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We’re so aware that these are hugely scary times for people generally. For small business specifically, there’s a triple threat. The risk to personal health, customer health, and the health of your business. So with all this in mind, how can you manage your social media during the Coronavirus outbreak?

What do we say about the Coronavirus outbreak?

The temptation, of course, is to shout from the rooftops that it’s business as usual. But the horrible fact of the matter is, it might not be. So how do you continue to communicate with your online client base during the forthcoming weeks and months?

Beware of virtue signalling

As Social Media Today says, we went very quickly from not wanting to talk about Coronavirus to shouting our awareness from the rooftops. We bet that you’ve had an influx of emails from companies telling you how they’re approaching it all.

Virtue signalling is when your brand conspicuously expresses its values without actually taking actions to live by those values.

If helping the community is part of your brand identity and you’re committed to doing that long term, telling people that is ok. In the example from Social Media Today, a mortgage company contacted its customers to tell them they were taking Coronavirus very seriously. But how does that help the customer? Did they provide info about mortgage payments if you can’t work? No. It’s a marketing message, and not a very successful one.

How to avoid this? Use your platform to provide sector-specific information. Run a small business? Maybe the information from Welsh Government about business rates relief is worth sharing. If you’re selling something, perhaps discuss your policies on delivery and handling stock. If you’re a grocer and you’re offering home deliveries? That makes sense, and is a great thing to do. Perhaps you can provide a list of available goods and contact details.

Beware of saying nothing at all

I’ve had three emails today from clothing companies telling me about their in-store sales. I mean sure, I’m still interested in bargain footwear, who isn’t? But what was glaring was that I’ve had no other emails whatsoever to show these companies are acknowledging the current global situation. Now, I appreciate that on one hand I’m telling businesses not to bang on about the situation. And on the other hand I’m telling people not saying anything is just as bad.

But the fact is, it’s probably the only thing many of us are talking about. Whether it’s the virus itself, or global responses to it. So my advice is, if you’re going to talk about it, be factual and informative. If you’re offering a service, that is really cool. But let it be a service that makes sense from your brand’s perspective. If you’re a car salesman and you’re offering to bake bread then it comes across as fake.

Be mindful

The next few months look pretty scary from the perspective of a small business owner. Digida is an online beastie; we can operate remotely, across multiple channels. I’m typing this right now in my home office. Kerry and Emlyn. being work and life partners, are working from the office. They’re still developing websites and taking calls. We’re not seeing clients in person. The wheel is still turning, albeit a different wheel at a different speed.

But not every business has that ability. And because they’re on a precipice looking down what seems a long drop, they’re reassuring themselves, and their customers, that they’ll be operating as normal until the Government says otherwise. Because what else can they do? It’s a horrible situation.

Just be mindful that your customer base might not be so receptive to that message. It’s a tightrope, frankly. Tell your customers it’s business as usual and risk the wrath of people who’ll think you should close for the good of public health. In America, #StayTheFHome has been trending on Twitter. You’ll know what your followers are likely to respond well to. Go with your gut.

Some practical advice

Here are five top tips on how to communicate via your online platforms during the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. Convey empathy.
  2. Review all your communications to make sure the language you’re using conveys the right tone.
  3. Overly positive language might seem lacking in understanding. So too overly negative language. Try and avoid.
  4. Avoid emojis.
  5. Be careful what images you use alongside posts. We’ve used one from the Johns Hopkins Research Centre but some people may find certain images triggering.

This is a once-in a century set of circumstances. Come and talk to us via our usual platforms if you want to have a chat. Invite us to some new ones – we’re always up for something new. The digital door is open, and we will help you wherever we can.