening times or closures; offering alternatives for pre-existing bookings, appointments or event alternatives (such as gift vouchers); adjustments to operations and business models (such as moving services online or home delivery of products).
Also, if you’ve turned your attentions to supporting front line workers or campaigning for small businesses during these challenging times, shout about it! There are many fantastic examples of businesses offering tokens of gratitude – from supermarkets to florists, software suppliers to wellness coaches and psychotherapists.
The daily challenges of working from home and in isolation akin to freelancers and small business owners are now being felt by the majority of the working population. Connect with your customers on a human level by sharing your story, your triumphs and your frustrations as a business owner.
Allow them to see the person behind the business and that you too understand the challenge of balancing work with home-schooling/parenting/missing loved ones. And if you have some top tips for overcoming these challenges, share them!
Consistency is key with social media, but this extends beyond committing to a posting schedule.
Being consistent involves ensuring your content (as well as that you share from others) aligns with your brand values. Similarly, it is essential to maintain your brand’s tone of voice and visual identity in the content you create. Consistency gives your brand and content integrity, and in turn inspires trust and confidence in your customers.
Be generous with your time in interacting with customers. Lock-down is an ideal opportunity to build new relationships and reinforce existing relationships with customers.
As well as responding to comments, reviews and queries effectively, utilise platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to host live Q&A or “Ask the expert” sessions. Similarly, ask questions to your customers. Invite feedback to understand what your customers want from you now and in the future with regards to content, products and services.
Finally, engage your team. Social media channel takeovers by employees (who are not the marketing manager or business owner) are hugely popular as they refresh content and provide an alternative (possibly more authentic) insight into the business. Similarly, posting audio, video or written interviews with team members is effective for both building connections with customers and for team cohesion.
Amidst Coronavirus anxiety, people are in search of some light relief. TikTok is a video-sharing app that has exploded onto the social scene, surpassing Facebook and WhatsApp in downloads this year.
For those new to TikTok, it’s a 15-second video creation and sharing platform (similarly to the now defunct Vine), providing bursts of micro-entertainment for endless scrolling. As well as the to-be-expected cat videos, you’ll find a range of comic sketches, dance routines, viral challenges, how-tos, cooking demos, life hacks and clothes try-ons – all of which provide valuable inspiration for businesses and light relief for customers.
Host an event
In a previous “Business in the times of Corona” blog, I highlighted the importance of diversifying your business; in particular, those who rely on face-to-face interaction can continue to offer their services via video calling and collaboration apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google hangouts and Skype for Business.
These platforms and new kid on the block, Houseparty, are ideal for hosting events:
Launching a new business during lock-down? You can still have a remote launch party with nibbles and drinks (albeit BYO), and don’t forget to invite the press!
Wanting to trial a new product or service before launch? Arrange an exclusive focus group event involving key customers, brand ambassadors.
Looking to expand your network? Business networking events are thriving in the digital realm and provide valuable partnership opportunities.
Be an expert
Although you may be restricted in the physical services you can provide, you can still position yourself as an expert in your field and share that expertise via YouTube videos, IGTV or Instagram and Facebook Live – from hair tutorials, beauty routines and new clothes try-ons to real-time cook-alongs, personal training sessions and home organisation how-tos. Not forgetting business advice for building a website, creating video content, photography, digital marketing and business strategy.
Finally, the written word is not dead [she enthuses as a professional content writer!]. One of the best ways to position yourself as an expert in your field is to contribute content to your industry through LinkedIn articles and blogging platforms such as Medium. As with all content, just remember the principles above; be informative, be authentic and be consistent, and engage with your audience. Above all else, stay safe but stay connected.
MENTA offers advice and information for business owners in Norfolk and Suffolk through remote one-to-one sessions with experienced business coaches. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange yours.
For more from the “Business in the times of Corona” blog series, see articles below:
About the author: Lucinda Sloane is a seasoned communication specialist and founder of Bird Media, a marketing and communications agency specialising in content marketing, brand development and design. Find her on LinkedIn - linkedin.com/in/lucinda-sloane