We are living in a weird time: The current crisis and “social distancing” orders have put jobs, activities and lives on hold. Whether working from home or just sheltering in place to ride out the pandemic, more people are engaging with social media to keep in contact with friends and family and simply to pass the time. This extraordinary level of social media engagement offers real opportunities to reach out to key groups, build local relationships and goodwill and build a grassroots digital infrastructure that will help propel your vital strategic initiatives forward.
Now, I’m not saying this is a great time to sell your product or push a particular agenda, but it is a great time to build trust, and remind people why you’re an important part of your community. They will remember what you did when this is all over.
Here are five reasons why you should increase your social media presence right now.
- Internet activity has spiked dramatically. Europe has asked Netflix to not stream in HD for 30 days because so many people are streaming. Usage is up across the world.
“As general news outlets relayed information about the epidemic, so did social media around mid-February: compared with Feb 10-16, the number of visits in Mar 09-15 increased by 14% in France, 11% in Germany, 30% in Italy, 55% in Spain, and 18% in the UK.” 
- Prudent Promotion. Ads are cheap. It isn’t a good time for you to go pushing your product, but it is a great time to remind people of your community involvement, your good deeds, and your core company values. Is your business waiving fees or offering new services? Are you donating hand sanitizer or medical equipment? How about doing something to help the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and other programs providing meals for kids who usually get them at school?
If you do not step up now, in the greatest public crisis of our lifetime, when will you?
- Building Trust and Community Relationships. Consumers crave trusted information and reassurance from brands they know. People are scared and frightened people are easily deceived by malicious misinformation. In fact, scammers are taking full advantage of the pandemic and are using it to their advantage. From Medicare to student loan scams, threats are everywhere. By providing people with a feeling of normalcy, security and recognition, you can help to dampen this fear and uncertainty. Use this time to remind the public what makes you a good neighbor and community partner.
- Do good. Be good. Recover well. When this is over, companies that have treated their employees and their customers well will recover faster. Companies with memorable stories that reached into the hearts of communities will be remembered. Costco, for instance, is championing social distancing and setting an example for the rest of the country and other companies. They’ve earned nothing but praise during this time. Whereas their competition, Sam’s Club, has earned little media attention and a quick internet search demonstrates nothing but complaints. Who do you think is going to come out of this on top? Costco hasn’t needed to promote the extra steps they are taking, the efficiency and efficacy of their changes have sparked thousands of organic social media posts. Costco also increased their employees pay.
What are your company’s core values and how did you demonstrate them when it really mattered?
- Communicate to stay relevant and remembered. There’s a lot going on right now. Many parents are trying to work full-time at home while keeping kids educated and entertained. Others are quarantined in their houses trying to wait it all out. Tension and anxiety are running higher than ever— but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to make things better. By keeping communities updated on what you’re doing to battle the virus, protect employees and the public and continue to provide key services, you’re staying relevant. Let the power of social media work for you without feeling like you’re taking advantage of people at this difficult time.
What’s the moral of the story? Now is not the time to reduce your activity on social media. This is a fantastic opportunity to ramp it up, push key messages and build strategic relationships.
Courtney Graziano is Senior Vice President and Digital Media Director for Consensus Strategies.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org