COVID-19 has been a worldwide phenomenon for months now. And like with any big shift or change, consumers have learned to adapt—modifying everything from the way they shop for groceries to the way they go to work and socialize with loved ones. One tool that’s helping consumers spend time with friends and family from afar? Social media

Mom with 2 children works on laptop
People are spending more time on social media during the COVID-19 period.

Quotient’s Vice President of Marketing, Nikki Frazer-Reid, spoke with Retail TouchPoints to discuss how brands can use social media to connect with consumers while social distancing.

During the COVID-19 period, we’ve seen an increase in usage on most social platforms. Quotient analytics identified a spike in impression inventory across our paid media campaigns—indicating that consumers are spending more time on social media. While online, users seem to be accessing everything from Coronavirus-related news to entertaining videos or fun activities to do at home (can anyone say, banana bread?). 

With consumers being more present in the digital space, brands should be thinking about where and how they’re engaging with them. Consumers are using online spaces to look for content that adds value, asking questions like “What should I make for dinner tonight,” “How can I entertain my kids during quarantine,” and “What’s an easy at-home workout I can do while my gym is closed?” By adjusting their communications to answer these kinds of questions, brands can boost their reputation in a positive light.  

By becoming a valuable and trustworthy resource today, brands will reinforce their reputation for tomorrow, building a path to success long after the pandemic is over.

So, how can you shift your current campaigns to support consumers’ needs while remaining compassionate and relevant? Here are some of Frazer-Reid's top tips: 

1. Update Your Campaigns to Address the Issues at Hand

While states are beginning to lift their shelter-in-place orders, one challenge that consumers continue to deal with is learning how to appropriately social distance in public. Brands can help with that. For example, promoting in-person events may not be the best use of brand dollars right now. However, those resources can easily be shifted to a social media campaign with a more relevant call-to-action. When used correctly, social media can act as an invaluable communication channel. 

Another highly relevant example that Frazer-Reid provided was the long lines at grocery stores. These only exacerbate the challenge of social distancing while shopping in-store. So, many consumers are learning to embrace eGrocery channels like curbside pickup and online shopping. Frazer-Reid recommends that retailers who offer these services bring them to the forefront of their messaging—helping consumers complete their grocery shopping while continuing to practice social distancing. 

It’s no surprise that weekly online spending increased up to 107% compared to the pre-COVID period, and this is unlikely to slow any time soon. Now is the time for brands to evolve and meet consumers where they are at.

Source: Quotient Internal Reporting (Q1 2020)

2. Share the Information that Audiences Want to Hear 

As mentioned earlier, shoppers want content that adds value to their lives. Brands can fill this gap by getting creative on social. Not sure where to start? Frazer-Reid pointed to Quotient's Social platform, Muse, as one possible tool.

Using Muse, brands can identify real-time trends in social media. For example, Frazer-Reid highlighted the week-over-week increase in popularity for topics like “Staycation” (229%), “Hair Care” (56%), and “Cocktail” (14%). So, a Food brand could show consumers how to use their products to create a snack board for a fun staycation treat or a Beverage brand could whip up the perfect cocktail recipe for consumers to enjoy during their next virtual happy hour. By partnering with Quotient’s influencer network to create content that aligns with these trends, or even evolving the messaging of current social campaigns, CPGs can add value while assisting their customers. According to Frazer-Reid, this kind of authentic engagement is sure to be remembered in the long run. 

3. Get Creative When Enabling Connection

Social media is an ever-evolving tool, and there’s more than one way for brands to connect with customers. For example, Frazer-Reid pointed out video as one possible medium. Things like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or even video-conferencing software such as Skype or Zoom can be a way for brands to create a more personal connection. With so many to choose from, she recommended that brands familiarize themselves with the various video apps that are available. 

Remember that increase in the popularity of “Hair Care” that we pointed out earlier? Frazer-Reid showed CPGs how to use video to their benefit by suggesting that beauty brands partner with influencers to host a virtual gathering where they show consumers how to color their own hair or touch up their roots. By creating this online community, brands can give consumers the chance to learn and connect with others to share their own tips. 

Video offers brands a tool to build community and provide valuable resources. It creates more human interaction on screen when face-to-face opportunities are limited.

The Time to Engage with Consumers is Now 

Ultimately, Frazer-Reid cautions brands against waiting to engage with consumers. CPGs should be using this time to enhance shoppers’ at-home experiences and educate them on ways to stay safe while shopping. Social media can help. The range of communication options that social media offers—text, audio, and video—as well as its immense reach makes social media an ideal channel for connecting while social distancing.

To learn more about brands should be using social media during COVID-19, check out Frazer-Reid's full post in Retail TouchPoints.