Without fail, during major moments in our country and across the world, people are waiting to see how poorly brands respond. Search “brand social media response to <event>,” and you’ll undoubtedly find listicles outlining which ones had the worst or most insensitive responses.
Brands that are unsure of how to respond will want to stay top of mind by adding value. Consumers are quick to call out opportunistic posts or instances where it appears a brand is trying to profit off of the pandemic.
In what we’ve seen so far, there are a few different levels of response, depending on what validates your brand’s participation in the conversation.
For select industries seeing a boom during this time, communication is key. Existing delivery services are overwhelmed with grocery orders and food deliveries, while businesses like bars and restaurants are pivoting to provide takeout and delivery to avoid having to close down altogether.
Companies with products that facilitate communication or community are suddenly in higher demand than ever. As kids are sent home from school—and expected to continue education online—and workers shift to working from their homes (often with kids at home), these solutions help ease the transition. The CEO of video conferencing software Zoom, for example, was quick to offer its software free to K-12 schools.
As the COVID-19 virus sweeps across the planet, leading to quarantined cities and shut-down schools, Zoom has emerged as one of the leading tools to keep businesses up and running and students learning … https://t.co/wSsg2G2vGM via @Forbes
— Zoom (@zoom_us) March 13, 2020
Several additional software companies are also offering their solutions to businesses and schools, including our partners at Hootsuite.
In addition to tools to make our work and education easier, there have also been virtual solution launches to help facilitate the stay-at-home orders without sacrificing socialization. Cards Against Humanity is allowing family and friends to play its game online for free. Netflix Party is a Chrome extension that allows friends to watch Netflix content together in sync, while it facilitates a chat and pauses for all if someone needs to take a bathroom break or grab another drink.
Quarantine and chill?
With a Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party, groups of friends can get together virtually and watch Netflix at the same time. It even comes with a chat room, so you can share your reactions. https://t.co/8qrGmp2cO8
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) March 18, 2020
Unity messaging continues through the brand lens as well. Budweiser launched a short spot with its longtime “This Bud’s for ___________,” celebrating the healthcare and American Red Cross workers. The brand also announced it would be shifting sports investments to host American Red Cross blood drives nationwide to combat the blood shortage worsened by the pandemic.
In uncertain times, there’s one thing that remains certain: we are #OneTeam.
Let’s come together in support of the heroes on the front line of the health crisis.
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) March 26, 2020
Acknowledging the issues, then returning to normal
For brands that don’t have a direct tie or relevance to the pandemic, it can be seen as insensitive or tone-deaf to continue business as usual without acknowledging what’s going on. However, forcing content relevant to the crisis does more harm than good. The solution? Acknowledging what’s going on, then returning to normal.
A great example of this is from Sephora, who acknowledges the difficulty and uncertainty of this time and asks permission from its customers to stay active, offering customers to share what they want to see from the brand in the coming weeks.
One brand that completely missed the mark in its pivot to stay relevant was FLOWER by Drew (Barrymore). While attempting to acknowledge the COVID-19 situation in this Instagram post with the caption “Cheer up stay at home lunches…” the photo lands flat. This image was likely taken months ago and features a birthday party at a time when social gatherings were still possible. And a birthday party hardly aligns with the idea of stay-at-home lunches.
Humanizing your brand
Rather than going dark on social media entirely, brands should remind audiences that a company (it) is made of its people (we).
Now more than ever, we need the brands to post something funny to remind us that they’re people just like us. Cotton candy flavored @JackLinks , buy 1 get 3000 free @butterball turkeys, a new @SouthwestAir route to Little St. James.
What do we get instead? Silence.
— Brands Saying Bae (@BrandsSayingBae) April 1, 2020
Burger King put its employees front and center while highlighting the additional steps it’s taking to ensure the safety and health of its customers. Without saying it, the brand reminded customers that its employees are people, too.
prioritizing our guests, today & every day. 🧼👏🧽 pic.twitter.com/poOGiQtKmk
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) March 20, 2020
Like most companies who can work from home, DEG client HUB International asked its employees to share photos with #HUBFromHome, then shared the content back out with its followers.
All businesses can continue using social media to communicate with employees and consumers alike. While we’re all adjusting to our new “normal,” it could prove more of an advantage to your brand to continue talking with your audiences, reminding them that we’re all in this together.