By Kyle Dunn | March 20th, 2020
In the middle of a massive and growing Coronavirus pandemic, social media has become more important than ever to the general public and brands looking to interact with their audience. With soft quarantines in place, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms are taking on an entirely new role in our everyday lives – an important escape from the reality of the current situation, a way to interact with family, friends and loved ones, and a source of information that is constantly updated with the latest information.
As audiences become more physically isolated from the world, it’s important that brands use their social presence to reach out to audiences and connect to them with the right kind of message when they need it the most.
Follow our tips below to ensure that you stay on the right side of social posting during the current pandemic.
Review Your Messaging
Perhaps the most important point to ensuring you connect with your community during the outbreak is the messaging that you engage them with. It can be tempting for many hotels to bury their head in the sand and simply continue with their social media strategy as normal – posting creatives that were planned months ago to ensure they don’t go to waste. However, this may not be the best strategy for several reasons.
The Coronavirus outbreak has caused a drastic and fundamental change to people’s everyday lives, so ignoring that fact and not addressing it through your channels may make it seem like you don’t understand the issues that your audience are currently facing. This not only distances your business from your audience but may even cause backlash if users turn against your “business as usual” approach.
Continuing to upload a funny or creative post that would have performed well weeks ago may now seem tone deaf and insensitive to your audience – causing them to not only switch off from your brand in the short term, but also hurt your image in the long-term.
A painful example of this would be Spirit Airlines “There’s never been a better time to fly” email blast that went out despite the Coronavirus outbreak in America:
If you have any doubts about content or events that you currently have scheduled, pause or put on hold until you a get a second opinion. If you’re still unsure about the content, play it safe and pause it – you can always post once the situation improves.
80 DAYS’ client The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa has reviewed their messaging on LinkedIn – not avoiding the Coronavirus issue but instead offering a supportive and calm voice to their audience in this time of upset.
Live Your Brand
More than just thinking about how to maintain revenue during the short term, it’s important that hoteliers reach out to their community and understand how they can help in this crisis. If there’s ever been a time to stand by your brand values and show your audience and social community what it means to be a part of your brand, the time is now. Ensure that every move you make on social conveys your brand values to the best of your ability.
For instance, if your hotel has a team of fitness instructors with more time on their hands due to reduced gum activity, why not create workout videos or Facebook live sessions that you audience can follow along with at home? Another option would be to offer cooking tips and recipes straight from the hotel kitchen – although be careful this still fits with your brand image as a five-star chef showing users how to cook a tin of beans may not play in your favour.
If your business hasn’t been hit as hard as some others in this crisis, you could also look to altruism to show your community that you are there for them. One of the most notable examples of this being Gary Neville’s offer of free hotel rooms for NHS workers.
Don’t Feed the ‘Infodemic’
While the rise of social media has allowed information to flow freely across the globe, inspiring and promoting change when it comes to global issues, this information overload can sometimes be detrimental to audiences using social media. Unlike official news and media outlets, individuals who post on the platform have no restrictions in terms of the reliability of what can be posted. Misinformation has been widely spread by social media users throughout the course of the Coronavirus pandemic – this can be harmful not only to the ongoing efforts of governments and medical professionals trying to get the correct information out there, but also for the mental health and overall wellbeing of social media audiences.
Therefore, we urge all brands currently active on social media to research, research, research when putting any kind of information out onto their social platforms. Review any facts or guidance that you are given before posting to ensure no unreliable information is spread further.
Understand Your Audiences Perspective
How you position yourself during the crisis will not only influence your business in the short term but will massively impact how your brand is perceived going forward. We know that most businesses would never dream of trying to capitalise on the current global crisis to turn a profit, but good intentions can easily be misconstrued. Coors had to pull their ad campaign promoting their beer as “the beer of working remotely” due to backlash from audiences and Lumin – a popular skincare brand for men – had to issue an apology email to all customers after releasing a marketing campaign focused on their new “Touchless Hydration Mist”.
It’s understandable that many businesses who are affected by the Coronavirus pandemic will be looking for any opportunity to earn revenue, however it’s important that you first think of the impact that your message may have on your audience. Many of you have spent months and even years developing a level of trust with your followers, one wrong move when times are tense could be enough to burn those bridges for the foreseeable future.
Change Your Strategy, Not Your Visibility
With so many new rules to consider when it comes to social posting, it is understandable that many hoteliers will be tempted to walk away from the platforms entirely – at least until the situation shows sign of recovery. However, this is totally the opposite of what you should be doing. As we mentioned earlier, this is the time that your audience need you the most, so you need to be there for them.
Whether it’s prompted by panic, curiosity or the sheer boredom of spending a monotonous amount of time at home, your audience are spending more time on social media than ever before. It’s important that you present yourself to them, offering a calm and personable voice of reason amongst the noise of social platforms. You may not see an initial benefit from consistent posting other than vanity metrics such as likes and comments, but if you carry out your messaging correctly and remain visible to your audience when they need you, it is sure to pay off in the long run as you cement your brand into the minds of your target audience.
Manage Your Community
Community management is one of the most important activities for brands in normal circumstances, but it has now become a vital lifeline for brands wanting to keep existing customers engaged as well as create lasting relationships with new audiences.
Think of your audience as the core of all your social campaigns, they can help elevate awareness for your brand, and earn media space. For this reason, it is important for hoteliers to be on top of their social comments.
There will no-doubt be an increase on each of your social posts as users look to find out more information on safety precautions, cancellation policies, and even complaints procedures. Don’t let these comments sit unheard, as this will not only spurn the original commenter from engaging with your business again but may also put off potential customers who come across the comment. Try to reply to every relevant comment within an appropriate time-frame – even just a friendly acknowledgement may be enough to turn a potential customer into a lifelong brand advocate.
Be Ready for Crisis Communication
The other side of community management is Crisis Communication. In the unfortunate event that one of your posts is taken the wrong way by your audience, you need to have a strategy in place to deal with any negative comments or backlash that you receive. Firstly, if you’ve made a genuine error or mistake, it’s important that you address it and apologise.
However, if you believe that your post is simply being taken in the wrong way by a few individuals, but consensus is positive, then there are a couple of options for your business. The first approach would be to reply to the commenter, making it clear what your intentions were and trying to resolve the situation. This should hopefully work, but as many social media marketers know – some people are active on these platforms simply to antagonise and upset others. If this is the case and you find yourself dealing with a “troll”, simply hide their comments from your post – do not delete. We don’t recommend deleting the comment as the user interacting with your business will be able to see that you have removed their comment, increasing the likelihood that they will either comment again on your post, or make a separate post on their own timeline that calls you out. Simply hiding the comment will make it disappear from everyone’s view – apart from the person who made the comment.
Be Mindful of Your Audiences Struggle
This advice isn’t just limited to dealing with social media during the Coronavirus outbreak – you should always place the concerns of your customers at the forefront of your mind whenever posting on social media.
Your hotel or brand may be so far unaffected by the current situation, but that doesn’t mean a lot of other business aren’t going to be negatively impacted by global shutdowns, travel bans and a general feeling of uncertainty.
Before you post anything, be mindful of what you’re saying and how it might be perceived – not just by your target audience but by the general public. It’s likely that every business will feel the impact of this crisis in at least some small way, so don’t let your content do more damage by letting it go unchecked.
80 DAYS are aware that many businesses, particularly those in the travel and hospitality industry, may be struggling due to the current pandemic. We want to help out as much as we can, so please continue to check our blog as we release the most up-to-date guidance and statistics to help your hotel or brand.