In times of crisis, digital communication is critical
We are living in extraordinary times. There has not been a world-wide disaster like COVID-19 in most people’s living memory. It’s led to a public health crisis, and to what extent it will affect the global economy remains a worrying unknown.
What is clear, however, is that face-to-face marketing and communications, such as launch events and round tables, will not be possible for the foreseeable future. How can businesses reach their customers, maintain their good standing as experts in their field and continue to grow, despite the challenges facing almost every industry?
Innovation will be the key to surviving – or even thriving – in a crisis
The entertainment industry has been one of the hardest hit by the new ‘social distancing’ regulations as events and concerts have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, as well as planned filming. Even James Bond has been (temporarily) beaten by the virus!
This is a blow to musicians, who rely on live gigs not only to make a living, but to interact with audiences and build a following. But musicians are finding innovative ways to connect to audiences online using social media.
Musicians John Legend and Chris Martin (Coldplay) have helped to launch a series of online concerts called ‘Together at Home’, while others, including Pink and Keith Urban, have posted live performances on social media for fans.1
UK businesses could look to success stories of brands such as Estée Lauder for proof that it is possible to adapt, and even thrive during this difficult time. The cosmetics and fragrance brand has maintained its connections and sales in China throughout the COVID-19 outbreak by aligning its messaging with the current climate. Its Weibo (social media app) hashtag “We Can Win This Fight” has generated more than 61 million views.2
In this difficult time, people are craving social connection
It’s time to consider how to deliver it.
Now that the U.K. and other countries including Italy, France and Belgium, are in a general lockdown, with gatherings banned, eateries, cinemas and theatres shut and public events cancelled, many people are turning to social media for entertainment and human connection.
The amount of businesses using social media platforms to connect, reach and engage with customers has grown year on year, but now social media may be the most important marketing tool to exist today.
Globally, there are more than 3.48 billion social media users and counting, as one million new social media users appear on the web every day.3 In the UK alone, there are currently 45 million active social media users.4 This means about 66% (or two thirds of the UK population) use social media and, in the current climate, this figure is expected to grow as more people will spend an increased amount of time online.
Gartner’s recent report (March 2020) on changing consumer habits in China during the COVID-19 outbreak revealed that the time that Chinese citizens spent online under quarantine rose by 20%, and that livestreaming became “the de facto online sales and engagement channel” during the COVID-19 outbreak in China. The report predicts that online video content creation will be a “differentiator” for brands during the crisis.5
Some entrepreneurs, like best-selling author and YouTube sensation, Joe Wicks, are already using live video content to engage with new audiences. Wicks started his live P.E. lessons for kids (and adults) every morning following the closure of schools in the UK.6 Although these sessions are free, the effort has resulted in national coverage for Wicks and has raised his profile.
The internet remains a powerful marketing space, no matter who your customers are. Most people might imagine that hardly any of the Boomer generation are online, but the idea that people aged 65 and over don’t use the internet is a myth. The two demographics that make the most use of the internet is, as expected, Millennials and Gen Z. According to UK government statistics, almost all adults aged 16-44 used the internet daily (99%). However, the same statistics also revealed that 61% of adults aged 65 years and over used the internet daily in 2019. That means that the majority of this large and vital customer base can potentially be reached online.7
Now is the time to ramp up your social media marketing, for the billions looking for something to read and discuss, and to take the time that would have been spent on face-to-face marketing, and instead channelling that unspent charisma and energy into engaging video content that could help your business to stand out in the crowd. Your customers are stuck indoors, bored and craving social connection. Now is the time to let them know that they are still valued, and when this crisis is over, that you will still be there for them.
Change doesn’t have to be bad news
Important business milestones such as product launches may now present either a challenge, or an opportunity, depending on your point of view. It could be delivered digitally; for example, planned talks could either be livestreamed or privately recorded, an explainer video could replace an in-person demonstration, and perhaps the launch’s audience number may even be greater if the event was online. Attendance issues such as long or costly commutes would no longer be a factor, and while venues can only accommodate a limited number of people, there’s no limit to the number of attendees you can invite online.
This global crisis will be a difficult time for many businesses, across all industries. It will require innovation, experimentation, and becoming digitally-savvy, but there’s no reason to switch the lights off. Who knows, a change in the way people communicate and connect to each other may spawn some great new ways of thinking or marketing. But, if there is one lesson that history has shown us all time and time again, it is that we must adapt.
By Guy Woodcock, CEO