Social media can transcend lockdown barriers - comment

Even before lockdown, we were deluged with online content.

Social media is a good reminder that you are open for business in the longer term, says Ferguson. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images.
Social media is a good reminder that you are open for business in the longer term, says Ferguson. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images.

But between the torrent of tips on WFH (working from home) and a flood of jokes keeping spirits up, not to mention the tsunami of Covid-19 news, how do you ensure your brand message gets across in this new (ab)normal?

Before doing anything, consider your aim for any communications content, including social media. In this challenging environment, is your aim realistic? I’m aware of targeting on Facebook by a travel agency optimistically, but also unrealistically, promoting exotic holidays. As well as being a waste of money, this undermines their brand. Most importantly, these inappropriate offers could have a huge impact on their customers’ trust.

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Many brands have long-term communications strategies and plans, including social media content. Have you checked your plan to ensure it is still relevant to your overall aim at this strange time and if it is appropriate in the current context? Only by listening and considering the current context can this be achieved effectively.

Ferguson is communications director at Perceptive Communicators. Picture: contributed.
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Are you using social media as a two-way communication channel? It’s when it becomes a conversation that social media really sings. You can’t have a conversation in a vacuum. As my granny would remind me, I have two ears and one mouth. Try to use them in that proportion. Listening to audiences, what they are interested in and the current mood, provides a useful and accurate context for any content.

From #ClapforTheNHS to the local support groups of volunteers springing up, community spirit has never been more tangible. Whether despite or because of social distancing, genuine community support is becoming increasingly key. Many businesses have already grasped this and are helping enormously.

While this should be done sensitively, most people would be keen to hear what brands are doing to support their communities at this difficult time. As well as volunteering in our communities, Perceptive has set up a LinkedIn Group, called communicating effectively during Covid-19.

Surviving and thriving

We are also running a series of free best practice webinars with expert panels sharing tips to help us cope now and emerge stronger on the other side, including one later this week on how to make the most of social media and LinkedIn in lockdown.

Social media can also be used to reassure customers and potential customers you are continuing to deliver for them. A great example is Homes for Scotland’s continued efforts to support its members in home building. A large proportion of organisations have furloughed swathes of their workforce, hit the pause button on operations, or are delivering their products or services in a different way.

Your customers understandably may have other things on their mind. But if you are still operational now or even plan to be post-lockdown, social media is a good reminder that you are open for business in the longer term.

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While not completely free, social media is a very cost-effective and measurable tool worth considering, particularly when marketing budgets are drained. With the absence of face-to-face contact via meetings and events, tools like LinkedIn have really come into their own. Now is the time to dust off your LinkedIn profile and improve your network.

But quality over quantity is key, not only to ensure resources are used productively, but also to minimise the risk of online fraud. By only connecting to those you know and choosing what information you share, you can cut this risk.

At the moment, perhaps recruitment is the last thing on your mind. With huge decisions and challenges, it is tempting to hunker down. Who knows when, but we will emerge from this. Using some time to show via social media, how you treat people and what it is like to work for your organisation, even if it is WFH, could set you apart as a real employer of choice when it really matters.

Lesley Ferguson is communications director at Perceptive Communicators

To join the free best practice communications webinar on LinkedIn on Thursday 7 May, click here.

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