The COVID-19 crisis has literally turned our world upside down. This virus, like nothing before it, has managed to disrupt economies and ruin entire corporations while leaving tens of millions of people without jobs. However, companies were “constrained” to become more client-savvy and improve their communication on social platforms.
From a social-media point of view, this crisis has brought a whole new level of communication changes. The way businesses are able to communicate with their partners and clients is key if they want to get through this period unscathed.
The problem is that, for most businesses out there, their communication during the crisis tends to suffer quite a lot. Most businesses choose to respond negatively to impossible situations. This in turn escalates and makes them lose precious capital, both in the form of partners and fans. However, there are certainly many companies that have managed to take advantage of this crisis and improve their communication with their fans.
In order to shed some light on this subject, the marketing specialists from Socialinsider have put together a complex study that shows how brands are actually managing their communication during difficult periods such as this one.
This study looks in-depth at how brands communicated at the beginning of the pandemic and how their shift changed as the pandemic has started to negatively impact the Western Society.
While each industry is slightly different, with some industries being completely shut down and others booming, there is a common thread across all industries, which is the need for proper crisis management.
Well-worded posts, responsible communication, transparency, and a good dosage of positivism are essential for any company that really wants to thrive during COVID-19.
In order to create this extensive study, the specialists from Social Insider have looked at over 958,800 posts regarding social distancing and the new COVID-19 threat. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of their findings.
COVID and Social Distancing Conversations Happen on Twitter
Most brands were tuned to the things that happened online, so they started to talk about the COVID-19 threat, which, in early stages was considered a normal season flu, even from October 2019. The simple fact that they managed to acknowledge an issue that is at large is a clear sign of transparency, which is something highly-appreciated by today’s savvy consumers.
Over 950,000 posts dated between October 2019 and March 2020 show some interesting brand strategies.
Firstly, 432,000 of those posts took place on Twitter, 344,000 on Instagram and only 177,000 on Facebook. All of these posts were specifically related to terms like “Covid-19”, “covid”, “wuhan pandemic”, “coronavirus”, “corona medicine” or “wuhan coronavirus”. They also included terms related to social distancing, such as “staying at home”, “social distancing now” or “why stay at home”.
While the conversations about social distancing and COVID-19 threat happened on a linear scale on Facebook, Instagram saw a dramatic increase at the beginning of March. On Twitter, the average number of posts about these subjects was higher than those of Facebook and Instagram until 9 March. At that point, Instagram skyrocketed, from 18k posts to over 41k posts in a matter of days.
By its nature, Twitter is a platform that encourages exchanges of opinions and free discussions. It also makes it super easy for users to retweet posts and to respond to tweets. Because brands were already posting more on Twitter than on Facebook or Instagram, according to this social media content study, they continued to use this platform to share their opinions on this subject.
Out of all social posts about social distancing, 46% happen on Twitter, 41% on Instagram and only 12.9% on Facebook. However, when it comes to COVID-19, the vast majority of brands, which is 43%, used Twitter, while only 29% and 26% used Instagram, respectively Facebook.
Of course, Twitter is the prevalent network in the US and the UK, which are some of the most powerful markets in the world. China and other countries, such as Germany, Russia or India, which have their own large social networks, had huge spikes of traffic around these subjects too.
Brands use Instagram to Talk About Social Distancing
One interesting finding of this study relates to how brands are using Instagram. If Twitter was used both as a means to talk about the threat the virus poses and the importance of social distancing, Instagram was mainly used to talk about social distancing. Given the nature of Instagram, which is a means of communicating more personal with customers, brands did not want to talk about a subject that was already painfully present on all media channels.
Most companies use Instagram to share photos of their team and share light, fun facts. They used it to remind people of the importance of staying home. Best of all, they’ve managed to do that in a very user-friendly manner, as not to hurt the feelings of people, while still supporting messages of social distancing.
Some brands used this crisis to share their commitment to their partners. For instance, the Ads of The World agency based in NY boasted with their commitment to remain a strong partner for McDonald’s. They used this smart message “Separated for a moment, to always be together” and a picture with a McDonald’s large sign looking over the dark New York sky.
On Facebook, Brands Talk More about the Pandemic
Facebook is quite different than Twitter and Instagram. This is the only platform where the discussions revolve around the pandemic and not about social distancing. There are over 102,000 posts on this huge social platform that focus on the COVID-19 threat, compared to only 77,000 posts that talk about social distancing.
It seems that companies are using Facebook as a medium to announce their corporate decisions as a result of the pandemic. For instance, McDonald’s announced at the beginning of March that they will continue to take clients’ orders, both through delivery and Drive-Thru. They also shared a link to an official announcement from their CEO.
Harvard Business Review has, in turn, shared their offers as a result of the COVID crisis. They offered free access to a plethora of resources for working and learning, plus hefty price reductions for some of their best programs.
Brands Communicate Responsibly
Given the age range present on each social media platform of the three, it only becomes logical that brands would choose to communicate in a certain way.
For instance, they have used Instagram, a platform mainly used by Gen Z, to convey the message of protection and isolation. Conversely, they have used Facebook, a platform used by millennials and Gen X adults, to share information about the virus itself and propagate updates about their company.
Twitter has been used for both purposes because it is a platform used by everybody and offers great interactivity and sharing features.
The good news is that brands choose to communicate responsibly and that they are not hiding behind corporate phantasies. They all recognize the threat of the COVID and are urging people to comply with the strict measures imposed by governments all across the globe. Even if social distancing is affecting their businesses, companies realized that this is mandatory, so compliance is the safest bet for them.
What is truly interesting are the actual hashtags used most commonly during the social media crisis communication. For instance, on Instagram, people use #stayathome in conjunction with #coronavirus and #covid. However, on Twitter, things are slightly different. Most people use only COVID-related hashtags, such as #coronaupdates, #COVID-19 and #COVID.
If on Instagram the messages are blended, on Twitter there is a clear distinction between the messages about the COVID-19 threat and the social distancing threads.
As a business owner, it is more important than ever before to stay relevant, become transparent and communicate with your clients on a regular basis. Whether you are using Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you need to have a strong connection with your audience and share with them advice, updates, and marketing messages.
If you want to get through this period without losing any customers, it becomes crucial to communicate responsible messages that do not induce panic. Also, it is smart to communicate the correct message on each platform.
For instance, convey messages about your brand and about the importance of social distancing on Instagram, offer regular updates on Facebook and create separate threads on Twitter about the necessity of staying at home and the importance of being aware of the COVID-19 threat.