Social media is one of the most effective ways in which businesses can still engage with consumers, despite movement restrictions, operating with limited capacity and self-isolation owing to COVID-19.
Many businesses around the world are, in fact, leveraging social media effectively, therein driving engagement. Think about F&B group Gates Hospitality’s home-schooling initiative wherein expert chefs are sharing knowledge via social media and athleisure brand lululemon athletica’s online yoga sessions.
As businesses are undertaking phased reopening and seeking recovery, adapting to the new normal is key.
“Businesses must adapt, most notably small and local ones that are most at risk during these unprecedented times. For these companies, social media offers a real opportunity. As self-isolation become our new reality, more and more people are turning to social networks,” states Akanksha Goel, founder, Socialize. “We’re seeing a resurgence in the way people are using social – principally, to connect with others, and for meaningful moments to maintain sanity and to escape even for a short time. And, thus, brands of all sizes and verticals must be on social in order to succeed during these trickiest of times.”
Socialize indicates that Facebook recently shared that messaging on its platform – Messenger, Instagram & WhatsApp combined – was up by over 50% in April over March 2020. Time across all apps since the crisis has grown 70%, as well, and time in group calls (three or more participants) was up by more than 1,000% during the last month. In addition, Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week’s time.
How should businesses leverage social media?
Goel: Businesses must leverage social media to let people know that they are open and available to meet customer needs. Social media can be used at this time to build connections, especially with those who are in need, which will help in building brand affinity among new people. Brands should think of innovative ideas to entertain people who are still largely at home via social media, which can drive sales of their products and services. Leveraging relevant and trending social hashtags can bring mileage too. Overall, meet your customer where they are physically and emotionally. Businesses can check out shoppable content features on platforms like Instagram to drive transactional behaviour. If a business does not have an e-commerce app or third-party partnership, now is the time to explore.
Should businesses prioritise any particular social platform?
The right platform mix will depend on various factors such as time required to produce content, team’s skill sets and platform knowledge and budget available for paid media, among others. For most small businesses, we recommend Instagram – with 3.8 million and 12 million users in the UAE and KSA, respectively – to engage with people through ‘Stories’ and ‘Live’ features. LinkedIn – with 4.1 million and 4.3 million users in the UAE and KSA, respectively – can be used to create professional engagement with relevant brands and individuals. If you have the time and propensity to stay on top of what’s happening constantly, use Twitter – boasting 3 million and 14 million users in the UAE and KSA, respectively. Facebook – with 8 million and 13 million users in the UAE and KSA, respectively – can be useful to engage with active communities and reach older demographics. To engage with a younger demographic, TikTok – with 2.8 million and 1.13 million users in the UAE and KSA, respectively – can be leveraged.
Do you recall any regional brand leveraging digital platforms really well?
Goel: There are some good examples. E-commerce marketplace Mumzworld.com, which recorded 800% growth amidst the crisis, has been creating and showcasing content via social media on how COVID-19 is affecting kids by showcasing the reality of day-to-day life amidst restricted movement and largely being at home. Fashion brand Zara app is letting models capture photos on their personal mobile phones that they can later upload on its app. Through its smart services, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA is helping people create their perfect room setting.