Much of traditional marketing has been turned upside down with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but social media is one facet that appears to be booming. Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook weren’t exactly on their way out before, but their impact had certainly plateaued. According to the Covid-19 Edition of the CMO Survey, social media’s place in strategy has taken a spotlight during the pandemic when it comes to marketing budgets.
Brands across the board have made an overall shift from fluffy-filler to substantive messaging. As social platforms rushed to find new ways to monetize brands developed guerrilla selling tactics that are simple and straightforward—and many of these new tactics in social media have become critical in keeping many small businesses in business. With such a high level of marketing improvisation taking place, the ability to quickly adapt and pivot has become crucial in the current landscape.
While we’re seeing an overall shift taking place from fluffy-filler to substantive messaging to some guerrilla selling tactics that are simple and straightforward—many of these new tactics in social media have become critical in keeping many small businesses in business.
While some of these tactics may look like short-lived trends, they’ve become the life raft for many businesses. We’re predicting that some are going to be sticking around for the long haul. Here are a few social media trends that are keeping businesses afloat.
Shuttered Storefronts, Flourishing Accounts
You may have noticed a particularly large upswing of vacant storefronts that were once small businesses. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your favorite local spots had shuttered forever. Many of these businesses are opting to re-evaluate expensive leases and selling tactics in the shifting economy, and they’ve turned to social media to do so.
And rather than relying on intensive website and shop development—which can require extensive product photography and strategic development of a UX—some small businesses, especially those with one-of-a-kind retail items, have opted to conduct their ecommerce transactions directly over Instagram. Previously, many companies used social media as a lure to entice shoppers into storefronts, while this new shift uses social media as the storefront itself.
Of course, scaling any kind of ecommerce business will require a website that can handle ecommerce; Instagram and Facebook Marketplace aren’t managing your inventory and fulfillment (yet). We are eager to see how businesses that find success selling through social media will tackle the transition to full-fledged online retail, or if they wait for a return to their brick and mortar homes.
Story Product Drops
Some stores will announce large inventory drops all at once, urging their followers to set their calendars. Others encourage followers to turn on post notifications and keep up with the activity. Products are casual phone shots with minimal descriptions and typically a price. They post an item via story or hard post (or both), and you direct message or call them to claim it and arrange for payment.
The urgency created for the consumer to buy is undeniable, as the product is shown as a scarce commodity and there’s little time to mull it over.
In the case of restaurants, fluctuating business hours, new protocols, and limited menus are typically featured, also creating a sense of urgency with statements like “until we run out” and “first come first served.”
Pandemic-Appropriate Messaging & Visuals
While we don’t want to dwell on the fact that we’re suffering from a global pandemic, it’s not exactly appropriate to pretend that it doesn’t exist at all. There is a fine line between what is and is not pandemic appropriate and acting oblivious makes brands look tone-deaf, bringing a big risk of customer blowback.
When promoting products or services, we’re also seeing brands promote pandemic safe behavior like socially distanced outdoor activities or making easy to cancel plans. Things like promoting vacation or travel-based marketing may be unrelatable when most people are staying home and canceling trips. Or, exhibiting behavior such as this may raise some eyebrows, but not in the way that you were hoping for.
Influencer Relations Are Expanding
While these tactics may have previously been part of your larger marketing scheme, we’re seeing a greater reliance on influencer relationships. Harvard Business Review states that the allocation of marketing budgets towards influencers is on the rise, up to 7.5% from 6.5% a year ago and expected to rise to 12.7% in the next three years. This makes sense because in times of uncertainty we tend to rely on people we trust and believe in. Influencers are not only a great way to reach consumers, but an excellent way to build brand trust and authenticity.
Brand Story and Connection
While some of these tactics aren’t a one-size-fits-all marketing guarantee for the current climate, one thing every brand can and should be doing is using social media to connect with their audience and building trust. Even if consumers can’t purchase or use your product or service right now doesn’t mean they won’t be able to in the future, especially if they have a relationship with your brand.
It is an ideal time to re-evaluate offerings, shift to providing inspiration and encourage connection by showcasing your know-how as an expert in your field. A trend we’re certainly seeing is an uptick in brand transparency and authenticity, and that is something we are hoping stays for the long term.