Social media campaigns can be tough for businesses to get right even in good times. In the era of COVID-19, it’s especially difficult to know how to use your social media presence in the most productive manner.

Ignoring the pandemic will make your brand seem either oblivious or tone deaf. On the other hand, posting too much COVID-19-related material will only overwhelm your audience and drown out the broader message your brand wants to promote.

With so many questions surrounding the use of social media during COVID-19, you may be tempted to step away from your social media campaign altogether. However, that’s not really a solution, either. Even with all that’s going on in the world, there’s still room for your brand to play a role on social media.

By this point in the pandemic, it’s much clearer how companies can use social media in a way that is mutually beneficial for both brands and consumers. Read on to gain a better understanding of what you can do to help your business’s social media campaign change with the times.

Reevaluate Your Audience:
You may think you know your target audience. After all, you’ve probably already invested time into analyzing the demographics of your customer base. While you may know who your customer is in normal times, do you know the types of challenges they are facing due to the pandemic? How have their lives changed? What are they thinking and feeling?
Reevaluating your audience’s current needs will help you strike the right tone and ensure you are marketing your product or service in a way that is relevant to their current needs and lifestyle. Some changes that may have occurred over the past few months include:

  • Time management. Lockdowns have left some individuals with more time on their hands, while others are busy simultaneously working, parenting, and schooling.
  • Health. Most people’s approach to health has changed, extending to both their hygiene practices and their fitness routines.
  • Budget. Many families are reigning in frivolous spending to make more room in their budget for essentials.
    This is also the time to assess whether your target audience has grown during the pandemic. Has the current situation made your product relevant for different needs or a different segment altogether? There may be new opportunities to tap into and new needs to meet that you’ve yet to consider.

Look at Data Differently:
Currently, purchasing patterns are in a constant state of flux, and you simply may not see the ROI you would have expected in the past. Nonetheless, there are many valuable metrics to consider at the moment other than conversions. Overall, your engagement metrics, including likes, shares, and comments, are going to show consumers’ interest in your brand even if they’re not able to make a purchase right now.

This means you should emphasize developing and maintaining relationships with customers, both old and new. Instead of focusing only on ROI, aim for better engagement so you can be at the front of customers’ minds when their buying behaviors return to a more normal pattern.

In order to gain a big-picture understanding of what’s actually going on with the metrics, you’ll also need to change your timeframe for looking at data. Although year-over-year reporting and analysis may have made sense before, these types of measurements aren’t going to hold the same level of insight in the current climate of change. You may need to shorten your time frames to quarterly comparisons or even month-over-month.

Forget What You Knew:
What were once standard patterns of social media use as far as timing and frequency of use have gone out the window. Many people’s routines have changed drastically as they shift to working from home, caring for school-aged children, and more regularly dining in. This means the best times to post on social media have changed as well.

Fluctuations in lockdown regulations have meant these changes aren’t necessarily the new norm, but there is definitely an overall pattern being formed. For example, as people skip their commute and work from home, they’re also waking up a little later and are less likely to engage on social media in the early mornings. While before Sunday was once the worst day to post, this day now sees a high level of activity on social media as people look to connect with loved ones they may not be able to see in person.

Explore New Avenues:
If you’ve always been curious about how a new content type or channel would go over with your audience, now is the time to shake things up. Whether the experiment is successful or not is almost less important than the insights to be gained by trying something different.

Here are some avenues to explore:

  • Posting more frequently
  • Using videos to inform or entertain
  • Trying out a new platform such as Snapchat or TikTok
  • Encouraging user-generated content
  • Soliciting feedback through polls

Whatever you try, chances are it’s not going to be perfect. There’s no rulebook for these uncertain times, and you’re not alone in fearing a misstep. Rather than being paralyzed by uncertainty, focus on moving forward, even if that means making mistakes along the way. Both your successes and failures will guide and inform your future decisions and strategies. So get engaged, get posting, and get social!

The lines between the offline and online experience are becoming blurred. As consumers’ interactions with businesses are increasingly multi-faceted, it’s important to maintain a digital marketing strategy that also helps improve the customer experience as a whole. For franchise brands, this often means taking a localized approach to digital marketing that allows franchisees to claim their own space online with the overall support and backing of the corporate brand.

Understanding the Digital Customer Experience in Context
Whether we use a phone or a laptop, an app or a website, has an effect on our experience with a brand’s digital touchpoints. Our experiences are also influenced by our intention; are we just browsing, looking to purchase, or seeing a way to communicate?

But our interactions with businesses aren’t always restricted to either the digital or the “real world.” Technology is such an integral part of our lives that there is no “switch” between digital and analog, but rather a fluid integration.

As a result, there’s also no one “digital” customer experience. The true customer experience is the total sum of experiences a customer has with a brand across all points of contact. This can make it hard to close the gap between how you perceive your customers’ experience and how they actually feel about interacting with your business in the digital arena.

It’s not always possible to put yourself in their shoes when you’re also running a franchise with multiple locations. That’s why it’s crucial to have a strategy in place for improving the overall customer experience, including the digital aspect of that experience, without losing sight of your brand’s end goal.

By using the right digital marketing tactics, you can ensure customers have a smooth journey from the initial search all the way through to conversion.

Reinforcing Customer Experience Through Digital Marketing
These issues are often compounded when it comes to digital marketing for franchise brands. While the franchise model allows brands to increase their footprint quickly, it can be tough to implement a digital marketing campaign at the local level that is totally in sync with the brand as a whole. Since brand marketers often have limited control over the local marketing efforts of franchisees, they can’t prevent local marketing campaigns from being executed in a way that clashes with the brand’s ultimate aims or even its specific style preferences.

The only way forward is for brands to make communication with franchisees a priority while also laying out clear goals and guidelines. In addition, franchisors must ensure franchisees have the resources they require to succeed in their marketing campaigns, whether financial in nature or related to training and ad creative. In return, franchisees should commit to running local campaigns that align with the brand’s overall goals and preferred message. After all, it’s a win-win for both brands and franchisees when any marketing campaign, whether local or national, delivers results.

The next step is to implement specific digital marketing strategies that have been proven to work for franchise brands. Below is a brief overview of the types of initiatives that help franchise businesses stand out on a local level.

Websites, Channels, and Pages Under the Brand’s Control
Consumers tend to prefer to engage with businesses on the local level rather than reaching out to the corporate brand. That’s why it’s important to make all opportunities for owned media location specific. Here’s how:

  • Local business listings. Local business data from aggregators, search engines, social media, and other places where these details appear should always be available and up to date.
  • Unique landing pages. Optimized landing pages for each franchise location boost local SEO results and offer more relevant content for consumers.
  • Content marketing. Franchise locations can maintain blogs of their own or share content from the corporate level to inform and engage consumers.
  • Social media profiles. Maintaining active social media profiles for each franchise location encourages customers to interact with the brand and keeps it relevant at the local level.

Advertising on Third-Party Sites
Localized ads provide an opportunity to geo-target consumers in a specific radius in each franchise location’s service area. These types of ads can easily supplement a national paid search campaign, and their hyper-local nature ensures any advertising dollars spent are being used in the right places.
Google AdWords offers a series of ad types and features that are great for franchise brands looking to target specific locations:

  • Local bid adjustments increase bids when a consumer in the area of a franchise location searches for specific keywords.
  • Location extensions help consumers find a franchise location when using a search engine.
  • Local inventory ads display real-time inventory at nearby franchise locations.

Voluntary Mentions by Consumers
This category is all about consumer engagement through word-of-mouth marketing and online reviews. Some of the best advertising money can’t buy includes positive words from a current customer. Franchise brands should manage earned media in the following ways:

  • Responding to reviews. This is often easier said than done, as reviews can end up on countless sites and platforms. However, there are many tools available to help manage and process reviews to ensure they’re all seen and responded to.
  • Promoting positive feedback. Nudging consumers to leave a positive review if they’ve had a positive experience is an art that’s worth spending time on.
  • Direct interactions on social media. Maintaining a social media presence isn’t only about posting regularly. It’s also important to engage with your audience by responding to comments and direct messages to build relationships and keep an eye on mentions.