As the worry surrounding coronavirus continues to socially distance our society, it simultaneously shines a light on the positive power and scale of social media to connect people all over the world – both young and old. Social media is bringing us together in times of anxiety and quarantine, to share our stories and to find moments of joy amidst the chaos.

In the advertising world, while in-store and physical activations may temporarily suffer, the power of social media is stronger than ever as brands seek ways to continue to digitally connect with consumers.

With social power comes social responsibility

Brands have a responsibility to use their influence for good by conveying information that will benefit society in a time of crisis. As key pillars of unity, brands must continue to serve, entertain and inspire their consumers.

Are brands impactfully and authentically leveraging this social influence? Are cleaning brands advising what products are necessary (and how to use them) to most effectively kill germs? Are hand sanitizer brands educating consumers about proper use cases? Are suppliers of non-perishable goods promoting what essentials are best to stock up on during what is becoming a run on our grocery stores? And are these grocery stores spreading accurate information to dispel our concerns that the nation will run out of toilet paper?

If you take a look at Instagram, it’s the consumers, not brands that are leading the positive and inspirational narrative. Brands are missing an opportunity to join the conversation to strengthen their bond with consumers through being present when they’re needed most.

It’s essential brands understand the importance of joining the conversation in a sensitive and thoughtful way that doesn’t come off as self-serving. Below are a few strategies around how brands can use their social influence for social good.

Enter the conversation with resonance and relevance

To start, we are seeing brands scale up their social strategy and capabilities to tastefully enter these critical communications and, above all, deliver messages of education and hope.

The Ad Council is partnering with the White House and ViacomCBS to deliver educational messaging around social distancing across social media, digital streaming platforms and television leveraging the hashtag #AloneTogether.

In the private sector, Postmates is using heart-warming copy in their email marketing to offer free delivery nationwide to encourage consumers to stay home and support local businesses. Target and Whole Foods are allocating opening hours for vulnerable and elderly shoppers. Walgreens is placing caps on high-demand items such as toilet paper. Ford, Hyundai and General Motors have initiated programs to help buyers as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread financial uncertainty. And a Netflix Party Chrome extension is even enabling friends to live chat while remotely watching their favorite series and movies together.

Create the right content

Once you have the capabilities in place, can you position your advertising, through copy or creative, in a way that shows that your brand is in touch by trying to help people find strength and joy in a hard situation? For example, now might be a great time to promote a streaming fitness service so people can still stay at home, stay safe, but workout and feel good about themselves. Barry’s, Hot8 Yoga and Peloton are leveraging social streaming services to offer the public free, on-demand virtual classes to help people stay active and healthy from home.

When it comes to bringing your social strategy to life, engaging influencers that authentically mirror your customers’ needs, wants, and – frankly these days – fears, proves particularly necessary in times of crisis. It puts a human face to your product message, while also striking the right tone when delivering the information your customer needs to hear. Additionally, brands should acknowledge when determining how to activate their influencers that there is a huge audience of people streaming or staring at their devices for the next couple of months hungry for content and activities.

Brands should look at their content and ask some critical questions. Are you driving people with a call-to-action that still promotes social distancing? For example, are you driving people to e-commerce vs. brick and mortar? It’s important that your brand is NOT encouraging behavior that is against COVID-19 suggested protocol.

Write the roadmap, together

Your response depends on your product or service, your message, and authenticity. But regardless, all brands need to make this decision on how to engage and then commit to it, understanding there will be some level of risk involved.

This is the time for brands to focus on purpose over profit and show consumers, desperate for positivity in a time of uncertainty, that their values run deeper than top-line profits. As we are in the thick of a public health crisis with no roadmap and no end in sight, the time to activate social networks for good is now.

In the process, we may just tap into the true authenticity of social media and start using these platforms as the communities they were designed to be. In times of uncertainty, we as marketers can’t stand still, we must band together and move forward.

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