As the entire planet is in the midst of an economic shutdown, and businesses the world over being forced to close down and shut there doors to ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 epidemic, it’s no wonder businesses are at a loss of what to do for their digital marketing.  Without clearly defined timelines on when this will all be over, and no realistic chance of a vaccine for 12+ months, if not longer, companies of all shapes and sizes have a future that’s stuck in limbo.  With all this uncertainty, the question then becomes, “what can we do?”, and we’ve put together this list for just that.

Website Changes During A Pandemic

    • Put a warning on your website about the impacts of COVID-19 will have to your business location/hours/access and provide links to helpful material that is available online. Reassure new/current customers that they can still get in touch with you if needed and how to do so. This can also be reiterated on your social channels and in your e-newsletters.
    • Updating Your Google My Business status will be a helpful way to inform potential customers of your current situation. Google has a specific Help section dedicated to this which can walk users through the changes they should be making to their account to keep their customers informed.
    • Update and review information on other third-party accounts such as Yelp, Yellowpages – update these where possible.
    • Whenever possible, consider non-paid mediums to get your message out.  Your e-newsletters and social platforms should be your bread and butter right now. Your audiences are dying to be entertained, find a way to make this happen.
    • If you host events, put a warning up that events are likely to be canceled (if they haven’t been already), and to check back often for updates.
    • If you are a service-based business, move to start selling gift certificates online to help with your cashflow.  Consider adding this on your social media channels, website navigation, and homepage.
    • If your business is focused around tourism (like many of our clients), now is the time to be planning for the future. This is the time for brand building and SEO (search engine optimization). Writing content should be your main priority, and doing so using some SEO guidance will help kill two birds with one stone.
      • Review your Google Analytics & Google Search Console (if you have one) to uncover keyword trends and drivers to your website.  Also review your top blog posts and try to determine the magic formula that made it particularly successful.
      • Ask yourself these questions: “How can we promote tourism when people are stuck indoors?”, “How can we inspire people to want to visit post coronavirus?”, “Are there any content pieces I can work on now that will be beneficial later?”.
      • How can you become more relevant, or a trusted source of information for your community during this crisis?
      • Are there fun ways to connect and engage with your audience? For example, the Getty Museum has challenged its fans to recreate famous paintings from the comfort of their home.
  • If you sell physical products, consider opening up a limited shop of your priority items/products, or alternatively spend time learning how to sell through Amazon, eBay, or through classifieds on Kijiji. You can also run ads on social media / Google Adwords for specific product brands and minimal budget. Willing to deliver? You have a leg up on your competition but just abide by local distancing rules.

Digital Advertising During A Pandemic

  • Ideally, you should never completely shut off your advertising in slow periods. But minimizing is okay.  If you’re still in business, it’s worth slimming budgets and focusing your ads to show only for key terms and during key times to maintain your placements on Google Search.
  • If you would like to work on branding, now is a great time to advertise. With many businesses closed, the cost-per-click on many social media platforms and third-party websites has plummeted, and you have an attentive, home audience to build trust with.
  • If you’ve got the luxury of a pandemic proof business (essential services, emergency home services, lawyers, online & delivery services, property managers etc.), now may be the time to experiment with new advertising tactics in a diminished ad marketplace.
  • Building quality landing pages, an often time-consuming task, is a perfect challenge over the pandemic ‘break’ to tackle.

Social Media Marketing During A Pandemic

As we’ve quickly discovered, social media is an interesting place during a pandemic. It is a mix of valuable information, misinformation, worry, anger, despair and humour. We don’t have another global event that has occurred in the relatively new “era of social media” to use as a template in a situation like this.

One of the things that we’re stressing to clients is the idea of playing the long game. It’s clear that this isn’t going to be over in a week or a month, so we must plan our social media accordingly. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, the same social media best practices should prevail – cater to your audience, understand the situation, be helpful and useful, and always read the room.

Social media people love schedules. We like planning out what should go where and when it should be posted. Scheduling is a bit tricky right now so we’re helping our clients by breaking down the situation in stages:

Help – This is the first stage when information is flooding out about closures, health bulletins, logistics, and economic impacts. In the early days of this crisis, information was flowing fast and furious and it was a bit overwhelming. Critical information will continue to flow throughout the pandemic, and it’s vital that people can easily access it without having to wade through a lot of extra junk.

Businesses have a crucial role to play in this stage. Most will need to communicate with customers about the impacts of the situation and how it affects them. We’ve seen businesses post about new hours of operation, closures, postponements and revised service offerings.

As we start to come out on the other side, businesses will need to post this type of information again.

Key message to businesses – Post the important stuff. If you have nothing of value to post, it’s ok to lay low. 

Heal – This is the stage that I envision after cases start to peak, and we move towards the backside of the mountain. This is when people will be at their lowest if they’re not there already. The good news is that we might start to see a few glimmers of hope on the horizon. People will be getting better, assistance packages will kick in, and there may even be some talk about “normal” things. 

This is when businesses can help to heal by sharing stories about things in the community, ways they’re coping with the situation, and special things they’re doing for customers and staff. This is less about selling and more about being a good corporate citizen. 

Key message to businesses – Post the good stuff. There is a time and a place for selling. This isn’t it. 

Hype – There will come a time when we can go back to marketing and promotions on social media. Unfortunately, we don’t really know when that will be or what it will look like. 

Businesses will need to tread lightly during this stage and think about their audience. It will be important to remember that, although we’ll be able to bring some normality back to life, other things will still be different. Will distancing rules be eased? How much disposable income will people have? Will the unemployed be able to find work? Will an extended period of lockdown change how people view things and what they value? It’s too early to tell, but it will be vital that we figure it out. 

Key message to businesses – Read the room and understand how your business fits into the larger picture. Find new ways to add value to whatever you do. 

Other Opportunities

  • Brush up on your knowledge by improving your training, as many digital marketing certifications/services are offering free access to their training programs, including help with SEO, Content Writing & more.  See this post for more details. This is a great opportunity for you personally, or for your staff to learn and grow their expertise.
  • Build your photo library.  Now is the perfect time to take photos of deserted locations for your marketing material. That said, please abide by local guidelines and stay-at-home orders.
  • Pandemic time should be strategy time for most companies.  This virus has disrupted so many things that its worth building 3, 6 and 12 months strategies to provide your business with additional guidance and plans to handle whatever is thrown our way.
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