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Social Media Marketing Opportunities in “Unprecedented Times”

April 22, 2020

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My husband and I have come up with a new drinking game. Whenever we see or hear the following phrases used in an advertisement, we have to drink.

  • "In these unprecedented/uncertain/trying times..."
  • "...all in this together"
  • "...only makes us stronger"
  • "Now more than ever..."

Unfortunately, since we have a one-year-old in our locked-down home, we can’t actually play this game for any reasonable amount of time. If we did, we’d likely get too drunk to function.  

The Conversation Is Saturated 

Let’s face it: The conversation around COVID-19 on social media is highly saturated (it’s all anyone can talk about). Yet most brands know that it’s important to recognize and address the situation. In fact, Verizon Media found that 64% of consumers want to hear from brands they trust during this time, and letting them know that you support them is essential. But the conversation will need to evolve, and just saying “we’re here for you” is getting tired, fast. This isn’t a one-and-done message. The crisis is ongoing, and your strategies, messaging, and interactions need to reflect a larger vision, true to your brand. 

Social Usage Up, Paid Down 

As out of home, event sponsorships, and other areas of placement have zeroed out across most of the country, mobile and TV consumption are on the rise. As Marketing Dive points out, this has simplified a previously complex piece of your marketing strategy – finding the consumer is no longer the hard part. We know where they are (at home, silly!) and the ultimate challenge is coming up with a message that resonates.  

Not only is social media still a viable channel for you to reach your audience, but usage has skyrocketed as a result of “social distancing” initiatives. According to a survey by Izea, 66% of U.S. respondents indicated that their social media consumption would increase due to at-home confinement during the Coronavirus crisis (Statista uncovered very similar findings). Think about it – without parks, restaurants, stadiums (or even work!) to go to, social media is an essential source of information, entertainment, and connection.  

A Unique Opportunity 

As many brands are decreasing their ad budgets or pulling campaigns completely, this has opened up a unique opportunity for other brands to fill in these gaps. With paid media competition down and social media usage up, you can expect better-than-normal performance.  

Consider how platforms establish advertising pricing. It’s based on supply and demand. With companies pulling budgets and more ad space available, they, too, need to adapt to changes. Campaign research confirmed a “22 percent increase in Instagram campaign impressions from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020,” suggesting that the Facebook conglomerate is letting budgets stretch further. Facebook has 7 million active advertisers (Facebook), and many had previously predicted ad prices to surge during the election year. So far, we’re seeing a decrease in ad prices. 

And the changes aren’t just for impressions. This month, Rival IQ has reported an increase in engagement rates (across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and a decrease in brand posts (down 25% from last month). This is likely due to two factors. 

  1. As competition for social placement decreases (both organically and paid), relevant posts are gaining more traction. 
  2. It’s about quality over quantity: Because of the hyper-attention to messaging that’s going out (due to increased sensitivity and potential for backlash), brands are taking more time to evaluate their communications and provide value. 

These trends suggest that if you truly have something to say, you can potentially get your message to more people with social media. But make sure you… 

Make It Count and Stay On-Brand 

Although “we’re all in this together” is a reasonably accurate and comforting message, it can only go so far. As we move forward, the message will need to be conveyed in other ways, or shown (through your content and approach) instead of told (written out explicitly in your copy).  

This isn’t just for brands. Peer-to-peer interaction is following the same pattern. According to GIPHY, March experienced a 30% increase in GIF searches for “I love you,” “I miss you,” and “you got this.” Sometimes, text just won’t do it – you need something that embodies your own personality and shows an understanding of your audience for it to carry real meaning.   

To make sure your communications feel authentic, it’s essential to understand your brand’s relationship with your audience. What does your audience need right now and why are you the brand to give it to them? Looking at your content through this lens will allow you to add value to your consumers’ lives while keeping your brand top of mind. 

Adjusting Your Brand Messaging 

Adjusting to the needs of the changing landscape while remaining on-brand isn’t easy. It takes concerted effort and agility. This can be as small as adjusting your current social content or as large as significantly turning around campaigns (like Ford did in just three days). However, it’s achievable and necessary. The Association of National Advertisers found that 92% of its members had adjusted their brand messaging in the past month due to COVID-19 (AdWeek).  

But shifting your creative direction isn’t as easy as it used to be either. With photoshoots canceled and creative resources stretched, if you don’t have an endless well of social content that can be utilized with your updated messaging, you’ll need to think outside your library. Across social platforms, we’ve seen a rise in user-generated content as well as influencers and models creating content from the safety of their own homes. One of the many ways the social age has prepared us for this situation is the vast number of people with the ability and professional tools to create content on their own. 

Ready to Adjust Your Strategy? 

In this unprecedented time (drink!), social media is one of the most immediate and impactful channels for reaching and expanding your audience. If you’re still trying to figure out how to adjust your social media marketing strategy and aren’t sure what to do, drop us a line. We’ve been helping our clients pivot their social media messaging and tactics from day one.  

Because now more than ever (drink!), we’re all in this together (drink!).


Charney Weiss

Charney is social media leader with over ten years of immersive experience in strategy, execution, and analytics. She is a senior media director who leads Gravity's Social Media capabilities.

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